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Is Resident Evil Dead?[Resident Evil 2 and Code: Veronica spoilers ahead!]
I love the Resident Evil series. I have since college. I owned a Playstation, but I’d never played the first one. I heard great things about Resident Evil 2 in magazines and on the grapevine, so I saved up my money, and bought a used copy online. Still one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.
I was blown away. The music, the mood, the scares, the inventory management, even the cheesy story and over-the-top voice acting, the adventure-game-logic fueled puzzles, I loved it all. It was practically four games in one, two stories, both having two sides to them, and I loved how the story changed based solely on which side of the flaming debris Leon and Claire wound up on. Which sounds like an analogy for divorce, now that I think about it.
Most of all, Resident Evil 2 gave me the greatest shock a game has ever given me, when I reached the B ending for the first time, relaxed and watched the cutscene, only to have the alarm go off. My eyes popped wide open. “The game’s NOT over?! What the?!” Claire goes and investigates, only to be attacked by a wall of flesh and teeth. “HOLY SHIT, KILL IT, KILL IT WITH FIRE!!”
I remember throwing everything I had at it, firing off my last four grenade rounds, and panicking when I realized I only had handgun bullets left. With no other choice, I had Claire firing that pistol as fast as the game would let me, praying to the gaming gods that it would be enough before the wall of flesh consumed her.
I couldn’t buy ENOUGH Resident Evil after that. I bought the first game and marveled at the fact that it was even cheesier than Resident Evil 2, and loved the fact that this game, too, had multiple stories and outcomes. Yes, you could choose which character to play as at the start of the game, but the story would diverge from there based on a choice I didn’t even realize I’d made. Which, as far as I’m concerned, kicks the crap out of modern developers’ apparent need to make every single choice crystal clear to the player.
And then Resident Evil 3 had multiple story paths, but it, well, made every choice crystal clear. And it removed the multiple-character facet of the previous games, focusing only on Jill Valentine. It was still fun, hoarding ammo, deciding when to run and when to fight, and Nemesis is still one of my favorite enemies in gaming, if only for sheer relentlessness. But the series had lost something special.
Resident Evil: Survivor was a bad joke drawn out WAY too long. Resident Evil: Code Veronica wasn’t as bad, but it wasn’t great, either. I wanted Steve dead within minutes of Claire meeting him, and I got my wish, but I had to put up with him for way too long before I got to see it happen. RE:CV was also where the plot started getting excessively convoluted. Wesker’s still alive? And now he’s got superpowers? And there’s internal politics going on at Umbrella? And Alfred and Alexia Ashford are the same person? The WTF content was through the roof.
Resident Evil 0 was okay, but I don’t remember much from it, except that the leeches were scary during the intro cutscene, but for the rest of the game, they might as well have been kittens or lollipops for how much they scared me. The Resident Evil Remake was better, I loved the new additions to the mansion, and I felt genuine fear in a Resident Evil game for the first time in quite a few games. After its awesomeness, I thought for sure that we were going to see a return to form for the series.
Resident Evil 4 proved me wrong, and I was pleasantly surprised. The gameplay had been upgraded, and in a good way. The inventory system was brilliant and intuitive, the plot had finally gotten away from the mess of Umbrella and Wesker maneuverings, and my favorite RE character Leon was back, although I hated that he hardly looked or sounded like he did in RE2 (could’ve sworn he was a redhead). RE4 had me really scared at a number of times, at one point I literally stopped playing because I was damn near out of ammo, and I was afraid to continue.
I only had two gripes about the game: first, Ashley was annoying, but thankfully we only had to deal with her for short lengths of time, and second, quick-time events. I sometimes feel modern developers live in a weird Twilight Zone where quick-time events make sense, as opposed to reality where everyone hates them. In this case, quick-time events turn Resident Evil games into Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books where there’s only one path through, and all the other choices just lead to gory death.
And then Resident Evil 5 came out, and they went right back to the old routine, Umbrella, Wesker, nonsense. Chris was now pretty much a superhero, he might as well have been Batman. In fact, the game would’ve been more interesting if he was. Sheva had almost no personality whatsoever. In fact, the character whose backstory I wanted to learn the most was that douchebag Irving. He was a caricature, but at least he was weird enough to be interesting.
Only one puzzle in the game required any thought, and it was a tired ‘reflect the laser’ puzzle. And I’ve heard people say that co-op play killed the horror aspect, and I agree to a point, but playing the game with a friend was the only thing that saved the experience for me. Playing it solo was almost boring. And there were one or two moments that scared both of us. The splitscreen was a joke, with huge unused portions of the screen completely wasted, but we worked through it. And quick-time events reared their ugly heads again. About the only really good part of RE5 was the music.
I haven’t played Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, but I have not heard good things. I haven’t played Resident Evil 6, either, and the word on the internet says it’s another step backwards. And I’m starting to think that maybe my beloved Resident Evil is dying. And if it’s not, then maybe it SHOULD be.
See, I’m not one of those people who glorify nostalgia (not like I’m one of those sad people who made retro game review videos or anything), but Resident Evil has always been at its most engaging when it plays with your expectations, and I like it best when it’s actually scary. And what I’ve been hearing about Resident Evil 6 is just convincing me that it won’t be. It’ll be exactly what I expect: a third-person shooter with a batshit insane story, a co-op feature that will make the experience marginally more enjoyable, and it’ll be another continuation of a running story that stopped being interesting four games ago.
You know what I really miss? I miss when Resident Evil could surprise me. I enjoyed Resident Evil 5 despite its flaws, but it never surprised me, not even once. And I’ve got a really strong feeling that RE6 is similarly going to fail. I miss more than that, too. I miss the puzzles that made me scratch my head in confusion, even the ones that didn’t make any sense. I miss alternate possible storylines. I miss making choices I didn’t know I’d made. I miss NOT HAVING TO PASS QUICK-TIME EVENTS.
There’s been some talk on the internet about Capcom possibly remaking Resident Evil 2 if there was enough interest. And despite that being probably my favorite game in the series (hard to pick between 2 and 4 for me), and despite knowing that the RE1 remake was excellent, I’m on the fence about it. I’m afraid they’re going to take my tightly-paced, quadruple-narrative, genuinely scary single-player masterpiece Resident Evil 2, and turn it into a gritty reboot, single-narrative, explosion-heavy action movie with shoehorned-in co-op and multiplayer.
Maybe all the internet talk is just that, talk. Maybe Resident Evil 6 will still be enjoyable, despite its issues. I’m open-minded enough to allow for the possibility, at least. But if it’s not enjoyable, I don’t think I’ll be buying Resident Evil games anymore. Because I’m starting to feel like zombies are an apt metaphor for Resident Evil: once she was proud and healthy, but now she’s starting to rot, and the smell is putrid. And I think she ate one of my shoes.