It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Resident Evil.
Resident Evil 6 was announced, the demo for Revelations was released on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, and between a looking back at Resident Evil 5 piece and the occasional play of the 3DS Mercenaries game, I’ve had my fill of zombie slaying.
Through all that, though, I’ve realised I couldn’t be less interested in Resident Evil 6. The series has lot its soul in order to become a generic shooter series in recent years, and the early indicators are that RE 6 will be little different.
I remember playing the early games in the series. They were creepy and tense experiences. Ammunition was scarce and the zombies might have been slow, but they took a lot of that precious ammo to take down. A core tenant amongst horror writers in building fear is creating a sense of helplessness; that the protagonist had the odds well and truly stacked against him or her. H.P Lovecraft, the greatest horror writer of all time, made that theme the entire focus of his work.
|These dog attacks from behind used to scare the hell out of me|
In the early RE titles, in addition to the limited ammo, you were made to feel helpless. Whether it was Chris, Jill or Claire, they all turned incredibly slowly. Even those shambling zombies were a threat if they caught you from behind. It made for some tense, compelling gameplay. Yes, it was also at time frustrating, there’s no denying that. But I would argue that some frustration is even necessary in horror games. Frustration is a consequence of not being able to achieve what you want to achieve, and a good horror game denies the subject a lot of luxuries – it is after all meant to be uncomfortable.
Further, the early Resident Evil games did a good job of making you feel isolated. There was no co-op, no in-game option to have a buddy fly in and save the day for you. Even further, save points were few and far between, and you were limited on how many times you could save at all. When there’s a risk of losing an hour’s work, you can be damned sure that you’re going to be sweating a bit on opening that door with half a clip of ammo left.
|REmake: the best RE game ever? I think so|
Sure these games were also often clunky experiences, and I do remember seeing plenty of fans complain about how archaic the games were at the time. And yet, as archaic as those games were, as B grade as the plots were, as terrible as the acting was, they were capable of being scary (especially for the younger version of me). That made them special.
Fast forward to now, and the Resident Evil games have lost that. They’ve become the equivalent of big budget blockbusters. Technically, they’re far superior to the early games. They’re more streamlined and nowhere near as frustrating. They’re also not even remotely scary. The enemies have become more monstrous, and so less frightening. Capcom has decided to implement multi player and cooperative gameplay, which is fine if you’ve got friends over and you want to do some slaughtering, but doesn’t lend itself to a tense experience where you feel isolated and helpless.
Indeed, Capcom seems to have forgotten how to make a game frightening. Revelations was meant to be a game that returned Resident Evil to its horror roots, and yet it hasn’t. The demo revealed that there were plenty of weapons, plenty of ammunition, and plenty of enemies to shoot. Less is usually more in horror. Have too many enemies to kill and they lose the impression that they’re a threat.
|Zombies used to be cool|
Don’t get me wrong – the likes of Revelations and Resident Evil 5 are good quality, entertaining games. It’s just that they’re also sanitised and in many ways generic. I would prefer to play a flawed game that has some spirit and creativity to it.
Which is why the trailer to Resident Evil 6 disappointed me. We saw guns. We saw action, and we saw fan service but what we didn’t see was horror. Tomb Raider is shaping up to be a far more intense, frightening experience. And, while I expect Resident Evil 6 will be a commercial (and probably critical) success, it’s not likely to be a game for me.