Back in 1996, Capcom brought us the first installment of Resident Evil on the Sony PlayStation. It exemplified the theme of survival horror, introducing us to the Umbrella Corporation and protagonists Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. Thus began the beloved franchise that grew into a cultural touchstone with diverse characters and creature transformations. Yet, somewhere along the way, Resident Evil lost that survival horror flare and became, dare I say… kind of mediocre?
Though the voice acting was horrendous in Resident Evil (‘you were almost a Jill Sandwich!’), the challenging atmosphere and scarce ammunition is what made the game so much fun. The original zombies were a pain in the ass to put down at times, but eventually you’d learn that you don’t have to annihilate every walking corpse you stumble upon. Sometimes it was better to take the long way around and save as much ammo as possible for oh, I don’t know, a giant venomous snake?
Two years later, Resident Evil 2 was released. The story takes place two months after the events that transpired in its predecessor, Resident Evil, and features Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield. Each character led their separate excursions to escape Raccoon City, bumping into some intricate puzzles and mysterious survivors along the way. Indubitably, the ambiance of fear still remained strong, leaving players satisfied and rewarded after the game’s completion. Resident Evil 2 was loved and praised worldwide, becoming the franchise’s most successful title. I can only hope that the Resident Evil 2 Remake will make me swoon just as much as the original.
Following in sequence was Resident Evil 3: Nemesis a year later, which begins twenty-four hours prior to the happenings of Resident Evil 2. Jill Valentine ventures through the depths of Raccoon City whilst simultaneously being chased by a massive bio-organic weapon on a mission to terminate all S.T.A.R.S. members. Let me assure you that there is nothing quite as frightening as this monster running at you full speed while you’re low on ammo. He doesn’t let up, either. Throughout Jill’s entire mission, you never know which corner Nemesis is lurking around, which makes it that much more exciting.
After the Resident Evil games started to advance onto newer gen consoles, they began to lose that bloodcurdling essence that originally molded the franchise into everything that it was. Resident Evil: Code Veronica and Resident Evil 4 were dead in the middle of “this sends chills up my spine” and “this plays like an action game.” Granted, there were moments that made me cringe at the sight of a revolting creature, but ammunition and herbs could practically be found anywhere. Now I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad thing, but where was that survival horror aspect we all came to adore?
To be quite honest, Resident Evil 4, starring the dapper Leon S Kennedy, was probably the last solid game in the main franchise. The gameplay was innovative compared to previous installments, with the ability to aim freely and stun an enemy momentarily. This was a big step for Resident Evil games. Still, there wasn’t much of an eerie feel to the environment.
When Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 were released, they became eye-rollingly dramatic. Sure, it was fun to team up with a buddy as Chris Redfield and Sheva in Resident Evil 5, firing your way through countless enemies, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. The gameplay was entirely action-based, which distorted the spine-chilling component the series is well known for.
And don’t even get me started on the disappointment that was Resident Evil 6.
In between the core franchise games, there have been a variety of other additions to the Resident Evil world. Titles such as Resident Evil: Outbreak and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles were what I like to consider “fillers” for gaps in the timeline, providing other survivor stories or some added knowledge. Resident Evil 0 is a great example of this, starring Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen experiencing the insanity prior to the mansion incident. These miscellaneous titles kept me and other diehard Resident Evil fans coming back for more, even if some of them were downright awful.
Furthermore, there was a remastered edition of the very first Resident Evil, which rebuilt a part of the foundation that primarily supports the survival horror motive. The latest addition, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, also did a fantastic job in piecing together fear and eeriness as its core elements. Regardless, it has been quite the rollercoaster with Capcom, and for the longest time, I’ve been aching for something different. Something that would make my skin crawl and put my survival skills to the test. Then it happened — Resident Evil 7 was announced during E3 just this past Monday and I haven’t thought about anything else since.
The reveal trailer features a man slowly walking through a darkened and unnerving environment, in which unknown carcasses are scattered throughout an abandoned house. The setting is unlike anything Capcom has ever done with Resident Evil before and emits a Silent Hill-esque vibe. Though it may seem like a total reset of the series, Resident Evil 7‘s producer Masachika Kawata explains that “it is an extension of the series so far. It’s not a reboot. It’s the next main game.” Sure, there is an entire new set of characters, but you never know what Capcom will surprise us with.
The demo has also been released exclusively for PlayStation Plus members. Though the playable demo won’t be a part of the actual campaign when released in January, it gives players a general idea of what to expect. Trust me — the twenty minute playthrough undoubtedly unsettled my stomach and had me at the edge of my seat. I absolutely loved it.
Welcome back, Resident Evil.