Thursday, March 12, 2009

Resident Evil 5: Reviews Response

One of the first things I did when I bought my 360 almost a month ago was to download the demo of Resident Evil 5. Like most other sane human beings, I craved a sequel to Resident Evil 4. Out of the sequel I wanted a game that played like it, but added co-op and took the series even further into action/shooter territory.

But after trying the demo a few times, always quitting in frustration, something seemed just off about the experience. It played like Resident Evil 4, yes, but the reason the controls worked so well in that game was that you were never as under duress and siege as you thought you were. Enemies ran at you and swarmed you, but the game had a genius for creating the illusion that you were in worse danger than you really were. Your AI partner in RE5 is a capable, bad ass woman. Your partner is RE4 was, err, Ashley, the wimpy daughter of the President. Even if you, as Leon, felt empowered, you always had to worry about her. Meanwhile, once you got used to the controls of RE4, you only got into bad trouble when you made a mistake. No matter what control scheme I try in the RE5 demo, I feel that I am constantly at war with the controls and what the game expects me to do with the abilities I have.

So RE5 simultaneously gives you a more worthy partner to help you handle the more numerous and agile foes but at the same time it presents you with much more harrowing action set pieces and insists on forcing the same deliberate controls on you. Yes, everyone has been complaining about how RE5's controls are clunky, but they are for what the game wants you to accomplish. All along the Resident Evil series has been very deliberately paced and even clunkier than RE5 but you weren't facing down groups of fast moving enemies and seemingly unstoppable big dudes with axes . As for RE4, again, you might feel like you're always about to be swarmed and eaten alive, but the way you dodge, move, aim, take down or escape from enemies is very deliberate and nuanced. It works well for what it's trying to do. RE5 is a messy, awkward experience that fundamentally fails because it tries to be more like Western style first/third person shooters yet hamstrings and limits your character in how well he can move, shoot, and interact with the environment. You wouldn't want to play, say, Half-Life 2 with Doom 2 controls, would you??

With all of this in mind, I'm so, so pleased to read the reviews from 1UP and G4TV. They helped me put into words what I was feeling from the demo. Though I am terribly disappointed to know that the problems I foresaw in the demo are all over the main game. I really, really want to love RE5 and have it be as good as RE4 but judging from the demo--a bite size snack of gameplay that is supposed to entice you into purchasing the full product--I will just be disappointed.

I know that those two sites are going to get flamed into oblivion over their, but people seem to forget that everyone expected and wanted this game to be as good as promised. 1UP and G4TV don't have a grudge against Capcom or the Resident Evil series. They aren't releasing 'bad' reviews to get hits and attention. Plain and simple, RE5 is a flawed game and these reviews do an excellent job at encapsulating James Mielke's and Adam Sessler's reactions to it. This is one of those moments where I feel like games journalism is catching up to film and music reviews/criticism. Sometimes reviews or critiques are more of a way to help understand something, how it made you feel, than it is a way to determine if something is what you want to buy or experience. It's not always about whether something is good or bad, it's about why it's good or bad. At the same time that these reviews helped me decide that I can wait until the price drops to pick up RE5, they allowed me to understand why my reaction to the demo was that something was "just off about the whole thing."

So thank you, Mielke and Sessler. I'm on your side and I don't envy you the shitstorms that are about to come your way.

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