Recently, two Resident Evil games were released. One of them, Resident Evil HD, was a port of the Gamecube remake of the original Resident Evil. This game was released after Resident Evil Code Veronica’s relative failure, and marked the beginning of a period, where the franchise had no idea where to go. Similarly, the other game released, Resident Evil Revelations 2 shows clear signs of franchise uncertainty. This is a game that doesn’t know what it wants to be, one that throws many modern ideas at the wall, hoping that one of them will be on trend so it can latch onto it for future instalments. Depending on how you look at it, Revelations 2 is either an exploratory game, charting the future for the series, or a muddled, reactionary mess. It’s all a matter of perspective.
I think at this point it’s fair to say that Resident Evil 6 was an unmitigated disaster. Although it had certain entertaining elements, Capcom’s insistence that the bulk of the game follow a generic action paradigm completely threw out what made Resident Evil special to begin with. Revelations 1 tried to go back to the series survival horror roots, but was only marginally successful, with co-operative, huge action set pieces standing in the way of actual survival horror. This brings us to Revelations 2, a game that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. It’s an episodic game, meaning that only part of the game has yet been released, with the remaining three chapters already scheduled. Oddly enough, the game is actually complete, which begs the question why it is episodic to begin with. Nevertheless, Revelations 2 is pretty much the same as Revelations 1, meaning it’s a mix of hardcore action set pieces and more intense horror elements. I wouldn’t say any of it even approaches survival horror as supplies are always ample, but you can see that Capcom is trying in that direction.
The problem with Revelations 2 isn’t in its gameplay, or story. Though it throws the kitchen sink at the player, like Resident Evil 6 did before it, the game still manages to be lots of fun to play. The issue arises when you realize that Capcom no longer knows what to do with the series. It’s not a fault of the game, per se, but a fault with the project directors of this franchise. You see, ever since the wild success of Resident Evil 4, Capcom had been skewing the series towards action. However, what made Resident Evil 4 special wasn’t merely the fact that it was action-based; it was the care and detail that went into it. Everything, from the treasures that were scattered around, the humour, the enemy design, the revolutionary controls scheme, went hand-in-hand in making Resident Evil 4 one of the greatest games ever made. Capcom did not understand this, and now, with the failure of Resident Evil 6, they seem lost.
Fans have been clamouring for survival horror, but Capcom was burned by that before. The Resident Evil Remake and Resident Evil 0 on the Gamecube didn’t do as well as they wanted, nor did the Wii ports. Code Veronica before that showed that the old Resident Evil formula was starting to lose its lustre. It only makes sense that Capcom wouldn’t outright trust the word of fickle gamers that survival horror was the way to go. But that leaves the lingering question of which way Capcom should proceed with the venerable series.
As explained, Revelations 2 packs a bit of everything. Capcom doesn’t know where the series is going, so they do everything. Are you looking for action? Then you’re in luck, because there are plenty of enemies to blow apart with magnums, machine guns, etc. Are you looking for horror? The Claire Redfield’s segment skews in the horror direction with fewer ammo pickups and a darker tone. How about an arcade shooter? Raid mode gives near-infinite replayability to this budget game. Raid mode also provides a Diablo 3-style loot-filled experience. The point being that Resident Evil Revelations 2 will bring something to the table for everyone. To its credit, it pulls these different styles off rather well. The issue is that the game feels disjointed. The original Revelations did as well. This is primarily because the game switches between characters and different segments in the game have completely different tones. In truth, it’s a weakness. That game isn’t cohesive even if it is otherwise fun. I’d rather buy an action-based Resident Evil game, or a survival horror Resident Evil game instead of both in one.
It remains to be seen exactly what direction Capcom will inevitably take the series. Revelations 2 is likely a footnote, stopping point before they get back on track. I would be surprised if the unfocused Revelations model became standard. As for where the series will go, it’s possible that the success of the most recent port of the Resident Evil remake onto modern consoles will spur Capcom to go in the survival horror direction. Then again, it’s undeniable that there is still more mainstream money to be made by making an action game. At this point, the only thing clear is that we know about as much as Capcom does in terms of where the series is going. It’s strange to see a directionless series. But Resident Evil is no stranger to reinventing itself, and only time will tell what that will entail. My hope? Something new. Follow the spirit instead of the form of Resident Evil 4 and make something that leads the video game industry instead of tacking on trends.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer