Every month or two, Corey and I pick a new co-op game to play via xbox live. Our most recent pick ended up being Resident Evil 5 due to its focus on co-op play. Before we started playing it, I didn’t know too much about it. I knew it had zombies in it, and that it’s a kind of game called “survival horror.” I’d heard the term, but I assumed it referred to games like Left 4 Dead. I’ve never played a Silent Hill game and my only experience with Resident Evil until now was the third film in the series, and all I really remember about it was that Milla Jovovich fought zombies while wearing some funky hotpants that I heard she designed herself.
Sadly, this game does not have Milla Jovovich in pants (hot or otherwise), but it does have lots of nasty zombies. Initially, I approached Resident Evil 5 similiarly to Left 4 Dead. During the first big wave of zombies, I fought them off as best I could, but the buggers just kept coming. And then, as a crowd of zombies had me pinned in a corner and were about to commit unspeakable acts of depravity against me for the fourth or fifth time, it dawned on me: run, you idiot!. And at that moment I realized what “survival horror” meant. Surviving this game means knowing when NOT to fight, and knowing how to conserve your ammunition and resources, which are very scarce in this game. It’s actually a lot of fun because I’ve found that it’s far scarier to be forced to carefully, and methodically take your shots, even as the zombies are rushing at you, rather than simply mowing them down with nearly unlimited ammo. Another thing I like about this game is that the slower pace seems especially designed for co-op play. There are puzzles and obstacles that require teamwork to complete, but more than that, you really do have to rely on your partner to watch your back and share resources as you’re making a desperate, last-ditch stand. I suppose you could finish it with an AI controlled partner, but most of the fun comes from working with a human controlled partner to survive against the odds.
I also have to say that until this game, I’ve never liked cut-scenes. It drives me nuts to have to sit there, controller anxiously in hand, and watch a 15 minute cut-scene with cheesy dialogue or bizarre story-lines that really don’t add anything to the real action of the game. I love the latest Gears of War, but would probably have liked it even more without those pointless cut-scenes (except the one with the classic line “they’re using giant worms to destroy our cities!”). This simply isn’t true of the cut scenes in Resident Evil 5. The overall story arc is still rather esoteric to me, as I’m new to the franchise. I’m in chapter 3 at the moment, and as far as I can tell, I’m supposed to kill some blonde dude who looks like a villain from Miami Vice, and who’s making some kind of secret chemical weapon, and who’s being helped by a chic wearing a medieval bird mask who might be my long-lost ex-partner, and I think they might work for a big corporation with an Umbrella logo. I’m not sure I really need this much story. As Vasqeuz says in Aliens, “I only need to know one thing—where they are.” But the cut-scenes are still absolutely worth watching. One of them involves a gang of zombies circling you on motorcycles and sometimes doing wheelies and jumping over you like an undead horde of Evel Knievels. It’s really fun to watch, and if they ever make a movie version of that, I’m totally there.
But the best thing about this game are the bosses. Seriously, the first time I saw the chainsaw-wielding bag-head zombie, I nearly dropped my controller and ran out of the room. He’s kind of like a skinny, fast-moving cross between Jason and Leatherface. So far, I’ve found that you can’t go toe-to-toe with any of the bosses, and will have to use very different strategy to defeat each one. Corey and I tried 3 or 4 completely different strategies on a 30 foot tall bat/scorpion/zombie thing before figuring out a rather complicated strategy that required using one person as bait while the other set and manually detonated landmines to disorient the beast long enough for us to slay it. While I still like Left 4 Dead as much as before, I’ve found that Resident Evil 5 is a fun and worthwhile version of the zombie apocalypse. The fun of mowing down literally thousands of zombies is impossible to deny, but being able to only deal with two or three at a time and having to run from groups any larger causes a real sense of fear and suspense that more action-oriented games simply can’t match.