Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, Capcom's first attempt at remaking a HD game on the Wii, was butchered by the gaming press before it was even released. To take a game that has already established a sizable fan-base amongst the "hardcore" market, strip it of its HD power and its most impressive trait (in this case, zombie count), then throw it onto a console that's well known for being popular with kids and old people, well, maybe it wasn't such a smart thing to do. In fact, the whole ordeal was akin to a old man sending his teenage daughter to a bachelor party after dressing her like a cheap hooker and giving her a boom box that's tuned to a radio station that constantly plays Bel Biv DeVoe's Do Me on a continuous loop. It's like Capcom actually tried to make sure that the game would get screwed.
The thing about Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop that a lot of people missed was that it actually fixed many of the issues commonly expressed about the original game. Take a look a Jim Sterling's wish list for Dead Rising 2, and you'll see that half of the ideas he came up with were already implemented in Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, something Jim probably didn't know because like so many people, he wouldn't touch DR:CTYD with a ten foot pole.
Now Capcom is talking about making more PS3/360 ports, and Resident Evil 5 is the odds on favorite as their next pick. There is a little more potential for commercial success this time around, as many "hardcore" gamers have
Hit the jump for a few ideas as to how that could happen. Warning: plenty of RE5 spoilers await, so don't click that button if you aren't ready to hear all about RE5 from start to finish.
1) Dump Sheva-
Sheva wasn't always a part of Resident Evil 5. It was right around the time that the whole racism uproar around the game came to fruition that Capcom tossed her into the mix, presumably to prove that the game wasn't all about a white man shooting black people, while also giving the online co-op loving PS3/360 audience reason to buy the game.
The plan worked. Resident Evil 5's mandatory co-op has been generally well embraced, and the game has became a huge financial success. Still, many long time fans of the series have said that playing RE5 with a partner, either human or computer controlled, only works to detract from the sense of fear and isolation that the Resident Evil series is known for. RE4 was already pushing it by pitting the gun-toting protagonist against small groups of peasants who're armed with nothing more than shovels and pitchforks. RE5 offers even more of an uneven slaughter, as the player is just as well armed, the peasants are just as shabbily equipped, and now he's got a a sexy marksman girlfriend watching his back. Worse still, she has the power to instantly healing him whenever he's close to death by giving him a little rub and telling him not to be reckless.
There is absolutely nothing scary about having a sexy girlfriend babysitting you and encouraging you and rubbing while you blow away hordes of emaciated Africans and Saddam Hussein look-a-likes. That's why Sheva has to go.
How to do it-
Sheva could still show up in the game, maybe via some Hunnigan-style walkie-talkie communication, or a Separate Ways-style set of bonus missions, but that has to be the extent of it. If she really needs to be there to give Chris someone to talk to and move the game's rather piss-weak story along, there is no reason she can't do that over a cell phone or something. Actually, it might be better if the game's cut scenes were just cut out completely and replaced with some new stuff, as many of them are so mind-bogglingly silly that they barely serve a purpose in the first place.
With Sheva gone, something would need to be done about those times when you need a second player to flip a switch, do a puzzle, etc. This only happens about ten or so times throughout the whole game, and it probably wouldn't be too much work to replace these bits with motion controlled puzzles or some other cop out. Personally, I'd rather they leave the two player puzzles in, but modify them so they actually make the game more tense and troubling. One way to do that would be to replace Sheva with an expendable, unarmed NPC, if just for the duration of the puzzle.
There is a really cool part towards the beginning of RE5 where Chirs and and his escort come upon a defenseless blond woman, in full evening wear, who needs some serious rescuing. She's one of the few uninfected civilians that the pair encounter in the game, and her appearance works to both remind the player that they are playing a game that suppose to exist in the real world, and to give you a sense of purpose beyond defending yourself and your (overly) capable partner.
What if the game was filled with more characters like that; characters who are half-crazed, shell shocked and brain addled from the experience of barely dodging infection from some disgusting disease that's just turned everyone around them into super-strong, blood thirsty, vagina mouthed people? What if these were the citizens that had to flip the switches and open the doors for Chris, while they babble along about seeing their families transformed into monsters and all that traditional zombie movie jazz? Of course, you'd have to defend the people from attacks House of the Dead-style for the duration of your time together, only to inevitably watch them get horribly murdered and/or transformed into said blood-thirsty vagina mouthed people.
Not only would this serve to continually remind the player that they are fighting against things that used to be people, and in doing so make the game actually, you know, scary, but it would also work to give the entire game a greater sense of unpredictability and variety. Adding vulnerable NPCs would make you feel like you were the one responsible for both your life, and the lives of others, and that all of your lives are important. That's something that's sadly lacking from RE5 as it currently plays.
2) Make is darker-
No, I don't mean "darker" like how certain people, like the types that are obsessed with making the Star Wars universe "darker" by filling its stories with evil protagonists who kill little kids and frown when they are happy and smile when they are mad. I mean, actually make the game world darker, as in less well lit. At one point, Capcom promised us that RE5's generally sunny world would serve a gameplay purpose; that you'd have to worry about being blinded by the light if you went outdoors too fast or other such nonsense. That never happened, and therefore, there's really no reason for the game to be so damn bright all the time.
Along with the previously mentioned blond moment, there is another really cool sequence near the start of RE5 where Chris and Sheva enter a small, underground mine. Down there, you actually have to carry a light around in order to see where you're going, and you have to drop it in order to pull your gun. To make matters worse, a bunch of infected jerks are hanging out down there with you, and when they see you wandering around in the dark with your giant flashlight, they just assume that you're someone they should murder.
This is pretty much the only part in the game that has some semblance of a genuinely spooky vibe. The rest of the game is filled with bright, well lit areas that do nothing to make the player fear their surroundings. The amount of missed opportunities to bring the flashlight back are frustratingly high. Later on, there is even a huge, underground ruins; an area that is thoroughly removed from sunlight, that is has absolutely no right to be well lit and shiney, yet there it is, just like the rest of the game, shiny as hell. It's like Capcom just couldn't stand the idea of spending all that money on RE5's slick graphics and let any of their money go to waste. The game seems obsessed with making the player constantly aware of every little detail in the game's many million dollar texture maps and polygon models.
That won't be a problem in a Wii port of RE5. Undoubtedly, if Capcom does end up bringing the game to the little white shat-box, they're going to need to obscure the visual details in the game's world as much as possible, to both save memory, and keep the inevitable head-to-head comparisons to original from looking too unfavorable.
How to do it-
This one's easy. Just change the game's time frame so that it takes place from evening-to-night instead of from day-to-night. Also, make those god damned underground ruins look more like actual underground ruins, and less like an Pirates of the Caribbean-style above-ground fun-park thrill-ride that's suppose to look like an underground ruin. Bring the lamp idea from the mine into these and other parts of the game as well. Make the player actually have to work in order to stay aware of the threats around them. Make the game's world a place that you're afraid to look around, not one that's constantly trying to impress you with its prettiness.
They could even throw in a creepy night vision section or something. Paris Hilton has shown the world just how creepy a green skinned, green eyed, emaciated humanoid could be, yet no horror game has really taken that ball and run with it yet. RE5: Wii could be the first.
3) Ditch the spear chuckers-
There is a really, really, really out of place section towards the middle of RE5 where Chris and Sheva find themselves in a "traditional" African swamp village. Ewok village is more like it. This place is clearly the stuff of the imaginations of Japanese videogame developers and not the stuff of reality, as it shares almost nothing in common with any sustainable human dwelling on the planet. For starters, the whole village is basically a series of giant tree forts, suspended above water that's infested with respawning alligators.There is no reality based way that a group of people would ever choose to place their tree forts/humble homes above an alligator infested swamp, especially seeing as there is dry land waiting just feet away. From a real estate perspective, it just doesn't make good sense.
Perhaps even more curious is that these villagers, now transformed in to super-strong "infected", are all dressed in grass skirts, carrying wooden, bullet proof spiked shields, huge, unnecessarily thorny spears, and crossbows loaded with flaming arrows. The way they are armed, it's almost like they knew you were coming, and really wanted to impress you to the fact that they are totally, totally native to the African marshlands. It's clear that they have no connection to the shanty town infected villagers that live just a few miles away. If the grass skirt infected were pals with the shanty town infected, they'd have surely made some room for them to stay in their shanty town, and maybe given them some real weapons or something. At the very least, they'd have let them sleepover in their shanty houses for a couple of nights, if not just to help them avoid the fucking alligators that live in their front yard.
Clearly, with the "traditional village" stuff, the developers of RE5 were just trying to make an African version of the castle level of RE4. The difference here of course is that in RE4, it made sense for their to be a castle withe creepy monks who shun technology and whisper "coqueslo" to themselves, because the whole game is about an evil cult that shuns technology and acts insane. RE5 has no such explanations for its wacky natives.They are just sort of there.
This section of the game sucks because it only does three things for the player. First, it reminds us that we are playing a videogame, because places like this just don't exists outside of the videogame world. Second, it reminds us that we are playing a videogame that wishes it was RE4, but isn't anywhere near as good as RE4, as it feels forced and contrived in comparison. Third, it reminds that we are playing a videogame that we really don't want to think of as racist, but features fucking black people in grass skirts throwing spears at us and yelling "Ooga Booga".
For these reasons and more, the spear chucking natives and their village is something RE5 that could do without.
How to do it-
The village itself is definitely a fun location, and though its inclusion doesn't make sense as it is now, it could still work. If the village were a decrepit relic of a time gone by, even if it were just fifty years or so since people had lived there, if might explain why there is no furniture or other signs of habitation in anyone's houses, and is crawling with alligators.
So if the place hasn't been lived in for years, who would try to kill you when you show up there?
My vote is for zombies.
One of the things that RE5 consistently does right is make a concerted effort to give a nod to the other major chapters of the RE series. From the inclusion of Spencer, a character first identified in RE: Code Veronica, to the Lickers from RE2, to the Oroboros's clear connection to the slug zombies from RE0, RE5 always makes an effort to stay consistent with what we know about the RE world. There are even some zombies that show up later in the game, though they are just lying around on conveyor belts, and are only good for a quick scare before they pass out out from apparent exhaustion.
So, what if those zombies, or zombies much like them, were the inhabitants of the village? What if there were ten-to-twenty of them coming at you at all times, rising from the water, found mutilated in their former homes, ready to give you that genuine zombie feeling that hasn't been a part of a numbered RE game since RE3?
One problem is that if done wrong, traditional zombies are just too easy to kill for a walking tank like Chris Redfield. Remember though, this take on RE5 is single player only, and it takes place almost exclusively at night, so there is no one to watch your back for you, and no way to clearly see the danger around you. If done right, the return of "real" zombies could offer some genuine scares as well as some challenge.
Picture this; as you step off your swamp speeder and onto the flimsy wooden scaffolding that leads up the mysterious African village, you hear the sound of a muffled moan from behind you. It's joined by three or four moans, and the sound of footsteps on creaking wood. Before you have a chance to see how far away the sound is coming from, a corpse is already grabbing at your feet, biting at your ankles with a mindless, desperate ferocity. Just as you begin to struggle to free yourself from its clenched teeth, you realize you're completely surrounded by zombies, with nowhere to run but the zombie/alligator infested swamp behind you, or into the fray with gun drawn.
Plot wise, there is any number of ways this could be worked into the story. The zombies could be what's left of the villagers after some sort of T-virus experiment that Umbrella had staged years ago, or they could be something that Wesker set up just to screw with Chris. Or, like the best zombies stories, they could just remain completely unexplained.
No matter how you slice it, traditional zombies are a better fit for an RE game than Ooga Booga villagers.
4) Get Redfield off the juice and the infected off the dirt bikes-
It sounds petty, but one of my least favorite things about RE5 is Chris Redfield's big, obnoxious right arm, which is almost always smack dab in the middle of the screen. I actually went back into the game and shot down all those medals just so I could unlock his traditional outfit, which thankfully has sleeves that go all the way to the elbow. I'll never have to see Chris's arms again, but the fact that I had to see them for twenty odd hours was punishment enough.
Chris' RE5 overhaul symbolizes something that I really wish wasn't happening right now; Capcom's continual move towards dumping their traditional Japanese style to better appeal to the Western market. Take the bandanna off Gears of War's Marcus Phoenix and you have a big jawed, stubbly ape-man who looks a hell of a lot like the new Chris Redfield. I don't think that the similarity is a coincidence. Just like RE5's co-op was thrown in to appeal to Western market, so is the new Chris.
Thing is, long time fans of RE aren't happy with the change. A series like RE thrives off its history, and changing the look of one of the series most important characters did a lot to turn me off the RE5 before it was even released. That's not the only thing about RE5 that felt unrecognizable. The tacked on cover system that shows up towards the end of the game also feels totally wrong. The system shows up in the game's final hours, at a time when you actually get in gunfights with the infected. For a variety of reasons, that's not something that should be happening in an RE game.
Do you know why vampire movies aren't scary? One reason; because being a vampire would be pretty awesome. Sure you can't go out during the day, but other than that, being a vampire has all the advantages of being alive, plus the added perks of being able to be shot repeatedly with no ill effects, tons of super strength, and immortality. Sure, you have the added urge to kill people and act like a snob, but most people suffer from those urges anyway.
That's what the infected in RE5 have become, vampire-like beings that would actually be cool to transform into. They can talk (sometimes into megaphones), they can wield chainsaws, they can giggle, most of them are in incredible shape, and they get to ride fucking dirt bikes. If that what it means to be an infected, then sign me up.
Beyond just not "fitting" with fans' preconceived idea of what Resident Evil is all about, Chris's big arms and the "fun to be us" infected just don't work to meet RE5's goals of depicting an outnumbered soldier caught in the midst of a horrible viral outbreak. It's hard to be scared for Chris while he's attacked by a bunch of semi-well built villagers when it looks like he could punch through a man's skull. It's hard to feel horrified by what the virus has done to the villagers when you see them gleefully doing donuts on their dirt bikes or holding upbeat public executions from their rooftops.
How to do it-
This is a tough one, because it's more about the general tone of RE5 than any one particular aspect of the game. For starters, Capcom would have to hire new character designers to remake Chris, or maybe use a modified version of his character model from the RE1 Gamecube remake. They'd also have to swap out the gun infected with something equally menacing, and the god damn dirt bike infected with something that moves really fast.
I guess the some fast moving hunters like those seen in Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles might do the trick, but an all new enemy would probably be better. I'm not going to even try to talk about what that new enemy might be, as this piece has enough arm chair game development in it as it is. Let's just say that the team at Capcom is sure to think of something awesome to fix these issues, and leave it at that.
5) Bring back the merchant, the typewriter, and the safe rooms-
Why were these series mainstays taken out of the game? To better suit the drop in/drop out online play that so many of RE5's design decisions seem to cater to? To make the series seem more like Gears of War? I'm not sure.
One thing I am sure of is that the RE4 merchant, for all the illogical weirdness that he brings with him, adds a sense of humor, reality, and variety to the RE4 that RE5 sorely lacks. Every time you see the merchant, you know that you're in a safe place, that you were potentially going to get some kick ass new weapons, and that you were going to hear his goofy-ass chuckle; all good things. In RE5, you get no such satisfaction. You sell your treasures to... somebody, and buy your weapons from... someone, at a time when you take the fact that you're safe for granted, because your not even playing the game anymore. Even though the RE4 merchant's existence makes little sense, the RE5 post-chapter shop makes even less. Even worse, the RE5 shop system actually encourages you to die, as any death sends you straight to the shop to spend some loot and suit yourself up for combat. You can even use these intentional deaths to farm items for unlimited cash. Truly, RE5's shop is a new gameplay system that has failed.
Speaking of fails and deaths, why did RE5 switch to an auto save system, and why does it auto save so frequently? Reaching a checkpoint every few minutes totally wrecks any sense of importance or danger found in exploring an area, because you know that even if you mess up, you're just going to start from a checkpoint just a few minutes back. It's just not survival horror if you don't feel like you need to survive long enough to get to a save point. It's just shooting stuff and walking around, with no fear of the consequences.
That brings up the topic of safe rooms. They are necessary to keep RE games from feeling like one long monotonous, cross country jog from one end of an obstacle course/shooting range to another. The game needs safe rooms in order for the player to take a break, appreciate the action that you just survived, and anticipate the problems yet to come. As it stands, RE5 cinemas are the only mechanism that serve that function, and they do so with only relative success. They can't replace the impact that a playable oasis like a safe room (complete with typewriter and merchant) can achieve.
How to do it-
Having a little bit of narrative explaining how the merchants are a ancient order of assistant warriors or something would do the trick. Maybe the merchant clan has some connection to the ganados/infected, and have pledged to fight them indirectly by supplying those who combat them them with affordable weapons. Again, anything is more logical that the way the RE5 shop system works now, but all the same, sometimes the best explanation is no explanation. The merchant's mysterious ways blended right in with the bizarre events of RE4, and I figure that RE5 would be no different.
As for safe rooms, they'd be easy enough to toss into the game. Typewriters wouldn't have to make a return necessarily. Chris could instead write in a journal, or maybe the safe rooms would be places where Chris could get a signal through with his phone/walkie-talkie to Sheva/Hunnigan and save that way. Whatever. The point is, the player would need to reach a particular area, find the merchant, then choose whether to save or not. That's all it would take to give the game's safe rooms the ability to provide relief, excitement, and the general in-game integration that they once had.
I imagine that for a lot of people, these changes may seem like downgrades. I can hear some of you now, saying stuff like "If you take Sheva out of RE5, then it wont be RE5 anymore" or "RE5 without the high res graphics would be so ugly that just looking at it would cause my face to turn to stone and make me want to kill myself". There is a videogame already out there for people who share this opinion. It is called Resident Evil 5, and I hope they all have played it, because it's pretty good.
What about the rest of us? There are at least a million or so Wii owning, hardcore RE fans who bought RE:Umbrella Chronicles and RE4:Wii Edition, but due to financial reasons, wont be able to play RE5 on the PS3/360. There are even more people who did buy RE5 and were mildly disappointed with the experience, who just may buy the game again on the Wii if it's remade to be more true to the series' roots. Sure, the graphics would be less impressive, but diehard RE fans care less about visual polish, and more about the how much a game gives you that unique RE feeling.
That's the feeling that many say that RE5 lost, and I hope that these proposed changes could help bring that feeling back.