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Resident Evil 5 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 brings the series up to date with next generation visuals and a focus on co-operative gameplay. But with such a prestigeous history behind it, making the series appeal to the masses loses something of its unnerving charm along the way. The plodding doom of the encroaching zombies and limited ammo are replaced in favour of faster action and more firepower.
Capcom has been throwing zombies at us courtesy of the Resident Evil franchise since long before they were cool. Shambling reanimated cadavers have infested mansions, police stations and gloomy Spanish villages for the better part of thirteen years. As the game steps from the darkness into the searing African daylight for its latest installment, Resident Evil 5, I can't help but think it has come so far, but lost so much.
When Capcom released the original Resident Evil it captivated me. Each subsequent game in the franchise has had me looking for that magic of the first game. Yet with every release, the series has moved ever further from the original, so that by the time I played Resident Evil 5 I had to face the fact that this is not the same game I fell in love with.
Resident Evil is to be the series that cemented survival horror as a genre. It is a genre reliant on tension, with the ability to make you scared despite being safely curled up on your sofa. It is an experience I relish - turn the lamps down and the sound up, there's nothing like it.
Resident Evil 5 removed scarcity, and with it the tension.
Resident Evil creates this tension by scarcity of resources. Zombies closing in on me was chilling, but what terrified me more was that if I unloaded my shotgun prematurely I would be out of ammo for the ones that could be around the next corner.
Resident Evil 5 removed scarcity, and with it the tension. As I played there was never any point that I was close to running out of energy or ammo. I ran from one hut to another, constantly startled by how well armed the inhabitants were. Every crate contained ammo, every zombie dropped bullets and there was even ordnance under the fruit.
I was happy that the game ordained to shower me with as much ammo as it did because the pacing had also changed significantly since the earlier titles. Until the fourth game in the series Resident Evil tended to max out at three zombies on screen. Given enough room to maneuver it was easy to weave past the slow moving adversaries.
Resident Evil 5 on both 360 and PS3 seems to take a more genocidal approach. Not only does it throw dozens of the new fast moving zombies at you, but also it expects you to expunge every one of them from the face of the planet. Personally I find it hard to feel scared when the game has empowered me so greatly am I able to take on a village full of mutated people and livestock by myself.
It was the inclusion of a partner that really finished off any delusion I was clinging to that Resident Evil 5 was still a survival horror game.
It was the inclusion of a partner that really finished off any delusion I was clinging to that Resident Evil 5 was still a survival horror game. Whether playing with an artificial intelligence or human partner, the very presence of that second person provided me with a safety net - but a net I didn't ask for and certainly didn't want. Not only is having two overpowered protagonists at your command fundamentally less scary than only having one, but also the artificial intelligence partner tended to spend all of its time trying to ensure my survival.
The genius of the game is that for all my looking back longingly at what it used to be, it still managed to captue my imagination. Resident Evil 5 is an amazing action game that I enjoyed immensely. I concede the series probably had to change to survive in the modern market; it is just a shame that so much of what I enjoyed, and that made it frightening, had to be lost.
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