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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?
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.
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?
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.