Bob Dylan is one of America’s most celebrated folk musicians, poets, painters and authors. Jun Takeuchi is a Japanese game designer and producer of Resident Evil 5. The pair couldn’t be more different. There is one thing they both seem to agree on though and that’s that the times, they are a changin’.
When it comes to Resident Evil 5 in fact, it seems the times have changed rather drastically and quickly. The fifth instalment in the long running series is about as far from the horror routes of the franchise as it’s possible to get.
The game starts off like a rolling stone quite quickly, introducing players to the characters and locals at breakneck speed. This is Chris Redfield, from the first game, and this is Sheva Alomar. They both work for the BSAA and they’re here in Africa to track down some bio-weapons and such. It really is refreshing that a series with such a painfully convoluted storyline should actually get to the essentials so quickly and efficiently.
Just because the game features Chris Redfield doesn’t mean that it has any other similarities to Chris’ other adventures though. The two are about as disparate as can be. Where one focused on dark corridors, awkward controls and a dry, haunting atmosphere, Resi 5 is more about over-bright alleyways, cover-systems and beating your chest and yelling with manly-self adoration every time you decap a foe. Argh-yeah!
The changes get even more fundamental than we’ve previously implied too, but suffice it to say that the emphasis is now much more on combat and effective use of hand-grenades than trying to work out what to do with the Wolf Medal. If we tried to go on and list every single difference between Resident Evil 5 and the original games then we’d end up writing about four pages, which is far too much for you to read!
If there’s one thing to say about Resident Evil 5’s story then it’s that it feels a lot more modernised than you might expect. The previous games have always been outdated in some regard; radios that never work, stories that are riveted with clichés and a style of exposition that feels like a bad cross between the Dune movie and a Lovecraft novel. Lots of people talking to themselves, saying stupid things to partners and neglecting to carry mobile phones.
One of the great things that Resident Evil 5 does though is to immediately bring every fictional aspect of the game straight up to date, from technology to the overall themes. Both Chris and Sheva are in constant contact with the anti-chemical, anti-terrorist BSAA organisation they work for via headsets. They make use of Humvees, modern squad tactics and GPS maps. You rarely feel like the entire escapade is your employer's contrived effort to execute you by dropping you in a warzone with no supplies or information.
The fact that this high-tech Western organisation is fighting against the impoverished locals throws the entire game into a subtly different light too. At times it feels that Resident Evil 5 may even have a point to make, however lazily it attempts it.
That said though, just because Resident Evil has finally found an efficient way to tell it’s story doesn’t mean that it’s all good news. In fact, if anything, these updates show just why the past games were the way they were; now that you’ve got a direct line to HQ a huge amount of tension is suddenly removed from the game.