“It’s a weapon. It’s really powerful, especially against living things”
Barry Burton, Resident Evil
One of the fundamental aspects of the Resident Evil series has been its reliance and portrayal of weaponry, principally guns over the course of its history. As a structural mechanic, their inclusion and prevalence has worked to both serve as a defensive measure against the hordes of the undead but in equal measure has fundamentally shifted the narrative tone from that of survival to onslaught especially in the seventh generation titles with the release of Resident Evil 4 and 5. My experience of both these titles in my first play through, a taut and menacing experience but as you came to unlock and upgrade your weapons the experience changed, gone the fear and dread of facing the larger monsters and demons, now replaced with a cavalier and brazen attitude of defiance and might. Living in the United Kingdom where gun controls were heavily restricted following the Dunblane shooting in 1996, unlike our American cousins the vast majority of our experience with these types of weapons comes through cultural exposure, action movies and crime dramas creating a false narrative and indeed reality of the responsibility of owning a weapon and being both responsible and accountable for the item in your possession. The aura and prestige of both owning a weapon and using it freely with diminished responsibility is intoxicating to those of a certain mindset, certainly in America despite reports to the contrary gun ownership is a heavily regulated process in relation to criminal records checks, within the UK as an illegal item anyone carrying a weapon does it with no checks or balances, simply, and quite sadly with impunity at times with the diminished resources of the law enforcement agencies.
Airsoft, as a competitive sport originated in Japan as a way to allow citizens in the country to participate in shooting activities in compliance with the countries strict anti gun control laws, effectively allowing projectiles to be fired with a soft air velocity and cause no penetrative injuries and so being a non lethal alternative to the use of real guns and weapons. As a sport this came over to the United Kingdom but has been under strict legislature and guidance, especially in the wake of the School shootings. Today, owners must attend 3 ‘skirmishes’, effectively competitive games before they can join the UKARA database which in turn allows citizens to purchase these so called Realistic Imitation Firearms (RIFs) and have a defence against the Violent Crimes Reduction Act which prohibits the ownership and possession of a RIF outside of these skirmish events. With a sport and practice originating in Japan, and given the historical legacy of Capcom in the country and the predilection for expanding the gaming universe outside the core title, it was an inevitable conclusion there would be some form of cross pollination between the two interests and this is where we find ourselves today with a closer look and study of two Airsoft weapons based on guns featured prominently in the Resident Evil franchise, one the TMP, Tactical Machine Pistol, (actually an MP9 on display but close enough that we can take poetic licence) a sub machine gun variant as featured prominently in the 7th Generation titles and secondly, the officially licensed Jill Valentine Beretta M9A1 custom ‘Samurai Edge’ replica pistol. I’ll readily admit my affinity for the TMP in its various upgraded state was beyond measure, opting to focus my resources in ensuring this was the definitive weapon to defeat the zombie hoard. But equally, the tactile connection to Jill’s Kendo Gun Shop pistol, a pixelated weapon in its earliest state of existence to a fully realised prop was enjoyable to see. So, to adopt a common parlance, let’s lock and load and pull the trigger on this discussion.
TMP (Tactical Machine Pistol)
Resident Evil 4, one of the Capcom Five series of games debuting upon the Nintendo Gamecube platform as a timed exclusive before finding a wider release on almost all imaginable formats was a radical departure and shift from the fixed perspective, so called ‘tank control’ mechanic mainline entries up until that point, introducing a more fluid and looser third person perspective shooter. Relaxing the fear aspect of earlier titles it was a dynamic change with a greater reliance on traditional weaponry and guns, all with various upgrade options and expansions, having experienced the earlier titles with equal measures of frustration and angst it was refreshing to actually enjoy this specific title and whilst there was an element of an initial challenge presenting itself at the beginning limiting you to a pistol and shotgun, it wasn’t long before you came across the TMP, and to paraphrase Commando, all hell was about to break loose. One of the earlier guns and examples of the machine gun encountered in the game, in truth, for me it became a staple of this title, a fully upgraded piece of equipment that was part of my journey never being sold or traded, always a trusted weapon to have at my side. At first in its most basic state it was an enjoyable gun to own, the first example of an automatic rifle but in its base state with the exception of crowd control, somewhat unreliable and certainly my predication was to rely on long distance rifles to snipe the enemies from afar. But there was a certain cathartic release to unleashing the fury of the TMP upon the creatures and threats approaching with a greater menace and speed in contrast to earlier titles. One aspect I came to appreciate was the expansion of the weapon to include a stock, in its base state the firing animation showed Leon firing from the hip, with the inclusion of the stock the gun was elevated into a traditional shooting pose against the shoulder and increased the stability and accuracy. The TMP was a faithful servant, in its upgraded form both a highly tuned impact weapon with a high degree of accuracy, a large magazine load and the option to utilise a sighting mechanism there was little incentive to use any other gun. Whether it ‘broke’ the title is another debate entirely, certainly in its upgraded state it was a great weapon to use and certainly any subsequent play through I have worked through, upgrading this gun is my first and primary objective to ensure I am in the best position to rescue the President’s daughter. This was one of the Airsoft guns I was curious to see given the hours I spent using this piece of equipment in its digital iteration. With some weight, its not a light piece of equipment to hold and benefits from the inclusion of the stock but in its purest form its a competent gun for using in this hobby, able to shoot a stream of pellets on automatic, or semi automatic if single shot usage is your preference, with the added option of the laser sight and the stock an accurate unit without doubt. If I had a criticism, purely from a aesthetic visual perspective the protrusion of the magazine is somewhat ungainly and breaks the visual appeal. With the inclusion of the stock and the increased length proportionally the size is balanced off to a degree, and whilst this is a personal take in contrast to the clean and tidy magazine of the pistol it did, stick out. That said, holding the TMP to my shoulder did elicit certain memories of playing Resident Evil 4 extensively for days on end, adding the laser sight was an especially nice touch. For those of a certain generation and younger, gun ownership in this country is a foreign concept, certainly attending high school at the time of the shootings in Scotland I was to young to ever have any great affinity to the real type of weapons, they were an aspect of an action movie and divorced from any aspect of social culture I inhabited.
As a gaming enthusiast they are an integral aspect of many action games I have experienced and enjoyed but subjectively, in terms of ownership or possession as alien equipment as a lightsaber or blaster. With Airsoft continuing to maintain a presence in social culture within the UK, subject to strict legislation and ownership it does provide those with a curiosity of this equipment to handle an approximation and remove the mysticism of the guns although given historical events in recent history the attachment to gun ownership isn’t as ingrained in this countries mentality in contrast to the United States. The TMP was an integral and important part of my gaming history, a critical piece of equipment my journey in Resident Evil 4 and the chance to handle and hold one was a welcome experience to enforce that tactile memory connection from the game and satisfying that curiosity.
Beretta M9A1 ‘Samurai Edge’
As a sport, Airsoft certainly holds a greater culture awareness and practice in Japan and as such collaboration between gaming studios and the manufacturers has seen the production of weaponry and guns as shown in titles such as Resident Evil. Here, the Jill Valentine ‘Samurai Edge’ version of the Beretta M9A1 pistol as produced ostensibly by Joseph Kendo on behalf of the Kendo gun shop in Raccoon City for the various S.T.A.R.S unit members, this specific model with the colour design and aesthetic for the team member who shares its name. I never held a great affinity with the earlier Resident Evil titles, finding the fixed camera angles and stiff controls unwelcoming and honestly, just poor game design and very much a product of its time, and in contrast to the later games as discussed above the option to have an arsenal under your command is a distant dream. That said, in hindsight when you come back to play these earlier titles there is a welcome relief in holding the Beretta tightly in your grasp as your last defence against the zombie threat approaching you ever so slowly. Certainly, later stages give access to more powerful weapons, shotguns and grenades prevalent but the Beretta remains your consistent companion and often because of the scarcity of ammunition in contrast to the later titles in the series, handgun bullets are often your only prevailing option and as such you tend to use the pistol to a far greater degree than the shotgun or grenade launcher. Whilst they have a more powerful impact against later stage threats, your Beretta and lighter are your only consistent equipment to ensure the zombies surrounding you are dealt with in a terminal fashion. The replica model as shown in Resident Evil is a highly detailed reproduction with a great deal of minutia ingrained into the pistol itself. First, the Kendo logo, an ode to the heritage of the weapon from the gaming universe. A beautiful little touch and certainly a great fan service. In addition on the exterior of the grip the blue starred colour logo of the S.T.A.R.S team specifically for Jill herself again a charming and welcome addition that shows the attention to detail when producing this Airsoft pistol and highlighting the cross pollination between these two activities, certainly in Japan at least. The pistol comes in a solid collection case with a few nice touches included for both collectors and Airsoft practitioners. The pistol itself is a solid piece of equipment, as with the TMP it doesn’t feel cheap and is functional to be able to operate in Airsoft skirmishes. Given the price of this particular collectible it would have been extraordinary to manufacture this on the cheap, thankfully with the attention to detail as shown on the surface you have the impression when you open the case this is a well constructed and designed pistol, this is certainly the case. A few nice touches for the fan, the S.T.A.R.S police shield badge covering a supply of pellets below whilst the Samurai Edge label positioned just above the pistol makes this feel like a unique collectors item from this franchise. Ultimately, as a usable Airsoft pistol the value or worth comes in its capability in this sport, it does work, has a decent weight and balance to it and when discharging a pellet shoots straight and true. Able to be stripped down and disassembled in short order gives you the freedom and capability to clean and maintain the Beretta without any great effort and the various mechanics, the ejection mechanism for example works perfectly well. Whether as a collector the value comes from housing the pistol in its case and mounting it on your shelf or using it as a unique weapon during a skirmish campaign is up to the owner, either way it certainly its one of the more memorable and unique items from this franchise.
The predication and motivations of Airsoft users is entirely a subjective debate, certainly within the UK which holds perhaps equally as strict gun ownership legislation as Japan items such as these are, legally anyway, the nearest most people will come to holding and handling these types of items whose image and usage is so ingrained in media on both the small and silver screen seeing and holding them does dispel some of the mysticism and indeed mystery about them. There are small pockets of legal usage within the UK, within the farming and hunting fraternity, sporting and olympic training in addition. Beyond that, Airsoft skirmishes remain the one legal option to see and view items such as these and remain highly regulated and controlled to avoid I suppose the replica guns becoming normalised in the cultural psyche. As a gaming enthusiast, the experience of holding these in the digital form has been a long and consistent presence over the years, it was genuinely interesting to hold these and dispel some of the myth and mystery of this equipment. I have no great desire to ever own a weapon or replica weapon, perhaps my faith in the system holds true and the strength of the American Second Amendment and fear of Government tyranny doesn’t hold as true here. But from a gaming perspective it was interesting for a day to hold and feel them in my hand, drawing no sense of power or illusions of grandeur, just realising a long held curiosity what these guns of Leon, Jill and company were like to see and feel in person.
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