Resident Evil has been a roller coaster franchise throughout its 17 year history. The first Resident Evil gathered equal parts praise and sales figures after its release in 1996. Capcom marketed the game as a “survival horror” game, and that term has come to represent an entire genre. But that was an awful long time ago. Since Capcom is almost certainly developing a new installment, let’s take stock of recent events.
Resident Evil 4, 5 and 6 have taken a few steps away from survival horror, and they account for 3 of Capcom’s top 4 titles by total sales . The change was discussed by series creator and Evil Within director Shinji Makami in an interview with IGN: “With Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, and all the rest of the series before Resident Evil 4, I was always saying to the staff, ‘Scaring the player is the number one thing.’ But for the first time, in Resident Evil 4, I told the team that fun gameplay is the most important thing. That’s what I said. Then the second thing [would be ] nothing. And then the third thing is to be scary. That’s what I said to the team. That all came out of the commercial failure of the Resident Evil remake. And then of course Resident Evil 4 sold really well. I have kind of a lingering trauma there, because the Resident Evil remake didn’t sell – much more than people would think.”
The sales figures are solid. Zombies are in vogue. The movie series is drawing well at the box office. Survival horror has had a renaissance with indie hits like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Slender: The Eight Pages, and the action genre is going at its usual breakneck pace. So why doesn’t Capcom just mix up these ingredients and churn out another Resident Evil?
Oh, that’s why. Whether you are one of the millions that loved it or the dozens that hated it, there is no denying that the gaming world is different now. This game did what the first Resident Evil did; it altered the landscape through innovation, critical success and sales figures. Michael Pattison, former head of marketing for Capcom, mentioned in an interview with MCV that ”The Last of Us shows us a good direction of what the consumers want.” This is the same interview that promises that the franchise will return to its survival horror roots.
I played through some of Resident Evil 6. The Leon campaign was solid, but the other stories and multiplayer modes were a letdown. But a large-scale sequel to an aging series that introduces multiple story lines and aggressive new multiplayer features was bound to suck, right?
Another game changer (pun intended).
The Last of Us raised the bar on what an action/survival horror hybrid is capable of. Grand Theft Auto V showed what a veteran franchise could be with patience and careful development. There are also a number of solid apocalyptic zombie franchises in the mix. So as Capcom considers these factors as it develops a new Resident Evil, we should consider this: Do we really want/need them to? Is there still room in the market and in our hearts for a new one? It is difficult to say. One could argue that Resident Evil isn’t even the best zombie series at Capcom, as Capcom Vancouver’s Dead Rising 3 is set to release later this month. Left for Dead 3 is also in development. These are definitely not survival horror games, but does that matter? The creator of Resident Evil could very well lock up the die-hard horror fans with his new project, The Evil Within.
With the gaming landscape changing, it is ironic that many fans are clamoring for Resident Evil 7 to be more like its ancestors. However the game must clearly rise to the modern standards of an action/survival game. What stays? What goes? Is gathering a bunch of magical and miraculously untouched plants and turning them into medicine too unrealistic, or is it such a familiar and comforting staple that we can’t possibly part with it? Do we still want to battle a series of mutant bosses that just seem to get bigger and weirder as the game progresses, or do we need something different to keep the story engaging? Capcom will certainly have its hands full in the coming months.
Original post found on Corrupted Cartridge here.