Resident Evil 5
When a survival horror is more amusing than it is frightening, should it be deemed a failure? It’s something I found myself considering throughout Resident Evil 5’s campaign, plagued as it is with rubber-masked mystery characters, high-pitched business men “with standards”, stereotypical barbarism poorly disguised as ancestral intuition and a ridiculously clichéd plot.
But then it dawned on me that this has always been the method behind Resident Evil’s madness and, to be frank, we wouldn’t have it any other way. The only problem, however, is that Capcom doesn’t appear to want Resi to remain true to its principles as a straight-up, bona fide survival horror.
Instead they’ve plastered Chris Redfield and inductee Sheva Alomar up to the nines with bullets, grenades, rocket launchers and proximity mines, and sent them on an action-packed assault of Africa, the latest continent to succumb to parasitic experimentations. This sudden abundance of firepower directly (and adversely) affects the series’ once prevalent fear-factor, calling both its ‘survival’ and ‘horror’ fundamentals into question. No longer are you afraid of what’s around every corner, or indeed, how you’re going to deal with it. Instead you’ll confidently charge in to each scenario, knowing that whatever attempts to stand in your way will be met with a multitude of shells from your fully-upgraded shotgun. Resident Evil’s fear-factor has unquestionably vanished and any sense of urgency lost, replaced with bullish machismo and wanton violence.
What follows is a tale of brawn over brains. The series-staple puzzles are nigh-on non-existent, with the few feeble attempts remaining more a test of your patience than cranial-dexterity. Even some of the bosses – for which Resi as a series is perhaps better known for – in the first half at least, are reduced to mere one-track turret sections, losing much of the tension that made for the series’ more standout moments. Remember Resi 4’s El Gigante and how you had to dodge its attacks with perfect timing, climb up its flailing body and perform a series of button presses to take it down? There’s a similar encounter in Resi 5, only Capcom have done away with everything that made the kill gratifying by simply seating you in a minigun emplacement and ordering you to shoot its weak spot. It not only makes the entire scenario thoroughly unsatisfying, but also loses any inkling of suspense built-up in the preliminary cutscene. Not every boss is like that, of course -some later set-pieces couldn’t be described as anything other than breathtaking – but it’s a telling moment.
It’s on that very occasion that you sit up and realise that Resident Evil, as a series, has changed. This is no action-packed spin-off, no G-Con-oriented blunder; this is the future of Resi, an almost unrecognisable carcass of a series born on the idea of trepidation and head-scratching brainteasers transformed into something that openly fondles the masses’ need for simplicity.
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