The universe of the Resident Evil videogames is complex stuff , with scads of major players, a virtual bestiary of chemically altered creatures, and rather convoluted lore that's been developed over the course of the series' decade-plus existence. I won't pretend to know much about this world, as I've only played the original game, but I do know that the films based upon the series have been hit or miss (mostly miss) with hardcore fans, with many citing a general lack of faithfulness to the property. Well, those fans can rejoice, as Sony and Capcom have teamed up to bring them Resident Evil - Degeneration; a feature length CGI motion picture that is so close to the gaming experience, you'll want to watch it with a joystick in your hand.
As for the rest of us, well...
Taking place seven years after the destruction of Raccoon City. Gone is the Umbrella Corporation, replaced by a new set of corporate evildoers in the guise of the Wil-Pharma company (whose experiments have drawn the ire of protestors around the world), and the fat cat politicians who turn a blind eye to the potential side effects of Wil-Pharma's latest endeavor. When a new breakout of the T-Virus occurs at an airport, Claire Redfield finds herself once again fighting off the undead scourge, while Leon S. Kennedy is called in for his expert guidance in cleaning up the mess before it turns into a repeat of the Raccoon City debacle. The two must also contend with a radical terrorist/protestor who becomes infected with a super strain of the virus that turns him into a mutated monster bent on killing everyone in his path.
I won't waste any time criticizing Resident Evil: Degeneration's exceptionally banal dialogue, barely coherent plot, or wooden voice acting, as this film was clearly made for the fans, and, no matter how I feel about it, those who've played every game in the series, and know these characters inside and out, will no doubt love every second of it. Still, for regular Joe's like myself, Resident Evil: Degeneration is a bit of a drag. It all looks very cool, with nifty (albeit low-budget)CGI and loads of gore, but after the initial sugar rush of the eye candy wears off, what's left is a fairly incomprehensible and silly monster movie. Of course, the same can be said for the live-action films, but at least with those we get to see Milla Jovovich in a mini-skirt.
Degeneration infects Blu-ray with an eye-popping 1.78:1 1080p transfer that oozes off the screen with lifelike detail, tremendous depth, and wonderful clarity. The image is suffers from occasional bouts of diffusion, in which a sort of glow emits from the faces of the characters, but I'm pretty sure this done in an attempt to soften the look of the CGI characters. The level of detail, here, is amazing, with sharp and defined textures on everything from fabric to skin. It's not quite Beowulf quality, but this is certainly a title I'd break out to show off my system.
The Dolby 5.1 True HD Lossless soundtrack is superb, with gut-busting bass, ear piercing shrieks, and eerily executed surround effects that truly draw you into this nightmare world. While the voice acting is fairly pedestrian, dialogue is clear and high in the mix, while the footfalls of zombies, splatter of blood, and the wet crunch of teeth tearing out chunks of flesh are expressed flawlessly. This is one great sounding BD!
Bonus features are plentiful, and geared precisely toward gamers as many of the supplements focus on the lore of the series, various characters, and the games, themselves. The features are presented in HD, with goodies like a PiP commentary track, a text character dossier, "bloopers" (which are really just goofy overdubs), a making-of featurette entitled The Generation of Degeneration, and much more. For me, the real highlight of the extras is the five minute sneak peek at Resident Evil 5, which looks to be an absolutely terrifying game, especially with its new African locale and "28 Days Later" style zombies!
I can't really recommend Resident Evil: Degeneration to anyone but fans of the series, but I'm pretty sure Capcom and Sony would consider that a badge of honor seeing as how everything about this BD screams "for the fans", anyway. In terms of presentation and audio/video quality, however, BD enthusiasts may want to at least give this title a rent, as the soundtrack is one of the most impressive I've come across, and the AVC MPEG-4 transfer offers up some nice reference quality visuals.