Oh Right, THAT One
So I'm too much of a Resident Evil fanboy not to snap up Resident Evil 5 now that it's out on the PC. That doesn't mean that I don't still think the racial imagery deserves serious criticism. It's not just the depiction of Africans as gibbering, rabid savages. There's a prominent visual theme of light and dark, with you moving between the sun-bleached outdoors and black, underlit rooms, and this theme extends to the characters. Sure, the fair skinned characters are good guys and bad guys and in between, but the people with the darkest skin tones are all violent monsters.
And my first bit of 'gameplay' was jumping through Microsoft's hoops. The game won't let you save until you log into Windows Live. Oh, but you have to create a gamertag first. Oh, and then you have to update Windows Games Live. Oh, and your firewall's blocking that? Guess you'll have to do it manually. I recently got the ten year old PC version of Resident Evil 2 working on my current computer. Will I be saying the same for RE5 in ten years time?
But aside from all that, I'm impressed by a lot of the things I've seen so far. I never understood why, in RE4, Leon never gave his simpering female sidekick a gun. This is the man who gave Claire Redfield a gun within two minutes of meeting her (and within five minutes of discovering that Raccoon City was infested with zombies). So the fact that Sheva is a capable combatant who you fight alongside and co-operate with is a vast improvement in my eyes, even if it's probably the main thing that tips the scales from horror to action. And given the ridiculous wardrobes sported by the heroines of RE3 and RE4, it's actually quite refreshing to see that the designers have done a great job of giving Sheva a pretty face.
I'm also loving how well this HD generation console port is working on my PC. I've had to crank the resolution way down, but the fancy effects are working happily. I mentioned the light/dark symbolism above, and it pleases me no end that my humble video card is handling the shadows perfectly. Moving from shade to sun - even just standing under a palm tree, it's all great to look at.
From the visuals to the audio: I'm very fond of the way RE4's music consists largely of drums and ambient noise, but from what I've heard so far of the music in RE5, it seems they've thrown some more orchestral stuff back into the mix, which suits the greater focus on action, I think. And while we're on the subject of sound, it's been a long time coming, but I'm glad to see that this is the first in the main series of Resident Evil games to include subtitles.
So positive first impressions so far. It's just a shame that, with stronger female characters and greater inclusiveness for the deaf and hard of hearing, Capcom had to go and shoot themselves in the foot with a take on the African continent that might have been pretty progressive in the Victorian Age.