I’m not going to do an in depth point-by-point comparison or deep philosophical analysis on the difference between the ‘old’ Resident Evil (RE) games and the ‘NEW-er’ generation of RE. Both have their merits and deserve recognition. Also, I have JUST finished playing my way through RE 5 for the first time (yes, yes, I know I’m a bit late,) and though I have played through the original RE (the Gamecube remake) SEVERAL times, it’s admittedly been a while since I broke bad on some O-Z (that’s Original Zombie, yeah yeah.) The point is, I don’t feel equal to the task of comparing their merits in any detail, given it’s been a while and the details of the original are not as fresh in my head as I would like. But I do want to discuss a couple of significant differences in the ‘old’ and ‘new’ and how they effect my gaming experience.
Alright…let me collect my thoughts…deep breath…and GO!
First of all, this whole train of thought was set into motion as the hubs and I were driving back from the store tonight. Now, were you an avid (/obsessional) gamer, you might find that this experience is familiar to you; we were driving along and, noticing certain features of the topography, we joked about how our brains sort of cross-patched to Resident Evil uüber mode. A neural short circuit, if you will, but we see certain topographical details that remind us of the game, and for a split second, we want to whip out our sniper rifles and search for enemies on the hilltops or hidden treasures on the bluffs. I shit you not.
Anyway, this segued into a discussion about the O-Z and the original RE…where it all began. What many consider the original survival horror game. I told my husband that I was sort of fond of the boring old shambling decrepit zombie, that I missed him even. That’s not to say that the Ganados (RE4) or the Majini (RE5) don’t make formidable enemies.
Actually, I think that was sort of the point. They’re faster and in many ways more versatile. The maps (or “game boards,” for want of a better term) in the last two installments of the franchise are detailed, expansive, and less static. The gameplay is closer (over the shoulder first person shooter). The enemies, as previously mentioned, are generally more dynamic. The weapons…oh, don’t get me started. This is my bread and butter right here!
My favorite part of the ‘new-er’ style game play in RE4 and RE5 is the variety of weapons and the ability to upgrade your weapons with cash you’ve collected as you play your way through. This feature gives you something extra to work for. It’s an added dimension to the game that makes you feel more in control of your gaming experience. After all, no longer are you limited to a single weapon in each category (ONE handgun, ONE shotgun, etc) only to be upgraded when and if you reach the stage and/or in the game where you find a better one. In the initial play-through of RE4 and RE5, you still do have to play through to certain set points of the game before more variety and certain upgrades become available, but after that, you have your choice of weapons.
In RE4, the choices are usually no-brainers; each new weapon only seems to get better than the one preceding it. In RE5, the choices are a tiny more difficult; after all, one handgun’s firepower may max out at what is essentially ‘hand-cannon’ power, but maybe its magazine only holds 16 rounds, whereas a weaker handgun might offer a capacity of 100 (which translates into less inventory space “wasted” on carrying ammo around.)
Yeah, all that is great, and I played RE4 until I unlocked and procured the infinite ammo Chicago Typewriter (basically a high-powered Tommy gun), which essentially made the game so easy that it just wasn’t that much fun anymore.
Anyhoo… now that I’ve extolled (waaaay more extensively than I had intended) the virtues of the newer RE games, let me get back to my original point. There is a fundamental difference in the newer games and the older ones (especially the original.) If I had to name it, I suppose I’d call it the ‘spook’ factor (gimme a break, I’m sleep-deprived and running on fumes here.)
When I was first playing through RE (let’s just say RE1 to be perfectly clear, if not completely accurate,) I distinctly remember being up by myself, at 2am, in the dark, controller in hand, searching that deserted mansion room by room. The mansion was a cavernous, vaulted panorama, eerie and beautiful. And you never knew what you were going to find behind the next door. Maybe a zombie, wandering aimlessly looking for a midnight snack. Maybe a Reaper, a strong and fast-moving bio-weapon hoping to tear a chunk out of the ass of your S.T.A.R.s uniform as you ran like hell in the opposite direction. More often than not, though, you’d find a dimly lit room, still and quiet, in which you’d explore every piece of furniture and painting for a useful item or a clue. And when you found a piece of the puzzle, then there was that ‘a-ha’ moment.
Which leads neatly into my next point. In RE1, you actually had to do a lot more legwork. You might enter a room and see a glimmer in the corner. If you investigate it, you might find something useful. In RE4 and 5, they practically give you dummy instructions; prompts appear on the screen when you wander close enough to an item you need. In RE1, you might find an item and have NO clue what to do with it. You have to hold onto it. You have to keep playing. Sometimes the item in question might fit into or be a part of yet another item, which you might not find until three boards later, at which point you might have to turn around and backtrack, unable to progress in the game until you finished the task. Sometimes,the puzzles might have you stumped for quite a while, and you will run around the mansion aimlessly, before you figure out what needs to be done. RE4 and 5, while presenting tasks and problems to solve, is nowhere near as involved or challenging (or, admittedly, at times tedious.)
So, to sum up (although I’m sure something else will occur to me later, as I lay in bed, and that it will probably bug the shit out of me until I finally get up and write it down or add it into this entry)… I’m all about the modernized game-play in RE4 and 5, but I think they’re more ‘survival’ and less ‘horror’. Keep the over-the -shoulder first person point of view. Definitely keep the variety of weapons and ability to upgrade. But I would love to see a return to a more in-depth, slow and steady style, with more puzzling and less ‘hand-holding’ along the way. A more psychological experience would re-energize the RE franchise. Sure, you can intersperse it with segments of mass amounts of zombie-killing and new mutations of horrendous creatures. After all, we’d still want to get plenty of use out of all those cool-ass weapons!