Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What he said

I was going to write all about how Resident Evil 5's depiction of race strikes me as less problematic than did the initial trailer, but then Stephen Totilo went and said the same thing.

Context is everything, and the trailer didn't have it. The game clearly sets up the premise, and from the get-go depicts enemy characters who are visibly under the control of parasites. And strangely, I find myself agreeing with one of the more common arguments I tried to dismiss: when I'm playing the game, I'm really not seeing skin color. I'm reacting to threats. If I were only watching the game, as with the trailer, then I'd be taking more note of what everybody looked like. As a player, it's all about prioritizing my targets based on what seems most dangerous at the time.

I'm relieved, because I thought I wouldn't be able to think of anything else while playing Resident Evil 5. But I've been able to enjoy it on its own terms so far.

Instead, I want to take a minute to talk about how dumb Sheva is. As computer-controlled partners go, she's not so bad. She sticks with you (sometimes a little too closely, actually), and is a pretty good shot. She picks up ammo if she's far away from you, but if she's nearby she gives you dibs. But for all the basic things that she does right, strategic planning is still impossible.

Mostly, that's due to her strange weapon preferences. She seems to favor the weakest weapon in her arsenal at all times, no matter what's situationally appropriate. For example, I decided to keep the handgun and shotgun for myself, and give her the MP5. That also meant giving her all the machine gun ammo. Yet if she had even five bullets in her handgun, she'd use that -- and then pick up a new box -- rather than kicking ass with the machine gun and letting me have the handgun ammo.

Even worse, at one point she was standing motionless with the shotgun, because the zombies were too far away for it to be effective -- even though she also had the rifle in her inventory. Since she had shotgun shells remaining, though, she wasn't going to switch weapons. That was unfortunate. It might be nice if there were some way to control her more fully, but then you start getting away from the immediacy of the action gameplay, and nobody wants that.

It's clear that live co-op is going to the be the way to play, and I look forward to giving that a whirl tonight. My concern now would be that co-op couldn't possibly be scary when you're cracking jokes with a buddy, but then again Resident Evil 5 doesn't seem scary in the first place. In a Venn diagram of the series, with overlapping circles marked "horror" and "action," this game would be nestled securely on the righthand side.


Unknown said...

Camp horor is traditionally co-op.
Well, in a way.

The camp horror movies surely aren't traditionally watched by yourself, but with frineds (or a special someone).

And co-op in horror games isn't exactly new. Consider the Obscure games on the PC, PS2 and Wii (Obscure is the name of the games, I think 1 & 2 were on the PS2 & PC and 3 is only on the Wii).

The question about Resident Evil 5's co-op is the online co-op mode. How co-op in a horror game online affects the game experience vs. how it affects the game experience when enjoying it together on the same couch as with slasher flics and the Obscure games.

(Also, the best times playing RE4 I had was with someone else watching along. It's camera & gameplaypace made it something that was very inviting -rather then nausiating- to watch and I was much more likely to scream when I heard an enemy behind me when there was someone else there.)

Mitch Krpata said...

That's a good point. I've never really enjoyed Resident Evil for camp value, though. Something about participating in it, rather than watching it, has allowed me to enjoy it on the level I think it's probably intended -- some of these games have scared the crap out of me. RE5 doesn't seem too scary at all, and I think that's almost entirely due to having a partner. In the earlier games, you were alone or separated from your allies almost all the time. In Resident Evil 4 especially, I had the sense that if Leon died out there, no one would ever know. That's a recipe for fear.