Resident Evil 2
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Capcom has worked overtime to bring this legendary franchise back on track- but where do they go from here?
The Resident Evil franchise was in the worst shape of its life until very recently. Capcom had made a royal mess of things when they released a string of bad spinoffs, and capped that off with Resident Evil 6, resulting in a slump the likes of which no one had ever thought the series would experience. Resident Evil 6 could pass as a decent action game in its day, but to the veteran fans of the series, it felt like a slap in the face. It felt like Capcom had lost all sense of what made Resident Evil good, of why millions had fallen in love with it- of what made Resident Evil, Resident Evil.
The series has seen a remarkable turnaround over the last couple of years though, which has in many ways been emblematic of Capcom’s own resurgence. Resident Evil 7 brought the franchise back to its roots and delivered a game that was worthy of the name that it bore, and now, with Resident Evil 2, they have made a game that is nothing short of an instant masterpiece, and might even rank as one of the best Resident Evil games to date. The future of the series looks secure for the first time in many years- that said, it also looks very fuzzy.
When it comes to where the series is headed next, though there is a lot of well founded optimism, there is also a lot of uncertainty over the specifics. There are so many things that we can only guess at, so many directions Capcom could take the series in- which is a good thing, of course (an abundance of excellent options to choose between never hurt anybody). But as it stands right now, we can’t really say with any real certainty what kind of a game the inevitable Resident Evil 8 is going to be.
There are a few things we can be certain of. We can say for sure that Capcom aren’t going to adopt an action-oriented approach with a mainline Resident Evil title again. The backlash against Resident Evil 6 surely hurt them, and they clearly learned their lesson. If Resident Evil 7 and 2 are any indication, Capcom have come to the realization that the series is at its best when it’s adhering to the classic survival horror norms, which it itself helped establish two decades ago. In fact, I’m sure fans of the series wouldn’t mind seeing Capcom take that even further- go as survival horror as survival horror can possibly be. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a barrage of scares (that would, after all, desensitize the player eventually), but if you look at Resident Evil 7, it was a game that was characterized by intimate horror as it began, but by the time it reached its conclusion, it had become a lot more action oriented, which kind of diluted the impact in terms of the bigger picture. No Resident Evil fan would mind seeing a sequel that sticks with a foreboding survival horror tone consistently and constantly.
One more thing that they surely aren’t going to change in Resident Evil 8 is the general tone and atmosphere. Resident Evil started out as a very camp-y series, and as time progressed, that campiness only continued to grow. Resident Evil 7 saw Capcom going for a grittier and much more grounded approach, and it clearly worked very, very well. The same approach was adopted in Resident Evil 2, and considering the fact that the execution of this new tone has been two for two so far, as well as the fact that fans have clearly been quite receptive to this tonal shift, we can see Capcom continuing in this direction with future instalments in the series, at least for a while.
Part of that tone is, of course, the way the series now chooses to portray and develop characters. While Resident Evil was known for its campy presentation and larger than life portrayal of its most major players (until very recently, in fact), over the last couple of entries, it’s taken a very different approach, one that’s much more understated and, as such, a little more effective. Take the Bakers, for instance- the horrifying family that served as the main antagonists of Resident Evil 7 were a constant presence, not just because we, as the players, were always in close proximity to them, but also because Capcom developed them very well, giving them all distinct and memorable identities. Resident Evil 2, in spite of being a remake, fleshed out its characters much better than the original release as well, thanks to reworked stories, and much smarter and tighter writing, which seemed to understand the value of restraint above all else. Continuing in this direction, for not just a direct sequel, but also for any potential future remakes (which we’ll talk more about in just a bit), seems like a no-brainer for Capcom.
Beyond that, though, everything else is a big question mark. The biggest question that we all have, of course, is- which perspective? Resident Evil is a franchise that has radically changed its identity on more than one occasion. For several years, the series was all about classic survival horror, played with fixed cameras and tank controls. Then, with Resident Evil 4, it completely changed gears, becoming more of an action horror series (with the “action” growing increasingly prominent with each successive entry), dropping fixed cameras and tank controls and instead adopting what was then a revolutionary over-the-shoulder third person perspective. Then, once again, with Resident Evil 7, Capcom brought the series back to its classic survival horror roots, but this time, they translated it into a first person perspective.
In spite of all these transitions, however, never before has the future direction of the series been harder to figure out than it is right now. Why? Well, because the most major changes Resident Evil has made have historically been more permanent, which has not been the case in recent years. When Resident Evil was a fixed cameras series, that is all that it was. From the first game up until Resident Evil 4, all games were played with fixed cameras. Then, when Resident Evil 4 switch to a third person view, the series stuck with it. All games that followed it up until 2017 were third person over-the-shoulder titles. A year ago if someone had asked about what perspective Resident Evil 8 would adopt, the answer would have come instantly to most of us- first person. Judging by the history of the series, it seemed like the first person era of Resident Evil had begun with 7.
But then the Resident Evil 2 remake came along, and took us back to a third person over-the-shoulder perspective again. And judging by how excellent it is, how well it is selling, and how much fans have been loving every second of it, it’s not a decision that turned out to be controversial or divisive in the slightest. Which is why Capcom now have two routes they can take with Resident Evil 8. The one thing we can say with certainty is that fixed cameras are out of the equation- as much as hardcore series fans would love to see a modern Resident Evil game made with fixed cameras, it seems unlikely that Capcom would go for something like that. Which means they can either keep Resident Evil 8 first person, or they can make Resident Evil 7 a one off thing, and once again go with an over-the-shoulder perspective for the sequel.
There are merits to both. First person Resident Evil would have been hard to imagine not too long ago, but Resident Evil 7 proved that it can actually be a pretty damn good combination. The horror becomes instantly more immediate in first person, and much more intimate, as players are put right into the thick of things- that is a very attractive prospect for a game that relies, more than anything else, on scaring its audiences. Another huge thing working in favour of first person is VR- Resident Evil 7 in virtual reality is one of the best horror experiences of all time, and there’s no doubting that capitalizing on its success and building upon those strong foundations is something that Capcom will want to do.
There’s also the fact that Resident Evil 7 very much felt like the start of a new chapter in the series, the third era of Resident Evil– fixed cameras, followed by third person, followed now by first person. The most exciting prospect of starting something completely new for any creator is thinking about how they can improve upon it and take it forward in the future, and ideas for another first person Resident Evil title must surely have started floating around in the heads of many at Capcom as soon as development on RE7 was wrapped up- maybe even before that.
Third person, though, is tried and true, and we have numerous (and also very recent) examples to show us that this series can be at the absolute peak of its powers when it’s being played with an over-the-shoulder perspective. Resident Evil 2 and even the Revelations titles also show us that the series doesn’t have to rely on first person to be properly scary, to have that tense, pressure-cooker atmosphere that one usually associates with the it.
The reception to Resident Evil 2 is also stronger than that of 7 – it is, in fact, the strongest reception the series has seen since Resident Evil 4 came out. We would be fools to think that that isn’t something that might make Capcom rethink where they want to take the franchise with its next instalment. The knock against third person, of course, is that there’s a strong chance that Resident Evil 8 has been in development for a while- so Capcom may have already been in the process of making a first person title by the time RE2 came out, which means it might be too late to switch perspectives for it. Then again, maybe they can take cues from The Evil Within 2, which was played largely from a third person perspective, but had sections that switch to a first person view- maybe even give players the option to switch between both at will, as The Evil Within 2 could ultimately do following an update from the developers?
That said, there is another way we can see a third person Resident Evil title- and pretty soon, at that. If there is one thing we can be dead sure of in light of recent events, it’s that we haven’t seen the last of Resident Evil remakes. The overwhelmingly positive reception and strong sales for Resident Evil 2 have proven to Capcom that people are hungry for reimagined and glossed up versions of beloved classic Resident Evil titles, and they would be fools for not wanting to take full advantage of that. At this point, a remake for Resident Evil 3: Remake is pretty much inevitable.
It also, in theory, would be easier to develop for Capcom than Resident Evil 2 was, or Resident Evil 8 will be. A huge reason for that is that a huge chunk of the required work is already done, thanks to Resident Evil 2. Though Nemesis was given the 3 tag by Capcom back when it launched in 1999, if a project of the exact same nature and scope had been developed today, it would be called a standalone DLC. That’s the kind of game Resident Evil 3 was- an excellent game, but more an extension, a side story, than a proper sequel.
That is, in fact, factually correct- it’s no secret that Code Veronica was going to be the real Resident Evil 3, and Nemesis was being developed as a side project, but was made a numbered entry so that Capcom could push out a mainline sequel as quickly as possible in order to capitalize on the wild success of the original Resident Evil 2 (and so that the numbered series could remain on PlayStation). Many assets from Resident Evil 2 were reused in its successor (all of RPD, for instance)- even its story took place concurrently with RE2, rather than after it. It was, in all but name, Resident Evil 2.5.
History may very well repeat itself, then. If Capcom do the same thing with a Resident Evil 3 remake, and reuse the assets in RE2 that can be reused, development time would be cut short significantly (as would, of course, development costs, which is also a huge factor in whether or not they decide to go ahead with the project). Hell, Capcom even have a perfectly solid template for Nemesis to work off of- take the new and improved Mr. X, make some improvements and adjustments, and you’re good to go. Current trends have also surely been evidence of the fact that people are hungry for more Resident Evil– more specifically, more Resident Evil remakes. A Resident Evil 3 remake would, in many ways, be more of what we just got with RE2, and would be a guaranteed money-maker for Capcom.
And there’s so much else, even beyond what we’ve talked about already, that Capcom have learned over the last couple of years that they can put to practice with any future installments, whether it’s a direct sequel or a remake. Boss battles have often been a strength of the franchise, but in Resident Evil 7 – with the exception of a less than stellar final boss – they were among the highlights of the game, while Resident Evil 2 also improved upon them in smart ways by either reworking them, re-imagining them, or expanding upon their original vision, much like it does to almost every other aspect of the entire experience. There’s the audio design, which Capcom took to unimaginable heights in the recent remake, to deliver a serving of some of the most intense atmosphere we’ve ever seen in a survival horror title.
But going from short-term to long term (or medium-term, at the very least), can we expect even more remakes following Resident Evil 3? Might we, perhaps, get remakes of Resident Evil 0 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica some time down the line as well? Though it would be hard to answer those questions as definitively as questions about RE3, we can say that there’s a good chance that that happens. Those games are in need of remakes – unlike, say, Resident Evil 4, which has aged exceptionally well, and still plays excellently – and could also be potential multi-million sellers.
It’s likely that at least for the foreseeable future, Resident Evil might settle into a two-pronged approach, using it to both, release new entries, as well as remake older ones. Kind of like what Pokemon does, or like how Nintendo switches back and forth between 2D and 3D Zelda titles. Not only would such an approach be hugely beneficial to Capcom, it’s also something that would be aligned perfectly with what the fans and audiences want- and might also present the developers with the opportunity of switching between perspectives as and when they want, and to keep things fresh and varied.
To come back full circle, the future is uncertain for Resident Evil– but it’s a good kind of uncertain. It’s not the kind of uncertainty that makes us nervous, that makes us worry that Capcom might screw things up. It’s the kind of uncertainty that makes us excited to see what lies ahead, because really, whichever option Capcom goes with would be a great one in its own way. There really isn’t a wrong option right now. Unless Capcom really screw things up again – which seems unlikely given the upward trajectory they have been on over the last two to three years – Resident Evil fans might be in for another string of excellent releases one after the other.
It’s good to have you back, Resident Evil.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.