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VG Story Design Blog » Blog Archive » Resident Evil 5 Trailer — Defending the Dairy Queen

Analyzing Story in Games

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Resident Evil 5 Trailer — Defending the Dairy Queen

June 1, 2008 –

 Playstation-3 Images Re5-Screenshot-1
The Resident Evil 5 trailers 1 and 2 are live and stirring up all kinds of controversy. So what can we divine about RE5’s story?

First, watch the trailers if you haven’t already — RE5 is setting the bar for amazingly realistic mo-cap and animation. And it’s not just the squid-in-mouth stuff that’s impressive, but the subtle body motions and rag-doll physics that scream next next-gen (the slow-mo shotgun blast on the roof filled my heart with cinematic glee).

As for the story, after watching both trailers, it seems RE5 suffers from a disconnect between the horrific environment and the character motivation. The RE5 environment, like all previous games, is amazing — terrifying atmosphere, shocking intensity and hyper-realistic zombification. But the main character, Chris Redfield, acts like he’s policing an In-And-Out on Sunset Blvd.

“I’ve got a job to do and I’m going to see it through,” says Chris with his waiter-turned-actor accent. Is this the same Chris, covered in roasted zombie flesh, from previous games? One would think he’d be a little more, I don’t know, pissed about being attacked by legions of the damned yet again, and this time in a place hotter and dirtier. One would also think the psychological trauma from killing masses of undead men, women and children in previous episodes would be evident in his attitude to euthanizing an entire village of bottom 5%ers.

But, no, Chris sounds like a 20-something actor in Hollywood. The actor probably has talent, but, in my opinion, was an entirely wrong choice for a character who has seen more hearts of darkness than Colonel Kurtz.

As for plot, the moment Chris said, “I’m just doing my job” all kinds of warning bells went off in my head. Just doing his job? Does he really have no opinion about the level of crap he’s in? How about, “I hope I can save people from this terrible fate” or “Where the hell is the UN” or “DiCaprio can kiss my white ass.” Anything but “Here we go again!”

The message “I’m just doing my job” tells the audience is that this is a character entirely removed from the plot. Great characters are instrumental to the inciting incident — if not the instigators themselves — but Chris Redfield seems like he just got off a yuppie safari tour.

Also, the female character, another obvious Los Angeles voice actor, seemed entirely out of place. “I may not be as big as you, but I can still hold my own.” To which Chris replies, “No worries, my last partner was a woman too.” To me, that is quite possibly the strangest conversation to be having while chainsaw wielding freaks roam the streets. Instead of the dreaded gender equality conversation, Chris would say, “Thank Christ you have a gun!” I’d imagine he’s less worried about offending her feminine sensibilities and more worried about the undead Idi Amin sucking his spleen juices.

That said, the game is visually fantastic. It’s interesting to see that, once again, most of the first half of the trailer is pure story. Only in the second half do we see actual gameplay footage. Story isn’t important in games? It’s clearly important in game marketing.

  1. 2 Responses to “Resident Evil 5 Trailer — Defending the Dairy Queen”

  2. I like your insight on storytelling. I wouldn’t have drawn those conclusions from the few lines exchanged in the trailer (though I have to admit to not having seen them).

    I’m guessing they had typical lines to make our badassery detectors go crazy (though it takes all depth as you mentioned)

    I thought the screenshot was a picture until I read the title of the article :)

    By Gazillion on Jun 10, 2008

  3. The general storyline of the RE games suffers from DBZ issues: you could condense all the neat and/or surprising elements into about a 10-minute read. I think the selling point on the recent style of RE games (4 and 5, maybe Umbrella Chronicles) is firmly in the “zombie-killing action” realm, instead of the story being told.

    -How many bullets do I have left?
    -Thank god, a safe place to *AUGH, ZOMBIE!*
    -Alright! a shotgun! *phew*
    -why am I in Africa? Wait, Why was 4 in Spain? Oh well, zombie’s a zombie…

    Leon and Chris have both given the game exactly what it needs to let players have fun: a somewhat jaded gun-toting hero vehicle they can drive through level and zombie challenges. The storytelling in these games takes such a back-seat to the gameplay it’s not even worth analyzing. If action wasn’t so front-and-center (Silent Hill perhaps?) you’d be in a much better place to analyze the plot with its twists and macabre turns.

    By Brandon on Jun 27, 2008

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