Sunday Thoughts: Sequels, Franchises and Reboots

We regularly hear people complain about sequels. Games like Final Fantasy, Call of Duty, Need for Speed and almost countless others are often mocked and abused. People equate the notion of a sequel with a lack of originality but I don’t really think that’s the case.

[drop]Take the examples I referenced above. Final Fantasy has seen plenty of games in the series but few actual sequels. In the case of Square’s best loved RPG franchise, the name is a signifier of mechanics and creative team rather than any progressive narrative arch. Likewise with Call of Duty. That brand is now used as a marketing strategy, it denotes that the game is a military style first person shooter that Activision is backing in a big way.

Need for Speed is another interesting case. It seems like the latest was consistently bemoaned by former fans of the franchise as not being a “proper Need for Speed” game. But how similar to Most Wanted was Hot Pursuit? Need for Speed isn’t a series, or even really a franchise. It’s a brand. It’s what EA calls most of its recent driving games. Need for Speed: The Run could have just been called “The Run” and it would have stopped all the complaints but it probably wouldn’t have had so much pre-launch hype or sold as many copies.

Resident Evil has just seen the sixth main instalment announced. This is perhaps a more traditional kind of sequel because Resident Evil is a series of games and a series of spin-offs. Recent outings on the 3DS have been outside of the main series and upcoming Raccoon City is pointedly not a sequel to the last main Resident Evil game. I would argue that, mechanically, thematically and in terms of tone, Resident Evil 5 was not a sequel to Resident Evil 4 though. So did the franchise break?

For me, the high point for Resident Evil was the second one. Since then they’ve watered down the survival horror aspect and tidied up some of the control systems, adding more action as they went. Resident Evil 5 didn’t have many of the things that made Resident Evil what it was for me. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good game. It was a very enjoyable action game. But, from what I’ve seen (and I’ll be starting a proper preview soon) of Raccoon City, it’s a more action-oriented outing. I’d say that was probably more a sequel to Resident Evil 5 than any return to full-on survival horror would be.

So what is Resident Evil 6 going to be? The trailer, choppy and disjointed as it is, hints at some differentiation in the gameplay. Leon Kennedy appears to be slightly more entrenched in a survival horror while Chris Redfield appears to be starring in an action game. Will the game split into two campaigns? It’s pure speculation, of course, but it would kind of make sense for a game which could provide a certain degree of balance to a franchise which has detached from its original focus in recent main-line outings.

[videoyoutube]Will Resident Evil 6 provide resolution to the branched franchise so that Capcom can reboot the series in the near future? I’m certainly very keen to see them take the game back to a style that I don’t think anyone has ever done quite as well since Resident Evil 2. Judging from anecdotal evidence provided on internet forums and comment sections, there are many fans like me who haven’t been enamoured with the likes of Siren: Blood Curse or Amy and would love something as engaging and captivating as the early Resident Evil or Silent Hill games.

Resident Evil Raccoon City is not that game, preview trailers and literature have made that clear. Resident Evil 6 could be but there would be plenty of Resident Evil 5 fans who would be confused by the changes. Perhaps Capcom is trying to round off the evolution in play styles just in time for a reboot? And perhaps Konami will beat them to it with the upcoming Silent Hill games, Downpour and the Vita-exclusive Book of Memories.

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18 Comments

  1. I would be pleasantly terrified if RE returns to it’s scary roots , that RE6 trailer makes it look more like Uncharted though. We’ll see. I don’t know if we can count on RE to be scary anymore, but i think we can count on SH to be as disturbing as ever.

  2. To me, rather sadly, RE6 looks like another case of a Japanese developer being inspired by popular Western franchises.

    RE5 had flaws but its key gameplay made it different to the load of oh so similar Western franchises where running & gunning is the norm, most of what I saw in RE6 looked like Gears or War or Uncharted, of course it was just a teaser and there’s much more to be seen, but give me a uniquely far eastern game over a clone of existing chart games.

  3. I refuse to count Resi 5 as a proper Resi game as the main elements of Reisdent Evil were missing. 4 imo, managed to just get away with it.

    The main problem with sequels, franchises and reboots is that most of the time, the elements that made the original excellent will get chucked out in an attempt to get a larger audience. DA2 is an excellent example as that doesn’t resemble the original and pretty much spits on it.

    But some sequels do actually take what the original had to offer and improve on it and can surpass it.

    I think what Capcom is trying to do with 6 is catering to both Resi fans and those who like action paced horror games. But if i see Chris beat up a building and win, i won’t be happy.

  4. Bit of mixed opinions with Sequels. Well every sequel has originated from a new IP so there can’t be any argument there. I don’t mind seeing tonnes of sequels released but like Call Of Duty I feel there hasn’t been anything new for the last 5 years which really annoys me. I like it when a direct sequel adds something new to the gameplay. I suppose there is too much you can add to something.

  5. Good selling sequels have to exist. Often new ip’s don’t sell too well in their first iteration, but they get a cult following, which builds hype for the sequel which in turn sells better. I can’t think of too many modern new ip’s that sold well, but I can think of a few where their second iteration sold considerably better e.g. dead space, bf (bad company-bad company 2-bf3).

    • Gears of War, Assassin’s Creed and Left 4 Dead

    • BF1942 did sell a lot on its first outing, since it provided an alternative to the all-popular Counter Strike. You’re not wrong though, you should however have included BF2, which was what really torpedoed Battlefield into the awesomesphere.

  6. For me it depends on the game. Games like uncharted are pretty much spot on, all a sequel needs is a new story, a bunch of maps for people who like the multiplayer and that’s all you need. The gameplay doesn’t need tweaking, it’s already well balanced.

    As much as I dislike COD, it does a job for its fans by not messing with a formula that works.

    What does my head in is adding super bars to Streetfighter, or releasing the same game again, but with a few new characters or enforcing motion controlls on the best Zelda since Ocarina and rendering it unplayable.

    If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.

  7. Sequels can get repetitive (e.g COD, Fifa) for players that want something new each time, but for fans it’s just building on something brilliant already. Sequels shouldn’t just be dictated by sales figures and review scores, take Assassins Creed for example. The 1st one didn’t do great, but look where the series is now. I’m also hoping that Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is much improved over the first, so it will be interesting to see if it does well as a sequel.

    • What what I’ve seen of Ghost Warrior 2, I’m not too hopeful!

  8. I’m surprised you didn’t mention DmC here. I liked RE4 and 5, and I’m excited about this one. RE4 may not have been scary, but it was freaky as all hell. When you look through your binoculars for the first time and see that old lady carting dead bodies to the fire in town square, I got really freaked out thinking, these people are wrong and they’re going to kill me. Also, the chainsaw guy is so menacing and seriously had me yelling “Oh crap he’s getting closer! Oh man, he’s still getting closer! Dammit he’s right on top of me!” And then I died of course.

  9. Really Call of Duty has developed well up until cod 4 or MW2. They developed a game that increased well and should be an example of sequel development (business wise, not necessarily creatively, although they handled that ok for a while) in that they have established a formula for success, of sorts.

  10. I just generally distrust sequels, unless I can trust both the developer and the publisher. I think it has something to do with marketing and (yes I’m going to say it again), corporate BS, as sequels are treated more by publishers as an investment rather than a creative venture, and the advertising grinds my gears.

    This is why I have no interest in Resident Evil 6, :c.

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