Resident Evil 6: Where’s the “survival horror” bit?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012 08:25 GMT By Brenna Hillier

The Resident Evil 6 reveal may have been seized upon with joy but some, but Brenna Hillier’s struggling to understand the action-tastic fuss.

There are plenty of games out there that let you shoot zombies in the face, but there are almost none with the kind of tense, exploratory aesthetic of the first Resident Evils. One trailer does not reveal a whole game, and there’s certainly hope that Resident Evil 6 will take the latter path at least a little, but I cannot understand what the fuss is about.

On the day the rumours of the Resident Evil 6 reveal exploded, I was still sceptical it was actually going to happen. Although the signs were neon bright and blinking, it just seemed so farfetched that Capcom had yet another Resident Evil game in the wings.

The Mercenaries 3D released in mid-2010; Revelations just launched in Europe; and Racoon City is due in March. That’s a lot of Resident Evil in a relatively short space of time, a lot of commitment to ask of a core fanbase a little disenchanted by the action focus of Resident Evil 5.

“Capcom has gone insane,” I opined to my colleagues.

“Wouldn’t you go mental for its 15th anniversary?” Johnny asked.

This is a fair point, and despite complaints from long-term fans, Resident Evil 5 was a major success, shifting close to 6 million units worldwide. I duly ate my corn chip hat when the trailer hit the web; Resident Evil 6 is really truly a thing, and as bizarre as Capcom’s recent approach seems to me, what was even more bizarre was the reaction.

People I’d been talking to about franchise fatigue and the unfortunate evolution of the core gameplay went into the trailer with cynical smirks, and came out facing in precisely the opposite direction with expressions of slack-faced awe. Behind the scenes at VG247, the world-weary Pat and Johnny started fanboying so hard I had to weigh down all my paperwork or lose it to the resulting gale-force winds.

We’re 11 months from release and already the hype train has built up a head of steam likely to drive it right through the inevitable holiday season road blocks. I just don’t get it. What did you all see in there that I didn’t?

Turn-off

What I certainly didn’t see is the return to the franchise’s roots Capcom has been trumpeting since the reveal. Yes, there are some familiar faces. Yes, we’re returning to the US urban setting which proved so popular in the early games.

Beyond that, everything I saw looks like precisely what turned me off the last few instalments.

“This is Racoon City all over again,” Leon Kennedy growls in the trailer, but that is a bald faced lie exposed in the very next scene – over the shoulder shooting – followed by a rapid montage of explosive action heavy on military imagery and the word “terrorism”.

I’m not going to argue that the shooter-style combat introduced in Resident Evil 4 and then refined in Resident Evil 5 isn’t boatloads better than that of the early games. It most certainly is – for a shooter. In the early Resident Evil games, the characters had to be steered like tanks, and the fixed camera made aiming more of a nightmare than the zombie hordes outside, easily avoided with a bit of evasive action. It wasn’t just the limited ammo, inventory slots and health – combat was a fiddly, frustrating affair better left for emergency situations.

I thought, in my naivety, that this was the point – a deliberate aspect of design. In essence, the early Resident Evil games, which are credited with popularising survival horror, were avoid-’em-ups rather than shoot-’em-ups. Going in guns blazing isn’t scary. Knowing your character is constantly on the brink of death, totally underpowered, required to hoard items against bigger and badder threats, and as likely to shoot their own foot than the hulking beast in front of them – now, that’s damn scary.

Gears of Evil? Resident of War? War of Evil?

The path of evolution trod by later releases – and popular opinion – have me marked down as wrong. Capcom has presumably done some research and found out what people want from a Resident Evil game, and its not survival horror: it’s Horde Mode-style waves of shooting.

People don’t want to creep about struggling with awkward controls – they want to shoot zombies in the face. People don’t want to expose stories of madness, greed and corruption through mind-bending puzzles – they want to watch explosive cutscenes and hear dramatic narration. Before shooting zombies in the face.

And, although I’m speculating based on the trailer, they also want to escort an offensively useless and vapid female AI companion around (something the worst ending cut-scene in gaming history should have taught us is never a good thing) before shooting zombies in the face.

The thing is, there are plenty of games out there that let you shoot zombies in the face, but there are almost none with the kind of tense, exploratory aesthetic of the first Resident Evil games, and that’s a shame. One trailer does not reveal a whole game, and there’s certainly hope that Resident Evil 6 will take the latter path at least a little, but on the strength of one trailer, I cannot understand what the fuss is about.

Latest