Resident Evil 6 And The Future Of The Series

At a crossroads.

There was a time when Resident Evil was synonymous with the term “survival horror.” For a while there was no game series that had gained such a following for being able to create tension and scare its audience. The series evolved, due to the increased demand for action in the market, with Resident Evil 5 and – more recently – Operation Raccoon City. While RE5 managed to keep some of the scares and generally get good reviews, Raccoon City’s more complete switch to action was poorly received by many.

[drop]Resident Evil 6 seems to be Capcom’s attempt to please every fan of the series, from those who want a return to the pure survival horror to those who prefer action and gunfights. By now you’ve seen the split  in opinion that the latest offering has received, ranging from scores as low as 3/10 to as high as 9/10. While, in my opinion, Resident Evil 6 doesn’t deserve a score as low as a 3, neither does it really deserve the 9s.

Leon’s campaign is the one where Capcom seems to have tried to go back to the glory days of tense survival horror. And for the first section it really does feel like Capcom has tried to capture the atmosphere of those older games.

Walking through a large banquet hall with floors creaking, lighting flashing and unexplained shadows on the wall managed to create a section where I was legitimately on edge, wondering what could be waiting around the next corner. However, that atmosphere kind of fades away and that’s largely because of zombies. I don’t think zombies are scary anymore.

This isn’t really Capcom’s fault but more the fault of over saturation in the gaming landscape. The fascination with zombies within gaming has brought us titles like Dead Island, Lollipop Chainsaw, Left 4 Dead and add ons for Call of Duty, Red Dead Redemption and, soon, Sleeping Dogs.

As gamers we’ve been exposed to so many waves of the undead that they’re no longer a scary horde that could end civilisation as we know it, they’re just fodder to be destroyed by guns, baseball bats and fists. When the first group of zombies appeared in Resident Evil 6 there was no fear for me, just a group of enemies that were in the way.

This could mean then that Capcom moves on from zombies, instead focusing on a new enemy type. The J’avo are the other type of enemy that feature in Resident Evil 6, providing opposition in Chris and Jake’s more action-oriented campaigns. The J’avo are different from zombies in that they are the product of the C Virus, are intelligent, use weapons, and also mutate if shot in different limbs which gives them different powers.

The problem here is that within these campaigns, it feels like Capcom just wasn’t confident enough to fully commit to pure action, maybe due to the backlash that Operation Raccoon City received for trying to do that. Instead, what’s left are all the action sequences and gunfights, but an added attempt to create tension through a severe lack of ammo – something else Capcom has tried through game modes and handheld releases of Resident Evil.

Sure if this kind of thing happened rarely, for example when facing certain tougher enemies for the first time, the tension and perhaps fear could have been there, but when running out of ammo occurs in almost every area this feature becomes incredibly frustrating. It’s not scary, just annoying.

[drop2]Couple this with the fact that many of the J’avo just aren’t as dangerous, bar a couple of examples, as they were made out to be and pretty soon you’re not sure whether to trust the game as it sets up another fright or whether you’re heading for another mild anti-climax. A major point with the J’avo is that they if they gain damage to certain areas of their body, they’ll mutate, again not a wholly original idea – it’s pretty similar to the Lambent from Gears of War.

There are a couple of mutations, such as the one where the enemy can pull you out of cover, that did help create tension and change the fight. However, many just made enemies harder to hit without making them any more dangerous – further wasting scarce ammunition without increasing tension. Sadly that’s where they fall short of the Lambent – they always felt dangerous when they mutated.

Tired and predictable enemies are one of the reasons why the atmosphere in Resident Evil 6 is almost non-existent. But they don’t break the atmosphere, or the immersion within the game. No, that immersion is broken with quick time events (QTEs).

Where in the past these QTEs may have helped add to the game, in Resident Evil 6 they do nothing but, ironically, prolong tedious parts of gameplay and take you right out of the game world. The worst example of this is when whichever protagonist you’re in control of has to climb something, often during boss encounters. There was nothing worse than being engaged in a gunfight and then being forced to climb a rope, using QTEs. There was no need for it, and really no need for QTEs in the Resident Evil universe anymore, or at least to the extent that they are used.

The online co-op mode has great potential, but that also comes with its hazards. When you team up with a good player it can really add to the enjoyment, as well as creating a new level of tension from trying to keep your partner alive. However, immersion can once again be broken if you join someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, or is making the same mistakes over and over. Having a partner die due to failing at the same task and bringing the game over screen up through no fault of your own is frustrating.

Maybe, and this may prove an unpopular opinion, the campaign modes of future Resident Evil titles should be single player only. Multiplayer could still be a part of the series but not something that would have much bearing on the single player portion.

Of course, capturing the old feeling that Resident Evil used to be a master at conjuring might not be where Capcom thinks the series should head – in which case, perhaps it would be better to commit to the more action oriented gameplay and get that to work more effectively.

Resident Evil 6 felt more like an experiment than a full game, trying to work out how to move the franchise forward. What RE6 shows is that Capcom need to make a decision. Do they decide to go out for all action, or go for the dark corridors of a scary game?

Maybe they don’t have to decide to choose either. Instead the series could be split between two development teams working on spin-off series in that game universe. One team that focuses on trying to create a horror game, which there is still a market for – Dead Space and Amnesia: The Dark Descent are proof of that. The other team could focus on the purer action titles in the Resident Evil world, crafting the narrative behind missions that the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance) are sent on.

Resident Evil isn’t a dead franchise that should be left behind, but it is a franchise that hasn’t quite been able to adapt to a more demanding audience and an industry that is constantly pushing boundaries in games. There are a lot of issues for Capcom to address and spreading their focus hasn’t really worked in Resident Evil 6. Maybe a break of a few years for the franchise could be a good thing? It would allow for time to really decide where the series should go and to get the focus right before risking development of another title that disappoints core fans or splits opinion so wildly.

13 Comments

  1. Resident Evil as a horror franchise is dead. 4 was the last main game in the series that was survival horror. 5 felt like an action game with the Hulk instead of Chris. They need to go back to Resi’s roots. Limiting ammo is not scary if the bloody thing is action oriented as it just ends up annoying the player. Trying to find ammo in a zombie filled city by going into a building that you think may have ammo but could contain a lot of zombies is horror. Not i shot that zombie and look, it conviently dropped some ammo.

    Plus QTEs in Resident Evil needs to die. I hated them in 4, despised them in 5. I must have died in the Krauser fight cutscene more times then i should have just because of the bloody QTE.

    I understand that a majority of gamers prefer action over horror but there is still a market for typical horror. In fact, the market could do with more surivial horror games instead of action horror that focus on too much action and not enough horror. Hell, i feel more fear in Dark Souls during some parts then i did during Resident Evil 5. :O

    Capcom should have just focused on one character as the protaganist instead of 4 as it seems they have stretched themselves too thin. I really hope the next resi game will be back to survival horror or i will give up on the games. First Resi then Dead Space. Is Survival horror becoming an endangered species? :S

    • The franchise is alive and well (if we look at sales) but it’s a shadow of it’s former self when we see how it’s changed. However, they should take a leaf out of the Walking Dead programme (and maybe game(?)).

      I have to disagree (with Aran) that zombies are no longer scary. Just see how effectively they’re used in films and programmes (esp. Walking Dead). Make them dangerous once more. Limit ammo but have them find it during the game, not on the corpses of the zombies unless they were armed. Hell, find a gun on them! However, let’s get into the gritty “I’ll smash your face in with anything I can find” line of things. Make the main protagonist human. Not some ‘roided-up condom full of walnuts who’s been in the gym too long. Make it feel real. Make it feel like we can associate with a “normal Joe”, as such. Nathan Drake being a great example.

      • For me, it’s near death as i always think of horror when i think of Resident Evil. Not What will Chris beat up in this game?

        I don’t mind the recent over the top shoulder game play as imo, that could actually help with the horror. Instead of being able to see a zombie that’s around the corner. You won’t see it unless you pay attention to the sounds and prepare for it. They need to do another Raccoon City(the incident, not that god awful game) where the average joe was forced to use anything to survive. Hell, just take a look at the TWD games and borrow some elements from that. As well as Fallout(not in the same genre but that still has the if you find it, you can use it policy in a post nuclear war setting).

        And enough with Las Plagas. It was acceptable in 4 as it was a change of pace but it’s outlived it’s welcome. Just go back to zombies, someone trying to survive, a plot that is not trying to mimic one of Micheal Bay’s films and a typical Tyrant final boss battle. As well as it being set at night and being pitch black in some places. Imagine trying to get through a pitch black area that is filled with zombies. In fact, if they did another Outbreak game, it could be one step in the right direction instead of it becoming Gears of Evil. We threw in some zombies edition.

  2. Survival horror games dont sell, it’s the reason why Dead Space is now shooty bomb bomb rather the creepy creepy SCARE.

    • I appreciate it’s FPS survival horror but look at Left 4 Dead. The series has sold over 11 million copies. There’s definitely legs in it when handled properly.

      • Left 4 Dead says to me awesome coop sells,it’s hardly survival horror.

    • Then why was the original RE so successful? It was pure survival horror and if it didn’t sell well we wouldn’t be here would we?
      Also Dead Space was awesome and again I don’t understand the logic that states, if the game is good enough to make a sequel, why don’t we abandon everything that made it the classic it was.
      Such as shame as there are enough ‘action’ games out there already.

  3. I really don’t get this “survival horror doesn’t sell” angle. I know Resi departed from it a while ago, but Dead Space has been along for just a while. Surely if they are getting to Dead Space 3 is because the other two sold well?

    • Yeah, but likewise, Dead Space has degraded into not much more than an action shooter now too – It even did it in less time than Resi.

      I agree with your point that there is definitely a place for survival horror games (the first Dead Space for example was pretty much a masterpiece in edge of seat unnervy-ness), its either devs don’t seem to think that we want them, or they run out of ‘scary’ ideas very speedily.

      • I know, that’s what I don’t get: how fast they went from scary to bang bang.
        I loved the first Dead Space. I won’t buy the third one until it costs close to nothing :/

  4. “Maybe, and this may prove an unpopular opinion, the campaign modes of future Resident Evil titles should be single player only”
    Hit the nail on the head there and I completely agree. One of the reasons why the games arnt scary anymore is because there is someone there with you adding a feeling of security. Sadly gone are the days of creeping around dark mansions/police stations on your own and jumping at every sound :(

  5. Tend to disagree with the comments about zombies not being scary in videogaming because of oversaturation,i’d put it more down to the fact that not one game bar the arcade style left 4 dead has tackled the issue of disease,surely their most traditionally scary aspect.The player is usually immune to such things,often with no explanation either.

    I enjoyed Re 6,the biggest let down for me was the way they seemed to have abandoned the previous weapon and character upgrade process,that combined with some of the godawful bosses meant i wasn’t overly eager to replay any of it.
    It’s worth a play but it does deserve the nickname it seems to have gained, Resident Evil 6/10.

  6. *Shrug* A lot has changed over the years but I’m yet to play an RE game that I truly didn’t enjoy. In fact, RE6 and Revelations (both of which were released this year) easily sit in my top5 RE games as, despite not being survival horror games, they are still incredibly fun to play.

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