Survival horror is a genre on life support. The birthing of the term came from Resident Evil, a small title that wildly grew into a popular franchise. It has successfully perched itself high on the list of profitable IPs for Capcom and spawned countless sequels in games and even movies. Somewhere along the line, however, the series has lost its way integrating fumbled mechanics such as a forced co-op system and quick time event after quick time event. What needs to be done in order to return Resident Evil back to its former glory? Can another certain franchise maybe shine some light?
Bring the “horror” back to survival horror
The latest Resident Evil titles have had me wanting to do my best Jerry Maguire impression and yell out, “Show me the scary!” Seriously, why am I not terrified by what’s in front of me? This problem, for the most part, has to do with the mood and setting. Earlier in the series, we were trapped in a house or building of some sort having to defend ourselves against whatever horrors were thrown our way. Remember that first encounter with the Licker in Resident Evil 2? The moment we saw that decapitated corpse, we knew something was wrong and yet it still couldn’t prepare us for this Spider-Man wannabe monstrosity. Having it stare down at you in a narrow hallway was truly flinch-worthy.
Give control back to the player
Let me get one thing straight. I have no problem with quick time events (QTEs) in general. A lot of my favorite games have included them as part of the overall experience. I do not, however, appreciate having them make up over half of my gameplay time. Considering Resident Evil 6 in particular is very “cut scene heavy”, adding a buttload of QTE sequences on top of it only ruins the experience even further. It’s used as a crutch for lazy gameplay mechanics. This may as well have been a movie instead. We play games to play them, not watch and wriggle the stick like a mad man.
“Scary” and “co-op” don’t mix
Simply put, tense situations freak people out more when they’re alone. That’s a fact. Add a buddy in the mix and now things don’t seem so bad. Someone has your back and you have theirs. Having the extra firepower alone takes a pretty dramatic leap away from what made survival horror different from your everyday run-of-the-mill action shooter games. It also doesn’t help when playing alone anyway and getting saddled with an AI partner who clearly has suicidal tendencies and never heard the term “conserve ammo”.
Co-op is understandable enough to add in order to keep a franchise from getting stale. Just don’t make it a requirement if I choose to play by myself. Dead Space 3 has the right idea in this regard making their co-op “drop in/drop out” with no AI partner to babysit. Take notes, Capcom!
Balance the pacing
We’ve heard and read the reviews that compares Resident Evil 6 to a Michael Bay film. Believe me, that is no compliment. It’s almost like the developers were trying to take after the Resident Evil films that were supposed to take after the games in the first place! What happened to the slow buildup that leads to a horrifying set piece? Instead we get one explosion after another interspersed with huge enemies to take down. There’s no breathing room to appreciate what’s in front of you. Yes, these scenes LOOK great but they lose all impact without an equal amount of slowdown. Think of it like the calm before the storm. Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, has this method nailed down pat. Perhaps he could be a scriptwriter or even an advisor if Capcom isn’t afraid to pony up the dough.
In a nutshell? Be more like Dead Space
If there’s one franchise that has kept the survival horror franchise alive, it’s Dead Space. Creepy monsters, limb dismemberment, and being set in space makes for an old school Resident Evil experience if it had a baby with the movie Event Horizon. The gameplay has an updated feel to it nailing the “shooting while moving” mechanics down while Resident Evil still hung on to its “tank controls”. Even co-op, as mentioned before, plans to have the right approach to it while Capcom fumbled the ball in their approach.
I mentioned at the end of my impressions of the Resident Evil 6 demo that the franchise, at this point, needs an overhaul. The shift in focus to make it more action-packed has only succeeded in losing the franchise’s identity. If you want to focus on that type of game, don’t slap the Resident Evil name on the box and add a crap ton more monsters on the screen at once then call it a day. It’s simply not built to be this way.