In one of the strangest turnabouts of franchises, Resident Evil went from being dead (no pun intended) to a critical and commercial success with Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 2 Remake. As the dust has finally settled on Resident Evil 3, with the consensus is that it is a good, not great, entry in the series, another question rears its head. Capcom is already talking about remaking more of Resident Evil, but I am not so sure if this is a dream come true, or a monkey’s paw wish.
Remembering Resident Evil
Resident Evil as a franchise has had the notable distinction of redefining videogames twice with the original Resident Evil and then Resident Evil 4. Despite having a foundation in the horror genre, the developers have tried to experiment with different designs and aspects with each game. We could see this with Nemesis in RE 3, the obvious action tones of RE 4, and the redesigns of Resident Evil 1 and the dual character format of Resident Evil Zero.
When the franchise began to dip in quality was when instead of experimenting and iterating, the developers went all-in on the focus of action-horror — leading to titles that all felt the same and were not at the same quality as previous entries.
What made Resident Evil 7 work was the back to basics approach the developers did. They wiped the slate clean in terms of storytelling and worldbuilding to give us a game that was mostly amazing. Instead of directly building from 7, Capcom went back to 2 and began this push towards remaking the franchise.
Remaking Resident Evil
Resident Evil 2 Remake was a good game, but it is important to measure that with how Capcom remade it. This was not a case of bringing the original back to modern audiences, but essentially “designing” the game as a title released in 2019.
Let us start with the good: the RE engine is amazing from both an aesthetics standpoint and a design one. The fact that enemies can move throughout the world (as opposed to being locked to specific areas) was huge. The enhancements to locational-based damage and enemy redesigns were great. Rebuilding the game around a third-person shooter interface pushed it into the modern era and felt good in the player’s hands.
Every aspect of the original’s game was altered, with major redesigns to boss fights and secondary characters. One of the major parts besides Mr. X himself, was the removal of the adventure game aspects. Puzzle-solving, which was a major part of RE 1-3, was toned down greatly. Reviewers and consumers did not care that much, as the gameplay that was there was amazing.
However, looking at the discussions surrounding Resident Evil 3, and the discourse does not seem to be as positive.
Resident Evil 2.3
From playing the demo and watching general gameplay of Resident Evil 3, I could tell that there were some sticking points with it.
While Resident Evil 2 Remake had the luxury of being the first of its kind (as far as the franchise), Resident Evil 3 suffers from sequel fatigue. Outside of Nemesis, you could put random screenshots of it alongside Resident Evil 2 and they look like the same game.
With exception to the new dodge mechanic, nothing appears to have been iterated or added to Resident Evil 3. There have already been complaints about the removal of major areas of the game (the clock tower) and the score-based mode “The Mercenaries.” Nemesis has been dumbed down from previous impressions, and will only stalk the player to specific points. These issues do not make Resident Evil 3 a bad game by any means, but it represents a problem that Ubisoft has had to deal with — keeping their major franchises relevant.
The problem with franchises is that they inevitably reach a point where each game just feels like the ones before it, and it takes a redesign or shift to get people interested once again. This could be seen with the changes of combat and structure in the Assassin’s Creed series, the different time periods of Call of Duty, and of course different movement tech in the Mario games.
As talk is bubbling up around a Resident Evil Code Veronica and Resident Evil 4 remake, looking at what we have so far, I am not as excited regarding these prospects.
If Resident Evil 3 remake is an indication about the next few years of the franchise, then I feel that Capcom is making the same mistakes they did a decade ago. What made Resident Evils 0-4 worked was Capcom’s willingness to experiment with the design and make each game feel different. In terms of remakes, I think Resident Evil 1’s was one of the best: by completely remaking the game and adding more to it without subtracting from what worked.
And that takes me to my fear with this wave of remakes — remaking Resident Evil 2 vs. remaking those classic games. I do not want to play Resident Evil 2 Code Veronica or Resident Evil 2.4; I want to see new and expanded elements in them.
I want interesting puzzle designs just as I want to see improvements to the combat. It is not enough to just remove things that people did not like, they must be replaced with something else. Resident Evil 1’s remake added in the concept of crimson zombies and completely changed the experience to make it more terrifying.
The reason why Resident Evil 7 revitalized the franchise was Capcom’s willingness to go all-in with a new direction. In a way, my wish may be granted as there is already confirmation of Resident Evil 8 continuing with 7’s design. Now, this is the part of the article where all of you reading this ask “Well, what do you want to see them do with the remakes and future games?” And my answer is “I don’t know.”
Before the angry mob comes for me, let me explain that last sentence. Capcom is now in a rare position for them with Resident Evil: they have brought the franchise back, redefined AAA horror games a third time, and have an amazing foundation to build from. “Build from” being the key phrase, I want to see something new.
The reason Resident Evil 4 continues to hold up for players despite having little of the previous game’s DNA was their commitment to creating a different kind of game. As we have said, the RE engine was created for being used as the base for future Resident Evil games, and now it is time to run with it. There is so much potential to create new horror experiences, and Capcom is right now the only AAA developer making horror games.
Earlier this year I spoke about my love of World of Horror for doing something different in the horror genre. If an indie team making use of a 1-bit aesthetic can move the genre forward, then the company behind the most recognizable takes on survival horror should be able to do something different.
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