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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Zombies Everywhere! or Does Resident Evil Need to be Scary Anymore?

     So in the recent Summer Sale on Steam, I picked up Resident Evil 6 on the cheap, and just the other day PC version of Resident Evil: Revelations went on sale as well. Being a long-time PC gamer, my experience with the franchise is... limited. I never owned a Playstation and the Windows versions always seemed to escape my attention, it being in the dark days before digital distribution, so I may be a bit biased. I'd played the original trilogy in chunks on the consoles of friends, but since Resident Evil 4 the series has more or less been steadily on PC. I understand the appeal of the old games, as they could be quite distressing with jump scares and limited controls, fixed camera angles, and item scarcity making a difficult and worrisome experience that was quite enjoyable.

     As a quick recap, if you're unfamiliar, Resident Evil (or Biohazard as its known overseas, and possibly a more suitable title) initially involved a zombie outbreak in Raccoon City (to simplify things).

     Of course, with the march of technology came improved or changed mechanics. Resident Evil 4, starring Raccoon City survivor Leon Kennedy, had a fixed camera angle, with over-the-shoulder aiming, which made it much easier to keep an eye on enemies and hit them properly, but also took the focus away from sheer horror and traditional zombies, making for a more action-movie like experience. It wasn't really so much scary anymore as it was tense. Ammo was still scarce. The monsters were tougher than your run-of-the-mill zombie. There were those bastards with the chainsaws. The improved mechanics made the game a lot smoother and more enjoyable to play, and the seeds were sown of modern Resident Evil.

     Resident Evil 5, which I often like to use as a literary punching bag, took the series as far from horror as I've yet seen. Chris Redfield, another Raccoon City survivor and from here on out referred to as Punch Rockgroin, was the focus of RE5, a soldier investigating a possible bio-weapons outbreak in Africa. This entry in the series didn't even come close to horror, being an outright action film of a game with tentacle monsters and not a traditional zombie in sight. The mechanics in the game felt like a natural evolution, with excellent controls, tight aiming, weapons with great kick, and outstanding graphics and sound, but the inventory system was dire, the storyline unintelligible, and as I mentioned before, it was a big dumb action film. Where Punch Rockgroin literally punches a boulder at one point.

     A side-title came out between these called Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. It was a pure action game that starred two groups of special operations groups, one in the employ of the US Government, and one in the employ of pharmaceutical and terminally suicidal/genocidal corporation Umbrella (originally responsible for the Raccoon City outbreak). It was a run-and-gun co-op game, that revolved around the events of the first game, with cameos by the first game's characters.

"Zombies."
     Resident Evil 6 kept the run-and-gun, being the first game in the main series that allowed you to shoot while moving, and introduced a much better inventory system than its predecessor, with 4 campaigns of decent length starring different characters. Leon Kennedy is back, with his campaign focusing on traditional zombies with a horror feel, Punch Rockgroin gets a campaign that's more big-dumb action verging on Call of Duty, Sherry Birkin (the child of an Umbrella scientist) gets an over-the-top crazy campaign, and super-spy Ada Wong gets a campaign where you get to be all-around awesome.

     The more games come out in the series, the more the fans cry about how they're not horror. On the other hand, the more games come out in the series, the more money they make, with each one turning a profit easily. The films, which are more or less unrelated to the games, get bigger and dumber and louder with each entry, and make progressively more and more money each time. I like to posit the idea that Resident Evil doesn't necessarily have to be scary anymore, as it hasn't for quite some time. Change is, sometimes, good, and the series has changed into extraordinary people being total badasses fighting crazy monsters. Leave horror to the Silent Hills and Amnesias. I'll probably get crucified amongst gamers for this, but I think I kind of like Resident Evil how it is now.

3 comments:

  1. The last movie was so stupidly ridiculous over the top dumbfest that I didn't even buy it. They made a big deal about Alice losing her powers, but she apparently only lost the psychic abilities, as she can still perform biologically impossible acts while killing zombies (and can also accurately shoot guns that have no sights) The only good part was the ending. That looked like an interesting set up for a final film.

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  2. I agree. Not being a RE gamer i assumed it was more in line with the video games. But it was an awful green screen disaster on par with the star warses.

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  3. Great Commentary on the series. I believe that I agree with you on the newer games. I've only played 4, but I've had others try to get me to play the earlier games and I just don't like them. I believe it's because my love of survival horror comes from Silent Hill, where in the horror comes from the psychological rather than the pop-out-of-nowhere type. The messed up mind of a human is by far scarier than a zombie to me. By this, I believe the newer games are by far more successful realizing that the later does not work for them and by adding action elements. After seeing your screenshots from the game and hearing your side on the games I may very well check them out on the next Steam Sale.

    As far as the movies, I always feel bad for liking them since everyone tears them to shreds. I'm not saying they are the best movies or the most thought provoking but I find them to be stupid fun. I know the lame lines are coming as well as the over the top portrayals of the characters, so I don't know what people expect out of the movies for them. I feel that movies meet the goals in which they set out and that makes them successful. I think that many fans had some unrealistic expectations for what these movies should be. It makes me wonder if they really played the games or if they just hyped up the concepts in their head.

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