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About Resident Evil

Translated by naums on 04.01.2017

Resident Evil. That horror-game franchise, which only went for static camera perspectives. You had not much ammunition and had to run from the zombies. The franchise, which looked at other games and took some gameplay-elements. Yes, this franchise. In this blog-entry I will be looking onto the history of the Resident Evil video game series. I want to identify the points in time where Resident Evil made a turn for the worse.

The first Resident Evil was published in 1996 and took some inspiration in the 1992-released Alone in the Dark. It had a fixed camera and you are more or less alone in the mansion, which you explore. Not much was known about what happened in the mansion. The story was nearly exclusively told in document you found in environment. You needed keys to open some doors, you needed to solve puzzles and find the right items to use in the right places to get even more keys. And you had to use a way to small inventory. I've never played the Playstation-original, but the Remake on the Nintendo Gamecube.

Then two games followed (Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 Nemesis), which played in Raccoon City. You had to explore the police-station or at least some parts of it and head on into other parts of the city in RE3. Until now basically all titles of the series played identical. Fixed camera perspectives, tank-controls and fixed, pre-rendered backdrops. Code Veronica on the Dreamcast was a bit different. Instead of pre-rendered backdrops the 3D-graphics were rendered when navigating the environments, so the camera could move according to your movements. The basic gameplay did not change.

Until this point the series based itself on atmosphere. You were virtually alone alone in this zombie-infested city or mansion. Health-Kits were limited as was the ammunition. The documents you found created the atmosphere in these games. They described the perspective of the people, which probably at that point roamed the city and waited for someone to eat. How could it come to this? What sinister plans were behind the catastrophe?

Resident Evil differentiated itself well from Silent Hill (which I have played only a few hours until now). Silent Hill based itself more around close combat, whereas you always had pistols and other guns in the Resident Evil-games. Silent Hill created its atmosphere mostly from inferiority, because your enemies could hide around the next corner and you had to fight them in close combat. Also the field of view is restricted by fog and darkness. And there was always this dark background-music, when you were in the otherworld. This created a tense atmosphere.

Resident Evil didn't do that as much. You didn't see some enemies in Resident Evil because of more or less good camera perspectives but you heart them. You could shoot the zombies even if you didn't see them. At first the only enemies move really slowly, only later there are fast moving enemies, like the lickers or hunters.

Resident Evil Zero on Gamecube did also follow this formula. It didn't involve the T-Virus anymore which created zombies from humans, but rather leeches, which did the same thing. The games showed a deep story about the T-Virus and their improvements by Birkins or Ashford (G-Virus, Veronica-Virus).

That changed with Resident Evil 4. Well, basically everything changed. Not only, that the villains of the game are the Los Illuminados as a cult and the Las Plagas are the parasites, which control them, but the gameplay also heavily changed. In Resident Evil 4 the main focus shifted from solving puzzles to exploring the world and fight against enemies. There are still enough puzzles, but they are few and far between, at least compared to the previous games. The game based itself more around action and shooter-mechanics than the previous games, probably due to the shift in perspective. But the game had charme. Leon is no body-buulder like the other characters in later games, but also always knew a casual answer. The merchant in the game was extremely surreal and sold weapons in the middle of an area which was flooded with Las Plagas. RE4 introduced loads of elements which were really fun: for example the precise aiming and movement, improving weapons, the great characters and loads of enemies. But the movement system itself was still restrictive.

I believe the descent began with Resident Evil 5 (March 2009). You were part of a two-person team and went back to a restrictive 9-place inventory, rather than the nice suitcase-inventory system from Resident Evil 4. The characters are basically super-soldiers. Chris Redfield went to be a muscle man and had nothing in common with his former self in previous games. The relation to the older games was missing in general. The level felt like more or less random environments, which would not fit together quite correctly. At first you started in an village somewhere in Africa, then you get to the ocean and later through a mining plant to an umbrella factory? I feel I didn't quite get that.

Resident Evil The Darkside Chronicles (November 2009, Wii) shows very well that Capcom had no intention to tell a coherent story anymore. The game is no horror-game anymore, but rather a railgun-shooter, which was not good for the series. Capcom told the same story for the third time in Operation Raccoon City and made clear, that the series has nothing to do with horror any more. Improvements? You wish!

Whereas the first titles were real horror-games, the last ones, like Resident Evil 6, which is hated by fans, are rather really horrible games. The Remake of old titles like Resident Evil (Zero) on the HD-console also clearifies, that Capcom has no intention of continuing the series in any real way.

In my eyes Capcom should have ended the series after the first five games (1-4+Code Veronica). The story of the later games went clearly mental. One has to wonder why the games were called Resident Evil and not released under a new name. The name alone means money. Resident Evil-games will be related to the great first games and bought, because one wants to give the franchise a chance to redeem itself. But the later titles have next to nothing in common with the older entries in the series. The first games, which were at least believable in their own world, are basically cancelled out by the newer releases, which could have been designed by Michael Bay.

I have not played any of the Dead Aim or Survivor-subseries entries. I played Outbreak a long time ago, far longer than I would remember enough details to write in this text about. Surely, the non-horror entries in the Resident Evil series can be fun, but they really have nothing to do with what made the series great in the first place. Until Resident Evil 4 the basic formula stayed the same. Always zombies, most of the times in Raccoon City, but at least the villains worked for Umbrella. Of course one could create a game about how the janitor of the police station fled Raccoon City, but these are not ideas you have to make to reality. The list of characters is really huge and Capcom doesn't dare to release any game without all of them. Resident Evil without Leon? How could you? And what about the Chris-fans?

Back then I had loads of fun with the Resident Evil games and even the never parts are not the worst games ever created. But you really have to adjust yourself to the idea, that these games have nothing in common with the games you loved back then. I think it's a shame, that the series as a whole drifted towards action and lost its horror-roots. There are still great horror games like Silent Hill Downpour, the latest entry into the Silent Hill series, which I personally really liked.

Written by naums on 06.12.2016

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