Loaded With Fear

Posted by dankempster (2249 posts) -
 Resi 5 is the video game equivalent of your crazy grandpa - still entertaining, but definitely showing its age
For the last week or so, on top of returning to Final Fantasy VII, I've been playing Resident Evil 5 on my Xbox 360. I picked it up quite cheaply while shopping in town last week, and after remembering the awesome time that my girlfriend and I had with Dead Space last Easter, I figured that maybe a game in a similar vein would appeal to her. At first, we both attempted to get into the game as players, by virtue of its co-op feature. With me in control of Chris Redfield, and her in the guise of Sheva Alomar, we made it as far as the first Majini ambush before the plan came to a spectacular end and both of us wound up in a heap on the ground with empty ammunition clips. After this colossal failure, my girlfriend opted out of the interactivity and assumed the role of spectator, leaving me to lead her on a tour of deepest darkest Africa. We've now reached Chapter 5-3, and with only four of the game's sixteen 'sections' remaining to play through, I think I've seen enough of Resident Evil 5 to pass judgement on it. The game has certainly made me think, and not in an entirely positive way. 
 
The combat, while almost wholly unchanged, is not what I take issue with in Resident Evil 5 
Resident Evil 5 is, at its core, Resident Evil 4 with high-definition graphics and some combat support. In a lot of ways, this is a good thing, and I have a lot of praise to direct at the game before I get down to the nitty gritty. The gunplay is essentially unchanged from Resi 4, which means it's still as intense, visceral and satisfying as it was the last time around. The puzzles, while largely straightforward, are well structured and much more engaging than those of its predecessor. Most worthy of praise is the implementation of Sheva, who's one of the best non-playable characters I've ever had the pleasure of being cast alongside - her AI is superbly balanced, offering a reliable level of support while still exhibiting an impressive amount of independence. Its seemingly fan-focused story may not have grabbed me, but I'm willing to put that down to my very limited experience with any Resident Evil game prior to the fourth. Throw all this into a melting pot and you end up with a highly entertaining third-person survival action game. I really feel like I can't stress that enough - Resident Evil 5 is a good game. What it does right, it does damn near perfectly. I place extra emphasis on this fact because the rest of this blog is probably going to portray a significantly skewed view on one specific aspect of the game that I don't like: 
 

Resident Evil 5 is completely lacking in tension and suspense.

This situation would be a lot scarier if I had some control  
Three quarters of the way through the game and there's just no getting around this fact. Every single opportunity for the game to create a sense of tension and suspense has been spectacularly wasted, in a variety of ways so wide that it's almost impressive. First, there's the audio side of things. Resident Evil 5 has a pretty superb musical score, and its use of spooky sound effects has been spot-on throughout, but the way it employs musical cues completely kills any potential for generating suspense. You see, in Resident Evil 5, music picks up in combat situations. As a result of this, the reaction to a sudden blast of music is not "Oh shit, something's close", but "Okay, time to fight". It really does wreck any chance for creating tension and fear in the player. Even more of an offender than the questionable audio cues is the game's ridiculous over-employment of "fade-to-cutscene". Whenever anything potentially frightening happens, whether it be an ambush, the introduction of a new enemy type, or even a dramatic, overly-wordy face-off between protagonist and antagonist, it's always preceded by a fade-to-black, before the incident in question is introduced by way of a completely non-interactive cutscene. It kills any sense of urgency and makes a mockery of what the game is presumably trying to achieve.
 
Something tells me this wouldn't be anywhere near as unsettling if it was a cutscene 
As I mentioned earlier, last year I played through Dead Space, a game which not only got all of the above right, but graduated from the School of Tension and Suspense with distinction. Looking at the two games side-by-side, it becomes apparent to me where Resident Evil 5 could learn a thing or two from its biggest rival. With regards to audio cues, Dead Space's soundtrack flows much more naturally than Resident Evil 5's. Whereas in Resi 5, the combat music seems to switch on and off in a jarring fashion, the sonic transition between exploration and combat in Dead Space is much more subtle, gradual and fluid. The result is a soundscape that maintains a persistent ambience, and that in turn brings an almost palpable tension into the heart and mind of the person playing. Because the shifts in that soundscape are subtle and, when absorbed in the experience, almost unnoticeable, it makes the threat of danger something to be feared much more than in Resident Evil 5. With regards to the "fade-to-cutscene" dilemma, this is where Dead Space blows Resident Evil 5 out of the water for me. In Dead Space, every event is relayed to the player during gameplay. It doesn't matter if it's Isaac Clarke's first confrontation with a Brute, listening to audio-logs, or his radio communications with Kendra and Hammond, it all happens in real time, and the player retains control throughout it all. The end effect is to render the player constantly on-edge - retaining control means that the game is constantly looking for ways to surprise the player, while at the same time giving them the means to react. This is much more effective at building tension than Resident Evil 5's almost completely hands-off cutscenes. Sure, there are quick time events, but more often than not I've found myself completely missing them, only to be completely prepared for them and nail them the second time around.
 
Despite not being a die-hard fan of the Resident Evil franchise, I am aware that Resident Evil 5 is designed to be the last iteration of the main canon. As such, I don't really expect Capcom to learn from Visceral Games with a view to improving the sense of uneasiness and foreboding in future titles. I also realise I'm a little late to the party with regards to discussing the merits and drawbacks of Resident Evil 5, but hey, I'm writing a serial blog about a game that came out in 1997 - topicality has never been my strong suit in these blogs. With the endgame of Resi 5 starting to rear its progressively-uglier-and-more-deformed head, I'm anticipating some seriously awesome boss fights to close this experience. If there's one area where Resident Evil 5 definitely has the upper hand over Dead Space, it's in the boss battle department - seriously, Visceral, let's have something a little tougher to fell than the Hive Mind in Dead Space 2, okay? Anyway, thanks very much for reading, guys. I'll see you around.
 
 
Dan
 
--- 
 
Currently playing - Resident Evil 5 (X360)
#1 Posted by dankempster (2249 posts) -
 Resi 5 is the video game equivalent of your crazy grandpa - still entertaining, but definitely showing its age
For the last week or so, on top of returning to Final Fantasy VII, I've been playing Resident Evil 5 on my Xbox 360. I picked it up quite cheaply while shopping in town last week, and after remembering the awesome time that my girlfriend and I had with Dead Space last Easter, I figured that maybe a game in a similar vein would appeal to her. At first, we both attempted to get into the game as players, by virtue of its co-op feature. With me in control of Chris Redfield, and her in the guise of Sheva Alomar, we made it as far as the first Majini ambush before the plan came to a spectacular end and both of us wound up in a heap on the ground with empty ammunition clips. After this colossal failure, my girlfriend opted out of the interactivity and assumed the role of spectator, leaving me to lead her on a tour of deepest darkest Africa. We've now reached Chapter 5-3, and with only four of the game's sixteen 'sections' remaining to play through, I think I've seen enough of Resident Evil 5 to pass judgement on it. The game has certainly made me think, and not in an entirely positive way. 
 
The combat, while almost wholly unchanged, is not what I take issue with in Resident Evil 5 
Resident Evil 5 is, at its core, Resident Evil 4 with high-definition graphics and some combat support. In a lot of ways, this is a good thing, and I have a lot of praise to direct at the game before I get down to the nitty gritty. The gunplay is essentially unchanged from Resi 4, which means it's still as intense, visceral and satisfying as it was the last time around. The puzzles, while largely straightforward, are well structured and much more engaging than those of its predecessor. Most worthy of praise is the implementation of Sheva, who's one of the best non-playable characters I've ever had the pleasure of being cast alongside - her AI is superbly balanced, offering a reliable level of support while still exhibiting an impressive amount of independence. Its seemingly fan-focused story may not have grabbed me, but I'm willing to put that down to my very limited experience with any Resident Evil game prior to the fourth. Throw all this into a melting pot and you end up with a highly entertaining third-person survival action game. I really feel like I can't stress that enough - Resident Evil 5 is a good game. What it does right, it does damn near perfectly. I place extra emphasis on this fact because the rest of this blog is probably going to portray a significantly skewed view on one specific aspect of the game that I don't like: 
 

Resident Evil 5 is completely lacking in tension and suspense.

This situation would be a lot scarier if I had some control  
Three quarters of the way through the game and there's just no getting around this fact. Every single opportunity for the game to create a sense of tension and suspense has been spectacularly wasted, in a variety of ways so wide that it's almost impressive. First, there's the audio side of things. Resident Evil 5 has a pretty superb musical score, and its use of spooky sound effects has been spot-on throughout, but the way it employs musical cues completely kills any potential for generating suspense. You see, in Resident Evil 5, music picks up in combat situations. As a result of this, the reaction to a sudden blast of music is not "Oh shit, something's close", but "Okay, time to fight". It really does wreck any chance for creating tension and fear in the player. Even more of an offender than the questionable audio cues is the game's ridiculous over-employment of "fade-to-cutscene". Whenever anything potentially frightening happens, whether it be an ambush, the introduction of a new enemy type, or even a dramatic, overly-wordy face-off between protagonist and antagonist, it's always preceded by a fade-to-black, before the incident in question is introduced by way of a completely non-interactive cutscene. It kills any sense of urgency and makes a mockery of what the game is presumably trying to achieve.
 
Something tells me this wouldn't be anywhere near as unsettling if it was a cutscene 
As I mentioned earlier, last year I played through Dead Space, a game which not only got all of the above right, but graduated from the School of Tension and Suspense with distinction. Looking at the two games side-by-side, it becomes apparent to me where Resident Evil 5 could learn a thing or two from its biggest rival. With regards to audio cues, Dead Space's soundtrack flows much more naturally than Resident Evil 5's. Whereas in Resi 5, the combat music seems to switch on and off in a jarring fashion, the sonic transition between exploration and combat in Dead Space is much more subtle, gradual and fluid. The result is a soundscape that maintains a persistent ambience, and that in turn brings an almost palpable tension into the heart and mind of the person playing. Because the shifts in that soundscape are subtle and, when absorbed in the experience, almost unnoticeable, it makes the threat of danger something to be feared much more than in Resident Evil 5. With regards to the "fade-to-cutscene" dilemma, this is where Dead Space blows Resident Evil 5 out of the water for me. In Dead Space, every event is relayed to the player during gameplay. It doesn't matter if it's Isaac Clarke's first confrontation with a Brute, listening to audio-logs, or his radio communications with Kendra and Hammond, it all happens in real time, and the player retains control throughout it all. The end effect is to render the player constantly on-edge - retaining control means that the game is constantly looking for ways to surprise the player, while at the same time giving them the means to react. This is much more effective at building tension than Resident Evil 5's almost completely hands-off cutscenes. Sure, there are quick time events, but more often than not I've found myself completely missing them, only to be completely prepared for them and nail them the second time around.
 
Despite not being a die-hard fan of the Resident Evil franchise, I am aware that Resident Evil 5 is designed to be the last iteration of the main canon. As such, I don't really expect Capcom to learn from Visceral Games with a view to improving the sense of uneasiness and foreboding in future titles. I also realise I'm a little late to the party with regards to discussing the merits and drawbacks of Resident Evil 5, but hey, I'm writing a serial blog about a game that came out in 1997 - topicality has never been my strong suit in these blogs. With the endgame of Resi 5 starting to rear its progressively-uglier-and-more-deformed head, I'm anticipating some seriously awesome boss fights to close this experience. If there's one area where Resident Evil 5 definitely has the upper hand over Dead Space, it's in the boss battle department - seriously, Visceral, let's have something a little tougher to fell than the Hive Mind in Dead Space 2, okay? Anyway, thanks very much for reading, guys. I'll see you around.
 
 
Dan
 
--- 
 
Currently playing - Resident Evil 5 (X360)
#2 Posted by Oni (2094 posts) -

I agree with you about the Dead Space comparisons. That game has an amazing atmosphere, in large part due to its soundscape (though also the setting and graphics). It's a much more unsettling game than RE5. I feel like RE5 has more tense combat though, simply because it's more difficult and you have to plant your feet whilst shooting. Dead Space's creepy enemies and occasional surprise scares make it go a long way, but ultimately it's not a terribly difficult game, even on its higher settings. But it achieves its intended effect much better than RE5 I think, which in terms of atmosphere is absolutely unscary. Both are fantastic games, though.

#3 Posted by BulletproofMonk (2718 posts) -

One of the reasons I enjoyed Dead Space so much was because they never really take the control from you, and as you said, it just makes everything more unsettling and crazy.

#4 Posted by Noodlearms (586 posts) -

I played a bit of Resident Evil 5 last year and quite a bit of Dead Space this year, so I couldn't agree more. Resident Evil 5 is by far the least scariest "horror game" I've ever played. I only played up until the one boss battle on this ship (it's been a while, I don't remember specifics) in Resident 5 and there wasn't a single time I was scared. It should also be noted that I'm a total pussy when it comes to scary movies/games. I'm still trying to play Dead Space, and I emphasize trying because it's fucking terrifying. So far the last thing I did was beat the giant zero-g hole monster.

#5 Posted by Red12b (9074 posts) -

Yeah Dead space, it was the first game I played on my new HD audio set up, well new back then, fuck me it was intense, In the middle of the night sitting perfectly in the middle of sourond sound with a nice telly, going through dead space, damn, was awesome.

 


 

#6 Posted by Sweep (8817 posts) -

I think the lack of fear that resonates throughout Resi 5 is because they simply throw everything at you straight away. There's nothing lurking in the shadows, your enemies are just standing there. It leaves nothing to the imagination which is fucking criminal for a horror game. Silent Hill was so atmospheric because you were constantly shrouded in fog, Dead Space because the necromorphs dipped in and out of the ventilation system. Resident evil 4 worked because whilst you were pretty badass as leon you were also having to protect ashley who was totally vulnerable - adding an almost managerial progression to the combat. 
 
Resident Evil 5 just dumps you in a street (fully lit, I might add) full of dudes with axes. The shift was to try and make you feel overwhelmed and it just didn't work. Later in the game the dudes have guns which is even worse. And, as has been proved, the scare appeal of big monsters is completely undermined by the huge glowing weak spots you train yourself to hit. 
 
It's a shame you decided to stop playing co-op. Me and Oni played through a huge chunk together and had great fun.

Moderator
#7 Posted by Claude (16254 posts) -

Resident Evil 4 for the Wii was the shit. I can't wait for a Move version for my first immersion with RE5.

#8 Posted by Bruce (5264 posts) -

I almost bought RE5 during the Steam sale. Thankfully I didn't!

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.