Pros: Very lifelike zombie simulation.
Cons: Many people still believe it to be merely a game.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news articles coming out it is plainly obvious that the zombie apocalypse is going to be coming down on us. First there is a naked man eating the face off of another in Miami, within a couple days a New Jersey man is throwing around his own intestines. Clearly the zombie virus has come and is spreading fast. You can go ahead and stick your head in the sand and deny that it is coming, or you can start preparing because who knows how long we have before the undead are crashing through our windows. What should we do? Well after you have stockpiled food and ammunition and have significantly zombie-proofed your domicile (there is a lot more to do, but for that there is fine literature available for that). What I am going to focus on is the mental training you will need if you want to survive the oncoming zombie swarms.
That is where the most excellent zombie simulator Resident Evil 5 comes in. It is available for PS3, Xbox 360, or PC and performs admirably well for all three. For the sake of this article I will be focusing on the Playstation 3 version. In this zombie simulator developed and produced by Capcom with direct input and intel from the Japanese governments’ Department of Zombie Suppression. Fortunately for us Western nations the Japanese are far less secretive about their knowledge on zombies and the zombie virus. For the port of the Resident Evil 5 zombie simulation key information about the true nature of zombies was changed during translation by the United States government. Now the zombies are called “Majini” (and aren’t really dead, but are infected people who can be controlled) and it is placed in a fictional continent called “Africa”, unlike the real life Midwestern town of Raccoon City used in earlier installments.
The zombie simulator of Resident Evil 5 diverts from the roots of the series of Resident Evil zombie simulators. Originally the series focused merely on how to best survive if forced to go it alone in remote mansions or escape infested cities alone. Now the zombie simulator has reached the point that it focuses on the necessity of never traveling alone and taking the fight to the zombies. The character of Chris Redfield has returned from the original Resident Evil but has now been given a ‘roid-rage’ appearance, and he has been partnered up with the new character Sheva Alomar (female). In this zombie simulator the ‘survival horror’ that made the simulators famous in the beginning is gone. Now it is possible to farm levels over and over in order to collect supplies, so the suspense of running out of ammunition is no longer there. Which running out of ammunition cannot train you for very much in real life via a video game. No, the purpose of Resident Evil 5 is to bring you into a realistic zombie situation and train your instincts and brain on how to focus during such a stressful situation.
First of all Capcom did an outstanding job making this fictitious continent of Africa come to life, you would almost think they had source material, but I digress. While the zombie simulation only runs at 720p it is still a sight to behold. It is good to see that Capcom understood the gravity of getting this simulator into as many hands as possible because there is practically no visible difference between systems, not one of them got a bad port. The character models used for the living and the undead are remarkably detailed, as are all of the environments. Resident Evil 5 uses extremely good use of textures and lighting in order to achieve tremendous accuracy of moods and environments.
To further engross you into the world after the zombies have risen Capcom spared no expense and hired professionals to do the voice acting instead of hiring the same schmucks that made the laughable first installment in the series. Chris and Sheva are given really life like personalities and mannerisms in their voices so that you are given a sense that they are indeed alive, pulling you further into the realism. What turns out to be the thing that will kill so many people when the zombie apocalypse occurs is that they will not be able to handle the constant groaning emitted by their undead loved ones as they shuffle around. Sadly there is little in the side of groaning, for that you will still need to reference earlier simulators in the series, instead you will hear the accurate sounds of feet walking around and the clicking of your surroundings (or enemies) meant to keep you on edge.
While a fully immersive holo-deck would be a preferred way to train the masses on how to aim for the head, that isn’t a practical reality yet, so Capcom had to settle for simulating it with the handheld controllers that were available for the Playstation 3 at the time. The controls work admirably well for their limited capabilities. The left analog stick controls the character movement while the right analog controls the camera movement. The D-pad allows for quick access of inventory items while the other face buttons control interactions mostly. While the shoulder buttons control using your primary and secondary weapons. The only real gripe I have ever heard about the control scheme is that it does not allow you to run and shoot at the same time. This gripe is brought on by the misguided belief that this is merely a video game meant for your amusement instead of a completely serious zombie simulation meant to improve your chances of survival once the inevitable zombie apocalypse happens. In case of a real zombie attack Resident Evil 5 forces you to practice correct self-defense shooting procedure. The characters square their feet and take aim, trying to aim for a zombies head while running is only ideal if you want to waste much needed ammunition.
The heart of the ‘gameplay’ (as those video game nerds would call it) is focused around controlling either Chris or Sheva as they have to work together to get through many dangerous areas. The zombie infested world feels so realistic that the simulation works tremendously for calming your nerves in case of a real zombie attack, you must always remember to keep a clear head, back up your partner and aim for the head, and getting the zombies to funnel into a defensible position if possible. Unlike in the previous Resident Evil zombie simulators this simulator focuses on cooperative tactics. You can either have two people using the simulation on the same screen via a ‘split-screen’ mode with a singular Playstation 3, or you could team up with another doomsday prepper like yourself via online play. These modes are easily the preferred methods of play since having a real human at the helm of the second character is just as unpredictable as having a real human in real life. If you are unable to find a human partner the simulation does have a stand-in AI that will simulate a second human, however this AI is lacking. The AI for the second character will quickly prove to be more of a hindrance than a help. After some testing it is confirmed that it is best to use the second character as a pack mule for health supplies and ammo, because they will end up wasting all of your ammunition and probably walk into the line of fire at the most inopportune times.
While other Resident Evil zombie simulators prepared you for solo journeys which equate to little more than survival, Resident Evil 5 takes the fight to the zombies. It is much more action packed than previous installments. While previous installments were titled ‘survival-horror’ this one is more of an ‘adventure-horror’. By now you should have learned how to conquer your fear of the zombies. Sure the developers put in some other new and large monsters at the behest of the government so as to not alarm the public that a zombie pandemic is eminent and that we need to be prepared. The simulator is presented as a third-person over the shoulder shooter, and it runs extremely smoothly. And may I say for a simulator meant to improve your mental sharpness for once the crisis occurs it ends up being surprisingly fun. Which I’m pretty sure was accidental, but is great for making repeated practice on the simulator much more appealing. On top of ‘story mode’ which is the thinly veiled attempt at edutainment Capcom also included in this version of the simulator a “Mercenaries” mode which is good practice for dealing with never ending swarms as a duo.
The simulation (despite some annoying AI) is overall extremely well done. No this is not be the first step you take in preparing for the zombie apocalypse, in fact it is nearly the last, after you have fortified and stocked up would be a good time to look into mentally preparing yourself to shoot your undead Grandmother in the head, which is where this simulation comes in. If this message hits the internet before it is too late, for we don’t know how long it can be contained, please take my advice. This simulation is now dirt cheap and should be a part of everyone’s zombie preparedness regiment. I wish you all well in the oncoming crisis, and please remember to take a breath and aim for the head. God bless.