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Resident Evil singlehandedly redefined not only a genre, but an era of gaming that inspired so many in their design, from Bioshock down to Fatal Frame. That was, until it went into overkill by the time of its sequels. Now? We’re just left with something more along the lines of a 3rd person Call of Duty shooter than a horror game. Today, Capcom caters to the new breed of gamer who only enjoys a survival horror experience whose tension is created by stress rather than actual horror.
What am I talking about? Tension is what triggers fear by way of putting pressure on players via great amounts of engrossing interaction. Horror terrifies through limiting resources/abilities to players. While horror unnerves players, stress only empowers them. Resident Evil once focused on tension created by horror, but as technology evolved and many were bored of the old ways, Capcom decided to change things around. History time!
Resident Evil and the Golden Age
Resident Evil started life as a low resolution horror mystery with zombies, murderous plants and a Jill Sandwich (YouTube it). Elegantly designed to bring people an experience similar to Castlevania’s Symphony of the Night, it was Resident Evil that took the survival horror concept and expanded it head and shoulders above the likes of Alone in the Dark and Clock Tower. Elements of exploration, horror and lateral thinking mixed with some extreme violence became the winning formula for the 90’s PS1 owners and set itself as one of the most acclaimed horror games ever. Loads of clones or cheap mimics would follow, from Dino Crisis to Eternal Darkness. That is, until Resident Evil began to mock itself.
The Three S’s – Success, Sequels and Spin offs
Capcom would only follow the popular trends and develop sequels, introducing more exciting elements to advance the formula. Resident Evil 2 brought the nightmare to a bigger scale setting the horror in a city surrounding, while Nemesis added the everlasting monster that hunted you throughout the game. Things were looking good for Capcom, until people got bored of the then tried and true formula.
After Resident Evil 3, Capcom reached the point where they didn’t know how to evolve the series and so followed shallow spin-off’s which offered some decent game-play concepts, but all of them felt underdeveloped and lacking in other criteria to make them stand out. By now many had lost interest in the series as it was the same game recycled but more dim witted with each installment. Then Resident Evil 4 came along.
Most might say that Resident Evil 4 is considered the last great game in the series, and they might be right. Boasting all of the strongest elements of survival horror and tactical gameplay, few games would escape its influence, introducing exciting new mechanics and gameplay styles that would influence other games and genres such as Gears of War, Call of Duty and many more. RE 4 was truly the Resident Evil game that again inspired and evolved gaming.
Resident Evil 5 was now in the works and we were hooked from all the game trailers. Playing as a muscle bound Chris Redfield who fought hoards of crazed zombie like people, much to the style of 4 but more extreme! Gamers thought they were in for a survival horror treat!
Sadly, Resident Evil 5 would only lose its horror charm, giving into action and stress tropes via Quick Time Events, action focused boss battles and little build-up of horror based tension. Resident Evil 5 felt more like a Gears of War imitation with its co-op feature (Fun but not needed) and OTT action. But thankfully Resident Evil 6 came along.
It came back to life… then died again!
Resident Evil 6 would only be worse news. A dull and dysfunctional mess, it focused more on action oriented gameplay and lacked anything new and engaging. There were many flaws including dull game design with mindless and tedious objectives, annoying enemies that felt too over powered and often repeating certain levels in each campaign with no changes in dynamics or diversity. It was also sad to play moments of good survival horror in Leon’s Campaign but were short lived. I didn’t understand why we didn’t get a whole game like his Campaign, as the others were terrible.
Capcom decided to use the advancements of technology and intended to give us a more exciting game. Resident Evil 6 left out the cleaver and brilliant game design and forced dull and long winded scares that had no thought or substance. It was great to rely more on our own survival, being considerate with ammo and health, but loaded the game with overly powerful weaponry, dumb and dangerous NPCs and set pieces that would make Call of Duty blush (slightly).
Resident Evil needs to slumber until Capcom develop it into the ultimate experience of Survival Horror but once again. From the sneak peek at the end of Resident Evil 6, it looks like the series will turn into Devil May Cry. Let’s cry now, everyone.
The Evil Within is setting itself up to return to the old ways of survival horror and focus on horror based tension. Can we expect this game will set things right and make Capcom realize that survival horror creates enjoyment through fear and horror? Not through Call of Duty/Gears of War style action. Let’s hope so.
What do you want from Resident Evil? Can it be saved? Tell us in the comments below and share your favorite/least favorite Resident Evil memories.
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