Okay so I just completed the new Resident Evil game (this one being the fifth in series for those living under boulders), so what was my overall general impression of the game? Dated.
I remember when the first game came out over a decade ago—it blew me away. The gameplay was sleek, the graphics ludicrously detailed (for its time anyway) and the story at least held my attention as a boy not yet in his teenage years. From then I played the subsequent games up until Nemesis; all of which I enjoyed, with the second being my all-time favourite. Number four however, escaped me because I didn’t have a console to play it on. So it was with an abnormal amount of glee that I discovered a month ago that the fifth game had been released on the Xbox 360—not only had I not seriously played the Xbox in a good few months, but the last game I actually bought was a little under a year prior. Safe to say, my expectations were high and I guess a little part of me wanted to transported back to the late nineties; back to that night where I popped in the disc, turned off the lights and consequently bricked it.
For number 5, I repeated the ritual. I laid off even touching the game until the sun went down—closed the curtains, turned off the lights and prepared for what I had been looking forward to for what was probably a good five years. It wasn’t long until I realised that time travel wasn’t going to happen that night however, and it probably wouldn’t happen anytime soon either. You see, while there was certain reminiscent value present whilst playing through the first couple of chapters of the game, I couldn’t help but feel that the developers chose all the wrong areas to transpose over to the next generation.
I remember playing through the first games with ease—never did I notice the clunky controls or awkward camera angles (yet I had read complaints about them and wondered what the hell was going on), but this time it was all too evident. It would seem that after years of playing games that have streamlines the control system of games in general, and action games more importantly, that being transported back to the nineties wasn’t all that fun. In fact, it was really annoying.
Then there was the story—what a snore fest. I’m not sure; maybe if I actually went back and played through the first three games, I would think the same—and maybe if I played number four, I would have appreciated it more—but I really have to ask… where were the zombies? And why did I have to fight so many tentacles? Seriously, the boss design in the game was interesting from a gameplay perspective (nothing completely off-the-wall right enough) but downright dull from a design viewpoint. I doubt I could count the number of recent games where bosses have negated to being giant blobs of muscle-based goo because the designers can’t imagine anything else being large, intimidating and powerful. Uninspired, predictable and utterly uninteresting—the same goes for the story as a whole.
But then, the game did have its positive sides. The graphics were indeed quite possibly the best I’ve seen yet in a video game (and there are some really amazing cut-sequences too), with character models, animations etc. all being complete fluid and lifelike. I was particularly taken by the explosions, gunfire, gore, reactions to bullets and everything else real-time that just created a seamless visual experience that often contrasted oddly against the rigid and stubbornly irksome control system. Furthermore, there were chapters that played a lot better than others (by no means a coincidence that I gravitated towards the more industrial levels than the organic, ooga-booga tribal ones), and bosses that didn’t feel tacked on or repetitive.
And yet despite the moments where I was compelled by what I was engaging in, I was always just a few moments away from another dry spot that brought on another bout of disappointment. In a way, this game affected me quite profoundly, in an ironically mundane way. By subjecting me to a stark contrast between yesterday’s games with todays games and a younger me against myself of today, I realised I am growing very disillusioned with the video game industry. Looking back at the past years, I’ve perhaps only enjoyed a handful of games while most have given me the same “wow, impressive action and graphics!” accompanied by a hollow feeling of “oh wait, this is it?”. Maybe I’ve just been playing all the wrong games (although, according to most critics, Resident Evil 5 is the game to play as is one of the best to be released on the 360), or maybe I’m one of the few people simply fed up with the same old bullshit.
I think the video game industry is at a very interesting phase right now—there are many independent developers arising with unique and innovative ideas; and the technology fuelling the bigger companies is exceeding at an awesome rate… and yet we can’t seem to meld the two together. Maybe in the next five or so years, we can start looking beyond shiny graphics, sequels that promise a trip back to our (and gaming’s) younger years and big explosions, whilst looking forward to new ideas, visions, stories and tools to power those dreams. For me, Resident Evil 5 marks an end to my sleepwalking with the industry—I’m done with these games that disguise rudimentary gameplay devices with grandiose cinematic action scenes, and I’m done with blindly being told that such games are “where it’s at”.
All this, and I’ve still to play a full copy of Braid. And yet, playing that demo for twenty minutes fulfilled me more than my £40 and fifteen hours of Resident Evil 5 gave me. Objectively speaking of course—my final verdict is that the game is by no means bad, but it isn’t anything remarkable either. Subjectively, I was disappointed and dismayed by its lack of progression from the previous games—sure, I craved the same atmosphere, scares and puzzles of yesteryear’s instalments, but I didn’t want clunky controls, bad writing, paper thin characters and plotting alongside repetitive action-based gameplay. Like I said; I feel Capcom took all the worst parts of one of my favourite ever game series’, ignored the good parts and threw them together in one big leach-like blob of tentacle gloop.