Zombies have always been a staple when it comes to the supernatural and horror elements. There’s something about the dead coming back to life that makes everyone get Goosebumps. I might not be an expert in everything related to the undead but I still know a zombie when I see on TV or read about it in a novel. I think everyone would agree that the most major player in the zombie genera when it comes to games is the Resident Evil series. This series has been around for years and yes, it has evolved with time. This evolution hasn’t been well received by some fans while others understand that the change was necessary with time.
The First Time I Played R.E
I remember the first Resident Evil (R.E for short) game I played. It was way back in 2000 when the Playstation was all the range. I was visiting my maternal grandparents and my uncle has a Playstation. One of the games he had was Resident Evil 2 and we would just sit and watch him play it for hours. I was nine years old at that time and there was no way I was going to ask for the controller. I didn’t want to be eaten alive by zombies, even if it was just in a game. After the end of R.E 2, we played Resident Evil 3: Nemesis the same year.
I was introduced to three awesome zombie killers: Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine and Leon Kennedy, whom I would meet again the coming years.
The Coming Years
I really didn’t get the story of the game at that time. All I knew was that there was an Umbrella Corporation that did genetic experiments and let lose a virus on Raccoon City. Anyway, I played both R.E 2 and 3 after a year or two and then Resident Evil (live-action film) came to theaters and I had no idea what was going on. The whole story of the film was changed. I still liked it, but I was hoping to see the characters from the game series in it. More games were released in the coming years and I got to play Resident Evil Outbreak which I liked. It allowed players to relive the events of Raccoon City but with a different group of survivors.
One of the most critically acclaimed game in the series, Resident Evil 4 was released and it took the world by storm. Everyone liked it. It changed the whole gaming experience and the story was amazing. It brought back Leon Kennedy and his relationship with Ada Wong is one of the most beloved when it comes to relationships in games. However, I must admit the truth that I have never played this installment. I don’t know why. Perhaps, it’s because I never liked Leon. At that time I preferred playing with Claire and I wanted her back in the series. Either way, I have watched my younger brother play it countless times and that’s why I know the story. I’ve even helped him solve one or two puzzles in the game. The important thing I took from the story was that a new virus has been discovered by Albert Wesker and all hell is going to break lose in the next parts.
In 2009, we all got to see Resident Evil 5 with Chris Redfield and I loved it. Even to this day I prefer playing with Chris rather than Leon. I find him quite powerful. Perhaps not as agile as Leon but the way he punched that giant boulder in the last stage was amazing for me. So, yes, I have played R.E 5 more than any other part and I have unlocked everything in the game. The story was nice as well. Albert Wesker dies and the missing Jill Valentine is brought to her senses. I know some fans didn’t like Sheva Alomar in the installment. I don’t dislike her nor do I like her. She is just ‘there’ in the game and I am indifferent to her.
The Latest Installment
The sixth part in the series was released in 2012 and it brings a lot of major players. You get to play with Leon, Chris, Albert Wesker’s son and even Ada Wong. It even reintroduced Sherry Birkin, the weird little girl we saved way back in R.E 2. This part has received mixed-reviews from critics and players and I totally understand that. There are a lot of cut-scenes in it and it feels more like an action game rather than horror-survival which it was when the series first started out.
This is where the ‘Evolution’ of the series comes in. The first four ‘major’ parts can be defined as horror-survival. There’s a sense of tension in all of them along with the fear of using up ammunition and not having enough health, to face enemies. You will also get to see some puzzles in these games and you have to rack your brains to see figure out the items you need to use in order to get out of an area.
The fifth part kind of changed the whole ‘horror’ thing and moved towards more action. It even gave the zombies weapons. I felt as if I was playing the undead version of Call of Duty or Modern Warfare. I mean, come on, they are zombies. Make them groan and slowly come towards me. Don’t give them guns to shoot back at me and run towards me!!
The action element of the fifth part erased the horror and almost all of the stages being set during daylight didn’t work in the horror genera favor either. Having a partner didn’t make you feel alone, which is a major thing a game needs to have in order for the player to get chills. Some of the smart players understood that R.E 5 was going to change the things in the future installments as well and that’s exactly what happened.
You get four campaigns to play through. The Leon campaign is a bit horror survival, however, you still have a partner along with you and it still feels a bit like an action game even though it’s able to give more chills than the previous part. Chris’s campaign is all brawn. It’s like another war game but your opponents are the undead carrying weapons. The only good thing I found was Piers Nivans. I don’t know what the developers were thinking. Maybe they were hoping for some kind of student and mentor angle but all I saw was sexual tension between those two. Piers, who is a young BSAA member finds Chris. Helps him get back in action and then sacrifices himself to save him. If that’s not love then I don’t know what is.
The third campaign is Jakes, who is the son of Albert Wesker. I was quite excited to see Sherry’s healing powers and I do feel she should have those during the game as well. But Jake’s campaign lacked something. Maybe it was because players weren’t familiar with the character yet. Ada’s campaign was nice to play. There was no partner and you have to do things alone, which always fun to do.
The Reason for Evolution
The developers, Capcom have said that they had to change the look of the series in order to meet the demands of present players. What demands? To make horror games into action games just so you can sell more copies? I don’t think that really worked out for the company as R.E 6 hasn’t sold as much as they expected. Well if you add everything into a game, trying to please every kind of player, you are going to end up having a big mess. They should’ve stuck to more specific elements instead of trying to branch out way too much. However, the story progressed and things have changed a lot. I still can’t get over the fact that we were dealing with a universal threat and Claire and Jill didn’t show up. What were they doing all that time when the world was covered in zombies?
I think the game would have been received better if they decided to use more of the original characters. Leon’s partner made no sense to me. She should’ve been in the side-lines and Claire should’ve showed up somewhere during the game. And has Jill retired from the BSAA? Why wasn’t she trying to find Chris and bring him back to action?
The point is that the Resident Evil series has evolved and so has the characters. At first they didn’t know what was going on and that’s why they were afraid of the zombies. But after fighting the undead and genetic experiments for years, one does get used to it. Chris, Jill, Leon, Claire and Ada have evolved as characters. There’s not a lot that can scare them anymore and that’s why R.E 6 showed. If Chris doesn’t have ammunition, I am quite sure that he won’t hesitate getting rid of zombies using only his bare hands. That’s why I think his campaign was more action oriented and there were no cut scenes in which the characters were screaming of fear. All they did was: ‘Okay, been there, done that. Let’s get rid of that thing’.
I really don’t know what we will get to see in the seventh installment in the series. The characters have grown up a well. I think Chris is in his forty’s now. How long will he keep fighting as the lead? I think the developers should shed more light on younger characters. This will help bring in the horror element back to the series. Have a rookie do something or a character that isn’t with the fighting squad, like Claire or maybe put Ingrid Hunnigan in a fix and she has to escape without Leon there to help her.
I really want the horror element back in the series. The market is already full of action oriented, guns-a-blazing games. What we don’t have, are awesome horror-survival games that come with the huge brand name like Resident Evil.
The series has evolved. However, whether this evolution will give birth to something great or serve as a dead end, only time will tell.