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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cool Ass Cinema Gets Evil: 15 Years Surviving the Horror Part 4


RESIDENT EVIL 5 was announced in 2005, and while I'd begun to lose slight interest in video games once again, I just had to get it since part 4 had made such an impression on me. After seeing a TRAILER for the game online in 2007, it looked to be just as entrancing as RE4, but with an awful lot of daytime gameplay. The setting was moved to Africa after the deadly virus linked to the Umbrella Corporation had spread to the dark continent.

The plot concerns Chris Redfield (whom you'll remember from RESIDENT EVIL, RESIDENT EVIL CODE: VERONICA X and RESIDENT EVIL 6) being sent to the fictional Kijuju, Africa to find and arrest Ricardo Irving, who has stolen a deadly bio-organic weapon with plans to sell it to interested, and no doubt insidious parties. 

After the fourth game, I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning after seeing the trailer. Unfortunately, it would be some two years before we'd see the finished product due in no small part to one massive stumbling block that became bigger than the game itself. RESIDENT EVIL 5 came under serious fire akin to a mob zombie attack for alleged racism, which, judging by the rantings of detractors, was thick as molasses as found in a 2007 E3 trailer. In fact, as late as AUGUST OF 2010, a year and a half after it was released in the United States, folks were still going on and on about how racist it was and also about what Capcom was going to do to not make such a careless mistake again. Incredible.

Despite there being black protagonists in the game and black actors and actresses contributing their voices, the sight of the white Chris Redfield shooting down waves of infected black "zombies" (The Ganados in RE4 and Majini here) rubbed certain parties the wrong way; unnecessarily turning a popular game franchise into something political. I guess it's okay to gun down white zombies in the first few games (although there's blacks in some of those, too) and Hispanics in the fourth installment, but a setting populated by predominantly black citizens is off limits. Well, the game does take place in AFRICA. Personally I never saw the trailer as racist. In my view, it's these "better interest groups" who are displaying racial tendencies in cases like this. They're doing nothing to dispel racial tensions, but perpetuating them. That's the only way to keep such an inflammatory scenario alive is to create an issue where one never existed (or exacerbate those that do). In this case, the target is a fucking video game.

An example of this gaming as a political issue, a writer named Tolu Olorunda had this to say in an excerpt from 2008 -- "The Video Game industry is one which has profited immensely from the casualty of black on black hostility. Notable products of its faculty include, 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF, DEF JAM: ICON and GRAND THEFT AUTO This $10 billion market owes the majority of its inspiration to the tragic decisions of young black and brown teenagers..." -- Even when you have black protagonists as your lead characters in a video game (as some of these do) ya still can't win! Oddly enough, some of the actual websites proclaiming RE5 to be racially inclined have removed those posts, showing up as dead links instead.

With that political nonsense out of the way, the game itself is fun, but if you're expecting anything resembling RESIDENT EVIL, you might be disappointed. I have yet to finish it, but do plan to go back to it at some point. I felt more like I was playing a video game version of MAD MAX, but with monsters. Much of what I played took place in broad daylight. It was suitably intense and extremely gruesome and also integrated offline co-op play; which hadn't been seen in the series before. 

Still, it's more RAMBO than RESIDENT EVIL. Rife with gun action, thousands of bullets fired, car chases and explosions, it's all rather exciting, but much farther away from the familiar horror machinations than the series as yet seen. However, some could look at this as a natural progression for the franchise while maintaining the revolutionary approach integrated in the mechanics by series creator Mikami in the fourth entry.


This unique 2001 'Survival Horror' game took Japanese history and wove horror-fantasy elements around them. The plot has depth, yet it's simplistic in this tale of Samanosuke Akechi doing battle with an undead Nobunaga Oda to save Princess Yuki from armies of demonic creatures. There's lots of flashy fighting moves, magic, impressive sound effects and some spooky moments spread out. The game was a huge success which led to the even bigger ONIMUSHA 2: SAMURAI'S DESTINY. Yagyu Jubei is this games main character in addition to a band of other wildly diverse characters you play throughout the game. Occasionally convoluted and drawn out, it's still a fun, if overblown action-fantasy fest. ONIMUSHA 3: DEMON SIEGE from 2004 brought the pain and the scope. A simply amazing game. Samanosuke returns (as does famous Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro) in this bombastic third entry that introduces a time traveling plot device. Actor Jean Reno features in this game as an unlikely ally for Samanosuke against the enormity of the Genma hordes. I never played DAWN OF DREAMS released here in 2006. I would love to see this series get resurrected on the PS3.


In 1999, it was announced that Playstation's massive horror hit would become a live-action film under the direction of George Romero, the king of the Undead. Romero was already familiar with the RE series having directed a commercial for Japan's BIOHAZARD 2 (RE2). His version of the film would have followed the original game very closely. 

Sadly, the producers didn't like his script. Unfortunately, Paul W. S. Anderson ended up directing the picture from his screenplay. Incidentally, his film deviated a lot from what made the game great. Most of the characters are killed off in a single sequence leaving a few left alive to run and gun against zombies. For whatever reason, the Tyrant was decided against as the main menace. Instead, the Licker, the four legged version of the Hunter from RE2 was now the main monster. 

I saw the film twice in the theater because the first time, the sound was seriously screwed up so myself, and everyone else got a free pass for another showing. Needless to say, I disliked it immensely both times. RESIDENT EVIL (2002) was a success which led to more sequels, most of which I avoided.

I saw a portion of RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE (2004) when it hit DVD. About the point where they made RE3's Nemesis look like a joke, being beaten up by series regular, Alice, I tuned out and didn't finish the movie. Since then, we've gotten RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION (2007), RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (2010), RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012) and next year, we'll likely get RESIDENT EVIL: AD INFINITUM.


If ever 'Survival Horror' got a shot in the arm, it was by 2008s DEAD SPACE. Not since Playstation's original RE juggernaut from 1996 (not counting the later REmake on GameCube) had their been a game with this level of fear and intensity. In it, the essence of 'Survival Horror' returned in a big way. You play as Isaac Clarke, an engineer who finds unending horror aboard a mining ship in outer space. 

Essentially RESIDENT EVIL in outer space, DEAD SPACE distinguishes itself with some intriguing additions for the maximum in visceral thrills. There's no HUD (Head's Up Display). Instead info like your life bar is visualized via holographic imagery seen on your suit. The ability to target body parts is an ingenious method in dealing with hostile alien lifeforms. There's a distinct lack of high powered weaponry in the traditional sense, so Isaac must use mining tools as his weapons of creature destruction. It's simply a spectacular game all around. DEAD SPACE 2 was released in 2011.


RESIDENT EVIL 6 has just come out earlier this month (October 2nd, 2012) and after the lack of a true feeling of RESIDENT EVILness in the fifth chapter, I was hesitant to pick this up. The gaming bug had bit me again, and I had extra cash burning a hole in my pocket and figured why the hell not? Upon getting home with RE6 (and also the new TWISTED METAL and RESISTANCE 3), I went online to read up on it (something I should have done ahead of time) and found lots and lots of negative reviews. I'd never seen an RE game of the main story arc receive such a low rating before. So I put the game in fearing the worst.

While I've so far played only a small portion of it, it does put the evil back in RESIDENT EVIL and zombies are zombies again (although they do pick up weapons and throw them at you), there's a Fulci styled blood geyser of gaming additions that threatens to derail the whole enterprise instead of keeping it on track. 

From the very start, one gets the impression the makers were gunning for the closest to a movie-gaming crossover experience as possible. It's movies, movies, movies crammed with Qick Time Events that often give off the impression they would rather you WATCH RESIDENT EVIL 6 as opposed to actually PLAYING IT. The co-op play returns as does the dark ambiance of those early games. Collecting herbs has now been modified where you have to put them into these tablet things to use them. Fighting game style maneuvers have also been integrated to help out in hairier situations and bullets seem to be in less abundance compared with the last few games.

I've not played enough of it yet, but so far, I'm fairly disappointed with it. It seems to be the most sharply divided amongst fans and critics of the series thus far. Capcom seem genuine in their perseverance in taking the series in new directions to keep it fresh and viable. However, closing the door on the series at this point and starting over from scratch might also be worth thinking about. RESIDENT EVIL has strewn so far away from what made it "Survival Horror", that if it continues on this path, the name itself will need to evolve to keep up with the innumerable changes the various Umbrella Corporation contagions have inflicted on this once mighty franchise.



Maynard Morrissey said...

I'm a non-gamer, so I cannot comment on your cool and extensive game-reviews.
But I'm actually a pretty big fan of the movies and there's a massive RE-franchise review coming in the next few days. Dtay tuned :)

venoms5 said...

I am curious of your thoughts, Harry, if you've never played the games themselves. I'm not a fan of the movies, but have thought about watching those I haven't seen just for kicks. The first game and the GameCube remake are creepier and scarier than just about any horror movie out there. And DEAD SPACE was scary as hell, too. It's what RE used to be.

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