How Resident Evil’s Identity Crisis Led to RE7

This is part three of our series on Resident Evil. To read about the early days of Resident Evil, click here.  To Read Part two, Click here.

After Resident Evil 4 revitalized the series, Capcom set out to capitalize on its success.With the seventh generation of consoles coming out and the increasing popularity of online multiplayer, Resident Evil had to adapt. In the past, the series capitalized on challenges. Resident Evil pursued innovation and often succeed, critically and commercially. Over the next few years, however, the series would struggle to hit the mark.

Resident Evil 5

In March of 2009, Capcom released its seventh installment, Resident Evil 5 on PS3 and Xbox 360. The game began development in 2005, soon after the release of Resident Evil 4, with Jun Takeuchi named as producer. The team consisted of several members who had worked on the original game and other main installments.

Takeuchi set out to retain the magic from Resident Evil 4. The gameplay model remained similar to its predecessor, and the popular over-the-shoulder third person shooting style remained for this installment. Some other similarities were prevalent such as diverse settings, original characters, and familiar enemies.

In classic Resident Evil fashion, the team did not shy away from innovation. Resident Evil 5 was the first video game to use advanced motion camera technology for its cutscenes. Only four of these camera’s existed during Resident Evil’s production, James Cameron had one of the other motion cameras while creating Avatar at this time.

Chris getting kicked in the chest

With the rise of action shooters and online multiplayer gaming, Resident Evil decided to venture into these areas. While Resident Evil 4 increased the action from its predecessors, Resident Evil 5 continued that upward trend.

The player could use multiple weapons including handguns, shotguns, rifles, and grenade launchers, with an array of melee attacks. If the player could stagger the enemy they could perform special melee attacks. The game also included quick time events as well as a weapon upgrading system.

Resi Goes Co-op

Resident Evil 5 also supported co-op gameplay, where players could control either Chris Redfield or Sheva Alomar. Co-op also forced players to work together to progress, much like in Resident Evil 0. If players health fell below zero then their companion could heal them. Players could only hold up to nine items at a time, but Chris’s Companion Sheva could also hold nine items, which helped keep the gameplay focused heavily on co-op.

The story followed Chris’ pursuit to stop umbrella, Wesker, and save his partner Jill. Sheva’s motive of protecting her homeland took a back seat. The game ended in a dramatic fashion providing closure and seemingly put a cap on the stories of Jill, Chris, and Wesker.

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In terms of sales, Resident Evil 5 sold more copies than any other Resident Evil selling around 8 million copies. Critically, the game did well. While many praised the graphics, characters, and overall story, it did come with its issues.

Across the board, critics took issue with the controls and inconsistent AI. Standard first and third person shooters allowed players to move and shoot at the same time, while Resident Evil 5 kept shooting stationary.

The game also experienced a bit of controversy. There were some that believed that the E3 trailer in 2007 evoked racist undertones due to its setting in Africa and all-black group enemies. The next trailer released seemingly addressed certain issues, however, Takeuchi claimed that criticism bore no effect on the final product.

While the game attempted a few new things, it mostly felt like it tried to follow the formula that Resident Evil 4 laid out. The game success, however, did not have the same impact as Resident Evil 4  in the gaming world. CapCom had to keep innovating to ensure the series held its popularity commercially and critically.

Revelations

 

revelations

Resident Evil Revelations released for Nintendo’s 3DS in January of 2012 and a year later released on Playstation, Xbox, and PC. The director of the game, Koushi Nakanishi, set out to created a true survival horror experience while updating the gameplay.

The game offered familiar characters, puzzles, and pace as some of the earlier games in the series. The game takes place between Resident Evil 4 & 5, primarily follows Jill Valentine as she sets out to look for Chris.

The gameplay felt reminiscent of Resident evil 4, while the story felt more like the original. The game had players move through the game in a linear fashion by discovering key items, solving puzzles, and defeating bosses to advance. The experience did, however, retain more modern elements such as weapon selection, upgrades, and physical combat.

Revelations received fairly positive reviews for mixing the old and new from the series. It also received credit for pushing the boundaries of the 3DS. And in classic Resident Evil Fashion, it received praise for its graphics.

Some also praised the series for delving back into its roots after 5. The game did not sell as well as anticipated, selling around 2 million copies on all platforms. CapCom wished it had sold better due to high development cost.

Operation Raccoon City: A “Huge Success”

operationraccooncityCapcom and Slant Six Games, which no longer exist, created Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. The game saw its release in the spring of 2016. While it does not hold a numbered title, nor considered part of the main storyline, it did affect the Resident Evil image. Therefore, deserves some attention. The game took more of a “what if” approach to developing story during the Resident Evil 2 & 3 timelines. Taking a pure third-person shooter approach, the game abandoned any hint of real survival horror.

The game sold just over 2 million copies and Capcom consider the game a “huge success“. However, Critics and fans did not receive it as such. Operation Raccoon City experienced mediocre reviews and also painted Resident Evil as swaying towards action while abandoning its horror roots. This misstep did not help the image of the franchise.

CapCom, seemingly, could not harness in on what it was trying to do. Games constantly flipped between becoming more horror oriented to more action oriented. Some games would receive critical praise but would not sell as hoped. While others would sell well, but wouldn’t appeal to critics or fans.

Resident Evil 6: Adventure-Horror

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 Resident Evil 6 began development shortly after Resident Evil 5, in 2010. Directed by Eiichiro Sasaki, whom also directed Outbreak, set out for a very different feel alongside producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi. Aiming to reclaim the series’ stronghold on horror, this team knew that the series needed to change.

However, lack of market interest caused some difficulties. Horror games were not selling like they used to, nor did gamers ask for such games. Therefore, balancing horror and action would prove a more difficult task than expected.

CapCom knew they had to create one of the more popular games in the series, having come off a few mediocre releases. Therefore, they decided that since the survival-horror genre lacked an audience, they needed to focus the gameplay mainly around the action genre.  So, they assembled the largest team to date for CapCom, with 600 members to accomplish this task. After a playable demo released in July, CapCom decided to move its released date from November to October 2, 2012.

The game did differ from its predecessors,  more so than any prior installment. Capcom offered three main stories that revolved around 3 reoccurring characters; Leon, Chris, and Sherry. All of whom were accompanied by new characters; Helena, Piers, and Jake. After completing all three, the Ada storyline became available.

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The game introduced a new cover system, as well as a dodging system. Other new mechanics included the ability to counterattack and perform a quick shot. The entire game, except Ada’s story, had the ability for co-op. This aspect allowed for a more friendly online experience, much like Resident Evil 5.

Each story had its own focus wich helped add to the overall conclusion of the game. Resident Evil 6 played like an interactive action movie, with convoluted storytelling, and a simple premise; save the world.

So, Did It Work?

While the game received decent reviews initially for its graphics, fans generally held a negative view of the experience. While CapCom claims Resident Evil 6 as a dramatic horror, many viewed and listed the game as an action adventure. Yoshiaki Hirabayashi responded to negative fan feedback by telling fans that creators and fans would not always look eye to eye.

Resident Evil 6 sold well, nearly selling 8 million copies to date. This did not necessarily mean success. Many longtime fans turned away from the series, claiming that the franchise had abandoned not just survival horror, but horror in general.

The game differed completely from its predecessors, which completed CapCom’s goal. The issue, however, became whether or not it worked. Fans and Critics conveyed one message, while sales conveyed another. 2012 proved to the world that the series really did not know where to go. After years of innovation and staying ahead of the curve, Resident Evil began to experiences an identity crisis.

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What Happens Next?

The Franchise took a two-year break after the wake of Resident Evil 6. Eventually, CapCom released two HD Remasters with Resident Evil Remake (2014) and Resident Evil Zero (2016). And released Revelations 2, following Claire Redfield and Barry Burton. Which held similar tones to the first game and expanded stories of characters loved by fans. Also worth noting, each release since 2012 held a more horror based atmosphere.

The Horror genre found a resurgence after 2012, proving that the Franchise fell behind the curve. In the summer of 2016, CapCom announced that Resident Evil 7 would see its release in January 2017. Also, a playable teaser became available after its announcement. The teaser showcased a very different game than fans were used to seeing.

The Baker Residence. Photo Credit: Capcom
The Baker Residence. Photo Credit: Capcom

This installment looks as if it will take a dramatic shift for the Franchise. Resident Evil 7 shows many differences from its predecessors, such as it taking place all in first-person, new characters, and dramatically different gameplay.

The series heard the cry of its fans and decided to make a change. Resident Evil never shies away from trying something new. And every so often they strike gold, other times they fail to please. We will have to wait and see which will come next.

Ryan McDaniel
Managing Editor of Two Left Sticks. You will probably find me speed running Resident evil or trying to dodge lightning bolts in FFX.

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