Now that I've completed the 12 Resident Evil Games games I wanted to play, I thought it would be nice to take a moment before the the release of the Resident Evil 2 remake and reflect on the series as a whole. Here are some observations and thoughts that have popped into my head over the past six months as I played through this long and storied franchise.
The Resident Evil franchise is wildly inconsistent quality-wise.
With this many entries, any franchise is bound to have highs and lows in terms of quality. Resident Evil is no different. What surprised me, though, is how large the delta was between the truly great and the truly bad. The best of them are among the greatest games ever made, in my opinion. The worst are spectacular misfires that did so much damage to the franchise's reputation that it’s a wonder the series didn’t get discontinued at certain points.
I would expect more consistency from one of the biggest franchises in gaming, but that's not what we can get. It's a bit of a crapshoot as to whether a particular isntallment is any good or not. I think this is partly why my interest in the series has ebbed and flowed over the years. Prior to and after the release of Resident Evil 4, I was totally on board for each new game. I bought Resident Evil 5 on Xbox 360 as soon as it was released in early 2009. It was good, but a bit of a disappointment. Resident Evil 6 came just three years later, and I skipped it completely at the time because everyone hated it so much. It was so bad, that I didn’t even play the excellent Resident Evil 7 until a couple months ago for this journey through the entire series, all because the quality appeared to be declining with each successive release after RE4.
I hope that Capcom has learned from these missteps so that they will be less likely to make them again in the future. Between both Resident Evil 7 and the Resident Evil 2 remake, we're experiencing one of the better periods for the franchise now. I'm on board for whatever Capcom does next, but I will still be watching for any signs that the series is slipping again on the quality front.
Every game does something new and different.
Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 7 get the most credit for taking the series in bold new directions—and rightfully so. That said, when playing through all of these games, I was surprised to see how each one tried to put its own unique spin on survival horror. Whether it’s the zapping system in RE2, the use of Nemesis in RE3, the introduction of online co-op play in RE5, or the general shitty-ness RE6, each entry tries to do something new and unique. Some of these ideas work better than others, but you can't say that each game is simply a carbon copy of the previous ones. Yes, many of them share similarities—they are all part of the same series after all—but Capcom at least seems willing to try new ideas to keep the basic formula fresh for returning players.
That said, RE4 and RE7 deserve special recognition for reinventing the franchise. In both cases, the games that preceded them (Resident Evil 0 and Resident Evil 6, respectively) were not well received. RE4 and RE7 brought the series back to relevance by throwing out what wasn't working and doubling down its best qualities. Doing this once was an incredible achievement. The fact that Capcom has done it twice now is miraculous.
I miss the old fixed-camera angle games.
When going back and replaying the pre-RE4 games, I was struck by how much I enjoyed them. I wish that Capcom—or anyone else for that matter—would make another game like them again. They were great in their own way and allowed for a type of gameplay that you don't get with either an over-the-shoulder view or in first-person. They emphasized exploring and puzzle-solving. Combat was more about deciding to use precious resources rather than the player's ability to pull off a successful headshot. They were more thoughtful and deliberate, and the slower pace made them more unsettling.
Abandoning the fixed-camera angles in RE4 and beyond was the right move.
I can’t fault Capcom for switching to the over-the-shoulder perspective though. Overall, it’s a superior design that allows for better controls, making these games easier to play for more people. Tank controls, while necessary in a game where the camera perspective shifts wildly from scene to scene, are unintuitive. I think players were more willing to accept them in the late ‘90s because 3D games were still so new and very few developers had cracked how to do controls in 3D spaces very well. Nowadays, this is a solved problem, and games have improved tremendously in this regard.
If Resident Evil had stuck with both the fixed-camera angles and tank controls (RE4 technically had tank controls, after all), the series would not be around anymore. Fortunately, Capcom did make that change, and we’re still playing new entries in the series to this very day.
"What the fuck is she wearing?"
This was my wife's reaction upon seeing any of the alternative costumes for the women in these games.
Ranking Resident Evil.
In Mark's thread revisiting The Legned of Zelda series, he has been ranking each game as he completes it. I didn't think to do that at the start of this project, so I'm going to attempt to do it now.
However, rather than ranking the games numerically from 1 to 12, I'm going to do something a little different. I'm going to group them into four tiers of quality, ranging from bad to best. Since there are twelve games total, I decided that each tier needs to have three games. That way I have to really consider which games are best and make some tough decisions about where to place them. Each game is listed chronologically according to its original release date.
Poorly designed and poorly executed, these games can be skipped by anyone other than the most enthusiastic fans. Otherwise, shoot 'em in the head. Multiple times.
Decent games that don’t quite live up to their potential. A bit more polish, and they could have been truly great.
Excellent games that stand as solid entries in the RE franchise, with only minor flaws holding them back from true greatness.
These games are not only the best in the series but are some of the greatest games ever made, period. I love them, and would happily replay them any time, preferably on a dark and stormy night.
"This is my, last escape..."
So, what’s next? Where does the series go from here?
Well, obviously, the remake of Resident Evil 2 is almost here. Reviews suggest that it’s a stellar reimagining of the classic PlayStation game. I’m excited as hell to finally playing it on Friday. I have high hopes, and I suspect I'm going to like it. The only question is, which of those tiers will I put it in when I complete it? My hope is that, at the very least, it goes into the Wesker Tier. I would love for it to be good enough to put in the Baker Tier, but it's got to do some amazing things for it to stand next to those three games.