Faceoff! Resident Evil 5 vs Dead Space
This week’s addition of Faceoff is taking a turn for the horrific, pairing Capcom’s Resident Evil 5 against EA’s newcomer franchise, Dead Space. We’re going to compare everything from visuals, to story, to controls, gameplay and scare factor, to bring you the lowdown on which title will bring you more scares for your buck. Let the Faceoff begin!
Resident Evil 5 - RE5 features original series protagonist Chris Redfield traveling to Africa to investigate a strange outbreak turning the villagers into bloodthirsty Maijini. He teams up with HottieMcHotterstein Sheva Alomar, and the two embark on a journey filled with blood, guts, icky things, and bullets. Outside of that, there isn’t much else to the narrative.
Chris Redfield has never really been much of a character, as Capcom tends to subscribe to the philosophy of “The lead character is whatever we happen to need him to be for the game we’re currently making.” That is to say that the Chris of RE5 is very different from the Chris of RE1 and Code Veronica. He’s a very inconsistent character, suddenly possessing bulging biceps and the ability to throw a straight punch that literally sends the zombie like Maijini flying backwards 20 feet (Leon S. Kennedy from Resident Evil 2 went through a similar transformation when he reappeared in RE4 with a “hard as nails demeanor” and fancy moves. A far cry from the nancy boy he was in RE2).
In the end, there are some “twists” in the story, which you can see a mile away, due to Capcom’s predictably Japanese story cliches (much like our own American ones; after a while, you just…see it coming), and the villains are more comical than terrifying, but it’s a decent enough backdrop for the gameplay.
Dead Space - Dead Space’s story takes itself a bit more seriously, and has a more involved, even intriguing plot. After recieving a distress signal from mining ship USG Ishimura, the Concordance Extraction Corporation (CEC) send the USG Kellion to investigate. Upon attempting to dock with the large mining vessel, a malfunction happens, and the Kellion is badly damaged, and forced to crash dock onto the Ishimura.
From there, players assume the role of Isaac Clarke, an engineer aboard the Kellion, as he investigates the mystery surrounding the Ishimura. What he finds are lots and lots of dead bodies, and grotesque creatures than can only be truly killed by severing their limbs. Plot wise, the games evokes films like Aliens and Event Horizon, and creatures you encounter are truly horrifying. As mentioned before, the narrative takes itself a lot more serious than the “B-Movie” camp that the Resident Evil series has always been known for, and the game feels more like Silent Hill in space.
Isaac, as a character, is almost as blank as Chris, but this is due to the fact that he is inside of a protective suit the entirety of the game, covering him from head to toe. This allows the player to project themselves into the suit better than the buff and rugged Chris.
Resident Evil 5 - This is the area that I feel Resident Evil 5 really falls behind Dead Space. Utilizing the control scheme made popular by Resident Evil 4, the game forces players to stop all movement when aiming and firing a weapon. The characters feel very stiff as a result, and it becomes very hard to take on multiple enemies, due to the slow reaction times of the controls. Even turning and fleeing requires you to do a “quick turn,” and it just feels dated.
Many games, from Gears of War, to Uncharted, and yes, Dead Space, have evolved the third person, over the shoulder control mechanic that Resident Evil 5 simply feels like Resident Evil 4 reskinned with Chris Redfield instead of Leon S. Kennedy, and in HD. The cumbersome control scheme also leads to frustrating moments in combat and tense situations because your reaction times aren’t being hindered by you, but the controls. Add in the fact the game doesn’t pause when you access the items menu, and you are often taking more damage from approaching enemies when trying to heal yourself.
Dead Space - Dead Space employs the more “modern” take on 3rd person shooter controls established by games like Gears of War and Uncharted. In short, Issac can move and shoot at the same time, making him more mobile, and better equipped to survive encounters with the horrific creatures on the USG Ishimura. It’s interesting to note that Dead Space employs the same inventory system as RE5, in that the game does not pause when accessing the inventory, and the player can still be attacked, but the smoother controls in Dead Space simply makes the game feel more comfortable and accessible.
Resident Evil 5 - Resident Evil 5 is more of an “Action Horror” game than a “Survival Horror” game. Chris and Sheva are more than equipped to deal with the enemies they encounter, and you don’t really feel any sort of fear for them. Chris is the typical male American hero, and Sheva is the typical strong female lead, and their well toned physiques and acrobatic manuvers are more than enough to get you out of a jam.
Even the knife, the longstanding joke of the Resident Evil series is usefull in taking down enemies and defending yourself. In any other Survival Horror game, the scenarios that Chris and Sheva find themselves in would be horrifying: battling off a horde of 20 or more zombies, fighting off a seemingly invulnerable creature that can stealth cloak himself and kill you in one hit, and facing off against gigantic bats, worms, and God knows what else.
In RE5, however, it’s like another day at the beach. I’m surprised Capcom didn’t have animations of Chris and Sheva yawning as they easily took out each and every one of their foes. Hell, the many environmental hazards the pair come across are more troublesome than the countless Maijini and giants they face. Dont’ get me wrong, the game is fun to play, but it doesn’t quite feel like Resident Evil, and even more importantly, it just wasn’t scary.
The standard, “jump out and go boo!” shock scares still work (they always do), but the atmosphere and frequency of the intense gunfight moments marr the “horror” part of “Action Horror.” This is an action game first, scary, horror game second. Players are able to upgrade their weapons in between chapters, making them even more powerful by spending cash and rare treasures found in the levels. They can also buy better weapons using the same method.
The fact that Sheva is by your side for 100% of the game also lessens the tension, and there are never any moments where you are simply alone, and forced to go through a significant portion of the game solo.
Because of this, RE5 supports 2 player co-op online and offline. Players can go through the entire single player campaign with a friend. This is actually rather fun, as most co-op experiences are. Having a human companion instead of the AI controlled Sheva (the AI, however, does a fantastic job of keeping up) makes for a more hectic, enjoyable experience. In the end, however, RE5 is an enjoyable action game, but it falls short on the horror element most of the time.
Dead Space - Dead Space is most certainly a “Survival Horror” game. The pacing, atmosphere, and tension levels are simply astounding. Gameplay rolls out like a tightly paced movie, and while there are plenty of “jump out and go boo!” scares in the game, some of the best, and most horrifying moments are simply when absolutely nothing is happening, and you are just walking down one of the empty, bloodstained corridors of the USG Ishimura. Enemy encounters don’t feature 20 or 30 Necromorphs (it’s what they call the reanimated corpses that are terrorizing the ship), but it doesn’t take more than one to cause the hairs on the back of your neck to stand on end.
Being forced to sever specific limbs of a Necromorph in order to truly kill them adds to the overall tension of the game, and even makes battles a bit more strategic, as the Necromorphs eventually adapt new strategies to avoid you killing them. Not much more can be said about the gameplay of Dead Space. It feels good, and it’s scary as hell.
There are discs that Isaac can collect that shed light on the situtation that has befallen the Ishimura, and, since his weapons are improvised from mining tools, and Isaac is an engineer, you can upgrade your weapons and health as you find components and engineering stations scattered throughout the world. Dead Space is one of the most terrifying gaming experiences I’ve had since playing the Silent Hill games on the PS2. It is most certainly the scariest survival horror game of this generation so far.
There is no multi-player component to Dead Space.
Resident Evil 5 - RE5 boasts some pretty impressive visuals. Locales are varied, and feature sharp textures. Character models are detailed and look great when viewed up close in cutscenes, or simply running around the levels. Creature designs are good, although most of them simply fall into the category of “slimy, icky, worm-like things.” They are more gross than scary most of the time.
Unfortunately, two things hold the game back from it’s true graphical potential. First, the character models, while looking fantastic, feature animations ripped straight out of Resident Evil 4. They look stiff when they move, and their animations don’t flow well into each other. This is most evident when doing things like knocking down ladders, opening chests, and doing the “quick turn” manuver.
The second area is atmospheric effects. The environments look detailed, sure, but little things like blowing debris, mist, and other ambient effects make the maps feel less alive than they could have. Granted, most of the time you are too busy killing hordes of Maijini to take in the sights, but I’m a gamer that loves to feel immersed in a world, so I pay attention to background details, and RE5 is lacking.
Dead Space - Dead Space is also impressive. Like RE5, the game features great textures, and the Ishimura, while being a gigantic ship, has enough variety in locales to keep things fresh. Character models look very good, though not on par with Resident Evil 5, and Issac’s animations are rather solid.
Creature designs are fantastically grotesque, as most of them are humans that have been mutated and ripped apart by the Necromorphs. The only real downside to the visuals of Dead Space are that, since the game takes place on the Ishimura, there are plenty of gray hallways to explore.
I suppose it adds to the feeling of claustrophobia, and the blood and guts splattered all over the place, as well as the relatively unique architecture for various parts of the ship, keeps things as varied as they can be. It’s a minor issue, however, as the overall atmosphere is great.
Resident Evil 5 gets the edge on textures, and character models, but Dead Space gets the win on atmosphere and immersion.
Personally, I think both games are good at what they do, and they cover two very distinct areas of the “Survival Horror” genre. Resident Evil 5 has made the transition from survival horror to “Action Horror,” while Dead Space pushes into the “Survival Horror” realm, on par with games like Silent Hill and Fatal Frame: more psychologically terrifying (playing with your fear of the unknown), than outright, jump out and scare you scary. Resident Evil 5 is definitely a fun action horror game, but in the end, I have to give the win to Dead Space, because it feels fresh, has a unique premise, and, in the end, is the scarier game of the two.