I've been a fan of the Resident Evil series since the beginning. I was pretty young when the original came out way back in 1996, so I didn't play it until a few years later, but I'll never forget the night I popped it into my PlayStation with an eagerness to find out what everyone was talking about. It was the first game I actually prepared for—I did this by switching off the lights, turning up the volume as high as it could go, and grabbing an arsenal of sweets and sodas. Boy, was I ready to play this game. Fast forward two hours later and younger me is huddled on the couch with the lights on, my face taut with anxiety as I stared with wide eyes at the horrors going on on-screen. This game was terrifying, and I was hooked.
Fast forward again to roughly a decade later. Resident Evil 5 came out, and that same eagerness and excitement I felt when I was young was flowing through my veins yet again. RE4 was and still is one of my favorite games of all time, so needless to say I was more than a little excited for the fifth game. There's a lot of controversy surrounding people's opinions of Resident Evil 5, and I'm not talking about the supposed racism. Despite being a beautifully crafted, impressively detailed, and overall fun game, RE5 was panned by many fans because it "wasn't Resident Evil 4." I enjoyed the game, despite being unable to shake the feeling that I was playing a dumbed down version of RE4.
Maybe it's because Resident Evil 4 set the bar so astronomically high that there was really no way its sequel could live to the hype? Or maybe it was the format, recycled from the previous game, that bothered fans of the series. You see, in RE4 you start off in a village fighting enemies with fairly simplistic weapons (blunt instruments, dynamite, etc.), before moving on to a castle brimming with foes who can use more complex machinery (vehicles, flail/shield combo, etc.), and finally the island, complete with machine gun toting maniacs wearing full body armor. RE5 does pretty much the same thing, throwing basic enemies at you in the town, followed by more advanced tribal folk, followed by an army of super soldiers. I understand the reasoning behind this, since the difficulty needs to climb and you can't very well do that by throwing infected folks with guns at players in the first act, but seriously, it's the same exact thing.
Resident Evil 6 has the chance to drop the action flavor for a tighter, more atmospheric, and hopefully more terrifying experience. After the less-than-warm reviews RE5 received—though the game was in no way received poorly, it just didn't quite compare to the critical acclaim RE4 garnered—Capcom has stated that RE6 would again be another reboot of the series. The 3DS exclusive Revelations has taken a similar approach, returning more closely to the franchise's roots in survival horror. If you still want your Resident Evil as directed by Michael Bay, there's always Operation Raccoon City this March, but if you'd like a game that keeps you on the edge of your seat, read on for some ways the series can get back some of its horror glory.
For starters, the co-op either needs to go away or it needs to be optional. It's just not possible to be scared when you have an inventory full of things that can cause pain and an ally's inventory stocked with similar goods. I loved being able to play RE5 with a friend, and I used the option quite a bit, but it just didn't feel like Resident Evil. For RE6 to be truly scary, this is the first thing that needs to go.
The second thing is the archaic controls, and, more specifically, the inability to strafe. There's a very good chance this won't be an issue, since Operation Raccoon City has already jumped on this bandwagon, but it's ridiculous that this wasn't implemented sooner. It doesn't make the game more suspenseful; it only makes it more frustrating to play and less accessible to newcomers. To fix this issue, all Capcom has to do is copy and paste the fantastic controls from Dead Space 2. I want to know that every time I get hit or miss it's because of me, not because my character walks or aims like they're wearing one of those old bulky diving suits.
Something Resident Evil 5 lacked entirely that pretty much every other game in the series had was that one enemy that haunts your dreams long after you shut off the game. The Crimson Heads and Bandersnatches were particularly traumatizing to a younger me, but I'm not afraid to admit the profound effect RE4's Regenerator had on me. That thing was crap-out-your-spine terrifying. With that grey skin, abnormally long arms, the jittery walk, broken breathing, and glowing eyes, the Regenerator was spine-chilling. The enemies in RE5 were all fun to look at, but I noticed that I was studying them more than I was fearing for my life around them, and that's because they just weren't very intimidating. The dogs whose heads split vertically were a pretty nice touch, but again, I was never scared of them, just intrigued.
Give us back the claustrophobic locations and tense atmosphere that made the original game so freaky to play. One of the most unsettling things about the first game was not knowing what was around that next corner. (The dialogue was also pretty unsettling, but that was in a totally different way.) One of my favorite things about RE5's Lost in Nightmares DLC was that it took place before the events in the main game, when Chris and Jill went to one of Spencer's mansions in the woods (sound familiar?). The tight corridors, far-off sounds that you can't quite place, puzzles, and air thick with dread all returned, and it felt like I was playing a Resident Evil game. It also got me painfully excited for the possibilities of a Resident Evil remake on current consoles, but that's an entirely different "Dear Capcom" letter right there.
Resident Evil has been around for a long time and isn't likely to go anywhere any time soon. Capcom has proven adept at adapting the series with the ever-changing tastes of gamers, and RE6 will undoubtedly be a fantastic game. I'm only afraid that it won't be a scary one. The number of established and recognized horror franchises is dwindling, and it'd be a huge loss for genre fans if Resident Evil stayed on its current path toward full-on action. If RE6 is more Resident Evil 5 than Resident Evil 1, and the majority of this list goes ignored, I must implore Capcom to do one simple thing for me: please don't ever make me mash a button for two minutes so my character can push a boulder the size of a Volkswagon Beetle off a ledge. Thank you.
Date: January 17, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*