This is the conclusion of my Resident Evil-themed blog posts, and what better way to end than looking forward. We all know that RE6 is on the horizon, and there is a mixed feeling of excitement, scepticism and disappointment already among the fans. Before we get into that though, letís rewind a little and begin with RE4. A phenomenal title, a masterpiece of the last generation Ė but also the game responsible for Resident Evilís new direction, thus separating the fans.
Part 1 and 2 were nostalgia trips of the classic games and the underrated Remake. These were the simpler days Ė the games were scary, there were zombies, and everyone loved them. But then RE4 was announced, and everything changed. All the wonderful player limitations that I discussed previously were now gone. Fixed camera angles were replaced by a new over-the-shoulder view; the slot-based inventory system for a new large grid-based attachť case; and zombies for crazy farmer villagers.
Though overused in modern games, when done right zombies are a fantastic enemy and Iíve never lost fascination with them. First, thereís the danger of viral spreading. Zombies can contaminate anyone with a single bite or scratch. You can get away without being eaten alive (which is already one of the worst imaginable ways to die), but if you made the mistake of getting too close youíre still becoming one of them, and youíll soon wish to feast on your friendsí tender flesh. The spreading factor then means ever-increasing hordes to outnumber you, bringing a claustrophobic element where youíre never alone. This was of course executed superbly in RE1ís mansion, but even a larger area like Raccoon City perfectly executed the constant groans and howls of the undead in the background that serve as a haunting reminder that youíre surrounded and may never escape alive. Plus, itís bad enough to witness your friend or survival partner die, but to then see them as a walking corpse and having to kill them a second time can only be a traumatising situation.
Now zombies are simply cannon fodder to new gamers Ė not anything to be feared or threatened by, just another target in the sights of their M16. The current generation has had Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, Call of Dutyís Nazi Zombie modes, and countless zombie-themed twin-stick shooters. Even Red Dead Redemption and Crackdown have included the lovable beasts for you to hurl grenades at. And thatís fine, because I love all of those games. Itís when Resident Evil also chooses to jump on this trend that problems arise. A single zombie was enough to fuck you over in Remake, but theyíre almost being humiliated as crowds of them can now be dispatched within seconds.
So you can imagine that the decision to remove them completely in RE4 hurt me inside as I read a preview in a magazine. Zombies, the staple of the franchise, the most important factor, what drew me into playing all the games when I was young: gone. It got to a point where I began to lose interest in the series. The screenshots didnít look scary at all. It was daytime, you could see all the enemies in front of you, and again, there were no zombies. Just people. Parasitic organisms, sure, but they still yell in Spanish rather than groan and growl.
Of course, I soon gave into buying the game. It got positively glowing reviews which I didnít expect, and well, it was Resident Evil. I couldnít stay mad at you forever baby.
Then I played it, and of course, it was one of the best gaming experiences of my life. And I didnít stop playing it Ė I must have completed that game well over ten times across the GC and Wii versions. Although it was fantastic, it wasnít really Resident Evil Ė at least not as Iíd come to learn it. It was scary sure, but in a more tense and panic-inducing manner than the traditional jump-scares. I canít complain because it could have easily been an average or even bad game. Still, thereís still part of me that wants Capcom to ďmake them like they used toĒ. Especially after RE5.
By no means a terrible game, but it seems the most far-removed entry in the franchise so far. RE4 brought the big changes in, sure, but it was still a survival-horror game. It still maintained that sense of loneliness, and really delivered on bringing death around every corner. In RE5, this had all disappeared in favour of the addition of co-op. Thereís nothing to be afraid of when Sheva is constantly beside you to heal you, revive you or kill enemies for you. You donít even get a chance to feel threatened. If you compare this game to the original, aside from the characters the only similarity is the use of healing herbs.
To me, I view the franchise as two different types of games: classic and new-style. As happy as I am with RE4 and as much as I feel it is a worthy entry, you could still essentially replace the character names and remove the Umbrella sub-plot and it could be a different franchise. Sometimes I wonder if this had been a better idea, as the problem is that now Capcom can never go back. Theyíve said themselves that there is no market for survival-horror games anymore, which I personally donít agree with. It makes no sense to go from the king of the horror genre to an average third-person shooter, where itíll constantly be compared to Gears of War until Capcom finally throws in chainsaws and satellite lasers. The gap in the survival-horror market is exactly why they should go back. I know that RE6 will feel like a high-quality game, and that Iím likely to enjoy it. Although Iím not a fan of their business practices, I love Capcomís games. Itís just sad that, as someone who loves both the survival-horror and action-horror that the series has been split into, Iíll likely never see one of those types of games again. And I hope that thereís never a third type: generic action shooter.
Speaking of RE6, how about some demo impressions? I said at the start that feelings of the franchise are becoming increasingly mixed amongst fans, and that largely remains the same for me after playing the demo. On paper, its everything every type of fan could want: for the the traditional fans thereís zombies, Sherry Birkin, and a seemingly invincible stalking Nemesis-type boss; for newer fans, thereís Plagas-type enemies, Leon AND Chris, rolling around, taking cover and always-available melee attacks.
It did feel odd to switch between three different gameplay styles. What captivated me in the old games was the sense of claustrophobia, being secluded and surrounded, which doesnít translate quite as well when youíre constantly moving across the globe. Still, Revelations followed this gameplay structure and that was a step in the right direction in my opinion. That was the scariest RE game Iíve played in a long time, and really got my heart beating during some of the jump-scares and tension of boss fights. Hopefully thatís a sign that Capcom still has it in them.
But enough digressing. First letís start with Leonís scenario, which I think I enjoyed the most out of the three. It began with a slow pace, perhaps a little too slow for a short section of a demonstration. However, things got exciting when I got to the elevator. Of course, it gets stuck as it descends. And we all know whatís about to happen when an infected member of the party is brought on. But what I loved about this scene was that it seemed like a tribute to the first zombie encounter scene in RE1. Whether Capcom did this intentionally I canít quite know for sure, but I enjoyed it as well as the horde of zombies that burst in when the elevator opens moments after. After I discovered that Leon can melee attack on command though, the sense of panic began to wane a little. Still, that sense of claustrophobia and instant disaster felt like a welcome return, as was the excellent jump-scare presented at the end.
Chrisí scenario is a complete change of pace. This is where the newer boulder-punching fans will find what their looking for, as Chris and his mercenary buddies tear through the city of machine guns and rifles. Although I wasnít too pleased at the addition of the new rolling and sliding and cover mechanics, I must say that they do work well here, and it does feel good to control. It felt fun, although I didnít feel I was in danger at any point. I fear that having a button for melee attacks will make the game too easy, and it seems to remove the strategy that previous instalments presented. Melee was presented superbly in RE4 (and even RE5) because you had to carefully shoot a specific limb or body part in order to stun an enemy before punching or kicking. Not only did this require accurate shooting under tense circumstances but it also required good timing, as you had to run towards the enemy to attack. And if you didnít get there quick enough, youíve just put yourself right in the enemyís clutches. Now that kind of tense and strategic element is gone as Chris swings his tree trunk arms around as he pleases.
I think Iíd have less of a problem with these new features if they stayed in Chrisí campaign only. Considering Leon is supposed to represent the main horror aspect of the game, limited ammunition isnít the concerning factor it once was when Iím freely able to kick back crowds of undead and roll around to safety. It seems to be an issue in Jakeís levels too. The new Wesker Jr. character is forced to constantly out-run and out-gun a huge and seemingly unstoppable creature throughout the game. Sound familiar, RE3 fans? I was thrilled when I first learned that the Nemesis concept was being brought back, but again I didnít really feel threatened here. Even as the hulking mass was running towards me I just felt safe in the knowledge that I could dive out the way. You can now sprint in this game too, so it rarely feels like the monster will catch up to you.
Thereís no complaints in the visual and controls department. It consistently felt like a solid and, dare I say, fun demo. It just doesnít quite seem to be the same game I fell in love with back in 2005. Should I expect another RE4? Perhaps not, as Iíve come to terms with the fact that thereíll almost never be a game to match such a masterpiece. Still, I wish Capcom would realise what it was that made that game so great Ė the unique atmosphere and sense of loneliness. They still have the ability to create that feel again too with hints of greatness, but they let their marketing strategies get in the way of that. And maybe they really believe theyíre creating a superior game with the addition of co-op, online play and ďimprovedĒ third-person shooter and cover mechanics. On paper, that is a superior game: build on the formula of a successful game and include new features. But these features obstruct the gameís potential, rather than improve it. I hate being ďthat guyĒ whoís negative and judging a game on a simple demo, but I already know in my heart that including co-operative gameplay and single-player AI partner again will repeat RE5ís mistakes. I hope Capcom can pull it off and make me scared again, but Iíd be very surprised.
So now that Iíve torn that game apart, what do I really want? Itís almost a clichť to hear a veteran RE fanís wishes for a new game, because itís almost always ďRE2 RemakeĒ. But it just makes so much sense. After the first Remake I hoped that Capcom would continue this fantastic new style with a modern rendition of RE2. It would be amazing to see the RPD building and the city streets in crisp HD with all the Crimson Heads, defense weapons, and new plot devices/bosses like the first Remake had. Even if they felt they had to use the new over-the-shoulder view, Iíd (slightly begrudgingly) accept. As a company who constantly re-releases its games to new systems, Iím surprised that they havenít given one of the best-loved games in the series a wonderfully bloody, surgical make-over.
Of course even more than this Iíd like a brand new game that follows Remakeís style. To be honest, I just want Crimson Heads back. It boggles my mind how such a revolutionary step in the series has been used once and has since been abandoned. I also want them to review their new plot ideas. Really Capcom, punching boulders and a teleporting villain?
[SPOILERS AHEAD in the next three paragraphs if you have not yet completed RE1 or RE5. Although you shouldnít care that much about RE5ís plot and, well, RE1 is over 15 years old.]
Itís one thing that Wesker in RE5 ridiculously abandoned his seemingly unstoppable powers to become a walking target practice for the final boss, but why did he have the power to dodge bullets at all? I like anime-style action in my Metal Gear, but never my Resident Evil. I donít want to see Chrisí muscles versus Weskerís teleporting. I want tension, desperation, and sometimes to feel disturbed during cutscenes. RE6 will have over four hours of cutscenes, so letís hope that not all of that time is focused on different angles of Leonís hair.
Getting back to Wesker, I was very fond of the character in RE1. It was shocking to discover he was the villain all along. He was the best kind of villain Ė a goddamn bastard villain, who blackmailed, deceived and cheated the S.T.A.R.S. members to gain power over them. And I donít mean the Dragonball Z- style powers he gains in later games, I mean the might of the sinister corporation that is Umbrella in his clutches. If thereís one thing scarier than a zombie invasion, itís a human being that has control over it and is willing to leave you trapped inside it. It was fascinating to suddenly see him in that position from the good guy he faked being, and then to see it all taken away as the very creation he admires, the Tyrant, stabs him through the stomach. Its weakness as well as power that makes a great villain, and itís a shame that Capcom decided to take this attribute away. Wesker in RE5 almost embodies the game itself: an entity that is technically given more power and flashy moves, but comes off as far less entertaining.
His motives were also clear in RE1: lure his ďcolleaguesĒ into the lab so he can use them as test subjects, allowing them to be killed by the deadly experiments while he reaps a hefty monetary reward. Simple but effective: the lengths this man will tread for money makes him terrifying. In RE5, he plans to release the Uroburos virus into the atmoshphere to infect the globe. But why? What will he do next when everyoneís a walking mass of black tentacles?
I want believable characters that feel threatened and sometimes believe that they may die. Thereís always room for a Leon Kennedy, but letís not have every character shrug off a massive behemoth inches away from their face with a cocky one-liner Ė it seems like Jake might take that direction in RE6. No over-sexualised battlesuits, acrobatic combat, and please god no more superpowers. Itís bad enough that the Paul Andersonís movies are still being made (seriously, who is it thatís watching those?). As I said Iíd love a brand new game with the classic formula, but I worry that Capcom will be too tempted to spoil it with this kind of Hollywood-style action and dialogue and one-dimensional characters, which makes RE2 Remake a preferable and safer choice.
And that about wraps up my thoughts on the franchise (I wrote too much again, didn't I?). Thereís been some disappointments, but mostly love, fun, nostalgia and above all fear. I canít wait to see how Resident Evil 6 turns out, and I will control my expectations and be as optimistic as I can. Despite my nitpicking, the demo was overall positive, and with the excellent Revelations (that really deserved more discussion in these blogs in retrospect) bringing my faith in the series again, Iíll continue to love the series throughout its changes. At 16 years old after all, itís sure to experience some changes into manhood. Itís up to daddy Capcom to bring him up just right.
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