This is not something I proclaim with great fanfare – especially on the 15th anniversary of the series. There are two games I ever remember receiving for Christmas: One was at the age of 4, a brand new Sega Genesis and the original Sonic the Hedgehog. The other: The Director's Cut of Resident Evil 1 to accompany my brand new Playstation, along with a pair of clear colored memory cards (they really should make PS3 controllers like that again – the 90s were so great). Resident Evil, along with Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy 7, were my real, cognitive forays into gaming – prior to that, I simply played wherever was put in front of me as a child. I was, and am, a Playstation Baby, so to speak.
So watching this year’s Tokyo Game Show was painful, for it was essentially the finale to the slow motion death of my childhood, bled out over the last half decade and culminating in a large pile of disappointment and semen-esque goo.
As I write this, a HD port of Resident Evil 4 has been released with an HD port of Code Veronica: X soon following. Now these are really great games which just happen to be the harbingers of the franchise’s demise – 4 more so than Code Veronica, though the initial seeds can be spotted within the latter. I know I am peddling blasphemy in some quarters, but please bear in mind my perspective: A grouchy, cranky, crusty fanboy who just wants the kids off his lawn.
From these two games came a number of useless spinoffs, followed by the abominable Resident Evil 5, compounded by more useless spinoffs, to which the bright, glorious future now promises more useless spinoffs. Revelations seemed able to quell this rather crotchety dissension of mine, harkening back to the old school style a lot of us just can’t seem to let go of. Then TGS came, effectively neutralizing any confidence I had in Capcom with regards to knowing what the hell it’s doing.
I would like to introduce what I term as “The Wesker Index,” and build up to how we got here. The Wesker Index posits that the quality of a Resident Evil game can be measured in terms of whether or not the character Albert Wesker is in it, how important he is to the story, and how many games he has appeared in prior to it. Here’s a dope ass chart.
Now as we can see, with the very first game we’re starting in Dope territory. A good, solid showing for a fresh IP. Wesker is introduced as a crooked cop, his story plays out, he’s killed, and everyone rides off into the sunset. The next two installments continue on without him, reaching to Double Dope levels (2 hits the high mark mainly due to the fact that you essentially get over twice the content compared to the first game – how was 3 going to compete with that?). 3 is a bit of a drop off, hovering between Dope and Dope-ish – it adds some neat new mechanics, nothing really ground breaking, but definitely is not a bad game at all. In fact, I'd argue it is the most frightening.
Then, Code Veronica. A technical feat at the time, and personally one of my favorites in the franchise – but let’s face it, the game wasn’t anything we hadn’t already seen. We were still plagued with the myriad of annoyances in the interface, the camera and the controls to name a few, that were really hollowing out the fanbase like so many termites. Nosferatu the lame, duel wielding uzis was ok, the cross dressing was interesting, and other than that: It was the same old game with the same old problems.
But then Wesker showed up, again, after being wrecked by the Tyrant like some cheap punk in a Shaw Brothers film. Except now he floated. And was super human. Which isn’t really what Resident Evil is about. Resident Evil has always been somewhat “scientific” (and only through the loosest definition of the word), never supernatural – yet here’s Wesker, back from the dead as a Super Saiyan. The initial reintroduction is cool, since you haven’t seen him in so long! But then it gets rather silly as he’s pulling off back flips and Matrix wall runs, leaving you to wonder why the hell they brought him back if they were just going to completely tear apart the original character.
Still, the franchise holds strong in Dope-ish territory around this time. From that point, Capcom went back to basics and remade Resident Evil 1 for the Gamecube, the greatest Resident Evil game ever and should immediately be given an HD port (listen to me Capcom). They cut out the silly super powers, added in some new mechanics and even expanded upon the already awesome story – the interface stuff was still there, as was Wesker (though toned down), but as a long time Resident Evil fan, the game is amazing in spite of those things. 0 soon followed however, causing the index to plummet to its lowest levels with significant drops in the Technology and Originality sectors. In between all of this was the Survivor series, some portable releases, and the ill-fated Outbreak series (to hell with online games with no chat!) – things were starting to smell funky.
And then there was 4. The game that brought the series back from general irrelevancy, hailed as the greatest installment of the series and one of the greatest games in our culture.
In my eyes, the soul of the franchise was sacrificed for it. It was a price too steep.
Zombies were gone. Instead, we had things that looked like zombies. And they talked. And also were some weird kind of parasite that would try to eat you if you shot off their heads. Wesker was back, even more absurd and silly this time – now he was some kind of scientist heading this biotech/spy agency conglomerate, sending assassins all over the world! The close-quarters, claustrophobic environments which bred tension and fear of the original games were replaced with wide open fields along the Spanish country side, of which the only crop ever grown was ammunition. You were given a briefcase full of firepower and sent off to do your work, with all care or caution for survival thrown to the wind.
They carved out the corpse of Resident Evil, and put an action movie in its skin to bring it back to life.
With all of that said: It was still a damn good game, for what it was worth. And it introduced a lot of people to the franchise as a whole, opening the older games for an audience that may have never looked at them. All in all, the game was a net benefit, even if somewhat a disappointment to the old school.
We hoped, though, that it was a minor transgression, and that the next game would return back to those core elements which made the franchise so successful and awesome. Then, the glimmers of Resident Evil 5. The zombies run now! And they can tackle! That sense of urgency started to reappear. And look at the mobs of them! Now we’re in the middle of Africa – this is new! It doesn’t seem so over the top anymore either.
Then it came out.
…That’s all I have to say about it really. That wound hasn’t closed yet.
Since that miserable day, the series has remained in the toilet despite that shot in the arm from 4. If I had an investment portfolio based off this index, I’d be in the poor house right about now. I should have listened to my advisors!
We just had The Mercenaries on the 3DS and that fiasco. Operation Raccoon City, while certainly looking like a fun game, might as well be Socom with zombies. Capcom keeps treading further and further away from that core gameplay, eschewing it for more Western conventions, pumping the characters with steroids and adding in unnecessary action sequences and latex. To what end, Capcom? To what end?
Revelations initially seemed to be heading in that direction: The first trailer consisted of the bleached Jill (Why Capcom, why!?) and Chris exchanging moody, cheesy lines to one another, which are more the hallmark of Uwe Boll than Resident Evil. “Great, Resident Evil 5.5 on the 3DS – I’m jumping for joy.” However, as time passed, we were allowed to look under the hood of the game to view the nuts and bolts of it.
“Holy shit…it’s a Resident Evil game!”
Personally, I could really do without all the latex – but I’ll take whatever I can get. The small environments, the limited ammo – survival was back, in the game that pioneered the survival horror genre. Granted, it was on the 3DS, meaning I’d probably never end up playing it. But I was glad Capcom was at least giving it a shot, bringing back the core gameplay and fixing the things that people wanted to be fixed. If Revelations could succeed, commercially, I thought, then it would help justify returning the console iterations to that same formula.
Then TGS came and went. And I just wanted to smite a thousand babies with one swift stroke of the knuckle sandwich. Just like a row of them, in domino fashion. But using my fist the entire time, instead of gravity. I find it to be a much more effective disabler of children than gravity. Relatively speaking.
Many people were offended by Rachel and her tumorous mammary glands, and how she had literally no face. I mean literally: She has no face. I don’t mean the swamp of hair over it: There just isn’t anything there to begin with. She has no eyeballs, no eyebrows, no ears – just a mouth and nose. Her only sense of direction is through taste and smell. It’s just a blank canvas like some sort of wicked cretin out of the city of Chernobyl.
That is the problem, right?
What I found most egregious was the fact that possibly the one game the diehard Resident Evil fans have been asking for, for nearly a decade, had to be bastardized with pure, simple, unadulterated boner service in the spirit of Highschool of the Dead (which is the epitome and manifestation of everything sad and wrong with Japanese anime and entertainment at large in our contemporary age – that’s right, I said it). It’s bad enough that we have to sit through the poorly done action motifs without pandering to Rapelay’s target demographic on top of it, as we watch this beauty mannequin of a woman be dragged off kicking and screaming to her death with mild rape and hentai overtones to accompany it. Whether she dies or not, what does this say about the possible direction Capcom may be willing to take the full game down?
But then I watched the actual gameplay, and it still felt like something was off. We're still rolling with these weird monsters out of Silent Hill, everything is still overly and needlessly dramatic, and everyone is still hitting those roids. And as much as I love them: I'd really prefer if Chris, Jill, Claire, and Leon would just vanish forever. Every installment seeks to expand their story, causing them to be construed in more ridiculous manners and scenarios as they inch closer and closer to the proverbial shark.
These are personal preferences. What is not personal, though, is that once again, the spirit, the feel, the soul of Resident Evil is shredded for some short-sighted end or fad. Yes: Nothing is forever, and everything must evolve with the times. But to completely gut and hollow out your very being for that sake is not evolution, it is destruction. Will the game still be good? Of course. The core gameplay is still there. But games are more than that, if Shadow the Hedgehog taught us anything at all.
TGS led me to only one conclusion: We need to hit the reset button on this series.
As I started with, I am what I am: A grouchy, cranky, crusty fanboy. Thus, these opinions are the product of that single fact. Perhaps I am not appeasable. Capcom has given me what I wanted, but it’s just not enough – it’s not perfection, in my eyes. Maybe I just want my brains and to eat them too. But I don’t think I’m asking for much: I just want an old Resident Evil with a new story, new characters, while fixing the problems people have complained about for years. Yet each time, Capcom gives us a bone and then throws in something we neither asked for nor might even be quite fond of. I should be thankful for the bone, but I can’t help but be bothered by the bag of shit tied to the end of it.
I love you Capcom, but I wish you treated your Resident Evil fans a lot more like you treat your Street Fighter fans. You have other children besides your first born, you know!
I hope I am wrong in this assessment. I hope one day, Resident Evil rises from the grave and starts kicking ass again. Ironically, I think Capcom could learn a lot from Dead Space as to where it should take the series, mechanically speaking. Coupled with the grounded, sterile, urban, realistic atmosphere of the original games, the franchise could some day regain its throne with a style that is its own. But not at this rate, in my opinion.
If I could just ask for one thing, at all, at the very least: