Thursday, April 09, 2009

Resident Evil 5

Imagine you are playing a survival-horror action game as a buff, looks like he's on steroids, macho-Americanized young adult male in his 20s or 30s. The game throws you into a small, remote village, where the suspicious inhabitants turn hostile and try to eat your guts. Eventually, you team up with a female companion; cross lakes with a water boat; go into some giant maze-like, ancient architecture; enter a high-tech security facility; come upon another female whom you have crossed paths with in the past; discover that bad guys have been putting evil viruses into the locals; then kill the ultimate bad guy in a super showdown with a RPG.
What game is this?
a) Resident Evil 5
b) Resident Evil 4

The answer is:


Resident Evil 5 literally has a nearly identical screenplay, gameplay progression, and all that. Re5 does have some differences, but not all of them are for the better.

Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 4: The same game?
Could it be?

In Resident Evil 5, the only notable exception from Resident Evil 4 is the addition of a female partner who actually has a gun this time around. While the addition of a sidekick is a welcome change to the standard formula, it has the negative effect of removing some of the "scare" element from the game, in the sense that you are now no longer all alone, helpless, and trapped in a nightmarish world of monsters and zombies, with no one but yourself to help you get out of it. On the plus side, the sidekick AI is particularly well done, and it works suitably with both a human and computer counterpart. Overall, it's a welcome change, but gameplay-wise, it does not change the formula too much. All the sidekick can really do is provide a second gun to shoot the same zombie, press "HELP!" when you get grabbed by a zombie, or use the secondary lever to open this door instead of the single lever in the previous games--might I add is not a really a puzzle at all, just an excuse to require two players at each locked door. All in all, however, the added partner does not detract from the atmosphere or fail overall, but there seems to be more room for potential.

However, continuing in the vein of Bioshock's following of System Shock 2, Resident Evil 5 does not copy everything from its predecessor; rather, it dumbs down or removes entire elements. No longer do you get to meet and greet the friendly Weapons Dealer who mysteriously runs around zombie-infested villages and canyons in order to sell you the best deal on a pump shotgun. Now you just buy stale weapons and items from an in-game "BUY" menu, which, in my opinion, takes a huge fun factor out of the game. In addition, you no longer get the stress-relieving and variety-providing mini-games that the Merchant so kindly sets up in the midst of enemy hideouts. Yes, it was a corny and unrealistic thing to have in RE4, but so were tiny Napoleons, cheesy dialog, zombified viruses, and missions to rescue the president's daughter. It all worked well in the slightly tongue-in-cheek atmosphere RE4 set up. However, RE5 seems to have gotten all serious now, and thus removed the merchant, which takes out a whole interesting section of the game.

The second thing that Resident Evil 5 removes is the complicated briefcase inventory system from RE4. I'm aware that inventory screens are a thing of the past, but the briefcase system in Resident Evil 4 was done reasonably well. You could upgrade the briefcase to include more slots, and you could realign small items like eggs or herbs in order to create more room for weapons. In RE5, you are restricted to a 3x3 grid for all of your items, many of which have not been carried over from RE4. The limited inventory size in RE5 creates a plethora of problems, even more so than the prior, more complicated inventory system in RE4. You are given many of the same items and weapons you had to carry previously, but now you only have 9 slots to carry them in. This includes all your armor, 3 weapons+their ammo (7 slots gone already), and additional grenades, herbs, or even more ammo. There are countless cases in which you cannot pick up additional items because your inventory is much too small. In reality, RE5 defeats the purpose of simplifying the inventory when it still creates the same, or worse management headache that you get from a more complicated inventory screen.

The last thing that RE5 removes from the previous game is the micromanagement of all the treasures and herbs you gather throughout the game. In a sense, it's nicer to not have to worry about which herbs to combine and keep, and which treasures to hold on to in an attempt to upgrade their selling value, but at the same time it removes another layer of strategy from the game. In RE4, each herb you collected carried with it the sense that you had to wait for a green, yellow, or red herb in order to create the best potion possible. Every treasure or diamond you found had the potential of increasing another item's value incrementally with each new addition. However, in RE5, every treasure is autonomous from the others, and there are no no such things as "yellow" herbs, simplifying the potion-making process. I understand that the evolution of gaming for future generations is about simplifying concepts and mechanics to its most fruitful potential, but there comes a line where in doing so, it just dumbs down a game to its lesser potential.

When a game copies directly from its predecessor in terms of story and gameplay--I'm looking at you as well, Zelda--it loses something in the process, despite the fact that it may still be a great game regardless. When you enter the same situations, with the same items, and kill enemies the same way, there is a sense of a lack of motivation, because you've already done all this before. To make matters worse, copied stories totally decimate motivation, because there is no incentive to figure out what is going on or to care for the characters. RE5 comes with the added bonus of dumbing down gameplay elements, something which Twilight Princess also did. In the end, RE5 belongs in that category of next-generation games that repetitively copy successful formulas of the past, but in the process, can never fully surpass their original predecessors.

Final Score: 8.0/10

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