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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of ‘Resident Evil 5’

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How do you follow up a game like Resident Evil 4? How do you follow up a game that changed how we look at 3rd person shooters and completely re-defined the entirety of the survival horror genre forever. How do you play backup to a game that’s appeared on dozens of best-of lists and was referred to as one of the greatest games of all time?

That’s what Capcom had four years to figure out. The result of their hard labour? Resident Evil 5, a game as lauded as it is criticized, and what has been referred to as one of the best Resident Evil games and one of the worst. Let’s take a look back at what it did right, what it did wrong, and why it’s earned such a weird reputation in the RE fandom.

residentevil5

Series regular Chris Redfield, along with new comer Sheva Alomar

The Good

There is a lot that RE5 does right, some thanks to RE4‘s framework, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. First and foremost are the graphics. Simply put this game was stunning when it came out, and even seven years on, it’s impressive for the time. This is easily one of the best looking games for the early PS3/360 era, and only a handful of games really surpass it. Both the in-game graphics and the pre-rendered movies look great, and the cinematography of the cutscenes is fantastic. If nothing else this is an incredibly cinematic game.

Second is the new inventory…sort of. We’ll get to that later. Rather than playing tetris with every item, you’re given nine slots. On controllers, the first four slots are relegated to the D-Pad, but on PC all nine slots are instantly accessible via the 1-9 keys meaning switching between weapons, something you do quite a lot, is smooth and almost instantaneous. Going from your trusty pistol to the sniper rifle in a matter of seconds, rather then opening a new screen, waiting for it to load, selecting your gun, closing the screen, and getting back into the game is an absolute god-send.

Controls are improved too, but again, only sort of. There’s a lot of weird balancing in this game and we will discuss that in a second. Guns feel more responsive then RE4 and aiming is quicker and easier. On the PC version there’s an obnoxious crosshair rather then the laser sight, but at least the mouse works, a nice change from the 2007 Ubisoft port of RE4.

Lastly there’s Irving. Irving is the main villain for the first half of the game, and serves as the half-way point boss fight. He’s also easily one of the most interestingly weird characters in the Resident Evil franchise. He’s goofy looking, he over-acts to an insane degree, he dresses weird, and his voice wanders between second rate Joker impression and bizarre faux-Boston accent. He’s an absolute joy to watch whenever he’s on-screen, and it’s almost a shame when he leaves the game.

Irving: Best RE villain ever? No, but really, really funny.

Irving: Best RE villain ever? No, but really, really funny.

The Bad

There’s no such thing as a perfect game, and of course RE5 is no exception. It makes some truly egregious errors, but we’ll save that for the UGLY section of this article. For now let’s focus on what doesn’t work, rather then what they totally got wrong.

First is the inventory. As mentioned, rather then RE4‘s attache case system you only have nine slots per character, so 18 slots overall. The big issue with this is that ammo, grenades, and health items all of which were much, much smaller and easier to carry then guns in RE4 now take up the exact same amount of space, meaning you can actually get into a situation where you have to choose between picking up a new gun or keeping the ammo for that weapon. Yes, grenades now stack, but health items don’t and ammo does only to a certain point. Trying to carry more than three weapons is a nightmare as you try to juggle ammo, grenades, health kits, and the guns themselves, and the added convenience of quick switching only does so much to remedy this.

Then there’s the tank-controls. RE4 had tank controls, but it used them to heighten the horror experience, often only pitting you against small groups of enemies and forcing you to carefully conduct your fighting. RE5 has a much more action-oriented slant to it, and as such, the tank controls serve as an even greater hindrance than in the previous game. Your characters feel sluggish, and moving around just seems like a hassle. It does manage to heighten some of the more tense moments as you run, turn, and shoot just like RE4, but most of the time, and in the face of other games like the Dead Space series, it just comes off as antiquated and unnecessary.

The Ugly

ResidentEvilPart5

RE4 had a chainsaw, so RE5 has a chainsaw.

Here’s where RE5 goes completely off the rails, the stuff they absolutely dropped the ball on. First and foremost is the AI. The entire rest of the RE series up to this point, with the notable exception of Resident Evil: Outbreak on the PS2, had been single-player experiences. For some reason Capcom decided that not only did RE5 need to have co-op, but that this feature should be made central to the entire game, to the point where the single-player experience doesn’t play as well without a partner. As a co-op game it plays fine, great even, with plenty of sections that force player cooperation, but the single-player game is abysmal due to the AI running the partner. Giving the AI health items means the second you get scratched they’ll waste precious herbs. Give them a rifle and they’ll stick to their weakest pistol until absolutely necessary. And do not EVER give them something explosive, or you might as well just quit the game. There’s other issues, like how they tend to pick up any mines you lay down, or steal ammo for weapons they don’t even have. It never really breaks the game, but it is a huge turn-off, and adds unnecessary stress when you have to watch yourself and a suicidal moron at all times.

The issue with the co-op focus runs deeper than just poor inventory management though. With two players comes a total re-balance of the game, and while RE4 featured only a few “crowd scenes” RE5 seems to be nothing but. Imagine the iconic village fight from RE4 non-stop and that’s pretty much most of RE5. There are a few quieter sections where you face off against carefully chosen enemies and have to make use of proper tactics, but most fights are just “gun down everything that moves” and move on. This also means ammo balancing is messed up, and it seems like every other enemy drops a mag or two for your weapons, removing much of the tension that comes with scrambling for survival.

Of course, you only have to stand and fight if you want to, since the game’s terrible enemy AI is really easy to fool. Entire fighting sections can easily be bypassed by just running. The game catches on to this occasionally by adding environmental puzzles, and skipping a fight means you won’t get loot, but you also save a tonne of ammo by doing this. You’ll need that ammo too, since RE5 is absolutely uncompromising at times, and surviving some fights takes a superhuman amount of planning and patience thanks to bullet-sponge enemies.

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Is there any game in Africa that doesn’t involve blowing up an oil field?

The big problem is this no longer feels like a survival horror game, but it still wants to be. RE5 wants so desperately to be an action shooter like Gears of War 2 or Saint’s Row 2, but feels constrained to its survival horror roots because of the previous games. If the AI was better, if the controls were better, and especially if it played more like other shooters, maybe RE5 could’ve been better. But it’s name brings up sour memories in some series fans, and it’s become one of the more divisive games in the franchise, often showing up fairly low on RE rankings.

It’s worth mentioning for a quick second what a pain it is trying to get the PC version of this game up and running. RE5 was another victim of Games For Windows Live, and as such, the Steam Version is just a bit messed up. There’s a fan patch easily available to fix it, but at this time, more than a year after the death of GFWL there’s no official patch.

At best, RE5 comes across as an attempt to ape RE4, and it does so successfully at times. But so much of the game feels the same as the previous game that it might as well just be a really great DLC. Every truly great or exciting moment, with a few exceptions, feels like an attempt to re-capture RE4‘s majesty, or stuff that had already become stale and common-place within the RE series. There’s giant mutants, wading through sewers, the occasional jump-scares, and completely insane writing. Even when it does do something new it’s just taking ideas from other games, like an on-rails vehicle section, or fighting waves of enemies while waiting for an elevator.

RE5 isn’t a bad game, nor is it even a bad Resident Evil game. When everything lines up right it really does work, and as a co-op game, especially couch co-op, it’s a great experience. But it’s a game without purpose, a worse horror experience than it’s own predecessor, and three years too late to capitalize on RE4‘s massive popularity. It’s a game that doesn’t need to exist and today, it’s only worth playing if you’re a mega fan of the franchise.

Andrew Vandersteen has been watching movies and playing games since before he could do basic math, and it shows. But what he lacks in being good at things, he makes up for with opinions on everything nerd culture. A self described and self medicated audiophile and lover of anything and everything really, really terrible, he's on a constant quest to find the worst things humanity has ever published. He's seen every episode of The Legend of Zelda, twice, and thinks the Super Mario Movie was a war crime. When he's not playing games or writing about them, he's messing around with audio or fixing computers. Perpetually one paycheck short of breaking even, and always angry about something.

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019Awesome Mixtape Vol. 5

It’s that time once again in which I bring to you my awesome mixtape featuring the best tracks from the best video game soundtracks of the year. Last year, my mixtape featured tracks from Triple-A titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and indie darlings like Celeste. In 2017, my picks for best soundtracks included tracks from some of my favorite games including Cuphead, Breath of the Wild and Into the Woods, to name just a few. Well, 2019 has been another banner year for the industry and as always, the games were blessed with an astounding selection of musical scores— some would argue the soundtracks were even better than the actual games at times. As always, it wasn’t easy deciding which songs to include and what to leave out— and as always, I’ve also mixed in some audio clips from various cut scenes while trying to keep it spoiler-free. Feel free to share this link and let me know if you think I’ve missed any great soundtracks in the comments below.

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019 Playlist

Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding
: Low Roar – “I’ll Keep Coming”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Life is Strange 2: Seyr – “Colour To Colour”
Life is Strange 2: Jonathan Morali – “Into the Woods”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Sayonara Wild Heart”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Wild Hearts Never Die”
Death Stranding: CHVRCHES – “Death Stranding”
Afterparty clip
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “Title and Credits”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Hades Gonna Hate”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Schoolyard Strangler”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Main Theme
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Cyrus the Scholar
Kingdom Hearts 3 clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Main Theme”
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Blue Skies and a Battle”
Devil May Cry 5 clip
Devil May Cry 5: Kota Suzuki – “Urizen Boss Battle Music”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
FAR: Lone Sails: Joel Schoch – “Colored Engine”
Days Gone: Nathan Whitehead— “Soldier’s Eye”
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Metro Exodus: Alexey Omelchuk – “Main Theme”
Resident Evil 2 Remake clip
Resident Evil 2 Remake: Masami Ueda, Shusaku Uchiyama, Shun Nishigaki – “Mr.X Theme Music (T-103)”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Begin Again”
Life is Strange 2: Lincoln Grounds, Pat Reyford – “Morning Good Morning”
Life is Strange 2: Sufjan Stevens – “Death With Dignity”
Luigi’s Mansion 3 clip
Luigi’s Mansion 3: Koji Kondo – “Main Theme”
Ape Out: Matt Boch – “Intro”
Deltarune: Toby Fox – “Field of Hopes and Dreams”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “Loose Cargo”
“Star Wars: Imperial March” Hip Hop Remix
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra
Death Stranding: Silent Poets – “Asylum for The Feeling”
Catherine: Full Body: Shoji Meguro – “Tomorrow”
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening: Koji Kondo – “Marin’s Ballad of the Windfish”
Metro Exodus – Alexey Omelchuk: “Teardrops”
Sekiro: Yuka Kitamura – “Ashina Reservoir”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “The Doom”
Medley: Eye of Death / Wild Hearts Never Die / Dragon Heart / Clair De Lune

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Game Reviews

‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming

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Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.

New Super Lucky's Tale carnival

In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.

It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.

New Super Lucky's Tale factory

Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.

And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.

New Super Lucky's Tale farm

It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.

No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more. 

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Games

How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?

Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.

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max raid battles

One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?

Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.

Real Friends Raid Together

Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.

After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.

If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.

After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.

Max Raid Battle Rundown

The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.

To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.

If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.

max raid battles

The Fruits of Victory

Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.

Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.

max raid battles

Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.

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