About a week ago (or was it two? Days…blurring together…), I had the opportunity to hang out with a buddy, sip a little Courvoisier (yes, I am now classified as a mature gamer with refined tastes 🙂 ) and play the latest in one of my favorite survival/horror series, Resident Evil 5 by Capcom.  The only problem with this was the lack of horror.

If someone doesn't oil my massive arms IMMEDIATELY, it's going to get messy around here.

If someone doesn't oil my massive arms IMMEDIATELY, it's going to get messy around here.

A brief setup for the game: you’re Chris Redfield, the continuing protagonist for most of the RE games. You’re in Africa where terrorists have seized the T-virus and mutated it. You and your new partner, Sheva Alomar, are 1 of 3 teams trying to find a certain terrorist when things begin going wrong…zombie wrong.

I remember the nights working at Hollywood Video and closing the store at 1am, coming home and popping in Resident Evil 2. I remember those nights because they were damn near sleepless. Every door you walked through had it’s own creepy cut-scene (albeit, giving the Playstation just a bit of time to load the next scene) and you never knew what to expect in the next room. The lighting and music lent itself perfectly to the genre and enhanced the tension. I’ve been talking to a lot of colleagues about “moments” in games; the small scenes in a game that stand out and stick with you long after you’ve forgotten the name of the main characters or how the game ended. There was a “moment” in RE 2 when you walked down a certain hall with boarded windows, in fear of one of the Lickers attacking you, when suddenly zombie arms burst through the window boards and tried to kill you on the spot. I remember literally jumping out of my seat when this occurred and it has stuck with me ever since.

Fast forward to RE 5…no such “moments” and plenty of opportunities. In the first village, you walk around and witness someone being beaten in the street and a bit of tension rises as the members applying the beat-down slowly turn to look at you (all in-game). You walk a bit further down the road and a voice comes across a PA system. Suddenly, the town seems empty – again, a bit more tension. In hindsight, this would have been a perfect opportunity to secure the “horror” element for the game with something simple like a chicken popping out at you on a forced turn. Seriously. Something little that makes you jump and feel a bit embarrassed about doing so. Sprinkle several of these “moments” throughout the game, mixed in with actual times that the player does need to start firing to save their lives and you’ve got a winning combination that will have your audience punch-drunk, the way they want to be.

Visually, RE 5 is stunning. The motion-capture used on the zombie hoardes (and I mean hoardes…no more 2 or 3 zombies per screen) and protagonists alike is spot on. Even the textures in the walls of run-down buidings and villages look incredible.

Unfortunately, once you’re past the glitz and glamore of the graphics, you’ll notice a fairly weak storyline made worse by choppy, unbelievable dialogue. Gone are the days of ammo conservation (which set this series apart in a good way), so feel free to run and gun. And lastly, the first boss fight is much harder than anything you see throughout the majority of the game. Granted, I haven’t finished the game, but 5 hours into playing, I had not discovered a bigger challenge than the level released as a demo. Hmmm…I’m not saying false advertising, but…

In all, the game is fun but I don’t feel it lives up to its namesake. If you’re making a survivor/horror game, make sure it’s a struggle to survive and, for Pete’s sake, make sure there are moments of horror. C’mon, Capcom, you know this. Or at least, you did.

Just Before GDC

March 24, 2009

The title might be a little innaccurate, as technically this is the 2nd day of GDC 09, but I am heading to San Francisco tonight, so, the title works. Moving on.

I’m writing partially because I have failed to do so in a month and partially (or I’d like to think mostly) because I read two interesting articles on Kotaku just now: one made me mad, one made me happy.

Starting with what made me mad (so I can have a happy ending 😉 ), Apple: please do not do this. It only takes a moment to see what will happen here. Indie developers with little capital to create their games put out their product and yes, maybe it’s not great, but maybe they make a little coin off it and their next title is a hit. If they end up getting smacked down with returns, they could very easily go in debt repaying consumers and then the creative flow stops. Meanwhile, larger companies who can afford to take the hit will continue producing the same drivel they’ve always put out there and consumers will buy it out of sheer lack of options. The iPhone has been wonderful for the indie development scene. It would be a shame to have a major drop off now.

The second article makes me happy because I own a PS3. For the longest time, I’ve listened to friends talk about how great their exclusive XBox titles are and have been saddened a bit on the inside that a powerhouse like Sony hasn’t grasped the concept that devoted fans of their system need games to play. I appreciate the Blu-Ray player (though I’ve had to replace mine twice), but I wanted a gaming console, not a glorified DVD player. Finally, with a lower price on the dev kit and easier-to-use tools, hopefully 2010 will be the year of the PS3’s domination!

Check back soon as I will be covering my first GDC 09 experience with pictures, audio and whatnot! If you’re lucky, I’ll double the whatnot. 😉

Tantalum capacitor - new Blood Diamond?

Tantalum capacitor - new Blood Diamond?

I should probably already be in bed but as I logged on to do a final email check, I came upon this interesting article. I am very surprised by this as I’ve never taken the time to understand what actually goes into making “western electronics”.

Better?

Better?

That being said, I feel like slapping Ex-British Parliament Member Oona King upside the head with a PS2 rumble controller for delivering lines that are nothing more than undeserved sensationalist speak. Quoted, he said, “Kids in Congo were being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms.” What kind of thing is that to say? Do you want the world hating young American and European gamers now? I can see a Leonardo DiCaprio role reprisal now. And, furthermore, why doesn’t Japan get mentioned in this “throw-the-kids-under-the-bus” statement?

Also of note, reviewing the release titles for the PS2 (this is apparently when the run on coltan hit its highest), I don’t see a single game that revolved around killing aliens. I bring this point to bear not to discredit Mr. Oona King, but to show the still sad state of what the world at large thinks of video games. If they’re not causing children to want to pick up prostitutes in cars or kill police, then they’re about killing aliens (I can only imagine Mr. King’s idea of the PS2 is one of an arcade machine for Space Invaders 2).

Still, all the misconceptions aside, this is bad news. I’m not sure what the Xbox and the Wii use that allowed them to fly under the radar of this article, because it seems that many electronics nowadays use the tantalum capacitors. Read this article for more info on the usage and specs than you probably ever wanted to know.