Resident Evil was fading into obscurity ahead of the release of its seventh main installment. The once-unstoppable survival horror franchise had been worn down by years of mediocrity and a publisher who seemingly had no idea what to make of it.
But a willingness to embrace a new gaming perspective and lean on influences ranging from The Blair Witch Project to True Detective allowed the series to represent a second coming, with its place in the cultural landscape now more pronounced than ever, at least not since. Resident Evil 4.
Biohazard was a huge hit, and more importantly, it was visually and mechanically fresh, while refusing to rely on past hits to draw us in. Existing characters were imagined in new ways, while terms like Umbrella, Raccoon City, and T-Virus felt like relics. From the past. While I think fighting giant tar monsters got tedious in the third act and The Baker Estate was easily the game’s strongest point, it was packed with so many clever ideas that it just begged to be fleshed out.
Resident Evil Village did exactly that, but also ditched its more serious horror in favor of B-movie thrills and villains we couldn’t take seriously. Lady Dimitrescu was a great vampire momma we wanted to step on, Heisenberg was a creepy old man with a funny voice, while the baby chase sequence wasn’t as scary as the internet made it seem. Village was an undeniable rollercoaster ride, but it leaned into the series’ story rather than moving forward, and that’s a huge shame.
He even stopped making use of the first-person perspective in emphasizing certain moments and the expression of tone and atmosphere. To be honest, except for a few small sections, it was a first-person shooter. Not once did I feel unable to fight back, and I was able to use all my weapons to take out any enemy foolish enough to cross my path. The narrative establishes that Ethan Winters has undergone military training since the last game to prepare for situations like this, but this feels like a featherweight justification for turning a survival horror into an action blockbuster.
The first person is so effective in this genre because it doesn’t give us a place to hide. It is a perspective that forces us to face what awaits us, where even turning around and running is a temporary solution in most cases. But when you have an arsenal of weapons at your disposal and loads of ammo, those threats start to mean nothing.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given that Village followed in the footsteps of Resident Evil 2 and 3, which were themselves very action-focused remakes that often put horror on the back burner. They were still unsettling when they needed to be, but it seems like this series is gradually returning to the position where its reputation was tarnished in the first place. You’ll soon run out of classics to remake and have to conjure up new ideas once again, or converge all these remakes and newer titles into a singular timeline to build upon.
We could even see that with Shadow of Rose later this year, the expansion being a follow-up to Village that will presumably set the stage for whatever comes next. It’s hard to say, and Resident Evil is so hit or miss as to where it goes because I’m not sure Capcom knows what they want the series to be. It spans so many mediums and changes so frequently that predicting its trajectory for years to come is next to useless.
However, leaving the first-person perspective behind would be a mistake, largely because Resident Evil isn’t even close to realizing its full potential. But right now it feels like an afterthought, even more so with Resident Evil Village set to release a new feature that allows you to play the entire campaign over your shoulder, just like Resi 2 and 3. It’s built on the same engine, and If this timeline comes to fruition, it makes sense that all games would look, play, and feel the same. Damn the dip, we need consistency.
I can’t stress enough how boring this direction would be, and I’m already wary of how light Resi 4’s gunplay will feel as a consequence. Watch this space, but a first-person mode will be released as DLC or a pre-order bonus for this game as a form of novel technology, when in reality it represents Capcom’s unwillingness to stick to its own guns.
Resident Evil 7 clearly drew inspiration from Amnesia and Outlast along with found footage horror classics, and this influence was clear. I’d love to see Capcom play into this perspective even more, having us deal with classic characters, locations, and enemies while moving forward with new ideas instead of abandoning it without a word. It may just be my love of intimate horror experiences talking, but I can’t be alone here.
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