This RE: 5 racism topic probably seems like it’s been beat on more times than Bing Crosby’s kids. But with partially new screenshots as the only new media recently released, and a nearly silent-Sam effort by Capcom, you can’t help but wonder if some of the propaganda is having an effect on the next-gen horror-shooter. It’s been a year since that whole fiasco started with the Resident Evil 5 racism debacle. But let’s not be so daft as to ignore the real reason behind the hot-fuss surrounding a trailer involving zombie killing: There was a heroic, white male beating and shooting the living crap out of poverty-ridden, blacks.
The first time I saw the trailer I didn’t think anything of it. As a matter of fact, the first thing I thought was, “Gee-whiz, the graphics are freaking awesome.” Seeing all the new moves attached to Chris’ maneuverability repertoire almost made me giggle like a little school girl...in a very manly way, of course. I was also very intrigued by the story, given that it was in an exotic new location (i.e., Africa) and the main character from the original Resident Evil was finally back to finish the fight. But then after watching the extended E3 2007 trailer of Resident Evil 5 for like the sixth time – when I was no longer dissecting what you could do and what looked to be actual gameplay – I noticed a very obvious thing about the trailer; it exuded layers of racism.
Now there’s one thing that should be clarified first and foremost: Resident Evil 5 does not seem racist (e.g., especially if it’s anything like the previous titles), it was the trailer in which RE: 5 was depicted that made it seem racist. Let’s face it; an American military guy heading to another country to “finish what he started” while surrounded by a bunch of poor, raving mad, black zombies is not the best way to depict a shooter game. In a way, the new features actually are what made the trailer seem more-so offensive than what it could have been, had the game been for the Gamecube or PS2. The reason for this is that RE: 5 supports more moving AI on the screen than any Resident Evil game before it. Again, if this was a last-gen game, we would have only seen four or five zombies on the screen at once...but seeing hundreds of angry zombies made it look like poor Chris was trying to take on the entire country.
Let’s also note that in previous Resident Evil titles they were often promoted with a variety of zombies and enemies on display. Had Leon or Ada been shown killing a bunch of Hispanics while visiting Mexico to “finish the job” while the Mexican zombies were dressed in ponchos and stark crazy, the trailer would have been interpreted the exact same way as RE: 5's extended trailer.
What’s amazing, though, is the subtleties that dictate what’s considered racist. Had Chris not been dressed like he was ready to kill anything that moved; had there been one good civilian during the raved killings; had some of the civilians not been trying to kill Chris; had it been in the city; if there were some form of civility amongst the mobs; etc., etc. Some people may justify that all previous Resident Evil games seen gamers killing Hispanics, whites or blacks in the exact same manner. And, furthermore, that this whole thing is being blown out of proportion. However, the trailer for RE: 5 was missing a few key elements that prevented other Resident Evil games from seeming racist: Where was the motive for all those Africans to be so pissed off at Chris? Other than being a clean-cut, muscle-bound fair-skinned individual, we were never given any motive to the mob’s thirst for Chris’ blood.
Remember the RE: 4 trailer that showed Leon asking the villager about Ashley...and how all he cared about was getting Ashley back, but then the villager got violent? It wasn’t like we were just seeing a bunch of villagers piling out all at once to kill Leon. Also, Leon wasn’t there to kill anyone. So the premise of Leon’s actions weren’t that of hostility. This is in opposition to Chris Redfield’s portrayal in the trailer, who states that he’s there to pretty much finish off Umbrella. Although, we never see him engage any operatives of Umbrella, just rabid villagers.
Now I don’t blame Capcom, I don’t blame the developers and I definitely don’t blame Resident Evil: 5 as a game, but I do blame the marketing team who put the trailer together. It’s as simple as that. It’s sad that the entire thing was overblown by uninformed news outlets and public speakers who didn’t have a clue, but it does speak volumes when gamers are at least coherent to these social issues. I just hope Capcom handles this situation with delicacy from here on out, because Resident Evil 5 could possibly be the biggest selling game in the series, if not the most controversial.