Published on October 1st, 2013 | by Don Parsons2
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.
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.
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.