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Reinventing Resident Evil

Resident Evil 10th Anniversary Edition - GC Screenshot - 809477

I was 14 when I played the first Resident Evil. As anyone who has played the game can attest, the experience was unlike any other. The thrills were unexpected, the replay value was unprecedented, and the horror was unreal. Actually, the horror was all but real, and that’s what made the game so unbelievably cool.

Resident Evil was the first of its kind; a game that was capable of scaring players – thus making them afraid to continue playing – while simultaneously being so addictive and so engrossing that they couldn’t stop.

From this point on, I was hooked on survival horror. For the next several years, I fought to review every horror game that was released. I wound up purchasing the rest, especially those that spun off of Resident Evil.

In 2005, after a couple of rehashes, an exclusive Dreamcast sequel, an unlikely prequel, and an impeccable remake, the series took another stab at innovating survival horror with the release of Resident Evil 4. Needless to say, Capcom’s execution was flawless; this was the game that took the series – as well as the entire genre – to new heights.

However, not long after Resident Evil 4’s release, something went horribly wrong. Capcom began to hype the highly anticipated follow-up with teasers, screenshots, and the promise of fresh content. But the only thing that stood out was the fact that Resident Evil 5 took place in a bright and sunny environment. If it hadn’t been for our love of the series, that red flag would have caused most gamers to cancel their pre-orders and forget that RE5 existed.

There is no doubt in my mind that RE5 has done more damage to the series than any previous release. Not even the failed GameCube deal (in which Capcom initially planned to make every Resident Evil sequel, prequel and remake exclusively for GameCube) hurt the series as much. Going forward, Capcom is going to have a hard time convincing gamers to return.

But there are several ways for the famed developer to turn things around. Let’s take a look at what Capcom can do to reinvent the series once more and make Resident Evil 6 a must-have sequel.

Multiplayer: Discard or Redesign?

Is Resident Evil meant to be a multiplayer game? In its current form, the answer is a resounding no. If the sixth chapter is going to be anything like the previous titles, Capcom must discard the co-op content and focus on developing the best and most compelling single-player experience possible.

If, however, Resident Evil 6 were to receive a massive overhaul (risky, no doubt, but I’m not against it), then multiplayer might actually work. Here’s how:

The Rising Tide: In a Dead Rising-style environment (any non-linear location overflowing with zombies), it might be fun to sign into PSN or Xbox Live and team up with other real players. The game could be balanced by automatically increasing or decreasing the number of zombies (and the zombie re-spawn rate) when players log in or sign off.

Grand Theft Evil: For years, my dream game has been Resident Evil meets Grand Theft Auto. If Capcom can ever pull that off, the multiplayer experience would be groundbreaking.

Shooting S.T.A.R.S.: Instead of attempting to design online features that could kill the whole game, Capcom might be better off keeping the single- and multiplayer components separate. How? The latter should be comprised of rich, horror-driven mini-games. My idea: Shooting S.T.A.R.S., a mini-game in which one player controls the Nemesis monster and four others control S.T.A.R.S. team members. Throw in a couple AI-controlled lickers, five spiders and a few dozen zombies and you’ve got a mode that gamers will cherish.

Same Controls, New Perspective

When developing RE4, Capcom understood that no matter how many adjustments were made to the gameplay, the controls had to feel like they belonged in the series. This meant that the so-called “tank” controls could not be eliminated from the experience.

Thus, for Resident Evil 6, Capcom must ensure that the core controls are intact. To evolve the series (as they developers claim they plan to do), they should change the camera perspective again. RE4’s camera change was a big gamble, but it worked beautifully. The developers need to expand on that.

They could take a page from the first Silent Hill and design a free-roaming camera that adjusts automatically as you walk through the environment. Alternatively, they could keep the RE4/RE5 camera perspective, raise the view a couple feet, and allow the player to see more of the environment.

Or they could assign different camera angles to every location: one that mirrors the original game (for confined environments), one that mirrors RE4 (for combat/exploring large environments), a locked view that’s angled toward something significant (so the player’s eye will be drawn to it), and one that’s built specifically for boss battles (ex: God of War comes to mind, but I’d like to see Capcom get more creative than that).

Unlikely Events

I loved the trailer for Cloverfield. It was wonderfully deceptive, leading moviegoers to believe that it was a cheesy romance flick, but ultimately stunned viewers with the monster movie twist.

Similarly, the trailer for Catfish was designed to look like a documentary about a guy (Nev Schulman) who travels across the country to meet a girl (Megan Pierce) he met on Facebook. It looked painfully boring until Nev pulled into Megan’s driveway and we discover that things are not as they seem. Will the finished product suck? Probably. But the trailer was interesting.

Resident Evil needs to have that level of intrigue. The developers need to present scenarios – both in the gameplay and in the story – that players do not expect. Honestly, I would love to give you some examples of what those scenarios might be. But if I knew what they were, other players would as well, and they wouldn’t be unexpected now would they?

My advice is that the developers examine their own fears and think long and hard about the things that have scared and/or intrigued them. It’s more than a mutilated dog that crashes through a window, or a giant monster that runs across the screen. Fear is, more than anything, the anticipation of the unknown. If they can get us to peek around every corner, to walk stealthily through dark corridors, and to worry about the next monster that will appear, the developers will have brought the series back to its former glory.

Larger Than Life

I want big, disgusting, ultra-gory, ultra-realistic monsters that tower over the environment. Twenty feet tall is much too small – I want a spider whose legs are the size of skyscrapers. I want a snake that’s large enough to swallow five cars. I want a licker whose tongue is big enough to cover the entire screen.

Each of these monsters would allow the developers to bake new gameplay elements into the game. Players would have to battle the spider from above – perhaps from a plane or a helicopter, or from the roof of a tall building. Capcom could get really creative and allow players to fly above the monster, jump out of the plane, parachute on top of the spider, and go in for the kill – Just Cause-style!

To defeat the snake, Chris or Leon would need an oversized tank, one that’s too big for the snake too swallow, and is plenty powerful enough to destroy the slithering enemy.

And to defeat the licker, who knows? I’m thinking it’d be cool to lure him into licking something nasty (a bomb, a barrel of poison, a flaming car, etc.). Or, better yet, trick the licker into stretching his massive tongue around several obstacles (in between trees or buildings, or maybe through the openings of a cave), which would cause him to get stuck. When that happens, you could go in for the kill.

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Louis Bedigian
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