If it’s not apparent or if you’ve never encountered me before, I am a big fan of Resident Evil. If you are as well, then you also know the series has had an identity crisis lately. I talked about this subject and offered my opinion of what should be done in an article not long ago, touching on things like characters, gameplay mechanics, and environments. After thinking more about RE’s identity crisis, I feel there are a few more things that should be addressed. It is widely known that Capcom has stated that they want to bring RE back to survival horror, but they haven’t given much insight on what that means. Capcom has given The Last of Us and Tomb Raider as a point of reference for the direction that they want to go in, and that’s definitely not a bad thing. At the same time, Capcom has several things to do differently to make the next entry in their franchise truly RE. ROUND 2!
The Last of Us hit several chords for me that hadn’t been hit since before RE4. Feelings of desperation as I have one bullet left and several enemies around with low health. Classic RE excels in these situations because it actually matters if you die or not, whereas in TLOU you are sent back to a checkpoint at the beginning of the room. This approach isn’t exclusive to TLOU, though — most modern games have autosave systems and checkpoints that offer a giant, comfy safety pillow for players to fall back on.
With the typewriter save point system from classic RE, you not only are limited to specific locations to save your game but also have a limited number of saves in the form of ink ribbons. You are also limited on how many items you can carry with you at one time, so every save room has a storage box where you can swap things out. This adds more tension and strategy to everything you do in the game while also adding greater risk and reward. Do you leave your shotgun so you can carry a specific item you need to use for a puzzle? Do you chance death to go through just one more door before you save the game? I know this restrictive save system has almost no chance of returning, but it would be a big step in the right direction if it did. Even if they did bring back fight-or-flight mechanics (in RE4 through 6 you have to kill everything before you’re able to move on), a checkpoint system ruins the opportunity to have that added tension.
Another recent trend in Resident Evil and gaming comes in the form of way points and objectives popping up on your screen. I know a game must have a way to keep the player going toward a destination, but surely there is a better alternative than text popping up and telling you exactly what to do. Several times in RE6 the game tells you to “Find a key” or “Kill all enemies.” Really Capcom? You put me in a room with a bunch of enemies and a crap-ton of ammo and you don’t expect me to know what to do? I can’t remember many games I’ve played in recent years that haven’t had this kind of system. In the original RE games, it was left up to the player to figure out exactly what to do. When you found an item there was no text telling you what to do with it. If you came up to a door locked with a keycard, a waypoint didn’t pop up telling you where to go — you had to figure it out. Serious puzzle solving is one of the things I dearly miss in this franchise, and I hope it can make a return in some shape or form. The most recent Tomb Raider did a decent job with its environmental puzzles. Sure, they weren’t very hard, and a lot of them just required you to find the right tool to use, but it’s the closest thing to good puzzles I’ve seen in a good while. Including puzzles like these in RE, as well as some of the more complicated puzzles of old, would be extremely welcome.
Well, that should cover my thoughts on what Capcom could do to restore Resident Evil’s former glory without making it identical to the old games. While I would definitely love to see an old-style game with fixed camera angles and all, I know the current market for that is very small. At the end of the day, Capcom is a company that has to meet sales quotas and what not. I just hope they can take back a genre that they made popular.