20 years ago, gamers were introduced to what I like to call The Jumpscare Heard Round the World. It was one of the most iconic moments in horror games, and everyone jumped out of their skin the first time in happened. Yes, even you. Don’t try and lie to me.
Yes, I am of course talking about the dog in the hallway from the horror classic Resident Evil. 1996 was a landmark year for Capcom with the introduction of what would become one of their biggest and most profitable series, cementing its spot in their library alongside the Mega Man and Street Fighter franchises practically overnight. Not only that, but they even coined a whole new genre term in the process! Even though Alone in the Dark laid the groundwork for this style of game several years prior, it wasn’t until Resident Evil that “survival horror” became a genre.
And survive this series did, considering I’m here talking about Resident Evil 20 years later. The horror franchise is one of my favorites in all of gaming, so to reach this landmark gives me quite a bit of joy! When thinking of how best to write about it, I was considering a number of things. Top ten characters from Resident Evil, top ten games … when I decided to instead look at how the series has evolved over time in terms of gameplay elements.
Anyway, to feel the evolution of the series firsthand, I decided to revisit the series and play the main titles in release order via marathon! I’ve never actually done this with any series before, so it’ll definitely be an interesting ride! Without further ado, let’s enter the survival horror!
Resident Evil (PS1/Saturn/PC/Nintendo DS, 1996)
Playing through the original PS1 release of Resident Evil was a nice trip back. I busted out my old-school CRT TV for the authentic experience! The truth is, however, that I played both the DS re-release of this game as well as the GameCube (and now PC) remake of the title, which added some improvements not found in the original.
Being the one that started everything, it set the basics for what would follow in the future. The game uses prerendered backgrounds to allow for a higher detail level than just 3D polygons. Each of the two playable characters move in the now-infamous tank control configuration as well. This was to keep people from getting confused as to their direction when moving across screen transitions, which is very smart.
Resident Evil used these static predetermined camera angles to great effect, keeping the player on their toes. When you can't see an enemy nearby, it forces you to detect them by other means. In this case, sound is an important factor; listen for footsteps before running off into danger.
Also a major staple of the series is the backtracking. Many sections of the game are sealed off at first. Once you find the key, you can go back and explore more. It's sort of like the environment itself is a puzzle box. You have to have the right tools to open the right parts. Some may find the backtracking annoying, but I see it as an opportunity to really learn and understand the layout of the area. That way, you won't need to refer to your map so much!
Things like the quick-turn ability and the ability to reload without going into the menu were absent in the original release, which actually made me have to think a bit more strategically as I had to account for time turning around to run from an enemy instead of using the quick-turn added later on. However, the biggest feature missing from the freshman title is what makes it much harder: auto-aim. You have to manually turn and aim at incoming enemies, which is an incredibly tense affair if you have Hunters bearing down on you and you have to turn while aiming to hit them with a magnum shot before they take your head off!
This original title isn’t all about things it doesn’t have, however. It’s the starting point for quite a few things that would be found throughout the series. Both Chris and Jill having unique factors was quite nice. Chris can take more hits than Jill and gets critical headshots with the pistol more often, but he doesn’t get the lockpick to open simple locks and must instead waste one of his inventory slots on Old Keys to open them.
Speaking of inventory, Jill has two more inventory slots than Chris’ paltry six, and as an added bonus she’s the only one between them who can obtain the grenade launcher. I guess there’s a reason they mention that playing as Chris is the game’s hard mode!
Another unique thing about the original that hasn’t been done since is the live-action intro and endings. Though, considering how legendarily comical they are, perhaps that’s for the best…
Overall, this game holds up quite well! Sure, it’s not that scary anymore and everyone knows about the voice acting by now, but as a game it’s still fun to play and explore. Even missing major mechanics like auto-aim, I still had a lot of fun with it. Maybe that’s nostalgia glasses, but I get the feeling it’s just good game design in general.
Resident Evil 2 (PS1/N64/PC/Dreamcast/GCN, 1998)
This is widely considered to be one of the best in the series, if not the best! I have the original PlayStation version, but to switch it up from playing the original game on Sony’s console, I decided to go with the Nintendo 64 version I also own. With four main scenarios (LeonA/ClaireB and ClaireA/LeonB), I decided to play through Claire A.
Resident Evil 2 is, graphically speaking, a huge step up from its predecessor. Models are far more detailed, animations are smoother, and overall it’s filled with pretty visuals in lieu of the blander, more basic look of the original.
That being said, graphics aren’t the only improvement. The music is creepier, the atmosphere is thicker, the scares are better, the story is more intense, and the controls are nicer. Though this game doesn’t have the series staple 180º turn, it possesses other gameplay enhancements that would become commonplace for the series. First is the ability to auto-aim on targets, making it easier to see if there are enemies in a room.
One of the most overlooked elements to me in this series is that the character you play as can give you an indicator of your health just by looking at them. Yes, Resident Evil 2 introduced the system where depending on how much health you have, Leon or Claire will either grip their stomachs or outright slowly limp if they’re near death, giving you a clear message of how you’re doing without having to even pause the game and check the menu. This is a downright genius addition that made me realize just how often I would stop and check my health in the first game after every single hit from an enemy.
Another major improvement is the introduction of analog control. The original game and even the original version of Resident Evil 2 use D-pad controls only, but this was rectified in a PS1 re-release called the Dual Shock Version. The N64 was similarly ported from this version, giving a full degree of analog control. The original game got a dual shock release, but uh … the less said about Resident Evil: Director’s Cut the better.
In fact, the N64 port of Resident Evil 2 is special for a couple reasons, chief among them being that Angel Studios (now Rockstar San Diego) developed the port. They managed to fit two CDs worth of data onto a single 64MB cartridge! Holy crap! That’s not all though! Fun fact: Resident Evil 2 on the N64 is the first Resident Evil game to allow use of the so-called “modern” control scheme seen in today’s Resident Evil HD Remaster and Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster … all the way back in 1999. Tardy to the party, REmake HD and RE0 HD!
Resident Evil 2 is by far one of my favorites in the series, and it’s quite interesting to see just how far of a step above the first it really is playing it directly after. I can see why people fell in love with it back in 1998, and I can see why people are excited about the upcoming Resident Evil 2 remake. Now, let’s take a trip … to Raccoon City! Again!
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (PS1/PC/Dreamcast/GCN, 1999)
Truth be told, in writing this retrospective I was playing through Resident Evil 3 for the second time in my life, the first being years and years prior. I didn’t dislike it by any means! It’s simply that I didn’t play it as much as I played others in the series, which made a lot of it still a bit fresh in my mind. In a sense, I was a semi-clean slate playing through this one.
While this game borrows heavily from Resident Evil 2’s playstyle, it still contains many differences to set it apart from its older sibling. The first you come across is the introduction of the wonderful, incredibly useful 180° turn. Using it whips Jill around immediately so that she can hopefully run away and get to safety as fast as possible.
Then, seconds later you’ll realize you can walk up and down stairs manually! In the previous two titles, walking to the top or bottom of a staircase and interacting with it would jerk control from you and force the player to the opposite end. However, in this installment the player is given more agency to move about as they please. Which is a great plus, considering I noticed that Resident Evil 3 contains a lot more vertical movement over the first two titles.
Anyway, enough about stairs. Let’s talk about guns and ammo! In Nemesis, Jill can come across two types of gunpowder, A and B. Depending on how you mix them with the Reloading Tool, you can create just about any type of ammo in the game. In fact, this mixing is the only way to get certain types of ammo, such as the enhanced handgun bullets or acid grenades. The downside to this, however, is that you get enough powder throughout the game to get a downright insane amount of ammo, making all but the boss fights nothing but a joke.
Another addition is the emergency dodge mechanic. If you press the aim button when you’re about to get hit, Jill will dodge out of the way and avoid damage. Contrary to popular belief, this dodge isn’t actually randomized. If you get good at timing it, Jill can dodge just about anything. However, getting good at it is what’s hard. There’s a reason it’s called emergency dodge; it’s not meant to be the end-all dodge for everyone unless you’re a timing expert. It’s meant to be used only in emergencies, which is made apparent when it’ll activate on its own a few times throughout the game. Overall, it’s a nice addition and saved my butt when I was fighting Nemesis the first time to get some gun parts!
The final major mechanic of Resident Evil 3 is the Live Selection system. Several times throughout the game, the screen will flash as a negative of itself and present you with two options. You have a limited time to make a decision between the two before time runs out and you’re stuck with the “hidden” third option, usually the worst of the three.
One such example is when you must decide to deal with a group of zombies pushing down a fence by either overloading it with electricity, by running for the emergency exit or by letting time run out and letting them tear down the fence. One will clear the enemies for you, one will throw you into a fight with Nemesis, and letting time run out will simply cause the fence to fall down and you’ll have to fight a horde of zombies. It's an interesting mechanic that, while fun to mess around with, isn't overused. Which is a good thing!
This list of additions isn’t without its negatives, however. In a rather strange omission, Jill no longer has a dedicated item slot like she did in the original Resident Evil for her lockpick. The dedicated item slot is done away with altogether, forcing her to use both the lockpick and lighter throughout the game as regular items that take up slots in her inventory. It’s not a huge issue, but it was definitely noticeable and I was a bit bothered by it.
The other thing that puts me off is the sudden shift from the two-character campaign style from the first two Resident Evil titles to the single-character campaign of Nemesis. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing by any means, it does put a damper on the amount of content in comparison to 2. Instead of four different scenarios, two bonus scenarios, and a Battle minigame, you get a campaign with a couple differing decisions throughout that affect which of the two endings you get. Thankfully, RE3 also introduces the wonderful Mercenaries minigame to the series, which itself adds plenty of replayability by itself.
As I finished Resident Evil 3 for only the second time, I was glad to play through it again. Despite releasing only a single year after its highly acclaimed predecessor, Nemesis stuffed itself with tons of additions and improvements to the series alongside an odd subtraction or two. Many of these haven’t been seen since, such as gunpowder mixing or Live Selections, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them revisited in the future! With Nemesis conquered, it’s on to the next adventure!
Resident Evil Code: Veronica (Dreamcast/PS2/GCN/PS3/X360, 2000)
Man, it must be tough to follow a trilogy like the original three Resident Evil games!
Actually, Resident Evil Code: Veronica was being developed concurrently with RE3. While one team worked on the third game in the original trilogy, another was developing for Sega’s brand new Dreamcast. Boasting far superior graphics and processing power over Sony’s PlayStation, Code: Veronica promised to take the series to new heights.
Well … it sorta sidestepped. It didn’t necessarily regress, but it certainly did a couple things wrong to even out the things it did right. So, what changed in the fourth adventure?
For starters, whoever decided that it was a good idea to include the ability to use an herb without having to pick it up into your inventory needs a raise. That is such a good idea that only got used in three games throughout the entire series. What the hell, Capcom?! This first appears right here, then was an idea reused for Resident Evil Zero, and RE4. No other game used this idea before or since, and I can’t for the life of me understand why.
Secondly, a very neat addition is the fact that Claire and Chris can use the lighter in the game to illuminate the area around them. This isn’t really used much outside of a couple instances, but it actually comes into play much more often in the HD remaster of Code: Veronica X. The new lighting system used in this version makes lots of areas much darker and creepier, making the lighter almost essential for getting around certain parts. I definitely wish other Resident Evil games would work more with this!
Finally, a small addition that I enjoyed from the Dreamcast version is the VMU integration. For those who don’t know, the VMU was the Dreamcast’s memory card, which was plugged directly into the controller itself. Most VMUs had a small screen on them, which would display something related to the game if the developers allowed it. In the case of Code: Veronica it showed what Claire’s and Chris’ health was at in real time, which was very cool to me.
Sure, the character you play as has visual cues as to their status (thanks, Resident Evil 2!). However, it’s still helpful and keeps the game from having to jump to a halt every time you take a hit and need to see if you’re in yellow or orange caution. It’s something small, but definitely appreciated. The only thing I wish was improved here is from the Dreamcast port of Resident Evil 2. There, the VMU shows your health as well as your equipped weapon and how many bullets remain in the clip. Seeing as Code: Veronica came first and laid the groundwork, however, I can let it slide.
However, not all is well on the island of the dead. Remember how I said that Code: Veronica had some issues? Well, they range from minor annoyance to egregious errors in my opinion. Let’s get the minor stuff out of the way first! Unfortunately, stairs are no longer something you can walk up manually. Yes, it’s the freaking stairs again. Unlike RE3, you have to interact with stairs like an item. Then you wait for your character to stomp up and down them before regaining control. Like I said, it’s a minor gripe but a gripe nonetheless.
Now, a far more annoying thing in my opinion is the total lack of prerendered backgrounds. Each Resident Evil game up to 4 used prerendered backgrounds. It allowed the development teams to pack environments with a ton of detail without the system having a heart attack. Every game, that is, except Code: Veronica.
To show off the power of the Dreamcast, the team opted to use fully 3D environments. While this allowed for the ability to scroll the camera around an environment, I personally feel that the environments themselves took a hit to detail levels. It’s not that the game looks bad, just that the areas found in 2 and 3 are less barren. However, despite using the processing power to push more polygons in the environment, Code: Veronica’s character models are definitely improved over its predecessors, which is obviously a good thing.
Now, this may seem silly but, to me, Code: Veronica’s biggest problem is unlocking the infinite rocket launcher. This legendary staple of Resident Evil goodness has always had a range of unlock requirements. You might have to beat the game in under three hours in the original, or have a time and grade requirement like in 2 or Code: Veronica. Some games, like 3 and 4, require you to buy it after unlocking it in a shop.
However, Code: Veronica’s requirements completely suck the fun out of the game for me. All it requires is a simple A rank. How do you get an A rank, you ask? Why, it’s simple! All you have to do is beat the game in under four and a half hours (the usual requirement is three, so that gives you an idea of how much backtracking there is in this one!) without using any first aid sprays and without saving by yourself ever. Halfway through the game, it asks if you want to save, and this is the only time you can do so. After that, if you die, you start all the way from the midway point.
This is especially harsh when there are so many things that can kill you quickly later on in the game. There are even a few insta-death parts as well. I usually enjoy the challenge of unlocking the ultimate weapon of a Resident Evil game. This is sadly not true for Code: Veronica and highlights the issues with the game that I have.
I would definitely recommend Code: Veronica to fans of the series. However, I usually give them the stipulation that it’s far from the best one. It’s fun and brings some neat ideas to the table, but it has some major drawbacks. Between the copious amounts of backtracking even for a Resident Evil title and the A-rank requirements that are downright insane, Code: Veronica is the Resident Evil that I would identify as the low point of the classic era. It’s not a bad game, but it just doesn’t do enough right to jump ahead of the other titles.
Resident Evil 0 (GCN/Wii/PS3/X360/PC/PS4/X1, 2002)
Instead of pressing forward into a brave new world right away, we must first step back into Raccoon City one final time with Resident Evil 0. It's considered the last of the classic-era Resident Evil titles alongside the well-regarded remake of the original game. RE0 puts the player in control of S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team member Rebecca Chambers.
Taking place one day before the first game, you'd think it would be back to basics in terms of game design. However, this is only partially true. While some parts of RE0 are more akin to the first game in the series, this prequel adds (and is in fact built upon) some major shifts in gameplay mechanics.
Usually, previous titles might have had a small section of the main character being followed by someone else. Resident Evil 0’s very foundation, however, is crafted on something similar called the Partner Zapping system. You take control of Rebecca and escaped convict Billy Coen simultaneously. You're able to swap between them at the press of a button. You can choose how you want the AI to handle your partner, whether by having them attack anyone nearby or by saving their ammo and sticking close to you.
I tended to do the latter as the AI was all too eager to spend precious bullets in an already difficult game. The partner system lends itself to some great puzzles and tense sequences! It makes you feel all the more alone when you have to split your characters up for a while. But, my god, the AI can infuriate you sometimes if you set it to attack. Just ... don't do it.
Perhaps the most divisive mechanic, however, is the total omission of item boxes. These allowed for quick and easy access to your items from almost any save room in previous Resident Evil games. RE0 eschews them completely in favor of the item dropping mechanic. It's simple as can be: simply drop the item from the menu. It'll appear on your map for you to find later on. While this immediately seems like it'll cause tons of frustrating backtracking, having two inventories helps alleviate this problem.
One thing I can say about RE0 is that it really does put the “survival” in survival horror. Ammo and health are dangerously scarce throughout a majority of the game. It's much more stringent on items than any of the games I've played thus far. While I found this to be a welcome challenge, the difficulty and changes in the game's design can be off-putting to some.
As a swan song to the classic gameplay of Resident Evil, I think this prequel does a decent job. It's satisfyingly tough for a veteran of the series, but having said that, it's got some major drawbacks too. While I'm glad to see the experimentation with the item dropping, for example, I'm not terribly fond of it and am not sad to see it go.
And here we reach what is quite possibly one of gaming's biggest divides. This is up at the level of Mario vs. Sonic, Super Nintendo vs. Sega Genesis… classic Resident Evil vs. modern Resident Evil. In one corner, you have vehement supporters of the classic titles. In the other, you have fans of other titles in the series, such as …
Resident Evil 4 (GCN/PS2/Wii/PS3/X360/PC/PS4/X1, 2005)
Boy, who’d have thought that the sudden genre shift could be summed up in four simple words?
The story of Resident Evil 4 is a pretty well-documented one. The game went through many iterations, one of which would become another very famous Capcom franchise, Devil May Cry. After countless different versions, the world got its first taste of Resident Evil 4 in 2005! This entry is a total paradigm shift for the series. So, what’s different?
Well, what isn’t different? The first and most immediately jarring change is the over-the-shoulder camera, putting the viewer behind protagonist Leon S. Kennedy of Resident Evil 2 fame. Each of the previous games used the static camera angles, as well as the tank controls the series had become famous for (RE2 N64 notwithstanding). Surprisingly, Resident Evil 4 retains these tank controls.
Complementing this camera angle change is the addition of a free aiming system. In all the previous titles, the player would only be able to aim on a horizontal plane, and then angle themselves slight upward or downward. Now, Leon is able to aim at any angle he wants to.
With this newfound ability to aim however you wish, RE4 marks a complete tonal shift for the series. While environments are dreary and dark at times, the game focuses less on backtracking, exploration and tense ammo conservation. Instead, it's focused more on combat. For example, the knife no longer takes up an item slot, instead being mapped to the GameCube’s L button. This way it's always ready for a fight. This is such a great little addition that I never knew I wanted! It’s so nice that it was even kept in the DS remake of the original Resident Evil! In fact, the new inventory system introduced in and exclusive to RE4 allows for far more weapons, ammo, and healing items to be carried at any given time to make up for the lack of item boxes in this title.
As said above, Resident Evil 4 no longer has zombies. In their place are enemies infected with Las Plagas, a parasite as opposed to the T-Virus. Being technically living humans, the average enemies in RE4 are faster than regular zombies. They're able to swarm and plan attacks, wield weapons like sickles, scythes, crossbows and, yes, even the now-infamous chainsaws. I actually like that the enemies evolved to combat the evolving action mechanics. Shambling zombies would have been too easy a challenge with the new gameplay style.
With a sudden and intense change in genre, it’s both interesting and a bit sad to see the series going down this route. On the one hand, the game is undeniably fun. It’s by far my most replayed Resident Evil game, clocking in at nearly 40 total playthroughs over five systems. Something about it is just so addictive to play! On the other hand, however, is the fact that this survival horror series changed from its roots. At this point it turned almost completely into an action series.
Resident Evil 4 is as influential as the original Resident Evil, if not even more so. However, where RE1 pushed the boundaries of horror games, RE4’s third person action elements can be seen even to this day. Its gameplay style was adopted by series like Gears of War, The Last of Us, and of course later Resident Evil titles.
In the end, I’ll say that I love Resident Evil 4 for what it is: an action game. Though I’m sure it’s not the game that everyone wanted, I can’t deny the impact it’s had on the gaming industry; nor can I deny that it’s addictingly fun. Now, from rural Europe we jump south to the fictional country of Kijuju in Africa!
Resident Evil 5 (PS3/X360/PC/PS4/X1, 2009)
The gap between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5 was a whopping four years. This may not sound like much but was practically unheard of for the series. Clearly, Capcom had high ambitions for the extremely hyped sequel to RE4. Much like its predecessor, RE5 claimed to be a survival horror title, touting a tagline of “fear you can’t forget."
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s actually a forced co-op action title. Obviously the same thing, right?
Now, much like RE4, the seventh installment in the series is more focused on combat. In fact, RE5 focuses more on it than any game prior, eschewing nearly all puzzles in favor of more shooting. What it sets out to do, admittedly it does well on that front. They upped the weapon count, loaded the game with treasures to find and sell, and made the combat airtight like its predecessor.
There is one exception, and even in 2009 it was pretty inexcusable. One segment of a chapter in particular, 3-3, is a totally on-rails segment. Normally, this is fine, but it drags on for far too long. Then, it leads directly into what is perhaps one of the most annoying boss fights in my gaming career. It’s not challenging and it’s certainly not well-planned. It’s just five straight minutes of being glued to a turret, shooting a target that’s standing right in front of you. This is not an exaggeration in any way.
Which leads me to my next point: you’d best be playing with a friend. Otherwise, the AI is going to take over the role of either Chris or Sheva. If you don’t know how to manipulate them, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Thankfully, my Veteran difficulty run of Resident Evil 5 was still populated with people to play online with. A welcome sight, as that’s when I feel this game is best enjoyed. The campy story and overly serious dialogue is always good for a laugh with a friend. It's a stark contrast to the so-bad-it’s-good dialogue from the first title in the series.
Resident Evil 5 is a great co-op action game. It has a couple frustrating moments but, overall, as an action title it’s very enjoyable. However, I can’t help but feel that it was truly the breaking point for the franchise in terms of genre. Where RE4 had a gloomy atmosphere and was even tense and frightening in parts (the first time fighting the Garrador jumps to mind), RE5 provides nothing in this department. It’s laser-focused on nonstop action gameplay, and in that regard, it’s a success.
Of course, I thought that the games couldn’t top themselves in terms of action. Surely there was no way they could go beyond RE5's level of gunplay? However, lo and behold, three years later we were given …
Resident Evil 6 (PS3/X360/PC/PS4/X1, 2012)
I guess I’ll start by saying that this is the first game that was not touted by Capcom as being “survival horror." Instead, they attempted to call it “dramatic horror," perhaps trying to coin a new term? This isn’t new for them; back when the first Dino Crisis released, they used the genre name “panic horror” to describe it, and we all know how that series ended up.
While Resident Evil 6 is certainly dramatic, there’s very little horror to be had here. Going even beyond 5 in levels of action, the eighth installment in the franchise doubles down on its action mechanics and decides to forego any semblance of the horror genre outside of some gore here and there. Well … sort of, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
What Resident Evil 6 does right, it does very right. The movement is some of the most fun and deep I think I’ve ever seen in a game besides Vanquish. You can dive, roll, duck, sprint, counterattack, melee freely, crawl—you name it, it’s in this game. Similarly, the stamina system is a welcome addition to keep you from being too powerful. Do too many melee attacks in a row and your character will be exhausted for a while unless you use an herb pill.
Now, the issue comes in when you try to use those movement mechanics. It seems like every other step the control is jerked away from you roughly. The camera is constantly being focused on something in the environment, at least in Chris and Piers’ campaign. It’s much better in other campaigns, though; it just got incredibly annoying after a while.
However, as I said, not all is bad. Another highlight for me is the fact that each of the playable characters is unique in some form or another. Despite there being eight playable characters in the campaign, each one has something special about them. Generally, this means each character has a unique weapon. For example, Jake is the only one with hand-to-hand as an actual weapon, giving him access to much deeper melee combat. Piers has an incredibly powerful Anti-Materiel Rifle. Ada gets her signature crossbow, and so on.
That being said, it leads to perhaps the most major complaint lobbed at RE6: it doesn’t know what it wants to do. Having four separate campaigns is a good thing; more content is good, especially in this age of 4–6 hour action campaigns. However, despite this, each campaign feels like it’s trying to be something different, and it can be very disjointed.
Leon’s campaign feels like it’s trying to be more “classic horror” by pacing itself more slowly at the beginning. Chris’ embraces the action mechanics full-stop, and Jake’s embodies the chase-style gameplay prevalent in RE3. Ada’s is the one I think I enjoyed most. Hers is a little blend of them all that comes together very well.
Though the AI can’t die in Resident Evil 6 from enemies, it can still get you killed quite easily by being braindead in nearly all respects. I very much enjoyed my time with RE6 as an action title, despite some serious flaws at some points. If you’re going to play this one, do it with a friend. It’s more fun that way and, on higher difficulties, may be the only way to get through
And now here we are. October 2016, months before the release of Resident Evil VII. There’s been so much buzz regarding the title, from the surprise E3 reveal to the current marketing strategy with Capcom showing snippets of gameplay mechanics without revealing any story. They said this time around they learned their lesson! They want to go back to the roots of Resident Evil, including keeping people in the dark so it's all new to them upon the game's release.
It’s been an interesting ride since RE6 released. The action-horror Revelations subseries has been doing very well for itself. The Resident Evil HD Remaster quickly became Capcom’s best-selling digital title, and even Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster has been doing very well according to the company. All this, coupled with the news of RE6’s supposed “failure” paints an interesting picture for the franchise.
For me, after Code: Veronica it was clear that the formula needed some shaking up. Zero tried to do this and, while being a very fun game, tried to do a couple things differently that didn’t really mesh with its tough difficulty, only adding to it further. Resident Evil 4 was, admittedly, a breath of fresh air for me. After five straight games of exploration, backtracking, saving ammo, and fixed camera angles, I was ready to see something different.
However, what Resident Evil became because of it is something far removed from what I believe made the series a landmark horror franchise. I enjoyed them as action games, but I feel that the series needs a balance between the two. I understand that Resident Evil has always been more action-oriented than franchises like Silent Hill or Fatal Frame, but it still had some horror to it.
So where does this leave us? Well, Resident Evil VII seems to finally be going back to the 2002 REmake for the game's tone. It seems dark, creepy, and has really dialed back the ridiculous trend of "world ending apocalypse every week" that the series had been dealing with lately. I'll reserve judgment until its release, but suffice it to say that I'm more interested in it than I have been in the series for a very long time.
This is promising, to say the least.
To date, Resident Evil remains one of my favorite franchises. I love the story, the characters, the gameplay, and everything in-between. Much like the many mutating monstrosities the series has had over the past 20 years, however, it has changed into something decidedly not itself, and many fans have spoken with their wallet. I would never wish for Resident Evil to die off, but I certainly hope that Capcom has been paying attention and steers the series back on track.
Happy 20th, Resident Evil. You’re our Amazon.