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Published on October 1st, 2013 | by Don Parsons

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Question of the Week: What Can Resident Evil Do To Recapture the Magic in the Series?

What can Resident Evil do to recapture the magic in the series?

Here’s the short answer: Capcom needs to stop doing what they are doing and stop trying to cater to the action fans.

First things first, let’s take a brief look at what make the first few Resident Evil game magical. The main attraction was that ever-present tension lingering in the air. You never quite knew what was going to happen as you played through the game. Couple that with limited resources and you have a winning formula: everything else was just a great bonus. Particularly, I loved how things weren’t absurdly retarded if you tried to follow the story. The first handful of games followed the same schematic, but changed trivial things, like characters and locales.

RE1

Things started to go bad with Resident Evil 4. Don’t get me wrong: I really liked RE4. But it was the start of a downward spiral into what eventually became Resident Evil 6, otherwise known as “Resident Rock Bottom”. What changedh? Characters were returning at this point, so it wasn’t a bland, unlikable cast. The locations were never bad. First, and foremost, things started shifting (in RE4) towards more of an “action horror” territory. And then, by RE6, a full-blown move to the action genre had been completed. Things started moving faster to keep up with the attention spans of young gamers. Zombies were no longer zombies but hybrid humans instead. It was one of the many terrible transitions that completely turned me off from the franchise.

The story may have gone completely bonkers, but it’s the fast pace of the game that has destroyed the Resident Evil name. Resident Evil 2 is one of my favorite games of that era. Exploring the police station is still a memorable experience. That was part of the magic – having one large location to explore, having to backtrack, and solve simple puzzles. Yes, there were some jump scares, but that was okay, because the older games kept you in a constant state of tension that the newer games just can’t seem to grasp.

RE5

Capcom can still make a beautiful game with all of the glitzy graphics, and not force themselves to cater to this fast-paced action model. Slowing the gameplay down will help a lot, and that idea should be written in permanent marker on a white board in their design room. The key ingredient to this magical formula  is pacing, in both story and gameplay. Dropping the co-op player will work them wonders as well, because having a partner around just dulls the sense of tension. I have a friend who (hopefully) has my back, so why should I be scared as i explore x location? Lastly, Capcom needs to centralize their focus on one location, not a linear, quasi-corridor shooter. Exploring the one environment will make them flesh out that one environment, and the story the developers tell will most likely be better by proxy. A healthy bonus will be to keep all of the over-the-top nonsense out of the narrative.

It’s really a simple formula, but Capcom’s desire to change and evolve the basics of the game have been digging the series into a grave. It is going to take Capcom a strong shift in design philosophies to revive Resident Evil, but it’s still possible for the franchise to come back from the dead.

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About the Author

got into podcasting in 2007, and transitioned into writing in late 2008. In late 2011, he went from blogging to writing for a small site called Vagary.tv. Don attended E3 for Vagary.tv in 2012. Now, Don is one-fourth of the foundation of Critically Sane.



  • Wolf

    Hmm. The old games were definitely more atmospheric and less campy. But I never played them cause … well horror games freak me out. So I’d say the new games are more accessible for the likes of me.
    Stories are completely off the rails, but the action can be fun, and the campy bits can be enjoyable. I say this with an exception that I only enjoy playing them with a friend, split screen. Its like mystery science theater 3000 with a video game.
    So yes, its no longer what RE used to be at all, but it is something new.
    It would be nice for them to split these two game apart so we can have both.

    • Wolf

      What are your thoughts on Silent Hill?
      Some say the other king of horror, or it was at one point?
      Again not a game i played myself, but watched.
      I think Yahtzee once said that part of the tension came from poor game controls, partly imposed by the limits of the technology. Do gamers accept difficult (intentionally or not) mechanics in games in the current market? Part of why I never got into RE before, was I didn’t feel very in control of my character. Granted I never gave it a ‘proper’ try.

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