On the 9th of September we will finally get our first glimpse of where the Resident Evil franchise is going next, with gameplay footage then being shown at the Tokyo Game Show on the 12th – 15th of September, and I am incredibly excited. Rumblings of the next game in the franchise initially surfaced when select RE Ambassadors were invited to play test an upcoming Resident Evil title and many, including myself, were expecting this to be the next numbered title. Some very keen fans have noted that the page for Resident Evil: Outbreak has been wiped – which was precisely what happened to the Resident Evil 2 page in the lead up to the announcement for the remake – so there is a potential that we might be seeing a modern day take on co-op. Alongside a number of leaked screenshots showing four characters standing side by side in a Left 4 Dead-esque pose it would certainly seem like a reboot of the Outbreak games is likely. Those who jumped into Capcom’s most recent spin-off in the Resident Evil universe, Umbrella Corps, may be somewhat fearful of a co-op spinoff but I would argue that Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 2 demonstrates that Capcom is finally tapping into what makes the Resident Evil games truly fantastic.
When I was a child, Lickers and Nemesis stood alongside Mario and Crash Bandicoot as characters that I held dear to my heart. Whilst visiting one another, my friends and I would play Resident Evil – no, not one of the many games but actually set ourselves characters and roles and act out scenes outside – and RE3 and Code Veronica X are considered as some of my top games of all time. Upon the release of Resident Evil: Code Veronica X, a determined pair of seven year olds would – in spite of the age restriction – convince their mothers to buy them a copy each, and would rush home to take on the prison and all its horrors. Not long into our first session we were both faced with zombie dogs crawling out from under buildings and burst into tears. Our mothers were suitably unimpressed, stormed up the stairs with dogged determination, and snapped – wait, snapped?! – our discs. It was a heartbreaking moment but I would one day return to the island. I have a lot of fond memories of my time running away from Nemesis or not understanding the somewhat disturbing relationship between the two twins in Code Veronica, but to say that the Resident Evil franchise has been in a strong place over the last ten years would be an outright lie. With the overwhelming success of Resident Evil 4 inspiring Capcom to take a more action orientated approach from that moment onwards, every game afterwards took one step further away from what I personally believed made Resident Evil so incredible, with Redfield knuckle-bumping a boulder into a volcano being the moment where the franchise was truly lost. And then came Resident Evil 7.
Resident Evil 7 is my favourite game in the series. It is definitely a controversial take among fans – the adoption of a first-person perspective and stepping away entirely from zombies being the main reasons – but it brought back one of the most important aspects of survival horror. The vulnerability you initially feel when you are being chased by Jack in the Baker house brings me straight back to the same vulnerability that tank controls and fixed camera angles imposed upon me. The first person perspective and tight corridors make the brute force of Jack and the imposing features of the Moulded feel all that more terrifying. Your first initial encounter with Mia, Marguerite reaching for her lantern, or taking on multiple Moulded whilst counting each bullet are all moments that struck me as hard as my first encounter with the Nemesis or facing my first zombie dog back in my early days of Resident Evil and I truly love the game for that reason. The last third of the game, whilst offering some fantastic character development and some very spooky moments, definitely drags on for far too long and falls short of the highs that the start of the game achieves but the Baker family, their home and the surrounding land all harken back to the beginnings of the Resident Evil franchise and brings it right back firmly into the survival horror genre.
Resident Evil 7 may weigh up as my favourite in the series but Resident Evil 2 is definitely in the running for my game of the year. Zombies are incredibly tough and multiple well-placed shots does not guarantee that they will stay down. Ammunition and supplies are sparse. Lickers are absolutely terrifying. This all leads to those quiet moments in a save room contemplating your options, or lack thereof, that the Resident Evil franchise was known for all those years ago. The constant and never-ending barrage of the Tyrant initially creates an incredible amount of tension and fear but after a while becomes tiresome and detaches you from the location. I desperately wanted to explore the police station and uncover every secret and story I possibly could but this became difficult to do when constantly being harassed by a big boy in a top hat. When compared to how wonderfully implemented Jack was into Resident Evil 7 and the moments of peace you could find in the Baker house to explore it does leave me wishing a similar approach was taken. I also wish that they had taken more the opportunity to introduce more variety between the A and B scenarios but that is more of a question of approach – faithful recreation or taking creative liberty – and has no real bearing on how incredible this game is.
Whilst a co-op take on the Resident Evil franchise might not be what I had initially hoped for in the next instalment in the series, I personally believe Capcom has shown through their approach to Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 2 that they truly have a grasp on what makes Resident Evil unique, and I cannot wait to see what they have in store for us next month.
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