The survival-horror franchise Resident Evil is the reason, I believe, I became a gamer. A series about somewhat average men and women thrust into a no-win situation of zombie variety really made me love what games could and should be. No longer were games about running from left to right, jumping on or punching through whatever came your way. Now, video games were quasi cinematic experiences with voice acting, inventory management, violence, atmosphere and tension. Video games could aim to make you feel scared, stressed and love every single minute of it. The exploits of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, still to this day, two of my favorite video game superheroes, were what video games should be to me.
In 2009, the fifth entry in the series was released worldwide and it made a massive if not infamous impact upon the world of gaming. Resident Evil 5 had the daunting task of picking up the baton where RE4 handed it off as well as continuing a storyline that had already been running for over a decade at that time. RE5 was going to show off possibly the final mission of (arguably) the series main protagonist, Chris Redfield, as he made his way across the small city of Kijuju in Africa.
While the game was a massive financial success, one that was the best selling game for developer Capcom until 2018’s Monster Hunter World, the game was rife with controversy. From the very first day after launch, websites and message boards were chock full of people claiming that the game was racist, too focused on big action and nowhere near as good as Resident Evil 4. While all of this is subjective, except for the racism part (honestly, no one care when it was white cops and soldier killing white zombies), I am of the belief that time has been very kind to RE5.
While the over-the-shoulder gameplay of this game is a bit slower paced, it’s still fun, and Chris not being able to move is a subtle way of establishing more and more tension when in the middle of massive fire fights with zombies that can now fire rifles and lob grenades your way. But I won’t waste any more time before getting to the real reason this game is much better than you may have heard, because this game is really about the final mission of on Chris Redfield.
Chris Redfield, a thirty five year old man who has, at the time, been fighting monsters, terrorists and bio-organic weapons for over a decade at time, had been driven to the end his rope. Having spent years fighting, he has seen his friends and loved ones fine in the line of duty against the seemingly relentless threat of viral attacks, he comes to Africa in search of his friend and fellow soldier Jill Valentine. Three years before the events of RE5, Jill gives her life to save Chris’ at the hands of a terrorist named Albert Wesker, a man who Chris used to consider a colleague. Paired up with series newcomer, Sheva Alomar, Chris struggles against overwhelming odds when he finds out that Jill may be somewhere in Africa.
To his shock, horror, dismay and broken heart, Chris finds out that Jill is not only alive, but a fellow agent working with Wesker to sell viruses and bio-weapons across the globe. When Jill and Chris meet face to face, it’s a gut wrenching and mournful scene when Chris realizes that he has to fight Jill, even though he refuses to… and my heart swells with joy when she relents to him and it is revealed that she has been mind-controlled for the three years since her apparent death. And this is why I love this game so much; Chris and Jill are loyal to each other.
There is a fun online debate amongst some fans whether or not Chris and Jill are romantically involved, and whatever side you land on that topic (they totally are an item), this game proves that it doesn’t matter. Chris and Jill are loyal to each other and would give everything to keep the other safe, which is why Chris always watches Jill’s back even though he know he doesn’t need to, and why Jill valiantly gave herself to save Chris’ life in a bone-crunching fight between them and a hilariously overpowered Albert Wesker.
Playing through Resident Evil 5 recently made me realize that the series should’ve just ended here and left fans happy with the knowledge that Chris and Jill are still out there fighting the good fight to protect those that can’t protect themselves. Perhaps I’m giving this game too much credit, but the relationship between Chris and Jill proves that some people mean more to each other than just being friends or something “more” than friends, some people are just there when you need them, and that is the type of relationship that is hardly, if ever, explored in gaming, and RE5, for all it’s weirdness and hiccups in gameplay proves that some relationships mean more than silly labels, viral outbreaks and Matrix references. Some people just care, and that is fucking awesome.