It’s no longer important why Capcom decided to change its fourth installment to the Resident Evil franchise, but it’s difficult to determine where those changes will ultimately take the series. The fifth title then enhanced those gameplay changes in an attempt to “modernize” it further. However, the survival-horror aspects had all but disappeared from their original intent. Capcom may now be onto something with Resident Evil 6 by delivering an experience that re-kindles some of those old feelings from the past titles: tension.
Surely, tension can’t replace the aspect of fear, but fear is much harder to create in modern gaming. Older games were naturally scarier, because the control schemes and hardware were limiting. Tank controls kept players from having versatility, which created a tension all its own. And on top of that, aiming was a joke, and ammunition was almost nowhere to be found. Nowadays, with the rapid pace of life, it’s less worth a gamer’s while to pick up a new title that features the same core game experience as those old games; games have to be immersive, they have to be detailed, and they have to be smooth. Controls fall into this, and newer hardware allows for more and more abilities for players to use. Thus, the older genres look and feel obsolete. Still, as a fan of other older titles, it’d be swell to play a modern game that made me feel the same as the older games did.
This is where Resident Evil 6 is succeeding. Well, it’s almost succeeding. There are points in the game where tension is high, ranging from shooting at zombies while crawling through waist-high tunnels or determining if dead zombies are really dead in common hallways. Many scenes with the Ustanak were delivered in a very tense way, which initially showed the natural limitations of the controls to the situation at hand. The balance is almost there, and another installment, with the help of an improved engine (hint hint, Capcom), could create the perfect blend of the new and old Resident Evil experiences.
Tension needs to become the equivalent to what fear used to mean to this franchise. What I mean is that tension is so much more motivating for gamers, since it on its own is a motivator to keep moving through a game, and it can even help gamers ease through, or even make them oblivious to, weak script work. This can, and should, lead the modernization of the Resident Evil series to simulate what the older games had by driving up the tension to push the gamer to feel the limitations of the present control schemes.
Now, this isn’t automatic right now. RE6 still has its modern-day issues, like weak scripting here and there, repetitive monsters, and inconsistencies in ambiance, but it’s still a good game, in terms of today’s standards. Hell, even if this game came out with a title that veered away from “Resident Evil” entirely, it would’ve probably been more accepted. What really throws it off are its hefty action sequences and open areas, which take away from the challenge and mystery of the game, making it less and less tense. On the other hand, new IPs aren’t as successful as good sequels, so Capcom probably did the right thing.
The whole point is that it’s hard to replenish the heart and soul of the games of old when the standards of today are moving so quickly. The older hardware was simpler than today’s, which allowed developers to fully grasp the limitations and bottleneck them into an experience that scared the living hell out of us. Present-day hardware, however, is taking a fair while to fully comprehend, but Capcom is on its way to pushing the experience in Resident Evil to a modern-day likeness to what we had in our younger years. It still needs a lot of work, and the plot and overall feel of the game must be consistent before it can succeed its former namesake. Right now, it’s a smooth gameplay experience with moments of successful tension, but it gives us a potential hope that Capcom can make it even better.