lundi 1 octobre 2012

The downfall of Resident Evil

I first discovered the Resident Evil franchise in the late 90's, when my older brother was playing through I think what was Resident Evil 2 or Nemesis (RE3). While I only watched and never played those games (they were my brother's), I eventually bought two of them for the GameCube : The Resident Evil remake and Resident Evil 0. I found both games to be very enjoyable, especially for their exquisite pacing. I've always enjoyed games with slow, thoughtful exploration, the fact that everything you find might and probably will help you survive.

Then came Resident Evil 4 which is, I think, one of the most important games (along with Uncharted, Halo, and Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare) of the last decade (2000-2009). That game was and still is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. I played through it 4 or 5 times and I never got bored of it. It's simply stunning. There's a perfect balance between each and every aspect of the game. Sure, it basically introduced the 3rd-person over-the-shoulder camera angle which became the norm in the following years, creating a more action-oriented package. But it never - repeat : never - got away from the usual survival factor, the scary sequences/enemies/monsters/bosses, the tense atmosphere, the careful exploration of every corner and cupboard for herbs and ammo. That game still ranks third on my personal list of the best video games of all-time, just behind Ocarina of Time and Metroid Prime and in front of All-Time Greats like Super Mario 64, GoldenEye 007 and Fallout 3 (that should tell you a lot).

Then came Resident Evil 5, which was a decent game, but it barely ever got a little scary. The only thing that got on my nerves the whole game were the Lickers B (Beta) and the giant insect things near the end (although there were only 4 or 5 of them). And the only reason was because they were so powerful and resistant to damage, not exactly "frightening". The inventory management was very crappy, the enemies mostly generic and the settings not exactly memorable. And Chris lost a lot of respect as a protagonist with his huge bulging arms and the infamous "boulder punching" sequence. To me, it felt as if the developers thought Resident Evil 4 was successful only because it was more "action-oriented", so they decided to aim for that. And I think it just lost the beautiful balance RE4 had established. Again, it wasn't a bad game at all - it was actually pretty good - but it felt like a step down from RE4.

Earlier this year was released Operation Raccoon City which was, for me, an insult to the Resident Evil franchise. Sure, it's a coop 3rd-person-shooter action spin-off, not a canon entry, but it clearly showed which way Capcom was heading.

Then I finally tried the Resident Evil 6 demo. I know you don't judge a game by its demo, because it IS just a demo, but this was something else. My older brother, who played all home-console Resident Evil games (except ORC this year) since the very beginning, told it best. His first words (in french, of course) were "This isn't Resident Evil" and then "Resident Evil 5 was good, but this is just wack".

Like any well-informed buyer, I read reviews and watched gameplay vids on the Internet to get a better idea. I was very, very disappointed with what I saw. It doesn't even look like Resident Evil any more. It actually made me sad. At the very least it seems like Leon's campaign is decent, but the other "campaigns" all look mediocre, if not plain bad. I might very well give it a chance for old times' sake, but this doesn't look promising at all.

Sure, it's Capcom's franchise and they do whatever the hell they want. And they will sell a lot because of the name only. But I know I'm not alone thinking "Well, here's another historic franchise ruined by modernity".

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