Take Me Down To Raccoon City

This Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of Resident Evil’s debut, and to celebrate the occasion, we launched a brand new feature—Best, Worst, Weirdest—where we examine a sprawling series’ strengths, weaknesses, and evolution through three standout games. Anthony John Agnello had the honors of digging into Resident Evil, and his pick for best game in the series was Resident Evil 2, in part due to it’s Raccoon City Police Department setting, which manages to be both outlandish and eerily grounded. NakedSnake was also a fan and sung the building’s praises in the comments:

I love the Raccoon City Police Department so much. It provides the perfect example of the kind of ludicrous logic and high-flying drama that epitomize the series. Once you have experienced it, you know all that you need to know about the kind of weirdness you’ll have to accept if you are going to like the series. This is supposed to be a real police station, but it’s full of weird art and statues, many of which reveal secrets when they are pushed or pulled around. And then the police chief turns out to be some kind of serial killer who enjoys killing cops for sport. And then, of course, there’s a giant umbrella laboratory in the sewers underneath the police station because in Resident Evil there’s always a laboratory wherever you go. So you have all that bizarre stuff going on already, and then you insert a bunch of zombies and mutants and Mr. X into the situation. The Resident Evil series works by layering weirdness on top of weird foundations. Understanding that the world of Resident Evil is already terminally strange makes it a lot easier to accept the sci-fi wizardry that follows.

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And The_Misanthrope imagined what it might be like to actually work in that place:

I always imagined working in Raccoon City must have been a pain, even before the outbreak.

Employee 1: “Oh fuck, I can’t remember the code for the door!”

Employee 2: “I’ve told you a million times. You have to press the switches on the paintings in order from birth to old age. This is the last time I’m going to help you!”

Employee 1: “Geez, okay. Side note: We certainly seem to have a crow problem here. Does the boss know about them?”

Employee 2: “Oh, he brought them in here. We’ve been having a lot of problem with kids trying in to get in here, so now these super-intelligent crows will attack anyone who enters the code wrong.”

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A Comedy Of Errors

Agent 47 weaing a chicken suit in Hitman: Absolution

Also this week, Patrick Lee dropped by with a review of the latest Hitman game—or the part of it that’s currently available, at least. He was smitten with its unintentional comedy, especially how his inexperienced bumbling ran counter to the game’s portrayal of Agent 47 as an infallible super spy. That’s a disconnect The Space Pope often feels:

That disconnect between a character being good at their job and me, as a player, being terrible at it often gets to me when I’m playing a game. How many times have I made Batman or an Assassin or Lara Croft look like a clumsy oaf stumbling around because I missed a button prompt or didn’t angle the thumbstick just right? Every video game character I’ve ever played is an apocalyptically terrible driver, a hopeless fighter, and about as stealthy as a Mariachi band riding a herd of wildebeest. Frankly, it’s astonishing they ever accomplish anything, and all their friends seem way too impressed with them. Eventually I get into a groove where I can actually pull off the amazing feats that the game requires of them, but there’s always that voice in my head saying, “Okay, if it were actually me trying to do this, I’d die horribly and embarrassingly…now.”

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ThePrederick points out that disguising yourself in some ridiculous costume is one of the funniest and most unrealistic parts of Hitman—or most other stealth games:

I just loved disguising myself in these games because Agent 47 is near-undisguiseable. “Is that grim, weird-looking mechanic I’ve never seen before with a barcode on the back of his head a threat to the VIP I’m protecting? …Naaahhhh.”

This may be a thing with assassins in video games though, because the Assassins of Assassin’s Creed wander around wearing obvious indications of their profession, and yet everyone’s still like “Eh, he probably got that pointy hoodie on discount somewhere.”

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Pgoodso went a little deeper:

It’s a weirdly common disconnect: If disguises or costumes are part of the game, you still have to be able to tell the player character from all the rest of the now-similar looking characters, even if the player’s character is in the center of the screen. I can guarantee you that there was playtesting at one point in all those game series where some tester said ,”I don’t know which character is mine when I’m disguised.”

This is also probably why the dang cardboard box became such a ubiquitous joke in the Metal Gear series, instead of Snake donning a fricking ski-mask and actually infiltrating the rest of the faceless mobs. This is made doubly apparent by the fact that, while you may don your box, you’ll notice that there are almost no other similar looking cardboard boxes in any place in any of the games. And yet the paramilitary forces of the world all still fall for the old “single upside down and open box of oranges in the middle of a military complex” trick.

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Disqus_F3dme7ZCKO has some trouble accepting that disconnect:

It’s entertaining in Hitman, but I find how conspicuous you are in stealth games to be really annoying most of the time. And when games are even remotely realistic about it, people consider them “broken” because they go against the pre-established rules of a stealth game.

Take Splinter Cell: Blacklist. In that game, you have fucking lights on your costume. It’s meant to be a “smart” way to design a subtle HUD because you can use the color of the lights to determine if you’ve been spotted. But it also makes no sense how a guard can walk up to you hiding in a dark corner, full-on look at the lights, and still not see you. At least a disguise like Hitman‘s is somewhat plausible.

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Elsewhere, commenters started recalling their favorite Hitman missions. And Mitchell remembered a particularly theatrical level in detailed fashion:

My favorite is Curtains Down. After lots of trial and error—and a couple of what I refer to as, “I’ll touch whatever the hell I want!” attempts where I lost my shit and murdered everyone from the start—I figured out that I could lure the second target on to the stage by replacing the prop gun with a real Mauser, thereby getting the actor to kill the first target for me.

On the next playthrough, I swap the guns, then hurry myself up to the cat walk above the stage and place explosives on a lighting rig. As I began to slowly walk down the stairs, something happened that never occurred on any other of my attempts at this level: A slow, sonorous chanting, first accompanied by drums and then a full orchestra swelled as Agent 47, in his white carpenter disguise, clutched his stolen tool box and went unnoticed down the hall. Holy Shit! I had become the Rube Goldberg personification of Death from the Final Destination movies—or, in keeping with the Latin chanting in Jesper Kyd’s “Apocalypse,” the invisible force of evil from The Omen. I’ve never had the soundtrack of a video game make me feel so powerful, so unstoppable, while my unassuming character strolled past security guards and civilians. That was an epic moment.

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That’ll do it for this week, Gameologiroos. Thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all next week!