Resident Evil 5 trailer: impressions and concerns

As reported on Kotaku and elsewhere, a new Resident Evil 5 trailer has turned up in various places, including X-Box live. Links, clips etc are at the bottom of the post.

It’s… interesting. As a game, it looks unambiguously great, the artistry of the previous instalment applied to the huge enemy numbers seen in Dead Rising. That it seems to be an evolution, rather than a revolution, of Resident Evil 4 is no bad thing – the previous model of Resi design lasted for a good few games, and the template set down by 4 is too good to toss away after just one outing. The gameplay look scary, frenetic, and fun. I can’t wait to play it, and 2009 seems far too far away.

Then again, maybe that long development time may come in handy. Because, no matter how cleverly justified in terms of plot, and no matter how innocent the intent, the first thing that will strike many people when viewing this footage is that this is a game where a heavily armed white man goes to Africa and blows away hoards of foaming-at-the-mouth rabid black people.

While there’s no doubt a biohazard behind these outbreaks of savagery, Capcom will have a hard time explaining the plot justification to people who, understandably, will have a more visceral reaction to seeing Africans portrayed as primitive machete wielding monsters who a white hero needs to dispatch with good old American firepower. This could easily be mistaken for the worst kind of racist stereotyping, aimed at predominantly white consumers.

Now, I don’t think Capcom intended that reading for a second. I think they found an exotic locale which is different to any used in previous games in the series, with a unique feel and contemporary resonance. From the studio in Japan, the political climate and tensions within which these scenes of white-vs-black violence would be greeted in the west have probably not been considered. And, no matter how much message board fanboys might howl that such a reading is illegitimate (see the Eurogamer thread in the links below for some examples of staggering political naivety), if this game comes out and its a non-stop series of encounters where a white guy guns down crazed Africans, there’s going to be offence taken by many people, and that offence will not be unjustified.

Hopefully this is something Capcom will fix in the year or so of development left. If I, a white middle class guy in North London, have noticed a potential problem, then imagine the reaction from, say, some of Americas more strident lobby groups, or the UK’s very own Commission for Racial Equality. Christ, Tin Tin may have patronised Africans in a flagrantly racist, imperialist way, but he didn’t actually shoot any of them.

After the fusses over Resistance and Manhunt 2 the games industry needs to show more sensitivity, and this Resi 5 trailer doesn’t help any. Hopefully Capcom will produce a finished game with a more ethnically balanced group of enemies, alleviating this negative first impression. I’d hate to see a potentially great game get crushed by a media shitstorm, especially an entirely avoidable one.

Mark

Links:

download trailer here

gif animation of one scene

screengrabs

Eurogamer thread

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July 26, 2007. Tags: . Uncategorized.

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