An African Residence
With the next Resident Evil game only three months away, Capcom’s Japanese demo of the title has been gradually circulating around the globe. Unlike the trial of the fourth game, which basically gave away the first twenty minutes of the title, this trial offers two separate scenarios, playable in single player or split-screen co-op.
Opinions after the jump.
Capcom seemed to be rather taken aback by the initial reaction to the racial issues in the title, but it remains the first thing that comes to mind when playing the game. It’s hard to imagine a design document reading “beefy white US marine mows down hoards of impoverished black people” circulating without some questions being raised. The fact that the efforts to remedy the criticism are so token compounds the matter. The occasional white faces in the savage mob look suspiciously like last minute re-texturing jobs, and Zero Punctuation was bang on the money in describing Player Two character Shiva as “a white woman dipped in tea”. The most recent trailer suggests that a major theme of the game will be western drug companies profiteering at the expense of Africa, but on the basis of this demo alone, the racial politics of the game are rather questionable.
It’s hard to fault the developer’s decision-making process, but the result feels a little under whelming. Faced with the choice of hastily pushing out a straight sequel to Resident Evil 4 or undertaking a more prolonged development cycle to produce a true follow-up, they commendably adopted the latter approach. Unfortunately, the developer’s radical additions to the RE4 formula have been gradually dropped as they were found to be detrimental to the gameplay, and what we’re left with is a simple sequel with co-op. Two years ago, this would have been an extremely enticing prospect, but this hardware generation’s emphasis on fighting large numbers of enemies means that the likes of Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising moved the “crowd control” concept beyond what the 2005 title achieved. From a fanboy angle, there’s a lot to like about Chris Redfield’s redesign. He’s always been unique in being the experienced Special Forces solider amongst Resi’s otherwise hapless heroes, and his new look brings this across, without resorting to the thuggery of his Rebirth/ Umbrella Chronicles look. Although the lack of build-up in the demo means that the setting is lacking in atmosphere, there is a new feeling of actually being part of a military unit. However, whether this Black Hawk Down seriousness can withstand the appearance of Albert Wesker for his long-promised showdown with his nemesis remains to be seen.
It’s worth remembering that this is an old build, with this exact same demo being playable at last year’s E3. But that the moment, things are looking worryingly average.