After a whole fortnight of playing Resident Evil games, I decided to put my thoughts down on the progression of the franchise. This is merely my opinion and after speaking to friends and family alike, most are in the same frame of mind when it comes to the changes in the series.
After spending weeks on GTA V, completing the story and having a few goes online, I grew bored of swimming the lake in Blaine County searching for Nessie and decided I needed something more challenging than driving and shooting. The instant choice was Resident Evil. Starting with the REmake for Gamecube, rather than the PSOne original, as I’m pretty sure I never managed to complete the former. I plunged headlong into Spencer Mansion to relive the terror of my late teens. So soon after playing RE5, the old style became a little fiddly to control and I thought I would end up shelving it and playing the sixth installment instead… Not so.
See, no matter how long ago you played either Resident Evil, RE2, Nemesis or Code: Veronica X, everything comes back within minutes. The sluggish controls become second nature and still adds to the tension when in need of some space to dart past the lumbering zombies and mutant dogs. The pre-rendered backdrops swim in atmosphere and the warped camera angles bring fear to the next corner you have to turn. The natural lack of ammunition for anything more powerful than your pistol makes you think about when you use your shotgun or grenade launcher, rather than spraying the screen with lead just to take out a pesky zombie that you can just as easily run past. Finally… The puzzles. Oh, how I crave some sort of brain activity when gaming in this day and age of AAA military shooters, driving games and watered down RPG’s.
All of the original Resident Evil games required some sort of thought process into how you would progress in the game. No invisible corridor leading you to fight after fight with absolute mobs of rotting undead, culminating in a boss fight and an end of mission ranking screen. Old Resident Evil never asked me to shut off and pretend that I was an all conquering hero. It asked me to be scared, to run when needed and to conserve anything that may be useful in the coming hours alone. Ah, for some time alone. The worst thing that Capcom decided on was to add partners. This gimmick takes away a lot of the atmosphere. They talk too much, steal your items and wondering what’s coming down the corridor, groaning like a hen party troupe at 6am on a Sunday morning, brings less dread than if you had to brave it by yourself. I spent a lot of time in RE5 just wasting ammo trying to shoot Sheva in the face so she would go away and leave me to my survival horror.
When playing both RE5 and 6, I felt no fear, forgot the locations almost instantly and the puzzles consisted of giving my partner a boost to higher ground to get a key… Forgive me if I’m being a little picky, but I wouldn’t even class that as a simple conundrum. Have we, as the human race, declined so much mentally that we can’t be given a task harder than collecting keycards by killing something? People might complain that you had to retrace a lot of ground or spend too much time on thinking of a solution to a perplexing riddle in order to move on in older games. The fact that you can access walkthroughs at the touch of a button in this electronic age, has possibly taken away the need for developers to add them as they know 80% of the fanbase will just cheat their way to victory. I think we should just add gaming as a lesson in schools and hand a copy of Broken Sword to pupils that they may only leave once they’ve figured out the infamous goat poser with no internet access.
Does anyone else remember the classic dialogue too? Gone are the days of low budget voice actors who, strangely enough brought more charm to the games than the droning, action movie stereotypes of the current cast. How I long for Barry Burton to pop his head around a corner and ask in what sounds like broken english, ‘What IS it?’ or proclaim that Jill is indeed the master of unlocking. It seems it’s a bell that rings true with a few staff members here at n3rdabl3. Maybe Capcom should hire Sean Bean and get him to recite lines in the accent of Harry from the Silent Hill movies, truly a heart stopping performance.
I have not played Resident Evil: Revelations yet but I’m informed that the experience is like a ‘horror themed FPS’ rather than survival horror and there’s an abundance of green herbs. That is a travesty! I lived in an age where you would be reduced to tears after an hours search for a green herb before you walked through a creaking door, herbless and defeated to face your doom at the hands/tentacles/jaws of giant snakes, a trenchcoat wearing behemoth with a missile launcher for an arm and giant slugs looking like they had been formed from the contents of an abbatoir bin. The biggest downside was being roughly dumped back at the load game screen and having to play hours of content to get back to where you were, just because you forgot to take ink ribbons and thought it was too far to travel to be bothered saving.
Capcom took a genre that they perfected and dumped it in the bargain bucket alongside all the other Call of Duty clones and action titles that have no distinction between each other. They probably thought they would lag behind because FPS games became popular and that was where the money was to be made. In my opinion, most AAA gaming relies too much on guns, swearing and focuses on pointless online modes to survive, while the indie scene is slowly taking over in storytelling, gameplay and brain teasing titles. Just look at the Amnesia series or the recent Outlast for PC.
Survival horror needs to draw from the meaning of it’s nature. To use what’s available to you while being in fear of everything around you. The first Silent Hill game did it well. Visual tricks and pant-wetting audio made me play the game in 20 minute sessions, just because I couldn’t handle the tension that starts to push down on you when the radio starts clicking, babies cry or the siren calls. The only weapon to hand a lead pipe and a handgun with no bullets… Make us run, make us think, make us not want to keep playing and you have survival horror perfected. We, as human beings, are gluttons for punishment and will play it through, even if we do have to wait for daylight or someone else in the room.
We’ve been promised a review on the direction of Resident Evil soon though. We have been promised that it will go back to it’s roots after the publisher/developer received disappointing and mixed reviews from the gaming community. I hope Capcom stick to it and can show us they still have it in them to produce a quality survival horror experience that doesn’t make us cringe in embarassment, but in deep-seated terror.