chris-littlechild - July 19, 2016
Where would survival horror be without Resident Evil? To answer that, we need to take an ogle at what there was before it. In the early nineties, video games were already dabbling in the horrortastic, with the likes of Alone in the Dark. So Capcom can’t make any wang-waving claims to have invented the genre, but goddamn did they put it on the map. Well, they scrawled PAY ATTENTION TO THIS SHIT RIGHT HERE on it in black marker pen.
Remember the Alone in the Dark movie? It was ass, wasn’t it?
The first Resident Evil hit in 1996, during an amazing couple years for the industry. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Metal Gear Solid, Pokémon, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (the awesome one with Tails in), Super Mario 64, Street Fighter II… I don’t know what the hell was in the water over Japan way during 96-98, but developers were pumping out some damn sexy stuff. Resident Evil could tango with the best of them.
When series stalwarts Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine and the dastardly and bastardly Albert Wesker first cruised through the doors of the Spencer Mansion, they had no idea what they’d set in motion. One of the most iconic video games of all time, the first Evil set the template for survival horror to come. Tank-tastic controls, the pain in the ass that is limited inventory slots, static camera angles, scrote-shrivelingly bad voice acting… that’s a winning formula right there.
Resident Evil 2, and the third game, Nemesis, expanded the overarching storyline. What was fellow Evil alum Leon Kennedy (and Chris’s sister, Claire) doing during the outbreak? How the hell did Jill make it out of Raccoon City? That’s the story of 2 and 3 respectively. The settings were a little different from the standard haunted house, but these were quality Resident Evil titles through and through. They added a couple more recurring characters to the mix, like Leon’s not-girlfriend-exactly-but-he-definitely-wants-a-piece-of-her-ass squeeze Ada Wong, and classic monsters like the Licker and the giant angry mutant with the leather fetish and rocket launcher that is Nemesis himself.
Capcom had a damn good thing on their hands. Then, almost a decade after the original released, Resident Evil 4 arrived in 2005. This is where things get a little dicey. The fourth installment sees Leon, six years after the events of the second game, on a special assignment in Europe, ordered to rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter. Along the way, of course, there are mutants to fight, umpteen mothereffin’ emblems to find, and a plot that goes utterly batshit before our eyes. That’s just to be expected, but nothing else here was.
Yep, Ego-friends, this was the game that turned away from survival horror as we know it. Static camera angles? Wonky-ass aiming? Puzzles? Hopeless shambling enemies? Nuts to all of that. What we had here was a straight up horror/TPS hybrid, Dead Space style. Sure, it’s rated as one of the best games ever made, but the whole good game/good Resident Evil game debate is something the Internet is still bitching about eleven years later.
One thing a lot of us can agree on, though, is that what followed dragged the series’ good name through the mud. Or rather, through a landfill site full of suspect hypodermic needles, used condoms and that big ol’ pile of shit from Jurassic Park.
Evils 5 and 6 pretty well dropped the survival horror façade entirely. In its place, Capcom rammed in more action than every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie combined, making for shooting galleries full of dramatic set pieces featuring characters we used to be assed about.
What the hell happened to Chris? Why’s he suddenly all roided up? Why’s he punching a goddamn boulder apart like an Ancient Greek god? This guy’s Wesker’s son? If Capcom still have a kinda sorta clue what survival horror means (see Leon’s campaign in Resident Evil 6), why is the rest of the game such a ballache? The world will never know the answer to any of these questions.
Complete. Global. Saturation.
Away from the main series, the developers have shown the occasional spark of the ol’ magic. Resident Evil Revelations and its sequel proved that a more modern approach (in terms of over-the-shoulder camera, gun controls and the like) and Ye Olde survival horror can combine. I thought they were pretty damn good, and I’ll fight to the death anyone who disagrees. I’ll warn you, though, I’m not above hair pulling and swift kicks to the scrotal region.
As for the upcoming Resident Evil 7, who the hell knows? At E3 2016, we had ourselves a brief look at a VR demo. What we were shown looked a whole damn lot like the cancelled Silent Hills, a first-person sort of deal that was an even bigger departure from classic Evil. Capcom then told us that it was a placeholder bearing no resemblance to the finished game, just an it’ll-have-this-sort-of-tone-and-look-a-little-like-this-if-you-squint-a-bit sort of thing.
This year’s twentieth anniversary celebration hasn’t been too much to lose bowel control over, with current gen re-releases of the last three games about the extent of it. Not forgetting Umbrella Corps, the half-assed new online shooter based on the series. Although, with that last, the clever bastards at Capcom didn’t directly put ‘Resident Evil’ in the title, distancing the franchise from our inevitable disappointment and/or fury a little.
But anywho, to sum up. Resident Evil’s reputation has been shot to hell of late, and we don’t know if the good old days are ever coming back. One thing we can be freaking sure of, though, is that it’s given us two decades of Jill sandwiches, jump scares, zombies, Barry’s glorious ginger beard, Wesker wearing sunglasses indoors like a tool, hand cranks and all kinds of other good times. That’s something to be grateful for.
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