One of Vincent’s prized possessions is a copy of the Resident Evil 3: Nemesisgame guide he wrote for Future Press. This copy bears the signature and complements of Shinji Mikami, creator of Resident Evil. “He will stop at nothing,” says Vincent of Mikami, “to create a game that everyone can play, but ultimately requires great skill to meet the toughest challenges.”
Making a game that appeals to experts and novices means carefully balancing player abilities against enemy abilities, and Mikami achieved this balance in large part through how a player controls his character.
Resident Evil 5’s control scheme differs from that of other recent shooters. Its characters function like tanks, unable to move and shoot simultaneously, and, Sheva Alomar, the computer-controlled partner provided by the game, drains ammunition and healing items just as Chris Redfield, the player-controlled character, does. Both of these mechanics have elicited ire from players new to the series-and even from old fans hoping for change.
Neither holdover bothers Vincent. “Just think about your characters as tanks,” he says, “you can park them anywhere.” As for Sheva, “she’s just as much a part of the game elements as the enemies.” Players need to perceive her as another rule of the game, rather than as an extension of their desires. “The game developers place the formal restrictions, and you get to go wild with them,” he says. Resident Evil’s odd controls, he argues, are a big part of why fans of these games play them so creatively.
Though Mikami didn’t work on Resident Evil 5, his influence appears in the way that players have approached the demo. The demo’s first scenario, “Public Assembly,” consists of a timed challenge. Chris and Sheva find themselves cornered in a shanty-town square with a horde of angry Majini, the game’s standard enemies, humans infected with a mysterious parasite. The level features a mini-boss as well, a tall, hugely-muscled figure wearing an executioner’s hood and wielding a tremendous axe. The second,‚ scenario, ‘Shantytown’, has no time limit, a limited number of Majini, and concludes with a skinny, tittering, chainsaw-slinging boss with wrappings obscuring all of his head except his glaring right eye.
Vincent and I experimented a bit as we played. Our tag-team knifing of enemies resulted from an effort to conserve ammunition. Vincent noted that you can execute a quick turn using the ‘find partner’ button, and that, in the Assembly, a burned-out bus provides an indestructible shelter that bottlenecks the Majini. We used an alley in the Shantytown to similar effect. He lured Mr. Chainsaw to the back of an alley, while I held off the Majini at the entrance. Every now and again, I’d look back and see the boss run across the intersection, brandishing his chainsaw over his head, only to hear a pop from Vincent’s handgun and the smack of his mƒªlƒ©e strike a few seconds later.
Our improvised strategy here only hints at how people will inflict punishment on Resident Evil 5. Players have already uploaded videos to Youtube in which they ditch all of their weapons at the beginning of the Assembly, then proceed to whomp the Axecutioner bare-handed. This is gaming cosmopolitanism.
The Continental Player
A cosmopolitan player approaches games as a cosmopolitan traveler approaches the world. He accommodates his hosts, rather than expecting them to accommodate him. In return, he enjoys a richer experience, and, as he becomes acclimated to local customs, he can express more of himself.
Parochial players, by contrast, expect to find themselves in the same place, no matter where they go, as if the comforts of home should surround them, like a corona. Vincent attributes the rise of this attitude, in part, to the contemporary emphasis on story in games. Players no longer come to a game to play, but “to move from cut-scene to cut-scene on rails”-as if the action’s in the plot, rather than the play.
Yet, gameplay constitutes only one of the two ways Resident Evil 5 challenges parochialism. The second is a moral issue. The game’s depiction of black Africans will attract a beating of a different kind, but one no less cosmopolitan than the first. This issue has everything to do with the game’s story, so it’s worth investigating how the long, complicated narrative of Resident Evil developed.