Resident Evil’s Move Away From Horror Means I Won’t Be Playing

I never got around to playing Resident Evil 5. I should have — I’ve been a huge Resident Evil fan for years, and Resident Evil 4 is among my favorite games of all time. The first trailers for Resident Evil 5 had me giddy: more huge monsters, more plodding terrors, more convoluted stories. More horror.

But I never played it, and the reasoning behind that was largely a combination of strange circumstances. First, I was in college and short on funds. Second, and much more importantly, however, was the fact that it didn’t sound like Resident Evil.

Sure, Resident Evil 4 had its issues. A greater emphasis on action and adjusted controls, plus escort missions, pushed it away from the core Resident Evil gameplay that had marked the series for nearly a decade before RE4′s release. But I loved the game, mostly because what changed felt like things that were improving. The over-the-shoulder camera made aiming easier, and that made combating monsters more immersive than earlier games’ spray-and-pray approach. Becoming a more effective fighter required skill as well as fast-twitch reactions, and the game ramped up its requirements of the player alongside giving them more power. It maintained the balance that made me feel like I was just capable enough to deal with situations, and that kept them tense.

Resident Evil 5, at first, sounded like a continuation of all that was great about RE4 — and then I heard that it would be cooperative, and I lost interest; especially after I heard that the AI teammate accompanying Chris Redfield was pretty much useless at best, completely annoying at worst.

Cooperative play is actually at odds with what I’d hoped to get out of Resident Evil 5, or any Resident Evil game. Though I loved playing Resident Evil Code: Veronica with my best friend late at night on the Dreamcast, having him actually in the game with me in Resident Evil 5 meant that every danger was made less dangerous. Two sets of eyes see horrors before they become threats, two guns mean enemies die more quickly, and two players means your back is covered and you’re always a few steps away from help when things get dire. All these things are at odds with the very concept of “survival horror”: no pressure on your survival means no horror.

That’s not to say more than one person can’t have a good time in a horror game — look at Left 4 Dead for a perfect example. But where Valve added friends that can be helpful, it also added a lot of other elements, like a highly oppressive, dark environment and a lack of capabilities for players in fending off zombies. Left 4 Dead sufficiently weakens you in order to keep you afraid, and thereby maintains its scares and its horror elements in a positive way even through multiplayer.

One of the saddest things I’ve ever heard was a statement by Capcom producer Masachika Kawata stating that a survival-horror Resident Evil wouldn’t sell:

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. A ‘survival horror’ Resident Evil doesn’t seem like it’d be able to sell those kind of numbers.

Capcom helped start survival-horror as a genre, and in many ways helped bring horror gaming to the mainstream, and while I haven’t done any market research, I’m surprised to find that Capcom doesn’t think it can get by more than comfortably on the popularity of a quality survival-horror franchise. (But then again, chasing Call of Duty-type numbers isn’t about a developer getting comfortably by, is it?) What’s more, there’s nothing near a shortage of third-person action games — there are decidedly fewer games in the realm of what Resident Evil once was. If there’s anything gaming doesn’t need, it’s additional homogenization of good ideas. We don’t need any more clones.

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17 Comments on Resident Evil’s Move Away From Horror Means I Won’t Be Playing

Fletcher

On July 17, 2012 at 1:24 pm

It’s pretty straight forward for me. I’ll be getting Resident Evil 6 used. I don’t like what Capcom has become and that being said i’m not giving them anymore of my money. Sure they will probably have some sort of online pass and locked content that you would have to pay for (knowing Capcom) but if that’s the sacrifice I have to make then so be it.

Gamer41

On July 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I’m sick of hearing all these fans of Resident evil say crap like this.You brought up some good points about horror in games and the co op part taking away from it.But the fact of the matter is set camera angles and tank controls are .Plain as day . Also your not even going to attempt to play RE6 so how the hell can you (who call them self a gamer ) about what it is or isn’t.

Resident Evil 5 is fine if you have someone to play it with.You have got to have one friend to play it with you.yes the AI is but with a friend you never know,If you had played it you might have liked it and would not have wasted time writing this lack luster article.

Gamer

On July 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm

LOL nice how the profanity filter just deletes the word.

Phil Hornshaw

On July 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm

@gamer

I agree that the other games have their issues, definitely. I’m not eager to move back to the old style of Resident Evil. But I’m also not interested in another run-and-gun zombie gunfest. I want horror games, and Resident Evil as a series made its name through horror, not action.

Stranger

On July 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm

I played RE before for the horror and I long for the return of that. RE Revelations was a good step back in that direction but the AI team mate was a horrible idea in that game, it didn’t even function as a stand in for co-op since there was no co-op outside of Raid Mode.

Depending on how RE6 plays out depends on if it’ll be a buy for me really, though I’ll be getting it on PC which usually gets the shaft.

wesker1984

On July 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm

I will get Resident Evil 6 no matter what! I will not put an empty hole into my big Resident Evil collection just because part 6 will lack of horrors. I’m not as stupid as the ones who ”if it lack horror i wont get it”.

R.J.

On July 17, 2012 at 8:08 pm

It really saddens me how so many devs are chasing the COD crowd. Sure, those games sell lots of copies, but that doesn’t mean every game needs to be a clone. You can do pretty well by being unique. If you offer me the exact same thing as every other game, why would I care about your game? Capcom is doing it here, EA tried for it with ME3 and is actively trying for it with Dead Space 3. Dead Space 1 and 2 both sold well enough to greenlight sequels, yet EA wants it to sell something like 5 million copies, and apparently the way to do that is to become generic.

Robin

On July 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm

I’m not an RE player, but I have to think that if everyone gets on the action bandwagon, then that’s going to be a pretty crowded segment. If you want to get COD numbers you have to be COD or you have to be better than COD. Trading on RE’s name won’t get you there.

It’s like WOW putting up huge numbers, so everyone put an MMO into development, but none of those competitors are getting profit anywhere near WOW’s. It’s going to be the same for RE and Dead Space 3. Action gamers won’t be attracted by an action game with the name of a horror game and RE and DS fans will be turned off by the new direction. We’ll see how things turn out, but I suspect this will be the case.

Burntice

On July 17, 2012 at 9:52 pm

I just recently bought RE2 on PSN the other day, since i haven’t played it in years, and i quickly remember why this one was my favorite, FEAR. As soon as you run out of ammo, you’re caught between zombies and are forced to run, the constant fear of losing your health after not being at a save point for quite some time and don’t get me started with the damn spiders…I just think Capcom shouldn’t have turned away from the good ol fear fest that the first 3 games had, i might rent this one only because i haven’t seen Leon in awhile and would like to see where the story goes. Oh and Mercenaries of course.

The Defenestrator

On July 18, 2012 at 9:48 am

We can definitely look forward to this situation with Dead Space 3… which is sad because it really was the last man standing for console survival horror. (At this point, it’s not even worth mentioning Silent Hill anymore.) If you go down the checklist of the things you need for a survival horror game, DS3 and RE6 don’t have any of them. Add to that the desperate twisting-themselves-into-pretzels that the dev did in the 20 minute gameplay footage they released (It’s BIG, it’s EPIC, it’s CRAZY… but it’s spiiiiine-tingling too!) and you can pretty much assume that in trying to have it both ways, they won’t really pull of either one. Count me in as one of the people Visceral Games lost in it’s search for a bigger audience. Good luck to them.

I’ve been playing the RE series since the first game and I’m planning on buying RE6 too… but only because I have a friend who wants to play it. If it weren’t for that, I couldn’t be bothered. Neither of us really even think about the RE series as “survival horror” at this point anyway. It’s just an action game with some horror window dressing. The fact that we’re looking forward to the ridiculous, convoluted plot as something to laugh at rather than a tense and scary game sort of illustrates where the brand is at. Based on that, I’m not sure how sustainable the series will be. Like Silent Hill, it will always have a dedicated audience (I bought Downpour knowing full well it was mediocre) but I don’t think they have another blockbuster in them.

Tiagonal

On July 19, 2012 at 6:56 am

I wanted to point out again: Dead Space sequels shouldn’t have followed the first one’s plot… and with all expectations crushed, there could be a universe of horrors. And now that I think of it further.. Resident Evil could’ve done that too. Hell, that way there could even be space for a COD-clone sequel-flop to teach them a lesson once in a while.

MrFlibble

On July 19, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I played the Resident Evil 5 demo for about 10 minutes, said “what the heck is this garbage?” then deleted it from my system. I’m not saying that it might not be a good game, it just didn’t feel anything like a Resident Evil game. If I want to play generic shooter game #73349 I’ll just buy another CoD. So sad to see good series becoming generic because of market pressure.

Mrox2

On July 20, 2012 at 10:19 am

KAWATA , HE CAN GO HIMSELF WITH A DIDLDO , Hes NOT WORKING ON THE GAME , AND IT WILL HAVE HORROR FINALLY ! So yeah !

MPSewell

On July 24, 2012 at 9:13 am

Note the blatant immaturity of the people who wish to buy this game. Resident Evil has been marketed at the 13-year-old CowADooDy crowd for years, now, and it shows.

There is nothing redeeming about this series anymore. EA is seeking to destroy the horror elements in Dead Space (minimal though they even were).

If you want good horror, your options are few and far between. The only solid addition to the genre I can I can think of from recent years is Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and that’s about it. Of course, there’s no bazookas in it, so don’t expect the kiddies to rush out and buy it en masse, but it’s a solid game series.

wesker1984

On July 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm

MPSewell
The Resident Evil franchise is still a good series and for me it doenst need to be redeemed with a true horror sequel. The story of RE5 is probably the second best scenario of the franchise after code Veronica and if Resident Evil 6 is a good game i’m fine with it.

HorrorGod

On August 4, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Guys, it’s still “Horror.” Just not to us.
Why? Because we’re older, harder to scare, and much more desensitized.
Go back and play “Resident Evil.” I doubt it will give you the same feeling it did when it came out.
Therefore, not a “horror” game. I’m going off the actual definition of the word.

Somewhere there will be young gamers who may play RE6 and think it’s the most scariest horror game they’ve ever played. This applies for all survival horror games – Silent Hills and Dead Spaces alike.
They were “horror” to us because they were new territory. We didn’t know what to expect.
Just like any horror film franchise, it stops being scary after you’ve seen it a few times.

Phil Hornshaw

On August 4, 2012 at 8:32 pm

@horrorgod

So by that definition, only novel things are horror. What are they when they stop being horror, then?