Stolen Pixels #208: Nine Bullets

By Shamus Posted Friday Jul 2, 2010

Filed under: Column 34 comments


I’ve never liked the Resident Evil thing where they make the main characters badass international zombie-fighters. It makes the game less scary, it makes the characters less interesting, it makes the story less human, and it makes everything else about the story make no sense.

People don’t line up to play this game because they can’t wait to see what the Umbrella Corporation is up to this time. And I never hear people saying, “Oh man, I hope Chris Redfield is in this one. He’s the best character ever!” They play this game because they want to shoot zombies, a noble tradition observed by decent people the world over. Just drop a regular Joe or Jane into a zombie town and task them with getting through it. It will make sense that they’re alone and starting with nothing, and you can spend the opening cutscene telling us about them instead of a bunch of international mumbo-jumbo about Umbrella.

I promised myself when I bought Resident Evil 5 that I wouldn’t flip out about the story. I know it’s really aimed at some other audience – some group of people who actually might care about Umbrella, Chris, Leon, et al. I tried to “just ignore the silly parts and enjoy the zombie stuff”, playing technique that people usually prescribe, but after just a few hours I feel compelled to catalog the agonizing contrivances just as a way of getting them out of my system. The game probably only contains 20 minutes of cutscenes, and yet so far every single one has been brimming with teeth-gnashing stupidity. I hate main character Chris now. When I get a game over screen I get a little dose of satisfaction because it means Chris got the death he so richly deserves.

The zombie-shooting stuff is kind of fun, though.


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34 thoughts on “Stolen Pixels #208: Nine Bullets

  1. Matt K says:

    This does remind me, I probably should get back to playing RE4. I stopped playing in 2007 but it’s not like the plot’s that complicated.

    RE4 actually did put a lampshade on this as Chris was either just doing reconisence at the begining or something on the qt plus the car that probably had more of his stuff in it fell down a cliff.

    1. Mark says:

      The great thing about RE4’s story is that all the backstory stuff was completely irrelevant. You could sail into it knowing nothing about the Resident Evil mythos, like I did, and just have a grand old time capping not-zombies and enjoying all the melodramatic overacting and Ada Wong in a slinky red dress. Game of the year, for sure.

  2. MichaelG says:

    I want equality for zombies! When do we get a game where you play a zombie just trying to establish this new species and rid the world of the living?

      1. Garden Ninja says:

        Too bad it was complete garbage.

        It would be sweet if Possession ever came out. A lot of the content is changed since the last time I read it, but it sounded a bit like Pikmin, or Overlord with Zombies. Unfortunately, it’s (unofficially) been canceled.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wait,someone actually cares about resident evil “stories”?

    1. Shamus says:

      I’ve always said: If the story doesn’t matter, don’t waste money putting one in.

      When will they ever learn. Sigh.

      1. Axle says:

        But than poeple will complain that RE5 is exactly like RE4…. Which, of course, is completely not true…

      2. Nasikabatrachus says:

        The countryside has been overrun by zombies. Are you a bad enough dude to kill them all?

        1. Bret says:

          RE4 was great because it knew it was absolutely batguano insane and stupid. The plot was random insanity, awesomely awful one-liners, and suplexing armies of the living dead.

          It was a ridiculous B movie tied to excellent gameplay. Which works.

    2. Shinan says:

      I have to admit I’m actually sort of fascinated by the RE stories. I love to see what happens next. So RE4 was a kind of letdown since it wasn’t classic awesome.

      Of course I think I’m projecting some personal awesome story into RE that isn’t really there. Because every time I read about the story the more ridiculously stupid it is. But every time I just find myself going “holy shit Umbrella are awesome. Zombies whoho. Who is that character and why is he so awesome.”

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well the premise for resident evil is good.Evil corporation tests its virus that turns people into all kinds of zombies,and you have to fight them.But then again,I robot the movie has the same premise as the book,yet while the book is a masterpiece,the movie is a piece of shit sprinkled with ads.So good premise doesnt make a good story.

    3. SatansBestBuddy says:

      I once read a rather in-depth plot analysis for the Resident Evil series; it was a rather fascinating read, and made the me want to actually play RE for the story.

      Then I played RE4, and realized the rather large difference between “plot” and “story.”

      THEN I played RE5, and realized that Capcom didn’t give a rats ass for the plot of the series, they just wanted to make money.

  4. Dev Null says:

    I’ve always thought zombipocolypse movies worked best when they don’t try to explain the big picture at all. Where did the zombies come from? Who knows! But they’re everywhere so grab a bat! Tell the little story of this guy barely surviving the crazy; don’t bother with the big story of How It All Happened. After all, it was bound to be EvilCorp experimenting with making the Ultimate Soldier again; wish those guys would quit that.

    I think the small story approach works better for games too – as you say it makes the normal toy progression make at least some sense. (Though there might be something to the idea of writing the game backwards in that sense; you start as a highly-trained soldier with rocket launchers and mini-guns… which run out of ammo in the first 5 minutes, as they would. So you swap to whatever civilian arms you can scavenge from the local gun shop, but they wont last forever. And by the end of the game you’re down to nothing but a tire iron and an attitude – maybe some collector’s katana and some improvised traps and molotovs. I think I’d play that game….)

    1. evileeyore says:

      That does sound intriguing. To toss a wrinkle into, give the protagonist a few melee and weaker weapons at teh outset, a combat knife and pistol sidearm. So the player can get used to usign the smaller weaker weapons gradually as the BFGs are phased out. The game becomes more difficult as the better weapons are stripped away one by one.

      If someone really trully managed to keep a few grenades or ammo held back for a bigger gun, let them use it later in the game. Why not? Reward the hoarder mentality.

    2. Ergonomic Cat says:

      Left4Dead did this very well. They never try to address the why at all, and it works great. You’re not concerned with why. You’re just killing various nasties.

    3. Tizzy says:

      I would totally play your game!

  5. Jokerman89 says:

    I…..liked the story.

    Well i didnt hate it….i kinda holds up well compared most TPS games

  6. Ian says:

    I think even the gameplay in RE5 has a bunch of flaws in it, even when you look past the occasionally bizarre controls.

    One thing that really bugged me was the knife. I can understand a character planting their feet in place when they shoot. Running and gunning does not an accurate shot make, after all, and considering the relative scarcity of ammo (at least in the beginning of the game; half-way through the game you’re practically swimming through magazines). However, why in the hell do you have to plant your feet firmly to the ground to slash something with a knife? The knife could have actually been somewhat useful as a panic button…you know, something gets too close and you go slashy slashy while trying to get out of there.

    While I can understand how running and knifing could be abused, Capcom practically gimped it to the point where it’s only useful if you’re completely out of bullets. Lame.

    Complaints aside, I did have a ton of fun with the game in co-op mode.

    1. Simon Buchan says:

      It allowed a stupid but fun achievement though.

  7. ccesarano says:

    Just wait until the second half of the game. I’m sure you will absolutely love Wesker as a villain.

    And by love I mean that the only way the emotion can be properly summarized with is a blood curdling scream of consonants strung together, all the vowels forgotten and removed because the rage is causing half of your brain to malfunction while the remaining half processes at twice speed capacity.

    You may foam at the mouth, so bring a rag.

    The “story” to the first Resident Evil was interesting because the real main character was the mansion itself. Note I didn’t play the original PSX one, just the GameCube remake, and thus I was spared all the horrendous voice acting and…live acting. Still, none of what Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield were going through was all that interesting. It was discovering all the documents and reading the downfall of the facility that was interesting.

    Once the facility went from a mansion to an entire city, however, things started to become absurd. I was glad when Resident Evil 4 established an end to Umbrella. I was disappointed that it had been brought back in Resident Evil 5, and almost brought to tears at just how God awful they wrote it all out. Yet I am a man, and I forced my body to reprocess those tears into hair on my chest. I still bare the mark of RE5 on me, for the wound is deep.

  8. SatansBestBuddy says:

    Dear Shamus:

    Write out what is happening as you play.

    Be sure that after every cutscene, you write down EXACTLY what happened in that cutscene.

    By the end, you’ll have written out the script for your next comic.

    Might need some editing, but I swear, it’ll be comedy gold.

  9. B.J. says:

    I do play RE games because I like the characters, and I was pretty excited to play as Chris again. But your sophistry is always entertaining, Shamus.

    1. Shamus says:

      Sophistry means “deception”. Are you suggesting that I secretly love these games and think they are awesome despite my public objections, or did you pull the wrong word from your quiver?

      1. OEP says:

        The idea that you secretly love these games literally made me laugh out loud.

        I love Resident Evil, but my enjoyment of the entire series is based on a combination of nostalgia and and an appreciation for absurdity.

        My wife and I love the voice acting from the first game. And my enjoyment of the subsequent games is in great part derived from my appreciation of that first game, especially the voice acting.

        The wife and I still regale each other at times with “WHAT! IS! THIS?” and “I hope it’s not Chris’ blood”.

      2. Simon Buchan says:

        Perhaps he meant “soliloquy”? Not quite correct either, but closer.

        @OEP: “Where’s Jill!?” “Wesker!” “Jill!” “Where’s Wesker!?” “SHEE~EVA!”
        Chris is still awesome.

        1. OEP says:

          “And now it’s Wesker’s time to disappear.”

      3. wtrmute says:

        Funny, I always thought “sophistry” (although I prefer the form “sophism”) to be the same as “fallacy”, maybe with connotations of purposeful intention rather than failure of reasoning.

        So I think your reasoning has been called faulty, but entertaining nonetheless. So, uh, way to go? :-P

  10. Neil Polenske says:

    You DO remember these games are made in Japan right? When it comes to having characters be ‘bad ass’ or any real action movie trope, I’ve noticed they’re pretty vapid about it.

    And needlessly complicated, non-sensical plots are also par for the course.

  11. Noble Bear says:

    Chris isn’t the best character ever, Jill Valentine is (second to only Alyx Vance), Chris is just a boyscout turned macho tool.

    [Full disclosure: My fist encounter with survival horror was playing RE3 in a friends darkened room at midnight on Halloween. It was my first and so my disposition is to be sympathetic towards the franchise even in the face of terrible, terrible writing.]

    I played through all the franchise installments and kept waiting for Jill to make a comeback only to find out that not only had she been horribly abused by the writers in events prior to 5 but that she was further maligned, used as a cheap plot device, in the game itself.

    I’m actually OK with the notions of a specially trained/talented individual armed with a utility weapon like a shotgun because I’m dumb enough to think that because the challenges would need to be different, you could still have an interesting game. But I must concede that one would have to give a damn first before undertaking that challenge.

    RE could have fixed itself to become solid but instead, Capcom elects to dig their hole further.

    I’ve never been an activist but I’m feeling a strong need to right this injustice, to urge Capcom to change their practices. I need to make this better somehow. Maybe I’ll just make some picket signs and be done with it.

    EDIT: I guess this post isn’t really relevant to anything but I needed to blow off steam. Thanks. :)

    1. Bret says:

      That’s crazy.

      You’re crazy.

      The best member of STARS is Barry Burton and anyone who disagrees is WRONG.

  12. Green Ninja says:

    Okay, I’ll keep this short and hopefully painless for you:
    I LIKE the RE-Plot. Sure, it’s stupid, overly complicated and full of weird charactes but I still enjoy it. RE5 was great because it brought all those lose ends from the franchise together.

    btw. this does not mean that I wouldn’t enjoy reading how you take the plot apart like you did with other games. ^_^

  13. Deoxy says:

    Remember how you complain about death or game over scenes because they ruin the immersion?

    I hate main character Chris now. When I get a game over screen I get a little dose of satisfaction because it means Chris got the death he so richly deserves.

    They FIXED that for you! And still you complain…


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