How 'Resident Evil' Can Be Good Again
Survival horror is a genre on life support. The birthing of the term came from Resident Evil, a small title that wildly grew into a popular franchise. It has successfully perched itself high on the list of profitable IPs for Capcom and spawned countless sequels in games and even movies. Somewhere along the line, however, the series has lost its way integrating fumbled mechanics such as a forced co-op system and quick time event after quick time event. What needs to be done in order to return Resident Evil back to its former glory? Can another certain franchise maybe shine some light?
Bring the "horror" back to survival horror
The latest Resident Evil titles have had me wanting to do my best Jerry Maguire impression and yell out, "Show me the scary!" Seriously, why am I not terrified by what's in front of me? This problem, for the most part, has to do with the mood and setting. Earlier in the series, we were trapped in a house or building of some sort having to defend ourselves against whatever horrors were thrown our way. Remember that first encounter with the Licker in Resident Evil 2? The moment we saw that decapitated corpse, we knew something was wrong and yet it still couldn't prepare us for this Spider-Man wannabe monstrosity. Having it stare down at you in a narrow hallway was truly flinch-worthy.
Give control back to the player
Let me get one thing straight. I have no problem with quick time events (QTEs) in general. A lot of my favorite games have included them as part of the overall experience. I do not, however, appreciate having them make up over half of my gameplay time. Considering Resident Evil 6 in particular is very "cut scene heavy", adding a buttload of QTE sequences on top of it only ruins the experience even further. It's used as a crutch for lazy gameplay mechanics. This may as well have been a movie instead. We play games to play them, not watch and wriggle the stick like a mad man.
"Scary" and "co-op" don't mix
Simply put, tense situations freak people out more when they're alone. That's a fact. Add a buddy in the mix and now things don't seem so bad. Someone has your back and you have theirs. Having the extra firepower alone takes a pretty dramatic leap away from what made survival horror different from your everyday run-of-the-mill action shooter games. It also doesn't help when playing alone anyway and getting saddled with an AI partner who clearly has suicidal tendencies and never heard the term "conserve ammo".
Co-op is understandable enough to add in order to keep a franchise from getting stale. Just don't make it a requirement if I choose to play by myself. Dead Space 3 has the right idea in this regard making their co-op "drop in/drop out" with no AI partner to babysit. Take notes, Capcom!
Balance the pacing
We've heard and read the reviews that compares Resident Evil 6 to a Michael Bay film. Believe me, that is no compliment. It's almost like the developers were trying to take after the Resident Evil films that were supposed to take after the games in the first place! What happened to the slow buildup that leads to a horrifying set piece? Instead we get one explosion after another interspersed with huge enemies to take down. There's no breathing room to appreciate what's in front of you. Yes, these scenes LOOK great but they lose all impact without an equal amount of slowdown. Think of it like the calm before the storm. Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, has this method nailed down pat. Perhaps he could be a scriptwriter or even an advisor if Capcom isn't afraid to pony up the dough.
In a nutshell? Be more like Dead Space
If there's one franchise that has kept the survival horror franchise alive, it's Dead Space. Creepy monsters, limb dismemberment, and being set in space makes for an old school Resident Evil experience if it had a baby with the movie Event Horizon. The gameplay has an updated feel to it nailing the "shooting while moving" mechanics down while Resident Evil still hung on to its "tank controls". Even co-op, as mentioned before, plans to have the right approach to it while Capcom fumbled the ball in their approach.
I mentioned at the end of my impressions of the Resident Evil 6 demo that the franchise, at this point, needs an overhaul. The shift in focus to make it more action-packed has only succeeded in losing the franchise's identity. If you want to focus on that type of game, don't slap the Resident Evil name on the box and add a crap ton more monsters on the screen at once then call it a day. It's simply not built to be this way.
If you have a 3DS its worth it! Capcom had the game on sell on their store for $20. There are rumors that the team wants to make a RE game on Wii-U. As long its anything like Revelations I'm gamed.
Scary and co-op can mix if you semi-segregate the two players. I can't be scared unless I'm slightly cut off from people.
Man, I sure am tired of these. RE6 is much more like Dead Space than any of its predecessors. Scary and co-op CAN mix, it just hasn't implemented properly to do so. They have to figure out a way for co-op to complement the horror feeling. As for giving control back to the player, I feel that we now have more control than ever. Go back and play REs 1-3. You'll notice that you're fighting the controls more than the actual enemies. Yeah, QTEs are lame, but in RE6 we're finally able to see what to do to break out of a struggle and how far we are from succeeding or failing. It's much better than frantically pressing buttons, hoping you're doing the right thing. What I find to be absent is the ATMOSPHERE. There is no looming presence that you have no control over, there's no feeling of emptiness, there's no creepy music - nothing. At it's core, that's what makes a horror game horrifying.
You bring up some excellent points here. I loved how the Deus Ex team played through the old game in order to gain better insight on what worked and didn't in order to develop a new entry. If you ask me, anyone who is tackling an established franchise ought to better acclimate themselves that way in order to gain a better understanding on what they're doing even if they think they do already.
I keep hearing good things about that actually.
They can't be all bad, right? :-P
I think that would make for a good template to build off of.
Dino Crisis is a whole other argument/discussion. ;)
I could get behind that plan.
That would be a very smart move. Perhaps then we can see a "reboot" of sorts.
You, sir, nailed it.
Thanks and totally agreed. The co-op improved from RE5 (not saying much) but it became a lot more prevalent unfortunately.
"Less is more" would be a good guideline to follow in many aspects.
It's a constant game of "follow the money" for them.
Nice post. You make some good points!
LOL Unfortunately, I can see that happening as well.
If RE becomes like Dead Space, fans will complain that it's a Dead Space clone/wannabe.
best article ever. Unfortunately I don't think crapcom will get the message. Another 5-10 years from now Resident Evil will just be the next mega man. We'll be celebrating their 25th anniversary on the iphone 10 lol #ohyeshedid
"'Co-op' and 'Scary' don't mix."
I highly disagree because, IMO, no one has bothered to properly implement it yet; despite the idea having a ton of potential. I'll just discuss one possible application here.
Imagine if you will, you and a friend are playing the newest survival horror game online together. You're exploring a darkened hallway, both hearing weird sounds that your gamer senses determine as being 'Something will probably attack soon' warnings. In order to prevent ambushes you watch the rear and walk backwards while your friend takes care of the trailblazing. Suddenly across the mike you hear your friend scream, he beings firing wildly and you turn your character around. All you see is an empty hallway with your partner firing into the darkness. Across the mike you can hear garbled profanity and cries of 'What the hell is that thing!?' You have no idea what's gotten into him, despite your best efforts to run forward, look carefully, and fire a few shots in the same general direction nothing seems to hit. You have to wonder if this dude's just gone crazy or is messing with you. You stop firing, turn to your friend, and just before you can chastise him for his idiocy an unholy abomination manifests out of the thin air before you. You only get a second's look at its face before your screen goes black; and you're swiftly killed.
What I just described is taking multi-player and adding 'mind-screw' mechanics. Say like in games like SCP where you're walking along and suddenly something creepy manifests out of the darkness to make you jump, possibly to kill you. That's scary right? Now what if the game was programmed, so that in multi-player only one person saw that? These events would be a mixture of 'hallucinations' and 'real threats' with no way to tell which is which. You'd be left in an environment of fear, not knowing if your friend was just being silly or if something really bad lurk beyond your vision until literally too late. As a result both players must now succumb to absolute paranoia in order to survive. Every shadow needs to be jumped at, every little warning yelp you hear over the mike needs to be heard; and because you're so wary of these things the effect they'll have on the player is only magnified.
And of course the most important thing about this is the game should never warn you via tutorial or anything 'what' these game play mechanics are. There should be lots of them and they should be random So many in fact that it would take multiple play throughs to see a majority; with some so rare that their occurrence is a subject of internet 'myth'. Something so bizarre and uncommon that even if you posted it to Youtube people might cry it out as a faked-hack of the game.
'That' is why Co-Op and Scary can, and should mix. More ideas along that vein just need to be utilized by game makers.