Here, give us a kiss
It’s public knowledge that Capcom has its next title in the Resident Evil series just about ready to unveil—and no, I’m not talking about Umbrella Corps, the imminent multiplayer shooter based on the franchise. I mean proper, main-series Resi, meaning that Capcom’s announcement to come will almost certainly be about Resident Evil 7. Chances are that this confirmation will take place at E3 in June. That’s the most obvious place for it, anyway.
And you should be very excited about this news, as Resident Evil is a series that has a couple of genuine masterpieces to its name. Resi 4 is regularly singled out as the preeminent third-person action game, while Capcom’s 2002 remake of the 1996 original remains one of the most pants-shitting experiences in gaming history.
But Resi’s also seen its share of disappointments. Capcom’s showed this weird tendency to slowly water down the series, getting further away from the horror core that made the first game, and its initial follow-up, so brilliant. The second game was great, but Resident Evil 3? And don’t get me started on Code: Veronica or Zero. After the terrific Resi 4, Resident Evil 5 felt like a very definite step in the wrong direction, an accomplished action title but generic with it, and the three-part Resident Evil 6 suffered for two-thirds of its campaign being, well, kind of boring, basically.
Resi 4 felt like a revolution, breathing new life into the franchise and inspiring a legion of pretenders in its wake. And that’s what Capcom’s famous series needs for its seventh numbered installment. Here’s what I want to see in the game, and if you’re any kind of Resi fan, you will, too.
Stand Your Ground
Being able to move while you shoot in a Resident Evil game was a stupid idea, a concession to a bunch of fools who thought they knew better than Shinji fucking Mikami. Post-Resi 4, you have games like Gears of War—completely different games, but ones that made people think that Resident Evil was a lesser series because you didn’t have that same freedom of movement. Everyone who thought that way: idiot.
Having to plant yourself in the ground to pop off a round in Resident Evil 4 was a brilliant design decision. You have to commit to your attack, stick your feet and start picking your shots. It ramps up the tension with every missed bullet, every time you have to reload, because the Ganado horde is relentless and keeps shambling towards you. Also, the fact that you’re shooting over one shoulder gives you a blind spot, so you don’t ever truly feel safe.
When it introduced the ability to move and shoot at the same time, Resi fumbled its way towards the action genre, forgetting its survival horror heritage. So please, whatever comes next, make sure it’s rid of that run-and-gun nonsense.
Promotional imagery from ‘Resident Evil 6,’ illustrating the range of playable characters
I know we all love co-op gaming, but listen to me—it killed the atmosphere when it was introduced in Resident Evil 5. Resi 4 was all the more exciting because you were completely isolated, on your own, and in a completely terrible situation. Okay, Ashley spent half the game running around with you, but she was AI-controlled and her biggest contribution to battles was the fact she got her head out of the way if you aimed your gun at her.
Put simply, if you’re in a scary situation, it’s made exponentially scarier if you’re alone. When you’ve got someone with you, you’re sharing the experience and easing the pressure. Look at the classics of the (survival) horror genre for inspiration—Silent Hill 2, Dead Space, P.T., and the first Resident Evil—all of them thrive on this fear of being alone in a terrifying place.
Both Resi 5 and 6 were designed with co-op play in mind, which means that levels were loaded with points that split you up for gameplay purposes, or large arena fights in lieu of a tailored, focused path through the game. When you’re playing on single player, you’re reliant on some pretty ropey AI partner to save the day when the going gets tough. And if the Terminator films taught me anything, it’s we don’t want them the computers to get any better than we are. So scrap them. Scrap all co-op play in the main Resi series. Cool? Cool.
Some of the best parts of Resident Evil are when you’re exploring this creepy place, the audio and visuals combining to keep you on edge, uncomfortable about what could be behind the next door. And, rather than put you in some hellish, demonic landscape full of obvious horrors, the best survival horror games put you in awfully familiar settings. Silent Hill‘s empty streets and abandoned buildings, P.T.‘s family home corridor, and, of course, the mansion in Resident Evil. All these games allow the atmosphere to build between moments of action—which is unlike the past two Resident Evil games, that rush you from set piece to set piece. Barring a couple of brilliant parts in Leon’s campaign in Resident Evil 6, it’s been a long while since Resi’s main focus was this sort of slow-and-steady-and-now-I’ve-soiled-myself experience.
Now, I’m not asking for Resi to be turned into one of those so-called “walking simulators” you all argue about. God, no. The combat in Resident Evil 4 was far too good to be dumped completely, so a little of that in what comes next is A Good Thing. But, imagine a mansion with the depth of storytelling and atmosphere of something like Gone Home, only with the occasional corridor full of zombies for you to tear through? Finding out what exactly caused this outbreak through the environment, and slowly piecing together information about characters and plot as you cut about the place. Resident Evil 4‘s incredible opening battle as the Ganados lay siege the village is made all the more effective by sticking it after 20 minutes of gently building dread. And the longer that tease is, the more potent the explosion of violence or horror becomes.
A screenshot from ‘Resident Evil 4’
Mikami or Bust
Shinji Mikami is obviously The Man when it comes to all things survival horror. Director on Resident Evil and its brilliant “REmake,” as well as being responsible for revitalizing the series with Resident Evil 4, he knows what makes a survival horror game work. I remember an interview published in The Guardian where he likened, of all things, Colin McRae Rally to a survival horror game. Because that’s just how he thinks. It’s in his blood. Sure, 2014’s The Evil Within, his last gig as director, had a couple of rough instant-fail stealth sections at the beginning and end; but the middle of that game was pure, brilliant survival horror. Every confrontation was a heart-pounding battle as you were had to manage your resources, pick your opportunities, and scrape through to the next horrible situation as best you could. Between fights, you were navigating a series of nightmarish environments, all of which leave you dreading what could be around the next corner.
For the second time in its history, Resident Evil has lost track of what made it great. Mikami is the man to put it right. Again.
‘Resident Evil 5’ took the story to Africa, and forgot to bring it home again
A Hard Reboot
Do you honestly know what is going on in the Resident Evil story right now? By the time it reached the end of Resident Evil 6 it’d become a complicated mess of silly viruses, super-villains, and other crap things that seem to be added purely to entertain people who enjoyed any one of the five genuinely terrible Resident Evil movies. (And there’ll soon be a sixth. Fuck me.) The time’s right for Resi to get rid of all of its “lore” and start again. No more Albert Wesker, no more Chris Redfield. Hell, no more Barry Burton. I know, I’m sorry. Get it all in the garbage.
The characters don’t matter. The situations do, and the atmosphere, and the events. Really, here’s all you need to successfully reboot Resident Evil:
A nefarious company pissing about with stuff they shouldn’t.
An accident happens! Zombies appear!
You play as someone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
You must SURVIVE the HORROR.
Game wraps with some conspiracy chat that sets up the inevitable sequel.
There, pretty straightforward, no? Hopefully Capcom has the bottle to go through with this, because they’ve been burned before by the scalding piss thrown their way when they had the gall to redesign Dante and reboot Devil May Cry (which turned out to be awesome, so fuck the haters). The company is acutely aware of the amount of entitled, whining babies that take to Twitter to complain about it no longer being “their” game.
You might look at this piece and read that it’s been just that, actually. But it all comes from a sincere place, from someone who wants the best for this series, for it to matter again. The progression of Resi hasn’t produced many awful games (we don’t count Operation: Raccoon City, right?), but it’s gotten to the stage where it needs a shake up. It needs fresh blood, ready to be infected with some new, never-before-seen horror. So what the hell: it’s time for a REboot.