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.