Change is commonplace in any medium, and the video games industry is no exception. In this business, game companies can’t afford to iterate on the same tried and tested formula indefinitely; evolution is key to any brand, unless you want your top tier franchise to risk commercial and critical stagnation. Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise is perhaps one of the most polarizing examples of brand evolution, after the venerable zombie-‘em-up transitioned from old school survival horror in the mid-90s to full-throttle actioner beginning with 2005’s Resident Evil 4.
The series has notched up over 30 million sales globally, but it’s always been at the forefront of innovation, whether from a technical or gameplay perspective. When the franchise first started, it was unlike anything that came before it. Despite fiddly controls, the game’s marriage of 2D backgrounds and intricate (for the time) character models afforded an unprecedented level of visual detail, which combined with its moody music and blood-thirsty foes made it one of the scariest games around. Sequels built on the original’s success, bringing more zombies, bigger production values and refined gameplay. However, by 2002’s Resident Evil Zero, it was evident a change was necessary to stimulate lagging sales and waning critical reception.
Enter Resident Evil 4, which took any preconceptions we may have had on the series, chewed on them like a ravenous corpse and spat them out. Gone were the static backdrops, replaced by sumptuous 3D environments ripe for exploration; zombies were booted out in favour of human-like foes that utilized weapons and coordinated attacks; and players could now target any body part they desired for pin-point accuracy thanks to the intuitive over-the-shoulder perspective, which influenced countless action games since. The result was one of the most critically-acclaimed video games of all time, and RE4 sold like hot cakes. RE5 refined the process, adding co-op and set pieces that wouldn’t look out of place in a Michael Bay production.
Despite this, the changes didn’t sit well with everyone. Some fans embraced the ‘new’ Resi, and the series won a heap of new followers, but others missed the old school horror trappings. Look on any Resident Evil fan forum and you’ll get a good idea of how split the fan base is. These days however, it seems more and more people are calling out for a return to form – something which Capcom attempted to do with Resident Evil Revelations on 3DS, to surprisingly good effect. Nonetheless, the firm’s recent comments that an action-oriented route would be required in order to generate enough sales – as survival horror doesn’t have a big enough market, apparently – has really set the cat amongst the pigeons, so to speak.
PSU’s own forums are up in arms about Capcom’s comments, with many crying out for a return to form for the venerable zombie blasting franchise.
“They're are plenty of action games out there. I want survival horror,” says SynYster505.
LadyDuoMaxwell also shares the same sentiment, believing the franchise should go back to its humble horror beginnings:
“Resident Evil needs to get back to its roots. I missed the isolated feeling while being trapped in middle of the zombie apocalypse. Besides, what is so scary fighting corny-looking monsters in a big city full of people?”
Ariakace also expressed disappointment over the recent entries, commenting: “Sounds typical. Capcom hasn’t made a good Resident Evil game since Nemesis. 4 and 5 were complete abominations to the series. Didn’t get operation raccoon city, won’t get 6.”
Elsewhere, PSU member Cloudie was more philosophical over the whole affair, noting sales will dictate where Capcom takes the franchise next.
“Sales of Resident Evil 6 will pave the way for the future of the series. If it sells 3-5 million worldwide in a month then Capcom will continue moving the franchise towards the Call of Duty/Gears of War direction. If not, then maybe they'll try to recapture the magic that made the series as popular as it is today,” he commented.
Cyn, meanwhile, made an interesting observation about the state of the survival horror market in general:
“If the survival horror consumer market has shrunk, it's because nobody makes survival horror games any more. And of those few that release, not many are very good.
Make a good game, people will buy it.”
TDbank24 remains on the fence, however, acknowledging the interest in seeing a classic Resident Evil, but embracing Capcom’s action-focused RE6.
“I don't know what the deal is with so many of these developers today. They got to where they are now because they took chances and delivered great games.
Capcom, we want a Resident Evil like the originals on the PS1. It will sell, trust me.
Resident Evil 6 looks like it's going to be good though if you ask me.”
What direction do you want to see the Resident Evil series take in the future? Let us know in the comments section below, or join the discussion here.