Nothing beats the utter humiliation of total defeat at the hands of a seasoned 2-D fighter. Fingers sweaty, eyes narrowed, focused; it doesn’t matter. No amount of practice or rage will stop the inevitable, at least for me. I’m a perpetual Street Fighter loser, always have been and always will be. With Street Fighter IV, nothing has changed, except now, with the addition of online player vs. player, listening to post-game blustering is easily avoided.
Street Fighter IV comes straight from the heart of the fighter genre, with soul and class that only a game with such traditional flare could achieve. Everything familiar has returned: characters with two-dimensional stories, a power gauge to unleash special moves and a keen multiplayer interface.
Several new characters add diversity to a very familiar roster, while the new feature “focus power” allows a character to unleash a powerful blow. Not surprisingly, the game was also given the 3-D treatment, a gimmick that other fighters have implemented before. I would have preferred hand-drawn scenery to stale rendered environments, but the future is now, apparently.
One of the few complaints I’ve overheard was a reaction to the lack of an air-block — a miniscule detail to some, game breaking for others. Customizable “specials” should have been included; you can’t feed gamers what they want only to take it away in a follow-up without consequences.
So where does Street Fighter IV fit in? Somewhere between traditionalist’s delight and newbie’s bane; it really depends on your experience. Pick it up if you’re in the mood to spend a lot of time in training mode; otherwise, if you’re a veteran, you already own it.
If Street Fighter IV is a semi-return to tradition, Resident Evil 5 is a sharp right down a narrow and dangerous path: one wrong move could spell trouble for longtime fans, but it is often said that the harder the trial, the bigger the reward. During its first week of release, the RE5 demo reached more than 1.8 million homes, according to Microsoft and Capcom, and it wasn’t a pretty sight; the demo launched players into a confusing world in which there was no time to adapt, leaving a sour taste and less enthusiasm for the impending release.
As Resident Evil veteran Chris Redfield and his new partner, Sheva, you’re thrust in to the middle of an African village devastated by the effects of an unknown virus. Running from crazed villagers, enraged executioners and blighted yokels, everything begins to feel . . . very . . . familiar. RE4: set in a village? Check. Enraged locals? Check. Only now you’re charged with the protection of a computer-controlled character that seems to be in trouble more often than not. When a chainsaw wielding farmer is lunging at you, you duck, sweetie; I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to restart because my partner’s head has somehow ended up in the dirt. Fortunately, Sheva can be controlled by friends, whether they’re in the same room or online.
As I shot and knifed my way through hordes of raving “zombies” (they’re not, though Capcom won’t hesitate to call them such), a calming aura emitted from the screen and into the pleasure center of my brain, triggering long-lost memories: playing Resident Evil 2, late night, shrieking in mortal fear as zombie arms clawed at me through broken windows; running from plague dogs down narrow halls in Resident Evil 1 and trying but ultimately failing to make sense of Resident Evil: Code Veronica.
Resident Evil 5, to my surprise, actually fits! Everything familiar that was lacking in Resident Evil 4 appears to be here, and the new features — a map that can be toggled on and off, the easy-to-use inventory, and partner commands — all add to the strategy that has been missing since, and was nearly perfected in Resident Evil: Outbreak.
I wish I could say I hated it. I really do. It would give me an excuse to brush off Capcom and hock my copy on eBay to retrieve a portion of the $96 it cost for the Collector’s Edition (replete with a figurine, a necklace, a messenger bag and a bonus disc — hard to say if it was worth the extra $30). But I can’t. Resident Evil 5 is a welcome addition to the franchise, surpassing Resident Evil 4 by improving on its clunky controls, implementing beautiful cut-scenes and graphics, and most important — at least for this die-hard fan — returning to its survival horror roots.
Street Fighter IV and Resident Evil V are available for the Playstation 3 and XBox 360.
Chris O’Neal is a recent college graduate with an itchy writing finger. In his spare time, he neglects his fiancée and rabbits to immerse himself in video games and comic books.In other words, he’s a nerd.