An evil which resides

On a seemingly unrelated note, "Hot Fuzz" is a delightful British comedy, titles so as to parody film titles that read and sound appealing, yet are somewhat meaningles (e. g., "Die Hard". How hard can one die? How soft can one die, for that matter? Is the hardness of one's death a means to gauge the likeliness of his or her ressurection?).

Resident Evil seems to be one such title. Apparentely, in Japan, where it was originally made, it was known as Biohazzard, which, from what little I gather of the story of the original game, seems to be a more adequate title. After all, what is a "resident evil"? Or, for that matter, how can can (an) evil (not) reside? Or does that mean that this particular evil is confined to its place of residence, and is therefore of no consequence to the rest of the world? Really, why didn't they just call it Biohazzard?

Enough with that. Resident Evil 5 is an action game for multiple platforms that's been out for quite a while, and so it's about time I reviewed it. Now, Yahtzee has already reviewed it, so you may think my review is just about pointless, but he did it so long ago now that you might like a little refresher course.

Fans of the Resident Evil storyline have an opinion about this game. I, however, haven't got the foggiest idea what said opinion would be, seeing as I have never really liked a resident evil game myself. Now there's something to be said in the interest of fairness: what I mean to say is that I didn't like the original Resident Evil and the following two were more of the same, or so I was told, even though I didn't play them myself. Resident Evil 4 I have never played or seen in action, nor have I had the desire to, but the moment I caught a glimpse of "5" I wanted to try it out myself. It might have been the online co-operative campaign mode I've been wishing for for so long and which was only nearly done properly in Red Alert 3 (nearly!). Or it might have been the superb graphics. What definitely wasn't it was the quick time events. So far, I have only seen QTEs done right once, and it was in The Force: Unleashed. One of ther reasons why they were done right was that they were entirely optional, rewarded the player for doing them, punished the player for failing them, but not for not even attempting them, which is dramatically different than "Repeateddly tap the "F" key during a cutscene or it'll start over again and we will lower your score", or, as Yahtzee so eloquentely put it, "Press X not to die". There's one thing they could have done without.

Back to the praise track, then. There is something a little odd about the gunplay in this game, and that is the ready weapon stance. Simply put, a player cannot use any weapon unless they "ready" the weapon first. This sounds standard enough, as one might confuse "ready" with "equip", but the fact of the matter is players cannot move (although they can turn around and aim) whilst "readying" a weapon, meaning no fancy running while shooting, let alone jumping while shooting. This feels odd at first, as I said, but it works like a bit of an equaliser, as it negates the obvious advantages of gun totting experts over clumsy newbies picking up their first Kalashnikov. Unfortunately, it makes the game a bit overly easy, even for clumsy newbies picking up their first Kalashnikov such as myself. The it tries to correct itself by making itself difficult in other aspects, and the illusion of balance versus the reality of the absence thereof eventually ruins their day. One of the difficulty adding aspects is the very small inventory: you're only allowed nine (9) spaces. Some kinds of items stack, whereas others don't, which breaks down the immersion a bit, especially regarding what items stack and how. For example, grenades stack, and you can carry up to five of any one type in a single space. Herbs, however, don't stack, and you can carry oly one per space. Eggs also stack (of course there are eggs in the game! What kind of shooter hasn't got eggs in it?), also five per space, which brings the question that an egg either has the same volume or the same mass or the same bounding box than a grenade, which is borderline believable, especially if you've never held or seen a grenade (or an egg, I suppose), but then the same could be said of proximity land mines, and that concept is utterly bonkers. You have none little (or no so little) pockets in your vest, each large enough to fit five landmines (or one RPG-7 rocket launcher. Which is just as large, just as heavy and has the same general shape as five mines. Or a handgun. It all makes sense), but not two herbs. Also, each of those pockets can hold 150 rounds for you AK-74, but only 12 for your magnum revovler. OK, sure, the magnum is a very high calibre, but no way each round is over ten times as large as that of an AK-74.

Now I'd like to take the time to bring to your attention how the Molle system works. The Molle system, adopted by just about all major ballistic armour vests manufacturers, consists of a series of paralell strips of nylon cloth apart from each other by their own width. The purpose of this pattern is that if the same pattern is present on the surface of, say, a pouch, then, with as little as a perpendicular strip of either cloth or some other stifer, sturdier material, said pouch can be attatched to your body armour, meaning that you can carry more stuff when you're wearing your bulletproof vest than otherwise. Unless you're playing Resindet Evil 5, where there are two kinds of body armour, which you can use simultaneously, but each one takes up a whole space in your inventory.

Then there's the rpoblem of ammunition. Some weapons (I should say some weapon classes) are more efficient, ammunition-wide, than others. This means thatfive well placed rounds from your shotgun can fo a whole lot more damage than twice as many from your machine gun, which is why you can carry so much more machine gun ammo than shotgun shells, but it doesn't really matter, as the game is, in the beginning, surprisingly frugal with ammunition, hanging you out to dry shooting blanks in hopes of scaring off the enemy more times than you'd like. One contributing factor is that the game gives you ammunition types in complete disregard (I should say, in utter contempt) for what weapons you are carrying at the time, meaning that if you decide to carry only one or two guns, most of the ammo you pick up can't be used. Of course you could stock up on it until you get a chance to change weapons, but until then, not only are you wasting your precious inventory slots but also you still don't have ammo for the guns you do have with you. Later in the game that becomes less of a problem, but, by then, one is usually used to carry two or three different guns, which meas at least four to six inventory slots taken by the very simple funtion of shooting the baddies and very little space for utility items, such as healing items, grenades or eggs. For the second and following playthroughs, the game allows you to bless any weapon with unlimited ammo (which you don't have to carry), which does solve the frugality problem, at the cost of not only rather simplifying the game but also making most items found lying around or dropped by slain enemies utterly useless.

It has been said that a great many shooter games made nowadays have RPG elements built into them on e way or another, and RE5 is no exception, only it does so discreetely, allowing you to upgrade your weapons. Care should be taken to mention that said upgrades are made to a gun's exemplar, not a class of guns or even a model of guns, meaning that any upgrades you make to yuor AK-74 stay with that AK-74, but won't reflect on any other AK-74 or any other machine gun, for that matter. These upgrades are paramount to allowing said weapon to discard it's eed for ammo, and they do raise a rather curious issue: the very first handgun you're given, at the begiining of the game, has a magazine capacity of 10 rounds. After you fully upgrade it, it doesn't really matter what capacity it has, as you can then have it old infinity plus one rounds and never have to reload again, but if you don't, it holds 100 rounds. Bear in mind that outside of your gun, each space in your inventory can only hold 50 handgun rounds. Do the figures seem off to you?

One major hoof of this game, as something that has scarcely ever been done in games, cinema or even television, is pairing the muscle bound war veteran action hero (which is, as usual, Chris Redfield) with an attractive, yet stron willed and able bodied female sidekick, who is just as capable as the hero (admit it, you smelled the sacrasm coming); enter Sheva Alomar. Some praise is in order: The character is, indeed, very attractive, just as capable as the "hero man" in every way and gifted with just as many (or should I say as few) inventory slots (but didn't Jill Valentine use to have two extra inventory spaces in the first Resident Evil? Something to do with bulky pouches she wore on her chest...). Sheva is able to wield the same weapons as effectively as Chris, except fo the character exclusive weapons, to which she has a counterpart. Sheva is an integral part of the gameplay, not only because she is there to be taken over by another player in friendly co-op play, but also becase you'll be using her as a pack mule for all the items you only might need when you're playing offline. On the side of fairness, SHeva becomes available to be played as once you play through the game once, allowing you to use Chris as a pack mule. Some dissimilarities exist, namely some sections require Chris to give Sheva a leg up to accomplish otherwise unthikable leaps, effectively baring the "hero man" from some areas of the game, but other than that, equalitarism had it's way with both characters to such great extent that they feel interchangable, if not for the fact that they appeal to different audiences on different levels (for the most part) and that the camera angle is abive Chris's right shoulder, as opposed to Sheva's left shoulder. In the end, it becomes a matter of where you like your camera, as neither character has any advantage of any sort over the other in any way. PC, but boring.

Another element common to RPGs and Shooters alike is the concept of enemy drops. For as long as there have been Shooters there has been the notion of scavenging weapons and ammunitions from your defeated foes and emply them as your own. Except, for the most part, these foes are african peasents armed with either spears, machettes or nothing at all, which doesn't sit very well on the barrel of your guns, meaning the odd ammunition drop from the tribal warrior feels a bit strange, but the random bits of gold they drop every now and again fit the theme well enough. Although that doesn't explain why some enemies drop large heart-shaped gems when they are vanquished.

The story probably makes a lot more sense to the die-hard fans of the series, and I will neither spoil it nor force it on you by trying to recount it or summarise it, but it's there and it's enjoyable enough, especially the way it is told by documents you might pick up and read throughout the many levels (or not, if that's not your cup of tea, there's nothing to be lost by skipping them).

There's a bit of a collectionistic/completionistic aspect of this game, as there is treasure to be found in the form of gems and artefacts, which can be sold to upgrade your weapons or buy new ones.

On the whole, I like this game, I like it enough to play through it more than once in the same day (it is a bit short, i suppose. It can comfortably be finished in under seven hours, and there is a reward for players who finish it in less than five), especially as it is interesting how even with overpowered, inexhautible weapons, some enemies don't seem to lose their challenge, but the ones that do provide a bit of mindless fun, being helplessly shot at without even as much of a hint of a prayer. A negative note should be issued for a rather out of place puzzle sequence, which I felt didn't really go with the overall feel of the game, and, paradoxically, a positive note should be issued for the way many boss fights combine mindless shooter-style action with a bit of puzzle play. In the end. I award it eight out of a possible ten thumbs up (I'm all thumbs, me).

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark is available for online co-op play of this Capcom title. Drop me a line if you're interested.

Spare some butter?

A funny thing happened today. I had gotten a 7 oz. bar of sugar free cooking chocolate, which my mother occasionally eats (even though I find it a bit bitter, but still...), and it came with a recepie for chocolate mousse on the wrapper. Now, ever since (well, not ever, but thereabouts) I started doing my Atkins, I have been improvising chocolate mousse recepies, with only whipped cream, nolten 99% cocoa chocolate (painfully bitter stuff, let me tell you) and sugar free sweetener. This time, I set myself up to do an actual mousse. You know, with eggs and all.

Now I could bore you with how I dropped the ball with the egg whites and ended up beating them almost one at a time and piling them on a soup plate (which only worked so well... but still, pretty well) or how I deftly managed to separate the whites from the yolks (bachelor stereotypes... yes, we can cook), but the funny thing is even though I had gone to the market with the specific intent to get the ingredients, I still managed to forget the butter. I couldn't be bothered to go back, so I remebered I could just mooch off my new next door neighbour. And so I did.

I rang on her bell even as I heard her clean up after her late supper and heard the little metal cover on the peep hole slide as she peeked out. I wonder how good those are, as they are placed even below my chin. Eventually, she asks "Who's there?", and I answer, as kindly as I can make myself sound, "I'm your next door neighbour". Picture my amazement when she says "Look, I don't know you, so I'm not going to open the door". Well, alright, it's her perrogative, and she was just being cautious, I won't hold it against her. She even asked, just after a short beat, while I pondered exactly what to say next, "What would you like?". As I apologised for bothering her at such a late hour (nearly half past ten) and asked if I could have just a spoonful of butter as politely as I could word it, she excused herself, saying she didn't have any. Fair enough. After all, I didn't have any myself.

The surreality come asbit further ahead. Having been turned down, I thought I'd ask the neighbours from across the hallway for the needed butter. I don't really know them any better, but I hadspoken to them before, and knew them to be kind people. Again, she looked out the peephole (another funny tidbit. The first time I knocked on their door, it was in the daytime and she didn't look out the peephole. Just as she saw me, she nearly jumped back with fright. I have that effect on the ladies. I wished I could turn it off...), recognised me and opened the door... slightly. Again, I apologised and asked for the butter just as politely as before, and she was kind enough to oblige. While she went to the kitchen to fetch the stick of butter, the other neighbour, having probably stood by the door to listen out for me laving or lingering by, opened the door to see if I was true to my words or if I had managed to snag an unsuspecting victim after all (of course, I'm speculating a bit here). Looking at me from behind, with a cup in my hand and waiting for the other neighbour to return from her kitchen, she realised she had nothing to fear from me (yet...) and proceeded to apologise for her overzealousness and explained that, through the peephole, I appeared fuzzy and looked like an elderly man. At any rate, she really was out of butter, she said. She further explained that, having never seen an elderly man on this floor, she was afraid to open the door.

OK, let's just check out facts for a minute. First of all, I'm not even anywhere near my thirties, yet I looked to her like an elderly man!? Am I aging that fast? Sure, my hair is thinning on top and my spine isn't what it used to be (what with the hernias and all), but come on! She can't have even noticed that (literally. She's not tall enough to have seen the top of my head and unless she's related to Kal-El, she couldn't have seen my spine). Another thing is, there's not that many people living on this floor. There's me, her, the couple across the hallway and a vacant apartment. She had never seen me before, but I expect she would have seen the neighbour across the hallway (the man, I mean). Would this mean that any seemingly young adult, in spite of his evetual murderous or otherwise nefarious intent could have sold her my (truthful, in my case) tale, but me, because I don't seem to look my age, arise hers suspicion... Oh, well, I had been having a pretty boring day.

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark has lost as much weight as he had set himself to at first, but I now realise that I had been compromising and that I might actually make it to my ideal weight. I'm at a bit of a crossroad in my lief right now...