405 Video Games Retrospective: Resident Evil 5
For the last few weeks, The 405 looked back at one of gaming's most iconic survival horror franchises - Resident Evil. Each week, one of our writers revisited one of Capcom's zombie slaying classics as we built up to the release of Resident Evil 6. This is the last article in the series - it's been a great ride!
I've never been the sort of guy who has ever enjoyed horror in any medium. Scary films cause me to find a point nearest the TV that I can look at and not see the film whilst still appearing to watch it so as to avoid the obvious pussy calls from observant friends. The severity of this uncomfortableness goes as far as Doctor Who, which sometimes causes me to pretend my eyes are watering so I can take off my glasses to make the screen blurry and distorted.
Resident Evil never appealed to me; even the earlier games just worked my brain into the most hyperactive nightmare machine imaginable. I remember being unable to sleep for days after witnessing my best friend being mauled by a licker; the uncompromising text stating that "you are dead" in a font that still chills me to the bone. So why was Resident Evil 5 my insert point into the genre?
With time comes maturity, and with that maturity comes the ability to figuratively 'handle more intense experiences". This was not the reason why I found myself able to play RE 5. Based as a more action packed adventure than all that had gone before it, RE5 found itself inspired by a COD smelling world, and a genre that had recently gone flaccid. Were fans not scared by Resident Evil any more? Was the correct route to go down the 'balls out set piece' route?
A lot of fans said no, and are relishing the opportunity to get back into the scary Resident Evil world when RE6 appears on our consoles later next month. I, on the other hand, hand believe that the tone set in Resident Evil 5 was enough to get more casual gamers involved, especially in the year that Dead Space ate and spat out the survival horror genre.
Set in the fictional town of Kijuju in Africa, the story follows Chris Redfield and Sheva 'come on' Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat that is turning the population into Zombies....sorry mutated versions of themselves. Utilising co-operative play for the first time between both player and player, or player and AI, Resident Evil 5 sometimes felt like an experiment in new ideas that Capcom had, but were unsure whether to implement or not.
A two player experience was a feature that fans had been asking for since the first game where partners were visible but not playable, but it was a risk to make it so central to the game. Games such as Gears of War and Left for Dead showed how AAA co-operative play no longer had to be restricted to PC's and also showed how it was possible for it to work without the need for a long Ethernet cable and an insufferable addiction to hot pockets.
The partner system allowed players to swap items between each other with ease and, prior to the boss fights, this was a necessary survival strategy as enemies were not only ridiculous but enormous, as per Resident Evil tradition. What let the partner system down was the Sheva's AI. She wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, and often decided to closely inspect the texture of the nearest rock while you were getting your face chewed off by a mutant. A gigantic leap seems to have been taken over the past year or so, with evidence that computer co-operative AI has now progressed so far that your partner isn't just a bag of crap, but a living breathing entity. For proof of this, watch the clip below from Naughty Dog's The Last of Us.
Boss Battles have always been the bane of gamers, like kryptonite to Superman and tar pits to animals. Resident Evil 5 really shone when it came to bosses, with them ranging from the slightly nausea inducing 'Tar Monster' to the mass sick bowl filling Irving the swamp tentacle monster. All battles required a different strategy to complete, and sometimes pushed your patience to breaking point until the jubilation of putting their ginormous frames to the sword was achieved. If early footage from Resident Evil 6 is anyhting to go by, then we can expect the same sort of boss mentality when it arrives later this year.
Overall, Resident Evil 5 was a great beginners introduction to the ways of the evil Umbrella Corporation, especially for those who weren't into survival horror, but had an interest in the universe the games were set in. Purists of the genre didn't find it scary enough, so maybe with the rise of EA's Dead Space, the pure tension horror could return in the triple campaigned Resident Evil 6.