By the time you finish reading this unnecessarily lengthy article you’ll probably think that I hated Resident Evil 5. So I’m going to dispel that erroneous notion right now. I really enjoyed the game and give props to Capcom for investing so much money and faith into this franchise. However, when you compare this game to its predecessor, Resident Evil 4 (did you really need me to name the game?), this game really can’t compare. If some important figure at Capcom is reading you have permission to use any of the following gems of knowledge I’m about to gift you. Should you find them extraordinarily useful when developing this sequel you also have permission to call me. Seriously. Maybe we could go out to dinner sometime. Maybe a movie after that. I’ll treat you right.
You should be warned this article could probably be renamed to something along the lines of ‘What I Want in Resident Evil 6, and why it really doesn’t need a multiplayer’, because I feel that a lot of the problems I have with RE5 stem from the series’ recent foray into co-op play. So if you’re of the mind that every game needs a multiplayer feature to be worth $60, there’s a very good chance you won’t be gleaning too much here (but I guarantee my occasional clever witticism still make reading this worthwhile). If you’re like me and you feel that Resident Evil 5 let you down, you should definitely read on to hear me bitch and moan about what the game did wrong and how I think Capcom can fix it all with Resident Evil 6. I give Capcom credit for not only recognizing but being willing to fix the major problems with RE5. Many developers would’ve been content with the reviews Resident Evil 5 received because in no way was the game received negatively. It’s when you compare it to the critical acclaim its predecessor received when the gap becomes noticeable. In an interview with RE5′s producer Jun Takeuchi, he mentioned that because of the less positive critical reception the game got the next installment in the series is planned to be yet another reboot of the franchise. Later it was revealed that the devs actually have no idea what direction the game was going to go next and that, sadly, beloved longtime nemesis Albert Wesker will not be returning in the main series. Well Capcom, here are a few ideas for you to mull over when deciding the fate of the series.
My first issue lies with the characters, specifically Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. Should these characters return in the next game, which looking at the history of the series they probably won’t in RE6, I recommend they get a small makeover. My problem with Chris is minor and revolves around his design, because he looks like he’s been slugging down steroids between his appearances in Code Veronica and RE5. My issue with Jill is similar, in that she looks like a reject from the Dead or Alive series. In Nemesis (RE3) she was someone I could take seriously, she looked like she had brains (a key trait in those running from the undead). And while I realize that the majority of teen boys will disagree with me on this, I didn’t like the fact that she’s become yet another hot blonde chick kicking ass while wearing unusually tight clothing. There’s a plethora of video games that provide that type of eye candy, some might even say an excess, so please bring Ms. Valentine back to her formal glory.
Now for the story, which in Resident Evil 5 was extraordinarily ridiculous. While the Resident Evil series has never really been praised for its deep, thought-provoking stories, I’ve always liked the idea of a group of people fighting to take down an evil corporation with global influence and a particularly masterful skill at creating secret underground labs that tend to go out of control transforming the surrounding area into a scary goddamned place to live. However, RE5 took this story, chewed it up and shat it out making it hard to follow and more than a little difficult to watch for long periods of time. My recommendation? Bring back Umbrella, give us control of Leon or another interesting character, and violently toss us into another zombie apocalypse. Yes, zombie apocalypse. Not ‘kinda-sorta-not-so-smart-but-smarter-than-the-average-zombie’ zombie, I want Resident Evil to return to its roots, and that means the return of the slow, creepy undead that have a tendency to jump out at you from around various corners and other areas out of the camera’s view.
When you think Resident Evil, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It’s kickass zombie action, right? No? Well it should. Even though the series hasn’t had zombies for almost a decade (I’m talking about the main series here) that’s what the franchise is known for. Zombies. And with the exception of the mediocre Dead Rising, there isn’t another series that has real zombies. Not the curb-stomp-the-hell-out-of-you 28 Days Later style breed of undead found in Left 4 Dead, or the oh-my-God-what-the-hell-is-that-thing kind of once living creatures found in Dead Space. I want the moaning, shambling, skin falling off the bones type of flesh eaters. Smart zombies (smart being a term I’ll use loosely) worked in Resident Evil 4 when it was a fresh new concept for the series, but now they’re getting old. If there were any noticeable enhancements in the enemies found in RE5 it’d be different, but besides a bigger head count they act exactly like they did in the last game. They’re slow yet somehow get random short-lived bursts of energy allowing them to run for a second before slowing to a walk again, they toss weapons with drunken accuracy, and they grab and shake you like a nanny with a baby until you punch them in the mouth. This AI behavior can be found in 2005′s Resident Evil 4, so what exactly was improved over the last four years? This leads me to my next problem, the partner AI.
Isn’t it great how each point leads to the next like this? It’s almost as if I planned this flowing river of insightful criticism. Compared to most games of the same caliber of RE5, its AI is surprisingly dumb. For such a big budget title being worked on by some of the most talented developers in the industry, this game’s AI is absolutely terrible. Getting Sheva to help me out when I was being torn to shreds by an interracial mob of angry non-zombies was frustrating to say the least, but the real frustration revealed itself when I tried to share items with her where she decided she was either too good, or too busy, or too damn hot to lend me a hand. I considered shooting her in the back and taking the items I wanted from her lifeless corpse, but then I wouldn’t be able to get passed the myriad of doors that somehow require the talents of two individuals to open. Oh, and the absence of friendly fire kept my trigger finger steady as well. So, let’s follow this babbling brook of disapproval to my next problem, the coop.
Here’s the real meat of the article, the filet mignon if you will. My biggest issue with the game (the one you’re most likely to disagree with me on) and the thing that most of the previously mentioned issues stem from would be the co-op. See, in my mind this is the type of series that doesn’t require a co-op feature. RE4 didn’t have it and it’s widely considered as one of the best games of the last generation. But if you’d like more recent examples then let me name drop BioShock and Dead Space, both of which only had single-player stories and no one (alright, a few people) complained. I know that multiplayer in some form or another is practically a requirement in this generation of social gaming, but I have plenty of games that have multiplayer, so I don’t necessarily need it in my Resident Evil. Because I’m playing with a friend the game is never scary (or even terribly intense for that matter), I have to wait for and rely on a God-awful item squandering AI, a terrible inventory (more on that later), and the fact that when they die I do too. Not to mention the fact that RE5′s campaign can be beaten in three fucking hours. We wait four years for three hours of the same thing (albeit prettier) as the last game? In no way can that be considered a meaty campaign when RE4′s single-player took approximately ten to twelve hours to complete not including the four to five hour Separate Ways campaign. I like the idea of playing with a friend, but when that ability replaces a satisfying, lengthy story it’s no longer appealing to me.
I think this game would’ve been much stronger had they included a single-player story and a parallel co-op story, similar to the aforementioned Leon and Ada campaigns from RE4. This would’ve given less popular gamers the chance to play alone and without the hindrance of an unintelligent AI partner (or equally unintelligent human partner) because that’s one of the many things that made RE4 great. You had to rely on yourself and your own resourcefulness. I’m not saying I don’t like the idea of co-op in the series, but I would’ve preferred it to be optional. I know games have certain budgets and a set amount of time to be completed but some time definitely could’ve been saved by not including a Versus mode. Who thought that would be fun? Please tell me, because I want to know. I want to look them in the face, remove them of their ability to design games (is there a way to do that?), and tell them they were very, very wrong. I won’t even go into my many problems with charging for the craptastic Versus mode, instead I’ll say that it was a dreadful idea for a multitude of reasons, the most noticeable of which being the fact that you can’t even strafe.
Oh, look at that! Guess what’s next? The strafing, or lack thereof. When confronted with complaints about this missing feature, Capcom said something along the lines of ‘it makes the game more suspenseful.’ Seriously? Dead Space had strafing and that game was try-not-to-shit-out-your-spine scary. The inability to strafe while shooting doesn’t make the game more suspenseful, it makes it more frustrating. When the ‘it makes the game more suspenseful’ defense fails, I guess you could go with the ‘it makes the game more realistic’ approach, which I will happily shoot down as well. Sure, shooting while walking is difficult so you have an argument there, but why can’t we use our knife while walking? I’m a dangerously uncoordinated individual and even I can manage to wave a kitchen knife while walking across the room (for legal reasons, I suggest that no one tries that at home) so why can’t trained soldiers?
The next couple issues are things from RE4 that somehow managed to get lost when Capcom was working in RE5. Like the ability to combine treasures. I liked that; it added an element of strategy to an otherwise shoot first, ask questions later shooter game. Should you sell the treasure now, or wait to get the other pieces, which when combined will make the item even more valuable? I miss that. Or how about another missing feature that made RE4 require actual thought, the yellow herb? Should you wait until you got a red and green herb to get full use of it, or should you just combine it with a green herb for a quick fix? I miss that too. My biggest grievance with these two missing features is that there’s no real reason for them to be gone. Yellow herbs and combinable treasures wouldn’t break the co-op; they’d make it more interesting.
What about the inventory? I know Capcom had to modify the inventory to work with the co-op gameplay, but should they decide to take my idea (something I fully support) of making the co-op separate in RE6 (or removing it entirely), I think RE4′s inventory should be brought back. It was great; it worked well and was fun to organize (yes, I admit I was a bit of a neat freak when it came to managing my inventory in RE4.) Unfortunately, I can only manage my inventory in RE5 to an extent, since there are only nine slots. Should Capcom decide to keep RE5′s inventory, there are still ways it can be improved. First, don’t make melee and Kevlar vests take up a slot, because that just doesn’t make sense. You’re wearing them, right? What good are they if they’re stuffed in the inventory? And why do twelve shotgun shells take the same amount of space as an AK-47? Oh, and speaking of weapons, I think Resident Evil 5 could use some improved weapon customization. I like the ability to upgrade my weapons but I’d also like to be able to make it my own. I’m talking about silencers, scopes, stocks, and whatever else I can get my hands on to make my gun feel and shoot the way I want it to. Hell, you could even go crazy and include bayonets.
Let us conclude with my second biggest problem with the game. That three act pacing copied over from RE4 (which was one of only a couple problems I had with that game). You can divide RE4 and RE5 into three segments: the intro, middle, and end. Wait. Did I just hear a big ‘Duh?’ Alright, let me explain. In both games the intro was the best part. It introduces you to the world and its enemies (whose weapons usually aren’t more advanced than a bow or crossbow). Then you progress into the middle where the zombies can now be found driving vehicles and operating heavy machinery (like cannons or gun turrets). Then both games end off with a bang, literally, where the zombies now have grenades, guns, rocket launchers, and some are even wearing full body armor. I despise that third section because I don’t think zombies should be able to wield guns. Dynamite, complex machinery, and maybe even vehicles are ok, but guns just aren’t. My mind cannot wrap itself around a lifeless organism being able to shoot me from across the map, while still not being able to throw a melee weapon anywhere near my character. In their final acts both RE4 and RE5 switched from action horror to full on Gears of War action movie, and that just doesn’t work for this type of series. Take away the zombies’ guns and I think you’ll have a much stronger game, or at least one without the gun wielding undead.
I know, I know. I sound like a whiny little baby face and I should be removed of my press badge (if I had one) because Resident Evil 5 is an excellent game and all who think otherwise should go play Barbie’s Horse Adventures. I have nothing against Barbie and her mysterious adventures with farm animals, and indeed RE5 is a fantastic game, but it could’ve been so much more. I complain because I care. As a longtime fan of the horror genre, especially the Resident Evil series, I only want the best for the games. I don’t expect Capcom to change too much since the last two Resident Evil games have been the most successful ones to date. Maybe I’m just cranky, but Resident Evil has some lofty expectations to live up to and I think if you look closely you’ll discover there’s more than a couple decent ideas in between the incessant complaining and brutal slaying of the English language. You just have to look really hard.