Posted by Will Ooi | Posted in Gaming | Tags: In Memoriam, Rainbow Six | Posted on 22-01-2013-05-2008
Primitive to look at now, the first Rainbow Six games offered revolutionary gameplay
Max Payne stories always start with a glimpse of the end; the final firefight having been concluded, the eponymous character shares his realisations on all the bloodshed via the voice-over narration of James McCaffrey as violin strings play the series’ forlorn theme music before the game jumps back to the very beginning for players to piece together how that conclusion had been reached. The formula has remained unchanged from Remedy’s original tale of a renegade cop seeking vengeance for his murdered family and its sequel’s more concentrated noir-aesthetic love story, through to Rockstar Games’ third installment that reinvented the character as a depressed and alcoholic bodyguard in Brazil. Yet despite these constant bookends in narrative, it was a moment found in the middle of the original Max Payne that helped to define the atmosphere of the series as a ‘different kind of shooter’; a level immediately familiar to and unforgettable for longstanding fans.
This is the second part of In Memoriam: a Dead Rising retrospective, looking back on the game’s influence on the reinvigorated popularity of the zombie genre, and the controversial design decisions that defined its core identity. Having examined the title’s roots in Capcom’s first foray into Survival Horror and its thematic inspirations from George A. Romero’s Dead films in Part 1, this time we’ll assess closer the game design and mechanics that made, but for others, broke, Dead Rising, along with the incredible demands of the unlockable, pretty-much-as-crazy-as-it-sounds, Infinity Mode.
Players would get used to that awkward image of Frank West’s back as he stood at the urinal overwriting that one save file of theirs, yet another potentially last pee being performed for the umpteenth time prior to heading back out into the expanses of Willamette Mall in a combined state of fear and curiosity. Players would also become overly familiar with that annoying walky-talky ringtone whenever the mall’s security officer, Otis, would phone in at the most inopportune moments with more ‘Scoops’ on what strife some other poor sods had gotten themselves into on the other side of the mall, phoning back in anger if Frank had the nerve to hang up on him as he balanced his very survival with a large bottle of orange juice and an electric guitar in each hand, perhaps also whilst running away feverishly from some pyromaniac throwing molotovs and driving explosive remote-controlled toy race cars in his general direction. As a general rule, these ringtones signified impending doom. Dead Rising fans would even get used to seeing those same story cutscenes playing over and over again after being forced to restart from the very beginning, probably catching themselves mouthing lines of dialogue as if it were a favourite movie. And despite all of these annoyances, for those who still chose to persevere by drawing inspiration from some remarkable source of inner strength, seeing their improved progress get utterly destroyed thanks to either another mistimed save or a horrendously unexpected and unprepared-for boss battle as the game mockingly asked whether they’d like to give it another go, from scratch, players would definitely get used to that Groundhog Day sensation of End of the World proportions: sick to death of this horrible, ceaseless purgatory and wishing that all these problems, these zombies, this…nightmare… would just go away forever.~
This blog is a tribute to the original Dead Rising, the game that helped usher back into mainstream consciousness the lovable appeal and popularity of the Zombie Apocalypse, a genre now near-oversaturated and encompassing almost all forms of media. Whether it be the hilarious Undead Nightmare expansion to Red Dead Redemption or real-life “Zombie Walk” social-event-meets-cosplay events, would any of these tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating moments truly have been possible were it not for the fun people had photographing female zombie knickers for high ‘Erotica’ scores through the camera lens of the game’s everyman main character, Frank West, himself clothed in a tight-fitting red rose dress direct from Willamette Mall’s high-end fashion section? Wait, what? That wasn’t how you played the game? No way.
Japanese developers Capcom had previously frightened a generation of players in the mid-90’s with its original entry to the Biohazard/Resident Evil series, simultaneously coining a new term for the experience as we came to grips with the jump up in quality of the 32-bit generation. “Survival Horror” made its debut on the original Playstation and took gamers on a horrific expedition through a sprawling mansion and secret underground laboratories populated by nightmarish creatures, forcing them to salvage scarce healing and ammunition resources – knowing full well that the more the player explored the game setting, the more risk they’d encounter. The need to conserve bullets wherever possible, accompanied by both a harsh difficulty level and limited amount of in-game ink ribbons to simply even save one’s progress, ensured that the ‘survival’ aspect of the title was alive and well, even if that meant that the selectable player characters, Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, often weren’t. Add to that a ‘horror’ attribute stemming from classic moments such as the infamous dog-jumping-through-the-window trick, the unsettlingly gorgeous but deliberately claustrophobic pre-rendered backgrounds and just as limiting “tank-like” control scheme which always kept players within the grasp of the game’s multiple and grotesque enemies, Resident Evil was an instant, terrifying success.