The Average Gamer

Resident Evil 6 – Betrayal of a Genre?

Resident Evil 6 producer Masachika Kawata recently ‘risked’ alienating fans of the series, even comparing the survival horror market with a specific best-selling action series, Call of Duty.

“Looking at the marketing data [for survival horror games] … the market is small, compared to the number of units Call of Duty and all those action games sell,” he said. “A ‘survival horror’ Resident Evil doesn’t seem like it’d be able to sell those kind of numbers.”
Survival Horror Market Too Small for Resident Evil, Gamasutra

An odd move on the face of it, but he was basically alluding to the somewhat unfortunate reality that action-oriented video games are where the big bucks are at, and Capcom want a piece of that success. With Resident Evil 6, it certainly appears to be pushing the franchise more into that category than ever before, with myself even tweeting ‘Gears of Evil’ upon my first viewing of the recently-released trailer. But is this really a bad thing?

Jim Sterling at Game Front certainly didn’t agree with Kawata, and ultimately, Capcom’s comments. From his recent </RANT> column, Jim proclaimed thatsurvival horror evolved itself out of existence”, which I personally find astonishing, considering it is still evolving, to this day.

“The trouble with survival horror is that a lot of what made it scary is now considered criminally unfashionable. Survival horror often relied on poor combat mechanics to weaken the player and raise tension, and limitations on inventory and even data saving, in order to make players feel like every move they made was a significant and deadly risk.”
Is Survival Horror Dead or Just Sleeping?, Game Front

Collecting crests, emblems, and solving puzzles was fantastic in the original games, don’t get me wrong.

But that was two console generations ago. The fixed camera views, dodging zombies/hunters at the top of THAT staircase, getting trapped randomly by the giant snake in the attic… looking back, they were all annoying and rightly moved away from.

The ‘poor combat mechanics’ were surely not intentional, but down to the development of the new genre at the time, particularly with the original Resident Evil. This was ground-breaking back in 1996, but would be inexcusable by today’s standards. I’m all for limited save points but pissing about with the inventory when on the brink of death is still annoying.  I believe the series has the right to evolve, and maybe take some risks doing so.

Shinji Mikami was the mastermind of the first four Resident Evil games, and look where the series got to in just nine years. Resident Evil 4 is one of my all time favourite games, and is arguably a complete revolution of the series. The pace was frantic and unnerving, even panic inducing at times, with some of the best set pieces I’ve ever experienced in video games. Its survival and horror, and is delivered in spades. It’s certainly the blueprint used by Capcom since the departure of Mikami, and even by Mikami himself with the absolutely fantastic Vanquish, released 2 years ago. I’ll admit I would have more instant faith for the upcoming Resident Evil 6 if Shinji Mikami was still the man at the helm. Although Resident Evil 5 was a quality game, Mikami’s touch was noticeably absent.

As much as I am an advocate of evolution of a game series, I do have a slight worry that Capcom will create a game more like Gears of War than Resident Evil. Moving and shooting to be incorporated together? No problem with that, it’s just more realism, which could work well for the series. I certainly don’t want to have to stop, draw my gun, then turn on the spot to aim, withdraw gun, then leg it, anymore. I’m more worried that hordes will turn into waves, ammo conservation will become upgrading 1 gun into 5 guns (Simpsons reference), saves will be like Skyrim, and so on. The atmosphere and setting are more vital to creating that feeling of horror than making sure you have enough inventory spaces for a bloody moon crest.

Resident Evil 5 certainly felt out of place with the setting, despite the solid action. Even so, it’s still survival. Alan Wake, another ‘survival horror’ game, had the right atmosphere to instil that uneasy feeling around each corner; plenty of action, but often having to run for your life to that street lamp in the distance. A bit of a pretentious title perhaps, but its intentions were generally successful. An equally impressive atmosphere is also generated with the Silent Hill series of games, however with even more emphasis on exploration, more vulnerable protagonists, and even spookier settings. However, I found Silent Hill to be a totally different experience to Resident Evil. It had more of a story to tell, like Alan Wake, but less impressively. To me, Silent Hill games have never had the same polish and the series is still struggling to find its feet, even today.

DeadSpace2_GhostlyMy view? Resident Evil always had the intentions to be action-oriented. The console restrictions at the time just restricted it so, but the puzzles have been moved away from. Resident Evil Revelations on 3DS basically feels like Dead Space with a different setting. Dead Space 2 is the best horror-related video game from the last 2 years, hands down, and is generally more action oriented. Despite these worries, I do not believe Capcom are betraying/sacrificing the survival horror for the sake of sales. Capcom are innovators, make no mistake. They are always looking forward, never backwards, whether we agree with certain decisions they’ve made, or not. Capcom have a fan base they created, by creating quality titles and series. Only time will tell if Kawata has indeed betrayed this series, survival horror altogether, or turns out to be a total genius. Fans should have more faith, because as proven with the Resident Evil series, which started 16 years ago, success comes from innovation and evolution, not stagnation. Just don’t ever turn it into an FPS, please?

A new trailer for Resident Evil 6 leaked onto YouTube today by user SegmentNext indicating that the release date has been brought forwards to 2nd October 2012. See it below.

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