So is that a good looking game or what?
Now, about that other thing...
Blog discussion: From a gaming perspective Evil Avatar and from a political perspective Ezra Klein who cites Radosh.
One of the commentators pointed out this interview with Capcom producer Jun Takeuchi. It was in reference to an earlier trailer (I'm guessing this one) but the design philosophy notes apply to both.
The video does not actually reveal the nature of the enemies that are pursuing the main character. The primary enemy is a new element to the game and it's currently a closely guarded secret. The enemies are meant to come after players in great numbers, conveying the sense of insanity of hoards of natives that Takeuchi took away from Black Hawk Down. We can apparently expect something along the lines of the primary enemy in Resident Evil 4, who spoke a language that you were unable to understand and were more advanced than the zombies that have appeared in previous survival horror games. Takeuchi and crew are actually working on ways to make the enemy even more expressive this time around.
I can see why Takeuchi is taking Zombies in the directions he's going. In some ways, the threat is more interesting if they've got weapons and are throwing things at you. More advanced and emotive zombies appearing in large crowds really does inspire an extra level of fear. It very effectively evokes an angry mob and scenes we see on the news. Trouble is, at a certain point, they stop being zombies and start just being foreigners or the angry criminal underclasses.
The key points of this were already in place by RE4. (I haven't actually played it, but I've watched lilinthra go through at least twenty minutes of the game). In that case the baddies were rural-types that spoke Spanish but also seemed kinda Eastern European. As one of the commentators notes, I can see the Serbians being bugged by it. I actually do know a Serb from my days at DU, so I'll have to ask him if I see him around. But I think for most people it mainly evokes horror movie and angry torch wielding mobs, except this time the angry villagers are after you.
Not so much with RE5. There's a long history in Africa and the Caribbean of heavily armed forces putting down mobs of locals. Moreover, the game intentionally evokes Black Hawk down. Here's a link to the Black Hawk Down movie trailer and game trailer. I think both of these probably have some problematic elements and evoke the same context, but by and large they come out okay.
What's the difference? Why am I in the WTF category?
Well, here's the differences between the trailers:
- Opponents in Black Hawk down have guns. They're a militia and not soldiers, but they're still in some sense an equal to your character. Not so in RE5, the bad guys are mainly a threat because of claustrophobic conditions and numbers.
- Civilians are prominent in Black Hawk down. This is true for both the movie and the game. Movie puts more emphasis on kids. There's no apparent non-zombies in the battle sequences shown in RE5. Just people who are zombies or are becoming zombies.
- The Black Hawk down movie trailer acknowledges the problematic aspects of the context. There's lines arguing we shouldn't of gotten involved, displaying why we did get involved, and ultimate it becomes about protecting the guy next to you. The Black Hawk down game doesn't have this, but it also doesn't have the threatening crowds aspect. Admittedly the lack of crowds to be killed is probably for technological reason, but technology effectively defuses the problem. In RE5 there is the sense of being a soldier in what may be a losing war, but really it's about doing a job. That doesn't really defuse the context any.
"But," you may argue, "that's true of most any zombie movie or game. 1) Zombies don't use guns, 2) In survival horror most everyone is already dead, 3) there's not a problematic context because they're dead." And you'd be right. Here's the thing, zombie games defuse the fact that you're mowing down the weak by making them literally inhuman. They are decaying, they do not emote, they do not think. The not running thing is secondary. This isn't to say that there aren't political or cultural critiques in Zombie movies, there certainly are. However, they can be a bit more subtle by limiting the humanity of the baddies.
RE4 and RE5 have humanized zombies to the extent that they can't afford to be subtle about the political/cultural context. The first one dodged this by evoking a situation that might be horrifying in Eastern Europe, but basically doesn't resonate at all in America. However, RE5 chose a context that they knew paralleled real events. I am baffled that nobody at Capcom stood up during the earlier meetings and said "Hey guys, this doesn't look good." I don't care that they're Japanese, this isn't some sort of subtle point. The zombie excuse stopped working when you intentionally made them emotive, angry-mob like, and hard to visually differentiate from normal humans.