Sifting through website upon website of gaming news, listening to podcast after podcast, and reading comment after comment on forums, one thing has become painfully apparent.
People do not seem to be picking up what Resident Evil 5 is putting down.
Most of these opinions are of course based off of the recent Japanese and American demos that were put up on PSN and Xbox Live. The general complaint is the controls, but more specifically Mr. Redfield’s inability to move and shoot at the same time. From as far as I can remember, this has been a complaint for every single core RE game and they have all went on to be absurdly successful games despite the controls issue.
So what is it about RE 5 exactly that has made all sorts of journalists, bloggers, and forum posters go nuts? What has changed from 1996 when the first RE on Playstation released? Or even more recently, 2005 when RE 4 came out for the Gamecube and was lauded by most as the game of the year?
The internet ultimately changed it with its long series of expansive and information filled tubes. Microsoft and Sony helped it along with the ability for anybody with their current gen systems to pass judgment on a demo for a series most may never have played before. This has given the series exposure to an even broader audience that could have cared less back in 2005 when RE 4 came out. The demo is free and it gives anybody the right to hit the internet and sound off on forums, comment on blog articles, or even have the audacity to author a post in their own startup blogs like PNG. Perhaps one of the other big issues was when there was a preview video up on the New Xbox Experience (can we just call it the dashboard again yet?) where a Capcom representative put his foot in his mouth and said the new action controls allowed you to move and shoot. This is just how the debate started though and does not address the issue at hand. Why can’t Chris and Sheva move and shoot?
Let’s look back at the core series almost 13 year history for the answer. Resident Evil as a series was never really about the gunplay and pretty much all about the puzzles, story, and inventory management. Every bullet was so precious to you, even more so in every game before RE 4 due to the fact that there was no real way to tell if you were going to hit your target or not. This was made more nerve wracking in previous games due to the fact that there was a finite amount of ammo in the game. There were no merchants and the zombies didn’t carry guns for you to loot 9mm ammo. All previous games used a combination of prerendered and 3-D cameras that would often times force you to aim off the screen in hopes of killing a zombie. But once again, the emphasis was not on the gunplay, but some long intricate puzzle that might take you 20 minutes to figure out just to unlock a door. If they would have let you move and shoot in the earlier games, you would have just ended up firing ammo needlessly off of the screen and making the games pretty much impossible to finish.
It took Capcom almost 9 years and 4 games to give your gun a laser pointer, move the camera behind the character, and give some extra ammo drops. Some would say this gave the game a more action oriented focus but I would have to differ. Resident Evil 4 remained an RE game at is core as the gunplay was secondary to the puzzles. As a matter of fact there are numerous times where the improved aiming and behind the shoulder camera angle allowed them to finally use guns in some of the puzzle elements of the game. An example of this is the blue gems that the merchant has hung around the village for you to shoot to gain a new pistol for free. Even boss battles became more strategic than in the previous games. They reinvented the franchise, breathed some new life into it, and it was nominated and won numerous game of the year awards.
Here we are 4 years after Capcom’s groundbreaking game came out. We’re getting treated to another installment with an improved graphical look and some major tweaks to the gameplay. Resident Evil is finally getting a proper co-op that is getting raved about by the reviewers that have the 3 chapter build, the controls have been tweaked to allow you to strafe in and out of cover that would have helped against the crossbow and gun toting “zombies” in RE 4, and you can map weapons to be hot swapped to your D-Pad. Despite these improvements, the issue keeps coming up though that Chris and Sheva need to need to move and shoot. You can do it in Gears of War and Dead Space, so why can’t Capcom do it in Resident Evil 5? There are two fundamental differences between those games and RE and that is the age of the franchises and their target genre which essentially go hand and hand.
Resident Evil is working with 13 years of fan support and core gameplay. To allow walking and shooting is to change the deliberate pacing of the game and turn it from a 3rd person survival horror game into a 3rd person shooter. This is the predicament Capcom finds themselves in. Do you ditch the core of what RE is? Do you alter the deliberate pacing and make gunplay the primary goal and turn it into a generic action shooter? Too many people are saying that RE needs to catch up and reinvent itself instead of being more of RE 4. They say it needs to conform to a standard control scheme. But to reinvent a franchise, do you really need to give the consumers more of the same?