Saturday, April 18, 2009

Team Suck v. Resident Evil 5: Round Goodbye

It’s over.

No more bosses. No more Wesker. No more loading screens, reload times or green herbs. No more of the painful cutscenes, the try-and-try-again quick time events, or the plot that metastasized from hammy to idiotic to flat-out insulting. No more of any of these things that sullied one of the most hyped games of all time, rendering a potentially genre-defining game into a ho-hum gorefest, a seven-oh through and through.

I snipe, I moan, I spit bile. And yet, I will miss Resident Evil 5, because for all of the game’s flaws, I had fun.

Team Suck 2/2 Andrew “COME ON” Cunningham has wondered more than once if he was enjoying the game in spite of itself – if it was only the stunning wit and consummate skill of yours truly that kept the game afloat in his esteem. Having finally played the game through to its perfectly ludicrous conclusion, I can say with confidence that Andrew was right. Resident Evil 5 is a well-heeled dinner party filled with your least favorite people – more fun to trash, ridicule and utterly destroy.

We’ve already picked through most of the issues, including (but not limited to) sluggish controls, inexcusable dialogue, a wacky story and a total lack of difference from its five-year-old predecessor. “Picked through” is putting it kindly – we’ve beaten this game into a slurry of guts, hair and teeth. Why the harsh treatment? How can we keel-haul a game whose overall critical reception is a thumbs-up?

Simply : this game should have been better. Resident Evil 4 was an incredible game, and we were right to expect similar excellence from RE5. Hell, we heralded it on this blog – I lauded the demo, and anticipated an edgier, shockingly relevant installment in a notoriously brain-dead franchise. Instead, we were handed a prettier, potentially dumber sequel. To take no steps at all is bad enough; to take a step backwards is absolutely inexcusable.

My chief disappointment has nothing to do with gameplay. Resident Evil 5 is set in Africa, a fact that has been bandied about by cultural critics and racism bell-ringers. Bold move for an action game – by necessity, you need to at least recognize the political implications of your decision. As I write, a two-legged regime in Zimbabwe is hardly closer to peace than it was six months ago, when a rigged election sent an opposition leader into hiding; rebel armies in the Congo halted a bloody advance scarcely months ago; Darfur remains a baffling human rights crisis; Somalia is a haven for pirates, terrorists and warlords.

Listen: you can’t sex this up and cram it into a Michael Bay movie set. It’s wrong. By simplifying the moral palate into black and white, you’re misleading legions of gamers who, to be fair, may not give a damn anyway. But look at Far Cry 2, a shooter with a similar setting – moral ambiguity wasn’t a facet of the game, it was the game. It unsettled gamers (or at least unsettled me) into viewing the setting as a character itself. Resident Evil 5’s treatment of Africa, while not necessarily racist, is certainly crass and damnable.

Descending my soapbox, I should say I’m excited to explore the Mercenaries mode. A staple of the Resident Evil games, Mercenaries tasks the player with killing as many zombies as they can before a time limit expires. I dumped hours into RE4’s Mercenaries mode, and I can’t imagine much has changed in the sequel. Certainly nothing else has.

Capcom has promised a complete reboot with Resident Evil 6. The question is: in five years, will I even care?