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It’s no secret that Resident Evil 5 has been a huge smash worldwide.  As of the latest sales figures, the game has sold over five million copies globally making it the most successful game in the series.  Being the most popular Resident Evil title, there are undoubtedly many new players to the franchise, as well as many returning veterans.

Hither to, Resident Evil 5 is undoubtedly a great game in of itself, but as the next installment in the long standing series, many fans feel the game has departed from the survival horror genre.  Thus, it begs the question: what has Capcom changed so much over the years to abandon its roots? Read on to find out more.

Director / Producer Cross-Over

In some shape or form, Director / Producer Shinji Mikami had a defining role in the production of each of the Resident Evil games.  With each title, Mikami added new innovations to each game while retaining the horror elements that made the series so grand in the first place.  In Resident Evil 3, players would be forced to make decisions that would alter the direction of the game, and RE0 was the first to incorporate a two character control scheme.

With Resident Evil 4 being his last project of the series, he created the over the shoulder point of view that went on to inspire games like Gears of War.  The game was an instant success, but it also received a bit of flack for losing some of its survival horror elements.


After Shinji Mikami left, Jun Takeuchi stepped into produce Resident Evil 5.  Takeuchi decided to incorporate the over the shoulder point of view once again.  This move has proven to be a huge seller, and it has scored well with many game journalists.  But as a true title to the series, Takeuchi has been criticized for not retaining the horror elements that have been passed on to him.  Why?

Camera Angles

While the over the shoulder point of view doesn’t necessarily take away from the survival horror genre, it is not as effective as the multi-angle camera shots.  The various camera angles leave dark corners hidden and create blind spots in wide open areas.

What was so memorable about the games leading up to RE4 was when players would walk into a dark room, and they could hear a zombie moaning but couldn’t see it.  We all know it’s there, but we don’t know where.  The sensation of having to default to our ears made players uncomfortable.

The over the shoulder angle has its blind spots that leave players vulnerable to flanking attacks, and it is startling when hit from the side, but the overall consensus is that it’s expected to happen, especially when fighting an army of Majinis.

Knowing Is Half the Battle

In RE5, the game is action oriented.  There are rare times when you’ll run from a fight.  As well, there is an abundance of Majinis scattered throughout the levels.  Over the years, Capcom has steadily moved away from the Dawn of the Dead zombies and has sprung for the Invasion of Body Snatchers type.

They’re smarter and they’ll engage in weaponry combat as opposed to eating Chris or Sheva’s flesh.  The protagonists are aware of the situation they’re getting themselves into (more so than in previous games), they have the skills necessary to complete their mission and there is an overabundance of weapons and ammunition scattered throughout the game.

Similarly, Chris and Sheva aren’t particularly the victims in the game; in fact, some would argue they are the aggressor, which leads into the whole racism argument, but I digress.  Racism aside, they can rely on each other in overwhelming situations, and the quick pace of the game doesn’t allow players to anticipate the moment.  It isn’t exactly the “survival” aspect of the genre.

Although there are moments of dramatic build ups, like your first encounter with a Licker, there aren’t enough of them to sustain the classic Resident Evil horror feeling.

Carbon Copies

The franchise is known for introducing zombies and monsters into the series that would build so much anticipation that players would dread the encounters with the undead.  Can you remember how you felt when you first saw a zombie snacking on Kenneth Sullivan in the Arkalay Mansion or your first ever meet and greet with a Licker?

chain Fianl

Aside from that, much of the horror genre was built on first impressions.  No one had any idea what these monsters could do, and they seemingly didn’t go down without a fight.  The series has taken a dramatic shift.

The introductions of new monsters are nonexistent in RE5, as all of the enemies are slight alterations of pre-existing baddies in prior titles.  The Majinis resemble the Ganados, Lickers are virtually identical, the Uroboros bosses operate much like RE0’s Leech Man, etc.  Even though the graphics and animations are stunning, the game lacks new monsters, which fails to deliver a fearful sensation.  Essentially, the mystery about the strange entity is nonexistent.


While Africa is a great location to take the series into a new direction, Capcom failed to take advantage of the exotic and mysterious that so many of other media sources have done.  The African setting is set during the day where a player’s visibility is clear.  In such an isolated area of the world, Capcom had the opportunity to make the game into a Heart of Darkness spin-off, but opted for The Ghost and the Darkness.  “The horror, the horror.” 


In the past, the series was set in the dead of night among various locations: a scary mansion, a solitary train, abandoned jail, etc.  Kijuju’s (Fictitious setting where RE5 starts) depiction is glib, but not in the same way as a post-apocalyptic Raccoon City, instead Kijuju is just run-down and poverty stricken.

This isn’t necessarily bad.  In fact, Capcom’s depiction of the area is marvelous, but there’s so much about the setting that could have retained the survival horror feel.

Resident Evil 5 is a great game in of itself.  The sales have shown that this is by far the most popular title yet to be released, but as for the creative vision, it’s obvious that Capcom has taken steps to push the franchise in a new direction.  We are given glimpses of suspense, violence and dread, but the game doesn’t have enough of it to fall into the survival horror genre.  Instead, the fast pace of the game, action oriented cut-scenes and aggressive attitudes from the protagonists pin it as an action adventure.

As a result, I’d like to hear from you about your opinions of the genre.  Do you think Resident Evil 5 is still a survival horror game, do you think it has dramatically shifted toward the action adventure genre or do you think it’s a perfect balance of both?  Let me know why.

  1. I think what bothers me the most is that virtually every one of those arguments (except for the different director/producer one, which is moot because it’s not actually an effect you literally see in the game) can be applied to Resident Evil 4. And, not only did everyone just adore RE4, but no one ever said anything of the sort. In fact, people always told me I was absolutely crazy for always saying the same things.

    So, I have to admit, while I do agree with the sentiments people have about RE5, it does piss me off a little bit because I’ve been saying the same thing since RE4 and only NOW am I not completely out of my mind for having that opinion.

  2. @Jamie
    Agreed. Resident Evil 4 had tank controls in an action-based world (Halo, Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden), yet no one bothered to knock it. It also made a complete shift from survival horror to action, and included QTEs, yet everyone praised them.

    Now, Resident Evil 5 is released, and people destroyed the game for the exact same reasons! As you can tell, I still loved Resident Evil 5: I’m able to differentiate it and RE4 from the original series and love them in a different way.

  3. I still haven’t played RE5 apart from in demo form.

    I’ll get it before the year is out I’m sure.

  4. Like Grahame, I have also not played RE5 yet. It’s one of the few AAA titles of 2005 I missed. At this point I’m probably gonna wait to play it until the PS3 motion controls come out. I really enjoyed playing RE4 on the Wii.

  5. avatar HiddenAHB

    I fucking love the firts 3 RE. I think RE4 is okay but it’s too much action.
    I prefer the slow combat and the sahdy puzzles.

  6. avatar J Garski

    The difference with RE4 versus RE5 was that the controls were ‘new’ when RE4 came out, and there wasn’t much to compare it to at the time. However, when RE5 came out we had other established games like Gears and Dead Space, the latter which proved that you could have a great survival horror experience with great fluid controls. That and the fact that RE5 didnt fix -any- of the issues with the controls issues that plagued 4 resulted in 5 getting heat that 4 didnt.

  7. @Jordan
    That’s a shame though.

    Resident Evil 5 was still a good game, and comparing it to completely different experiences isn’t very fair, considering you could STILL compare Devil May Cry or God of War’s action based control scheme to Resident Evil 4 at the time. Hell, Devil May Cry pretty much cemented new-age action controls a whole 4 years before Resident Evil 4.

  8. I really love RE5, but one thing I think RE4 definately did better – and this really added, in my opinion, to the ‘horror’ vibe – was throw enemies at you (especially in the first third of the game) who desperately wanted you to die. There was something more rabid about the guys infected with the plagas in RE5 – they were less human. In RE4, when you first see the guys infected with the Las Plagas, they’re carrying on with their farming, and spotting you seems to be a great source of trauma. When they see you, they drop everything and dedicate themselves to your death, completely uncaring about their own safety.

    To me, this contributed to the ‘horror’ of RE4, even if it wasn’t a traditional survival horror (which was fine with me, because I’m not a fan of the genre). The tone was a little less corny too, although I did enjoy RE5′s ridiculous dialogue for entirely different reasons.

  9. Haha, as someone who knows spanish, I think you would change your mind about Las Plagas if you knew what they were saying! But, I suppose I can’t say that with 100% certainty – just a wild guess!

  10. avatar J Garski

    Comparing RE5 and Dead Space is a perfectly fair comparison of the two. The two games were meant to be of the same genre and experience. The difference is, well, Dead Space was flat out better?

  11. @Jordan
    Haha, that’s an entirely different debate. I thought Dead Space was relatively uninspired, yet had solid gameplay and an inventive UI.

    Resident Evil 5 had four times as much value/content as a $60 purchase, and had more just plain action packed fun.

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  12. @J Garski
    “The difference with RE4 versus RE5 was that the controls were ‘new’ when RE4 came out, and there wasn’t much to compare it to at the time.” You nailed what I’m trying to get at.

    Sure, RE4 didn’t receive the amount of criticism that RE5 has got for shying away from its roots, but that’s because Mikami is a pioneer of innovation. With each RE he tries to come up with a different style of gameplay. Because RE4 was so innovating, much of the “lack of survival horror” was easily overlooked.

    Takeuchi on the other hand, seems like he’s more of an entertainment individual. The game is exciting and fast paced, but there isn’t anything really revolutionary in the game play. Everything seems like it’s copied and borrowed from past titles.

    Don’t get me wrong though. I loved RE5 and found it to be a wildly entertaining and a great game as well. And although the storyline has been criticized for being a bit predictable, IMO I found it be a great addition to the long standing series.

  13. I happen to think Dead Space was superior as well, RE5 was a clunk fest. Only love for the series and awesome graphics stopped it from being awful.

  14. avatar özgür

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    • avatar Fumiya

      Resident Evil 4 is generally heaild as one of the best action games ever made for a reason. Once you pick it up and start playing, you won’t want to stop. And its release on the Wii is undoubtedly the best version yet. For those of you who have never played it before, the game centers around Leon Kennedy, on a mission to rescue the President’s daughter, Ashley Graham. But with inhuman creature after creature flung at him, it quickly becomes obvious that these aren’t any ordinary kidnappers he’s dealing with. It’s more or less a side story to the main Resident Evil plotline, so even if you’ve never played an RE game before in your life, don’t worry you won’t get confused. The game is amazingly fun to play. It does have a couple of make you jump moments, but for the most part, it’s not really a scary game. It is very gory, however Leon can die in any number of memorable and horrendous ways, such as having his head cut off by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. It can also be extremely difficult at times. The game throws near endless enemies at you from the beginning, forcing you to adapt to the controls quickly merely to survive. And believe me, you will die. You will die many times. What little scariness the game does have tends to come from being surrounded and fearing for your survival although, on Normal difficulty it’s not as bad as some other notoriously difficult games (coughDMC3cough). Now, as for the Wii version. If you’ve played the game before, this is where you’ll want to start paying attention. The Wii controls work amazingly well, and are very intuitive after a few minutes of playing. To shoot, you simply hold B, aim with the Wiimote, and press A to fire. It works incredibly well and allows for previously unknown speed and precision having played the Wii version, I doubt I could go back to aiming on a traditional controller. Simply wave the Wiimote, and it automatically attacks the nearest target with your knife. (I was skeptical of the auto-target before playing, but it really does work very well.) Of course, the drawback to the controls themselves being easier to use is that the game itself is also a bit easier as a result, particularly if you’ve played it before. It’s also a bit annoying that when using your rifle the time at which you really NEED precise aiming the game makes you aim using the joystick. But, these are merely minor nitpicks in what is otherwise an amazing game. The Wii version has both the extra content that was included in the PS2 version, and the superior graphics and sound of the Gamecube version. So, if you’ve never played the game before, this is definitely the version to get. And even if you have played it before, at only $30, it might just be worth picking up again.

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