There is no denying that Resident Evil (English Version) or Biohazard (Japanese Version) is one of the world’s best horror series, and one of CAPCOM’s most commercially successful franchises. Resident Evil introduced the fearsome concept, called “Zombies” to the world of video games.
2016 marked both the franchise’s 20th anniversary and the release of the latest edition to the series, Resident Evil 7. Coming off the heels of fans’ criticisms about how this series has completely changed its direction to the point where fans are wondering if it is still the same series they know and love? Even as the developer told fans that the original trailer had revealed just a small portion of the whole game, rousing curiosity about the changes that the identity of the series were about to undergo.
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What is this “Identity”? Does it match up with your criteria? Let’s find out as we take a walk down memory lane and discover what went into making Resident Evil such a successful franchise.
3rd Person View
The CCTV View (CCTV camera angle view) was originally used in Resident Evil because the PlayStation did not have the capability to process and render the 3D model that Mikami Shinji (then producer of Resident Evil) needed at the time. As a result, he changed from using realtime 3D rendering to putting character models in pre-rendered scenes, making use of a fixed camera angle, and when the game needed to change direction in each scene, the camera will move to different angle. This movement, however, was independent of the characters’ movements.
The turning point came with Resident Evil 4, with the introduction of the 3rd person camera, a camera angle that followed the character models around giving players an ‘over-the-shoulder’ view, resulting in a more immersive gameplay experience that focused on action. Since the release of Resident Evil 4, every 3rd Person Shooting game began using similar camera modes.
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The originally planned camera view for Resident Evil however, was the first person view, and would have seen it become a First Person Shooter (FPS), like Doom or 007 GoldenEye, which were popular at the time. Thankfully, CAPCOM and Mikami had the same idea that this camera angle would not be able to effectively strike fear and horror in the player , so it was changed. The First Person View however, made a return in Resident Evil 7, and has been a major success, despite the initial thoughts from both parties.
The game’s most iconic enemies, the zombie, has becoming a mainstay in video games, often occupying the lesser minion role. Zombies are the virus infected creatures roaming all over the place, even in later Resident Evil games when there was a change in the enemy type, the game was still recognizable because of the zombies. This made Resident Evil a role model for games where zombies were an essential part of the game’s plot.
Unlike the zombies from House of the Dead, another popular game featuring the undead masses, who rushed towards the players, the ones in the early editions of Resident Evil moved at a much slower pace. Fast moving zombies debuted later in the series’ lifetime, in the Resident Evil Remake which launched on the Gamecube in 2002.
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Thrilling door opening scene
Instead of using a traditional blank loading screen, Resident Evil 1 to 3 used a door opening scene instead. The loading screens were used to as a precursor to new scenes, or boss fights. This inspired a sense of paranoia in the player, as they did not know what was awaiting them beyond the closed door.
Disaster bringing Main Characters:
While most of Resident Evil Main Characters are part of either different departments in the Police or Special Forces, only a few of them are ordinary citizens. These characters are often involved with the game’s plot due to an extraordinary streak of bad luck or a host of unfortunate encounters.
One example of a character with extraordinary bad luck is Leon S. Kennedy. A man who might described as a disastrous driver, not because he is horrible behind the wheel but because he’ll end up in undesirable situations whenever he gets behind one.
Yet another example is Chris Redfield who has the uncanny ability to get his teammates killed.
The Evil Organization behind the scenes
The main antagonist of the series is the pharmaceutical company, “Umbrella Corporations”. As the culprits of the virus outbreak, the company is responsible for humans turning into zombies and a myriad of other animal mutations.
Even after the company went bankrupt after Resident Evil 3, and Tricell stepped in during the events of Resident Evil 5, Umbrella Corps was always working behind the scenes. In Resident Evil 6, Umbrella returned under a new name, “Neo Umbrella”.
Another interesting fact about the Umbrella Corp is that they always have a secret underground facility rigged to blow up when things go south, and the self destruct sequence is always triggered by the game’s protagonists.
Jump scare scenes that come out of nowhere
The jump scare is a quintessential part of games in the horror genre and Resident Evil is no exception. Jump scares will keep coming at players in every game, but the most iconic ones of this series would have to be the scene where zombie dogs break through windows in the first Resident Evil. However, some Jump scare scenes have been erased due to excessive violence. For example, a scene where a victim was decapitated in the Licker’s debut scene in Resident Evil 2.
Puzzles are EVERYWHERE
Another element of the Resident Evil franchise is the series’ puzzles, where players need to solve puzzles to advance the storyline and obtain items. These puzzles come in various forms, from inputting a secret code, to pressing switches in specific orders, or getting items to place in specific locations in order to advance, Puzzles did not seem to be out of place in first Resident Evil.
However, many of the puzzles in Resident Evil 3 seemed out of place and might make you ask yourself, ‘How did people in this city live with all these inconveniences?’ One example of inconvenience the need to gather gems to simply open a park’s gate.
Rocket Launchers, The Ultimate Weapon
The Rocket Launcher is often a weapon that is able to take enemies down with one hit, and is usually found later in the game as the story approaches its end, giving you the powerful weapon to use against the final boss.
However, you can get it at the start of the game with unlimited ammo when you fulfil a set of conditions. Though these conditions are dependant on which Resident Evil you play. These conditions include finishing a playthrough in under 3 hours, and get enough money in a bonus game to purchase the Rocket Launcher in main game.
Three-Colour Herbs, good stuff laying around at every corner
As you play this game, look out for coloured-herbs scattered around the environment. These herbs come in three colors: green, blue, and red. Green herbs are used as minor health top-ups for your character. Red herbs are used in conjunction with green ones to boost the latter’s healing capabilities, while mixing Blue with Green herbs helps to cure poison.
“Nemesis” is one of the iconic bosses in this series, having stalked Jill Valentine to death throughout the entirety of Resident Evil 3. Following players as they traverse the levels, this concept was directly opposed to normal zombies who would simply give up the chase once players had left a room. His ruthless streak has made him a fan favourite, as he will rush players in his attempts to kill them.
Next, we have Dr. Salvador, Resident Evil 4’s iconic chainsaw wielding maniac. As he closes in on players, the rev of his chainsaw is enough to send chills down players’ spines. While there are many characters in the series who can end the player’s life in an instant, he will always be regarded as one of the best, as his decapitation scenes were so gruesome, they were heavily censored in Japan.
Finally, we have Albert Wesker, a man who was the central antagonist for much of the Resident Evil series. This sunglasses-wearing super soldier, was once a member of the Racoon City Police Department. However, in the pursuit of power, he turned his back on his allies and aligned himself with Umbrella Corp.
Inter-dimensional storage box
While the items that a character could carry around was limited throughout the series, the first three games in the series, had storage boxes where players could keep items they deemed unnecessary at the time. These boxes are found scattered across the map and they all contained the same contents. Players would then be able to update said contents as and when they found one of these boxes. This concept was born from a suggestion by one of the quality assurance personnel who tested the first Resident Evil game and found that needing to carry all the items around made the game unnecessarily difficult. Unfortunately, later series got rid of these storage boxes and gave player the option to discard items instead.
The original controls for the game were rather janky as players would have needed to use the up and down arrow keys to move forward and backward respectively. Players would then need to use the left and right arrows to change the direction their character was facing. This resulted in very slow and awkward movement, and led fans into dubbing the control scheme ‘Tank Controls’.
Resident Evil aimed to tackle the idea of a man-made disaster that results from the misuse of scientific advancements This is opposed to other concepts put forward by games in the survival horror genre where players have had to face supernatural adversaries.
This difference in concept however, allows players to fight back, whereas the other games in the genre only allowed players to run away or hide from encounters.This difference in approach soon changed the game from it’s survival horror roots into a more action-based game, to the ire of much of the game’s loyal fan base.
Did you know? Biohazard was originally meant to be a remake of a horror game named Sweet Home which debuted on the Famicom console in 1989, and made at a time when zombies were thought to be the products of Voodoo and Black Magic. The game was also inspired by the movie, Night of the Living Dead, by George A. Romero, more commonly known as the “Father to modern zombie movies”.
By redefining how zombies were created, Resident Evil broke from tradition and created intrigue and interest in the game and its by-products. George A. Romero had originally penned the script for the first Resident Evil movie before it was set aside in favor of Paul WS. Anderson’s version.
Resident Evil 7 and the Future of the franchise
At E3 2016, Capcom announced that Resident Evil 7 was in the works, this caused much excitement amongst fans. However, with all the hype came scrutiny. Fans of the series complained about change to the game’s tone to one where the game’s horror was emphasised. The change to a First Person view, as well as the game’s atmosphere, resulted in fans feeling that the game had lost its way. Calling it out for its similarities to games like Outlast.
Having played Resident Evil 7 however, I feel that the change in the game’s direction ironically brought it back to its roots. It was bloody, tense, and exciting throughout. Resident Evil 7 was the game that the series needed since it had begun to stray away from the survival horror genre with Resident Evil 4.
With the release of Resident Evil 7, the future is bright for both the series and the survival horror genre. Additionally, the game’s Virtual Reality (VR) mode brings a whole new experience to players willing to take the plunge. Despite the growing pains of the new technology, with complaints of headaches, dizziness, and nausea being common among users of VR, Resident Evil 7 proved that the survival horror genre can work in VR.
In a recent announcement, CAPCOM said that they had moved 3.5 million copies of Resident Evil 7 since the game’s release back in January, this was 500,000 short of their original target of 4 million copies by the end of the 2016 fiscal year. Despite the fact that they were unable to hit their target number of sales, fans of the series would consider it a massive success. Only time will tell if CAPCOM are able to build on this success and take further strides into making Resident Evil the premier series of the survival horror genre.
This article was first published in Thai on Akibatan. It is translated and updated with permission from Akibatan, as part of the SOZO Media Network.