Resident Evil: Back from the Undead

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Posted by David on August 10, 2014


How about another blog post unrelated to HERITAGE?


Let's talk about Resident Evil. RE, one of my favorite gaming franchises, has been dying a slow, painful death since Capcom released RE5 in 2009. RE5 was to Resident Evil what Man of Steel was to Superman: great action; terrible use of a name millions of people have come to love. RE6 was even worse. RE6 caked makeup all over RE5's flaws and actually made the ol' girl presentable.

But things are looking up. Back in June during the Steam summer sale, I picked up Resident Evil Revelations HD for around 12 bucks. I'd heard good things about RER, which started out as an exclusive on Nintendo 3DS before making the jump to PC and consoles. So far, RER has lived up to the hype. It's not perfect, but it is an overt and refreshing return to form. Of course, there are a couple of RE forms now, aren't there? There's the classic form (static camera angles, tank controls, and a focus on conserving resources), the RE4 form (more action balanced with a focus on tactics and careful consumption of resources, especially on higher difficulties), and the RE5-6 form (mostly terrible).

Revelations falls somewhere between RE4 and 5, listing more toward 4's side of the fence. The story unfolds across several regions, but the main stage is a ship drifting out in the middle of the ocean, in the dead at night, during a storm. Like any good ship in a zombie-filled universe, it's infested with zombies, and these zombies pack a punch. Instead of fighting off packs a la RE4-6, you take on one at a time, sometimes two or three. Ammo is scarce, which is good, because survival horror games are distinctly less horrifying if you've got enough weapons and bullets to invade a small country by yourself and stand a good chance at planting your flag in the soil.

Just before writing this blog, I fought a boss that moved through vents. You have to make your way through darkened hallways, the ship swaying back and forth, occasionally lit by flashes of lightning, while your stalker scuttles and shimmies through the ventilation above you. It can drop down and ambush you at any time, and it usually brings along friends. I yelled and jumped in my chair every time the creature managed to backtrack and drop down behind me.

That's an example of Revelations' highs. It has a few lows. Capcom broke the game up into episodic chapters; you even get a "Previously on..." recap of events when you reload your game, ideal for players like me who get busy and have to put a game down for several days. The format works, provided you care about the character you follow in a particular chapter, and the events upon which they embark. Series veteran Jill Valentine is the main character, alongside a new guy... whose name I don't know. The newbies are mostly forgettable, which is a very RE5 thing to do: introduce a new character without giving longtime fans reason to care if anyone except the mainstays (Chris Redfield and his utterly forgettable partner play a part, too) make it out alive.

Lame sidekicks aside, my issue with the episodic format is that every other chapter takes you away from Jill and puts you in the shoes of Chris or some other character. I've played as Chris once, and his chapter was fun. Every other Jill-less chapter put me in an action-heavy scenario. A couple chapters ago, I ran through a building under fire and mowed down Hunters (think bipedal reptilian creatures the size of gorillas, and with long claws) as they burst through windows. The scenario felt like a scene out of a 1980s Schwarzenegger movie--fun and exciting in the right context, but Resident Evil falls far outside that context. Or, at least, it should.

Overall, though, Revelations has been a good time. Still not quite the Resident Evil form I miss the most, but apparently, Capcom's got me covered. Just last week, the beleaguered publisher/developer announced a remake to the Resident Evil remake (known among fans as REmake), originally released on GameCube in 2002.

Wait. A REmake of REmake? I guess I'm calling this game REREmake.

All joking aside, I am ridiculously excited for REREmake. I loved the remake back in its day because it was a faithful reimagining of the 1996 original, with more: more haunted mansion grounds to explore, more nail-biting decisions to make. Survival horror games should come down to a series of interesting decisions--like any game, but where survival horror's series of decisions differ is that every decision should affect your odds of survival, for better or worse. The remake did that, and now it's going to do that again, only it won't be as all-encompassing as before.

The remake added something like 70% more content. REREmake will keep the same content, but update the controls and the graphics for modern systems; Capcom says the game will be available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One early next year. The game looks beautiful (and I'd argue that the 2002 version still looks great 12 years later) but I have my reservations about updating the controls.

Resident Evil REREmake, being a reimagining of the classic RE, controlled like the first four RE games (RE1-3, Code: Veronica). Which is to say, it controlled like a tank. Press up to move forward, down to go backward, left and right to rotate. Some people hated those controls. I loved them in the right context. The right context being a game made up of unchanging camera angles. Shinji Mikami, RE's director and creator, also explained that he wanted the controls to feel awkward in order to capture how one would feel in a terrifying situation; bumbling, unable to get their bearings. It worked... a little too well, some might say.

In the REREmake, Capcom will add real 3D controls; meaning, if you hold your analog stick to the right, your character will turn on his or her heel and run to the right. Sounds great, right? Sure--except you'll be significantly more mobile than the slow, shambling zombies who list into walls and fumble around just like you do. Being able to weave figure eights around zombies does not a scary experience make.

But forget all of that. Here's the real reason you should be excited. When the remake came out in 2002, fans crossed their fingers and hoped for a remake of RE2, the odds-on fan favorite entry in the series, in the same engine. It never happened. Gamers and critics had tired of the classic RE formula by 2002, leading to disappointing sales numbers for the RE remake as well as Resident Evil 0, a brand new game built using the remake's engine.

Now things are different. Now Capcom is struggling and more reliant than ever on remakes and re-releases. I'd like to think that Capcom knows better than to charge $60 for Remake Remake. It's obviously aimed at series diehards and probably won't warrant a full retail release. I'm thinking a $30 downloadable game; $40 tops, if Capcom's smart. (UPDATE: Looks like Capcom's got its thinking cap(com) on; downloadable status confirmed.)

And why, oh why would Capcom devote resources to revamping the remake's sweet engine if they didn't plan on using it for another game or two? Or three?

Here's hoping.


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