Up until this point, CAPCOM’s Resident Evil was a pretty powerful franchise. The main series was solid with only a few real hiccups that came from their spin offs games like the Gun Survivor Series, Gaiden, and so forth… But then Resident Evil 4 happened and it changed everything! It changed the way that Resident Evil was seen, how it was played, the mechanics, the look, the feel. Resident Evil 4 may have been one of the greatest video games of all time, but that game would mark a pretty nasty downward spiral that the franchise finds itself in today and it all started with patient zero, the first decently received game in the main story line of Resident Evil, Resident Evil 5.
Now personally, I cannot muster up the extreme hate and bile for RE 5 that some of its biggest detractors can. All things considered, I have played far worse games than RE 5 and there have been many games that have pissed me off ten times more than RE 5 can ever hope to (RE 6 for instance). But really, it is bad whenever the best thing you can say about a video game is that it isn’t the worst thing you have ever played in your life. RE 5 is the prime example of a game that did not earn my derision, but my disappointment and disinterest.
The story takes place five years after the events of RE4. After the fall of Umbrella, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine have formed a new International counter bio terrorism group meant to stop pharmaceutical companies from creating Bioweaponry known as Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance or BSAA. Chris Redfield and a team of BSAA agents are dispatched to a town in Africa known as Kijuju to stop a man named Ricardo Irving from selling BOWs on the Black Market. Things go about as well as you would expect them to go and the town is infected with a Las Plagas like parasite called Manjini. Chris and his new partner Sheva Alomar fight their way through the town and continue on Irving’s trail along with Sheva’s mentor Josh Stone. This eventually leads to the discovery of the plant that lead to the creation of the T and G Virus and later creation of the Uroboros virus. The story then follows Chris, Sheva, and Josh as they try to hunt down the Wesker, Excella Gionne, and the new company known as Tricell.
There Really Isn’t Anything ‘Wrong’ With the Game
I could split this up into different categories, talking about the different aspects of what makes a game passable, good, or so forth… But really I think I can just sum it up in one paragraph… There really is nothing ‘wrong’ with the game or at least how it is presented. The graphics are good, controls are good, and the game is that right level of challenging that it isn’t too easy but isn’t too hard either. The AI can be bad at times, yes… But really it isn’t the worst I have come across. I’d call it mediocre at the very worst and pretty good at the time as AI was still in its developing stages. I personally ran into a few minor glitches and even they weren’t that bad. Even the story itself isn’t that bad. If it wasn’t a Resident Evil game I’d say it would even be good.
What all of this adds up to… Is that on the terms of what it means to be a game, RE 5 isn’t bad. It is enough to certainly warrant the high scores that it received from critics at the time. Really the problem with the game stems from the fact that it has the Resident Evil name on it.
Well I suppose we should discuss it. It was a major talking point when RE 5 was in its early stages. Upon the time of its release, there was a wave of controversy surrounding the game that accused the development team of racism. This stems from the fact that the setting is in Africa and all of the demos of the game feature a white male, Chris Redfield gunning down several Black Africans. While not the most controversial topic in gaming history, it was enough to create a stir among fans and potential boycotts upon the games release. Although this was diminished upon the reveal of characters Sheva Alomar and Josh Stone, two characters of different ethnicity the stigma was still there.
While I can see the problems and understand where the controversy came from… I really cannot believe for a second that any of this was intentional. I feel instead that there is an air of ‘blissful ignorance’ when it came to the developers making the game. The reason I say this is because in 2001, Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down was released, a story that centers around the actual Battle of Mogadishu that occurred in the 1990’s. The film grossed $173 million dollars and was a modest critical success. It is very obvious that the development team behind RE5 took a lot of influence from Black Hawk Down. In fact, the entire first part of the game before the battle with Ricardo Irving is almost shot for shot a remake of the movie. The scene starts with armed commandos invading an African village and the team becomes overpowered by extremely high numbers. Even a helicopter gets shot out of the sky and Chris and Sheva have to make their way to the crash site just like in the movie.
Plus I can really see the appeal behind it. Black Hawk Down was a popular movie and one that some of the younger audience would connect with. But I think that there was a little lack of tact behind it. First off what I think the publishers failed to realize is that Black Hawk Down was based on real events. Not just a fictionalized retelling of events, but real events with the names of the soldiers in the movie and everything. To base your game on this could touch a sore spot with several people. Not only that but if you put your setting in a ‘fictional African town’ called Kijuju and fill it with black men and women, while it does make a little sense it still comes across as very insensitive when you have a Caucasian protagonist.
So to call this game racist is a misnomer, because the game really isn’t intentionally racist or all that insensitive. But more or less blissfully unaware of how it could be construed after the game was released. So this might be a sore spot for several… But it isn’t one for me.
This is a problem that is going to come when get to the next couple of reviews, such as Operation Raccoon City and Resident Evil 6. But this was the first game where they shifted focus of the RE game from survival horror to action. Reasons for this we will get into with the up and coming reviews, but this is more of an appetizer of things to come as far as my criticism is concerned as we reach the end of this retrospective.
Story is a Bunch of Let Downs (Spoilers)
I consider this game the equivalent of a night of terrible sex. Sure it is nice that you are having sex and there are some parts that are kind of enjoyable. But really at the end of it all it is nothing more than a big let down and a feeling of self loathing and dissatisfaction.
The story promises to show you Ozwell E Spencer, the final confrontation with Albert Wesker, bring back Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield in the same game, all of this stuff! But the whole delivery just comes across as major disappointments.
The fact that we get to see Redfield and Valentine in a game together again is the best I can say for the promises this game said it would keep. I did enjoy playing as Redfield and seeing Valentine again even though her little fight scene was so cartoonish I couldn’t take it seriously.
The one and I will stress ONE scene with Spencer in it was a major let down. Like I said in Umbrella Chronicles, the satisfaction of actually being apart of the moment when Umbrella Inc is brought to its knees is one of the most satisfying moments I have ever had in a video game. To finally bring down that fucking company was worth its weight in gold… AND I wanted that for Spencer! Ozwell E Spencer was the enigmatic leader of Umbrella since the very first game. The mansion from the first game is named after him, the Spencer Estate. I wanted one of two things. I either wanted to see Spencer as this broken down and beaten man. A man who had good intentions for the BOW division of Umbrella but watched the monster grow into this evil creation that he could not control… OR I wanted him to be batshit insane. This megalomania fool who turned into this beast of a monster that you have to destroy. To have the satisfaction of finally killing that old motherfucker who dared to play God.
But no… What we got was a cut scene. One cut scene with an old Spencer saying that he wanted to be a God before Wesker kills him by jamming his fist through his chest. We don’t get the pleasure of killing him ourselves, Wesker kills him and tosses him aside like he is nothing. This fucker is responsible for millions of deaths and we do not get the satisfaction of administering justice or even for someone to administer justice. Instead we watch Wesker kill him and that is that. Fucking disappointing.
But even with that, nothing is more disappointing than the final battle with Wesker. Now Spencer was always the faceless man in the shadows. The guy we always wanted to see and kill, but really we never got the chance to meet face to face. Wesker though… It can be argued that Wesker IS the villain of Resident Evil. He was the original villain. We later learn that he was behind the scenes manipulating RE2 and RE3. He is a villain in Code Veronica AND RE4 and now he comes back for RE5. This guy is the guy! The big bad! And his final boss battle is just like any other boss battle in Resident Evil. Wesker IS the bad guy and he deserves one of if not THE most epic boss battle in RE history. Instead he is just as easily swept aside as any other boss battle, somewhat of a challenge but nothing to bat an eyelash at.
This whole game is just one big disappointment. I will give it to them that they tried to give us all these things that we had been hoping for. But they were just not able to deliver on any of them.
The fact that this is a Resident Evil game is really the problem and brings it down so far from being a fantastic game to a failure. Just on a gaming stand point, everything about it is fine. But because it is a Resident Evil game, there are just too many problems with it and the mythos that cannot be ignored. Overall it comes across as a major let down from a game that promised us so much. Not to mention that this is the game that started the downward spiral where we find the Resident Evil franchise today.
Final Score 2/5
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On a personal note, I am in the process of moving this weekend so just a heads up for anyone looking for my Sunday and Tuesday reviews may come a little late. Thank you for your patience.