Can Capcom’s story-telling hold up over a TV-like format?
Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise is no longer in the rut it was when Resident Evil 6 released. This is mostly due to the efforts of Resident Evil Revelations, which brought the franchise back to the signature survival horror gameplay that eluded the console flagship. It’s amazing just how much the latter gets right when balancing action and horror while the former manages to get so much wrong. Pacing is one issue. Compelling characters are another. An interesting premise? It’s certainly been a while since Resident Evil had one of those and thankfully, Revelations delivered in that department as well.
"Resident Evil Revelations 2 will be broken up into four weekly episodes. You'll be able to purchase all four episodes before launch and receive them one after the other."
Resident Evil Revelations 2 will be taking – cue annoyed sighs – a “different approach” from the series till now. The story sees Claire Redfield kidnapped by an elite squadron of soldiers in the middle of a party and dragged into a Manhunt-like set-up, trapped in a dank old prison with cameras filming her every move. She’ll team up with Moira Burton, the daughter of Barry Burton from the first Resident Evil, who will neither be another shooting character nor a useless damsel like Ashley Graham. Rather, Moira will provide support and even shine a flashlight on the ever dark surroundings. With new enemies like the Afflicted roaming about, Claire and Moira will need to work together to survive.
And no, the basic story is nothing new. Two strangers trapped in a non-descript area thanks to a shadowy organization’s evil-doings? That’s pretty much Resident Evil: Code Veronica in a nut-shell (though both games have phenomenally different plots…we hope). Rather, it’s the way Capcom wants to tell this story. Resident Evil Revelations 2 will be broken up into four weekly episodes. You’ll be able to purchase all four episodes before launch and receive them one after the other. Alternatively, you can purchase each separately or pick up the retail release, which promises more content on top of everything else.
This isn’t the first time an episodic approach is being considered for a major series. Hideo Kojima has been dropping hints that Silent Hills may have an episodic format, though it’s hard to tell what he’s going to do from minute to the next. Telltale’s The Walking Dead has formed somewhat of a template for all of its future franchises with The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones of Tales from the Borderlands all in episodic format.
"With separate episodes, you can have numerous highs and lows, insert a number of twists and so on. From a gameplay perspective, this means introducing a set goal for each episode..."
Let’s not forget about Quantum Conundrum whose narrative borrows a fair share of elements from TV shows, especially after each particular game sequence facilitating a watch of the live-action companion show. The only real difference between Remedy’s Xbox One title and the rest are that all the episodes – from the game and TV show alike – are on one disc.
There are several advantages to an episodic format though. Much like the TV vs. movies debate, it allows the developer to draw the gamer in faster, establishing a set of characters while trotting out a basic premise that opens up and develops multitudes of plot-lines with each new episode. A fully-fleshed game has a beginning, middle and end with the perfunctory plot twist somewhere in between, building up to each gradually and slowly.
With separate episodes, you can have numerous highs and lows, insert a number of twists and so on. From a gameplay perspective, this means introducing a set goal for each episode – much like Resident Evil 4’s chapters – that establish a set of enemies and your mission for the duration of the episode.
So from one perspective, it’s not a bad idea for Resident Evil Revelations 2 to pursue this direction. The problem is, it kind of already does that. As mentioned above, Resident Evil 4 has numerous chapters with their own set goals. Resident Evil 6 took this to epic proportions, stuffing three different playthroughs, each with their own chapters that barely tied together and flitted all around the globe.
"With such perfectly defined episodes, each making up a quarter of the game, can Resident Evil Revelations 2 embody the same kind of gameplay? Will Capcom try to cram too much into each episode in an effort to appease fans seeking "value"?"
One minute you were shooting the President of the United States in the face since he became zombified and teaming up with some woman who was responsible. The next minute you were travelling through caves and subway tunnels, avoiding zombies. Somehow you got to Tokyo where the C Virus had exploded and turned its denizens into zombies in what was genuinely one of the more intriguing moments of the game. Then there was stuff about hell rising and chaos reigning. It was quite the convoluted trip down the proverbial rabbit hole of suck.
This isn’t to say that Resident Evil Revelations 2 will take the same approach but when done right, Resident Evil’s chapters managed to build up to a satisfying conclusion while giving the player little plot twists and scenarios to keep them busy. With such perfectly defined episodes, each making up a quarter of the game, can Resident Evil Revelations 2 embody the same kind of gameplay? Will Capcom try to cram too much into each episode in an effort to appease fans seeking “value”?
It’s not that the episodic approach is a bad thing. When done right, it has resulted in one of the best games ever created but when Capcom attempts the same after a history of botched story-telling, there’s cause for worry. Hopefully it will stick to what makes the Resident Evil Revelations franchise compelling and avoid the bloated nature of its last major flagship title.