Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Team Suck v Resident Evil 5, round OH COME ON

As promised by reviewers and friends, Resident Evil 5 veered off the tracks in its final stages, both in terms of gameplay and plot. I won’t bother with the plot here – honestly, I don’t even read the in-game documents anymore – but rest assured, I was four beers deep and found myself fighting spiders in a subterranean, somehow Aztec temple.

Quoth Andrew: “Oh COME ON.”

As if the Ooga-Boogas weren’t enough, another thoughtless ethical lapse made its way into the game. As you traipse through these ancient ruins, grunting and muscle-bulging and enjoining you partner to, ahem, come on, you’re plundering the shit out of an ancient, previously-undiscovered civilization. Every priceless artifact, listed under the “treasure” tab in your inventory, is liquidated for firearms. It’s like Indiana Jones – or Indiana Jones’ drooling, braindead sibling who jumps through the house smashing the china. And yelling racial slurs.

Speaking of firearms, the introduction of the grenade launcher tipped the game so unfairly in our favor that I stopped using it. Andrew complained that he “missed shooting things” – indeed, entire mobs of baddies were easily dispatched with a few high-explosive rounds from a semi-automatic launcher. One sequence pits you against a dozen highly-lethal monsters in a tight hallway. I suppose Capcom meant this to be challenging – I just kept pulling the trigger until there was nothing left but shining gems (stored, I supposed, in the monsters’ guts).

A spider-boss the size of a gas station? Dead in a minute. I wish I were joking.

Keeping in spirit with Indiana Jones, the Aztec level is full of puzzles and traps. One sequence involves using mirrors to trigger elevators with lasers. No matter how incredulous, it was fun. I didn’t complain. Also in keeping in spirit with Indy was a quicktime sequence that demanded we run (read: press A, really, really fast), and jump periodically as a temple crumbled behind us. We died no fewer than five times.

After living Legends of the Hidden Temple, we emerged into some shiny lab-type facility that I can only guess holds the game’s final chapter. Here, the game underwent a startling transformation: the zombies started shooting back. Now we had serious cause to use the tacked-on cover feature. Much to my surprise, the game didn’t fall to pieces once targeting lasers started criss-crossing the air above my crouched and whimpering self. As an action shooter, it’s serviceable, and very, very pretty.

This isn’t the game’s true tempo – I believe that was in the bait-and-switch battles fought with those chainsaw bastards – but I’m intrigued. What kind of game would Resident Evil 5 be if the zombies got trigger-happy sooner? Maybe Capcom would be forced to make the design decisions they were so obviously trying to avoid. Maybe they would simply remake Resident Evil 4, or throw out both baby and bathwater and make an action game.

As I near the endgame, I can’t help but think we would have been better off with the latter.