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You have once again entered the world of survival horror: A REplay of the Resident Evil series

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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.

 

Zombie Tier

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.

 

Spoiler

 

Resident Evil: Director’s Cut

Blasphemy? Perhaps. I know this is widely considered a classic, and that it popularized the survival horror genre in the late-'90s, but it does not hold up well when compared to the other games. Low-polygon characters with simple backgrounds, abysmal voice acting, and cheesy full-motion video cut scenes using real actors make this one feel the more dated than any other game in the entire franchise.

 

 

Spoiler

 

Resident Evil 0

Slow, cumbersome inventory management makes this game a slog from beginning to end. It's a shame because the visuals are some of the most impressive of the entire franchise. There was so much potential here, and it just feels wasted on bad execution.

 

 

Spoiler

 

Resident Evil 6

Big, loud, and dumb. Even as an all-out action game, it doesn’t fare well. It has no sense of pacing, and enemy encounters are bland and unimpressive. It’s also the longest game of the franchise with four entire campaigns to complete, which doesn’t do it any favors.

 

 

Nemesis Tier

Decent games that don’t quite live up to their potential. A bit more polish, and they could have been truly great.

 

Spoiler

 

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Capcom tried to shake the established formula up with mixed results. The dodge mechanic makes combat frustrating and is unreliable in execution. Overall, this is one of the hardest, most frustrating to complete in the series.

 

 

Spoiler

 

Resident Evil 5

This game could have been so much better if it didn't try so hard to copy Resident Evil 4. It hits a lot of the same beats, but in the same way that a joke told a second time is less funny, RE5 isn't as impactful as the game that preceded it.

 

 

Spoiler

 

Resident Evil Revelations

This game's biggest sin is that it's just so bland and forgettable. It won't frustrate you the way the games in the Zombie Tier do, but it doesn't do anything to truly stand out either. Acceptable but not essential.

 

 

Wesker Tier

Excellent games that stand as solid entries in the RE franchise, with only minor flaws holding them back from true greatness.

 

Spoiler

 

Resident Evil 2 (1998)

An amazing follow up to the original PS1 game. It does everything the first did, only better. Better graphics, better story, and it gave you a very good reason to play both campaigns back-to-back. I only wish that the B scenario didn’t feel so repetitive.

 

 

Spoiler

 

Resident Evil CODE: Veronica X

Previously, this was my second-favorite of the fixed-camera games, but upon playing it again, I think it doesn't hold up as well as RE2. The supporting characters are overly silly and Wesker’s presence feels like a wasted opportunity. I still greatly enjoy it on this playthough though.

 

 

Spoiler

 

Resident Evil Revelations 2

Forget the fact that this is a lower-budget title in a side series that runs alongside the proper numbered entries. This is a solid game in every regard and does so much right. It feels great to play, and improves upon ideas that weren't executed well in other titles.

 

 

Baker Tier

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.

 

Spoiler

 

Resident Evil (2002)

The pinnacle of the fixed-camera angle games. It has all the atmosphere, puzzles, and pacing that made survival horror a truly great video game genre.

 

 

Spoiler

 

Resident Evil 4

A successful reinvention of the series that placed a heavier emphasis on action, but still managed to feel like Resident Evil. Its two sequels tried so hard to outdo it, but never managed to reach the same heights as this modern classic.

 

 

Spoiler

 

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

By far, the scariest game in the series, and a second successful reinvention of it. It took Resident Evil in a bold new direction while also bringing it back to its roots as a survival horror game. Coupled with some of the best DLC, this is one of the greatest games of this console generation.

 

 

 

"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.

 

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Last night, I completed my first official playthrough of Resident Evil 2 remake. I did the Claire campaign with Leon 2nd run on Standard difficulty. Today, I started a Leon run and got through most of RPD. I’m debating whether or not I want to do another full run through the game including a Claire 2nd run. I’m having fun with it, but worry I might burn out if I play it too much in such a short period of time. 

 

As for my official write-up on the game, I’m thinking I might wait until after I have a chance to play “The Ghost Survivors” DLC, which is due next week. I’d like to see what it is like so I can include my thoughts on it as well. I may also dip my toes into “The 4th Survivor”, which is something I never played on the original version.

 

Overall, I’m not in a big rush to finish this game up. I want to savor this game as much as possible given that I’ve been waiting for it for so long.

 

That’s all for now. More updates soon!

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Resident Evil 2 (2019)

 

Okay, I've procrastinated long enough. The time has finally come to look at Resident Evil 2 (2019)—or REmake 2, if you will. This is the culmination of this whole project for me. This game was the impetus for replaying the entire mainline Resident Evil series. It's hard to believe it is finally here, and that I've played it to completion. 

 

As with my Resident Evil 7 post, I'm going to issue a SPOILER WARNING for those who have not played it. I don't think I'll dive too deeply into any story elements, but I may talk about sections or events that you don't want to know about until after you've played it yourself.

 

I want to talk about two things. The first is this game as a remake. While playing it, I couldn’t help but think that this wasn’t the remake that long-time fans of the original had hoped for. I think most fans, if you had asked them prior to the game’s unveiling at E3 last year, would have said that they wanted something like the remake of the first Resident Evil. This would include things like fixed camera angles, pre-rendered backgrounds, tank controls, updated graphics and sound, plus new gameplay elements and areas to explore. Had Capcom given them that, the fans would have been very, very happy.

 

But that’s not what we got. Instead, we got a game that bears some resemblance to the original, but does not slavishly recreate it the way most video game remakes do. The controls are different. The camera perspective is different. The level design is different. The puzzles are different. The zapping system and A/B scenarios are gone. Both Leon and Claire's story arcs play out differently. The list goes on. The point is it’s not the same game. 

 

And yet, it still feels like Resident Evil 2. Furthermore, the fans of the original seem to like this new one just as much, if not more. How could this be? 

 

I think the reason for this is that the developers used the original version as a rough guide, but changed enough about it to make it their own. They took the exact right aspects of the original—be it story moments, specific rooms, puzzles, or boss fights—and recreated them in such a way that they don't feel like soulless copies of the original. At the same time, everything else has been updated and modernized to current standards, be it in graphics and sound, controls, and quality of life features. REmake 2 doesn't feel like a 1998 game ported to 2019. It feels like a 2019 game that is loosely based on one that came out in 1998. It's a thoroughly modern Resident Evil game that is also an homage to one of the best entries in the series.

 

The second thing I want to talk about is this game as a survival horror title. Back in October, I wrote:

 

The promise of a true survival horror

Resident Evil game [with] the over-the-shoulder perspective is what intrigues me the most about this project. [...] We've never had an RE game with the over-the-shoulder view that tries to create the scares and terror of an old-school survival horror game with fixed camera angles.

 

For the most part, I think Capcom succeeded in doing this. This game does not feel like an action title with a horror aesthetic. It feels like a truly modern take on survival horror. Both Leon and Claire feel extremely vulnerable during their campaigns, particularly the first time you play through them. Ammo is always in short supply. The monsters—including the zombies—are terrifying and aggressive. It seems like you always have one or two fewer healing items than what you really need. In short, you always feel like one bad move, or one particularly tough zombie, will end you. That uncertainty is great in a game like this, as it forces you to always pay attention and respect every encounter, no matter how minor it may seem at first.

 

Aside from vulnerability, though, I think one key aspect of good survival horror is the need to make tough choices. Do I shoot this zombie in the head and try to kill it, or do I shoot it in the limbs to incapacitate it? Maybe I should save my ammo and just try to run around it instead? Should I bring an extra mixture of red and green herbs, or do I want to use that inventory space for a few more magnum rounds? Do I board up the windows in the hallway on the west side of RPD, or do I board up the ones on the east side instead? Little decisions like these give you a sense of ownership over the situation, like you are dealing with it in your own way. I love that, and I love how this remake is full of those kinds of decisions. Sure, you can develop strategies that work well after multiple playthroughs, but that first time, you feel like you're just making it up as you go along.

 

In all, this is an absolutely fantastic game that ranks up there with the best in the series. I’m excited at the prospect of additional remakes of the older games. RE3 would seem like the next most likely candidate, but I would also like to see Capcom revisit CODE: Veronica and even RE0. The latter one in particular could benefit the most from a redesign. It had so much potential, but it was just wasted on bad design decisions.

 

Some additional thoughts:

 

  • The sewer level is one of the nastiest  places I’ve ever seen in a video game. The G creature rejects along with all of the piles of fleshy globs make it one of the most disgusting places in any video game I’ve ever played.

 

  • There’s just the right amount of Mr. X in the game. He shows up at RPD after you get somewhat comfortable with the place, but he doesn’t dominate every moment of the game from then on. I had worried that he would always be present, stomping around while you were fighting monsters or just exploring. Fortunately, that’s not what happens.

 

  • If I have a criticism, it’s that Claire or Leon’s paths don’t cross very often. I would have liked to have seen more interaction between the two of them throughout the campaign rather than just at the beginning and end.

 

  • I dabbled a little bit with the Ghost Survivors DLC, but didn't get very far. These scenarios are short, but very tough and require multiple playthroughs in order to learn enemy placement so that you can develop strategies for how to best deal with them. These types of challenges can be hit-or-miss for me depending on my mood. At the moment, they are mostly a "miss."

 

And with that, I bring my Resident Evil REplay to a close. It's been a lot of fun going through each of these games and sharing my thoughts with all of you. Amazingly, I'm not completely sick of the franchise at this point, but I am happy to be done with it. I have many games—such as Spider-man, Hollow Knight, Hellblade, and Mario + Rabbids—that I've put on the back burner in order to complete this project. I'm eager to sink my teeth into them now that I'm done.

 

Or at least I'm done until the next game in the series is released. What that could be, I have no idea. Perhaps we'll see a third iteration of the Revelations series, taking place between the events of RE6 and RE7. Maybe we'll get another remake done in the same style as Resident Evil 2. Or maybe it will be the official eighth entry that once again uses a first-person perspective with terrifying results. All of these options seem like real possibilities right now. I don't know what Capcom has planned, but I do know one thing: it's an exciting time to be a Resident Evil fan.

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The only thing I’d add is that RE2 Remake is very much a modern game but with 1998 level design. Yes, it’s remixed and there all kinds of game play additions that modernize the concept but the core of the game is rooted in level design that would feel at home in a PSX title circa 98/99 and I think that is its most brilliant accomplishment. It’s both responsible for the game feeling like a classic RE title but also for the game feeling like a wholly fresh experience at the same time. That’s some voodoo magic Capcom did to make that work.

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4 hours ago, Romier S said:

The only thing I’d add is that RE2 Remake is very much a modern game but with 1998 level design. Yes, it’s remixed and there all kinds of game play additions that modernize the concept but the core of the game is rooted in level design that would feel at home in a PSX title circa 98/99 and I think that is its most brilliant accomplishment.

 

 

That’s a good point. One thing in particular that makes this game feel like a classic old-school Resident Evil to me is the item box. After the REmake in 2002, the series eschewed it in favor of other inventory management systems until RE7 came along in 2017. It’s an old-school way of doing things, but like you said, Capcom modernized the concept by allowing you to increase Leon and Claire’s carrying capacity throughout the game. 

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