Shakespeare's comedies aren't especially funny. That's the comforting thing I tell myself when I write a column I don't like. The point is no one's perfect. Mozart was close. Picasso, too. But everyone and everything, tragically, is flawed.
Shakespeare's Comedy truism bears out in two huge new titles, Resident Evil 5 and Halo Wars.
Previous Resident Evils and Halos are considered masterpieces if you look at each series as a whole. But these sequels suffer by trying something new.
Resident Evil 5 gets a complete overhaul, compared to the magnum opus of Resident Evil 4. In 4, you took your time to forage through woods and churches, and carefully save precious, hard-to-come-by bullets to cork into the bodies of zombie-ish farmers.
But 5 eschews horror. It is nearly a straight-up shooter with lots of bullets. Your mission: Fight your way through caverns and villages in the fake African area of Kijuju, as zombies try to hatchet you to death, toss dynamite at your feet, and spit big, black bird-monsters from their mouths at your face.
Once again, the Resident Evil artistry is as resplendent as a big-budget film. You can see muscles flex on your character, as shirtless zombies swing mirrored machetes, clouds roll overhead and toothy crocodiles snap at your gun hand.
Sounds great, right? But the game play is the thing. Zombies come at you. You shoot them a bunch. They fall. You walk. More zombies pop up. Shoot. Fall. Walk. Where's the magic?
The Resident Evil system isn't suited to be such a shooter, because shooters usually let you walk and shoot at the same time. But in 5, to fire and reload weapons, you must halt. This sucks. Why? While you're standing still, zombies swarm you, duh.
Fortunately, for the first time in the series, you can play cooperative mode in your living room or online. This helps. Teaming up with another real person makes zombie slaying more fun, for the sheer friendliness of it. But as a solo game, Resident Evil is fairly dull and seems routine.
Meanwhile, the Halo games were masterful shooters set on spaceships and alien planets. But the new Halo Wars is a Risk-esque map game, a real-time strategy simulator. Huh?
The camera view is always way up in the sky. You look down on battlefields, as if you are an omnipotent military general. You order forts and vehicles to be built, and soldiers to be trained. Then you sic war forces at the other guys, tell them to shoot, and merely watch action play out on a small scale.
If you play Halo Wars online against real gamers, it's somewhat engaging. But if you play solo, offline, it's easy and monotonous. I should point out I do not cotton to strategy simulators, except for the Civilization series and 2006's Field Commander.
But I submit, if the makers of the horror franchise of Resident Evil want to make a shooter, they should let you walk and shoot at the same time. And if the makers of the shooting series Halo want to redefine it as a real-time strategy, they should go see Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona, then rethink their own prodigious rebirth.