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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Where Did Resident Evil Go Wrong? (And Who Says It Went Wrong At All?)

Even before its official launch today, the highly anticipated sixth numbered entry in Capcom’s long-standing survival-horror franchise Resident Evil has already generated a rather large controversy thanks to its reception from major reviewers. While publications such as Game Informer gave it a glowing review, saying that “the game's minor flaws don't hold back the decadent experience from being an unhinged, flaming rollercoaster ride”, other reviewers, such as Joystiq, were far more critical, calling the game a “fully-featured, sloppy, frequently frustrating attempt to do well by everyone.”
As someone who actually enjoyed the two playable demos Capcom released for Resident Evil 6 earlier this year, I was amazed at the sheer polarity of the game’s reviews. Naturally it wasn’t long before the haters came out in force, message boards and article comments being flooded with “I told you so’s” and “Capcom has officially killed Resident Evil’s” and “I stopped playing five minutes into the demo’s” amongst other forms of fan-backlash. However, amidst all this negativity I ended up reading yesterday, one thought kept popping up in the back of my brain: shouldn’t we be blaming ourselves instead of Capcom?

I am, admittedly, in the minority camp of Resident Evil fans who are actually quite happy with the new action-oriented direction the series has taken ever since Resident Evil 4 and the rather impressive sales figures of both RE4 and its follow-up Resident Evil 5 (despite all the negative reception it received) prove that I’m not alone. Many other fans however have bemoaned endlessly about how the series has “lost touch” with its survival-horror roots and to that I must ask: how exactly? Because we no longer have to deal with frustrating tank-controls? Because we no longer require ink ribbons to save our games? Because our characters are now able to take cover and dive onto their backs?

I remember when Dead Space 3 was first revealed, many fans immediately jumped on one of the most trivial parts of the demo video: protagonist Isaac Clarke was now able to take cover in order to avoid enemy attacks. While the backlash towards Dead Space 3 regarding its now action-oriented direction was much quieter than that directed at Resident Evil 6, it was, and still is, present. It would seem that, to American audiences, action and horror have no business being in the same franchise, let alone the same game. It has even given rise to a new term I like to call “Call of Duty syndrome” in which irate fans try to homogenize today’s survival-horror series’ into the same category as Call of Duty, a series known for its focus on heated gun battles and elaborate set-pieces.

But why is trying to combine action and horror a bad thing? Is it because we’re no longer scared? Is it because fans want something *besides* action? Personally, I think a lot of Resident Evil fans, and video game fans in general, need to step back and re-evaluate what it is they want exactly. Gamers bemoan multiplayer, saying it can “ruin” otherwise great gaming franchises, yet I doubt Resident Evil 5 would have sold as great as it did without its focus on co-op (a feature which Capcom has made even more prominent in Resident Evil 6). Others like to argue that the focus on action detracts from the story yet I personally found both Resident Evil 4 and 5 to be rather rich in backstory as well as providing interesting arcs for some of their major characters.

As I said earlier, I am one of the few who is actually happy with the series more action-driven development. I honestly didn’t really become that big of a Resident Evil fan until the debut of Resident Evil 4 and I remember trying to go back and play some of the earlier games afterwards and saying “so…wait, why can’t I just shoot that zombie in the knee and roundhouse kick their head off?” I’ve become rather dependant on the series’ new action-focused tone and, unlike a majority of other Resident Evil fans, I’m not afraid to admit it.

As much as all these so called “hardcore fans” may like to whine and complain, at the end of the day Capcom is just giving us what we ask for. Despite all the negative publicity games like Call of Duty receive, their impressive sales numbers and ability to spawn sequel after sequel which in turn sell rather well themselves goes to show that American gamers speak much louder with their wallets than with their mouths. Who can fault Capcom for wanting to try and capitalize on the success garnered by other major action-game franchises? I for one think that they should stop trying to make everyone happy and just go with what they know fans *really* want. 

You don’t need dark hallways and creepy music to scare people (though they do help) and you don’t need to abandon a series’ horror roots entirely in order to give fans a well-crafted survival-horror action game (play Resident Evil 4 if you don’t believe me). I think Capcom needs to pick a creative direction and stick with it. As long as they keep trying to make everyone happy or recapture the magic that made their older games so memorable, they’re going to keep falling short of perfection and pissing fans off in the process. 

Older Resident Evil games certainly have their place but trying to compare them to today’s gaming innovations would be an effort in futility. If Capcom ever decides to leave the past in the past and fully embrace a more action-focused Resident Evil, then they have my blessing. In the meantime I’ll make due with my cover mechanics and zombie-decapitating spin kicks.

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1 comment:

  1. I have to admit, I was super hyped about RE 6. I have been playing the RE games since I was really little. However I have to say that Capcom seems to be losing it. RE was supposed to be a survival horror franchise and to be honest, I personally think that it stopped being that after Veronica Code. Sure RE 4 was good, even with the bad story line ( thanks to midget napoleon with a giant robot [as my friend refers to it]). But come on! RE 5 was just down right sad, and I don't meant boo hoo sad. Where in the world are the jump scares? I will give it one thing, Sheva was absolutely horrifying. Why? Because of the constant stupidity. If you were just hit once she was all "You need to be careful" and waste important health item. RE 6, again, no jump scares, and even being a Chris fangirl, just out right bad story line. I will admit that I like Jake's campaign, but I wasn't thrilled by it. If Capcom keeps this up, they are going to ruin one of the best franchises (in my opinion) and they are going to lose supporters. That's just my opinion.