>Ordinarily you wouldn’t put Resident Evil 5 and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand in the same sentence, but we’re edgy risk-takers here at SFTC, and so: that just happened. I finished both of these games over the weekend, and I was a little surprised at how much they have in common; certainly it was a little disorientating when switching between the two.
- 3rd person shooter
- crazy-ass story that doesn’t make a lot of sense
- many enemies take lots of bullets before going down
- crate smashing galore
- hidden targets that yield bonus items
- campaign can be played co-op, which I didn’t try but it would definitely enhance both experiences
Of course, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand lets you move while shooting, and if you want to destroy a crate, you just have to hit “B”, instead of “LB + RT”. Most importantly, your AI partner in 50C:BotS can handle his own inventory, thank you very much, and is much more vocal in giving encouragement and pointing out objects of interest. Advantage: 50 Cent.
I kid, of course. 50C:BotS has been compared to Gears of War quite a lot, mostly because they both have cover systems, but the last level is a blatant and bizarre “homage” to both Halo 1 and Halo 3, and it
completely rips off has quite a bit more in common with Bizarre Creations’ conceptually interesting but underwhelming arcade shooter The Club, where you fulfill disbarred attorney Jack Thompson’s wildest fantasies by literally getting points for killing people, plus bonus points for killing people in quick succession, and where there also are hidden targets to shoot.*
50C:BotS is better than I expected it to be; indeed, it’s better than it has any right to be. But that’s not to say that it’s a great game, or that I would recommend that you purchase it. Quite frankly, the biggest thing going for it is that it might be the most unintentionally hilarious game I’ve ever played. When I wrote earlier that 50’s AI partner is very encouraging, I’m not screwing around – every 10-15 seconds, your fellow G-Unit possemember is saying shit like “Hey 50 – over here, man!” or “Yo 50 – here they come!” or, my personal favorite during the obligatory driving level, “Yo 50 – hit that ramp!” The game is utterly ridiculous; the story makes absolutely no sense; when a character warns you in the game’s first chapter to “trust no one”, it goes without saying that everybody you’re going to meet in this game will double-cross you, but it’s not especially clear why they would be helping you in the first place. There are more than a few cutscenes that appear to have been edited for some reason so that they now function as nothing more than non-sequiturs, featuring evil people that you’ve not yet met conspiring to do things that have nothing to do with you – or, rather, finishing up their conspiring and walking away as the image fades to black. It’s very strange stuff indeed. I will concede that the unintentional hilarity was my primary motivation in finishing the game; I got all the Points I cared to get out of it and promptly sent it back to GameFly.
As for Resident Evil 5, it is much better than Blood on the Sand. I am obviously uncertain as to where it would stack up in my 2009 GOTY voting, but I think I can safely put it in the top 10; and if I were to play 10 new games that were demonstrably better than RE5 before the end of the year, I think it’s safe to say that we are all in for a real treat.
The controls in the RE5 demo frustrated me to no end, and I was fully prepared to hate RE5 to death. They do indeed remain archaic and strange in the full game (as does the inventory management, which gets its own paragraph) but they somehow work in the game’s context. If you were able to move and shoot at the same time, with your aim being the center of the screen, the suspension of disbelief would be utterly shattered; you’d have more than enough time, then, to actually see how ridiculous it all is. There’d be no tension, there’d be no cathartic release; the game succeeds because of its control scheme. You hit the left trigger to aim and your focus instantly narrows, and each infected thing you kill becomes its own tiny individual battle; you are forced to look at what is attacking you and, then, you are forced to look at what you have done to it. And just when you’ve seen enough of the same type of enemy, another one comes along with slightly different tactics or weapons or, eventually, it becomes something entirely different that you have to kill again. I’m not sure if that qualifies as genius, but it becomes pretty compelling and it’s only at the very end of the game where it stops being, well, fun.
The inventory management is a little wonky and clunky, and while it adheres to standard RE conventions while giving it its own twist, it could probably be done a little better. I read something last week – maybe it was in Zero Punctuation? – that decried the utter lunacy that a bazooka took up the same amount of inventory space as a first-aid kit, and that first-aid kits don’t stack. Again, I didn’t find it much of a problem until near the end of the game, when ammo management becomes both essential and ridiculous. The nice part about the game’s design is that you maintain your inventory and money at all times, so if you die, you can at least get a free, untimed re-organization and contemplation and you can buy whatever supplies you may need.
That’s really my favorite part about RE5 – it’s not necessarily the single-player campaign, but the entire package that arrives on the disc. The game is clearly designed to be played more than once, and there is a tremendous incentive for doing so; there’s a lot of cool stuff to unlock, for one thing, and as I said before the game lets you carry over your inventory so that you can replay chapters with new and advanced weaponry. You can also upgrade your weapons, which is its own meta-game; do you continue to put money into upgrading your basic weaponry, or do you start from scratch with a potentially better weapon that will be less powerful when you acquire it than the one you upgraded?** In addition to goofy costumes and graphics filters (which I haven’t really messed with yet), beating the campaign unlocks the Mercenaries mode, which is a fun diversion (and which I’m not very good at yet).
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: while I was playing RE5, my mind kept coming back to Metal Gear Solid 4. They are both set up as the conclusions to their respective mega-franchises, although Kojima hinted at future MGS games at last week’s GDC, and Capcom has already said that RE5 is a conclusion of the current storyline and that RE6 will be a dramatic reinvention. They are both graphical show-stoppers; I might even say that RE5 is better-looking than MGS4 if only because there’s a wider color palette. They’re both very quirky and are somewhat insular, even as they’re accessible for people unfamiliar with the larger story. They both take themselves very seriously, even though they’re also high in camp. And they are both ultimately love letters to their adoring fanbases; they are absolutely loaded with special treats that long-time fans of the series will no doubt enjoy. I was not a die-hard fan of either franchise, and I wound up really enjoying both of these titles, even through their faults. I’m not sure I’m going to run out and play any of the earlier MGS titles, but you’d better believe I’m going to dust off the Wii this week and see if I can’t finally get into Resident Evil 4.
* The hidden targets might even be the same color, now that I think about it. I would insert screenshots to back up my point, but Google isn’t being helpful and I don’t have the time.
** I think I read somewhere that when you fully upgrade a weapon, you then have the ability to have unlimited ammo for that particular weapon; fully upgrading a weapon is very expensive, however, and in the meantime you could be messing around with other things to buy.