Survival Horror: When did it all go wrong?
Please note that I am well aware that Resident Evil is not the only Survival Horror game around, nor is the genre in any way “Gone” but let’s face the facts… Resident Evil was the face of the Survival Horror genre, hell Capcom coined the term “Survival Horror”. Capcom in recent years has made many “Questionable” choices with how to address it’s longest and most ardent fans.
The same is true for the fans of the Survival Horror genre…or more specifically fans of the older Resident Evil games. Resident Evil games had been one of Capcoms heavy hitters, they put the series on par with games like Street-fighter and the game sold like hotcakes even into it’s last “classic” foray into Survival Horror. RE:Code Veronica despite being shown to the world on the ill-fated Dreamcast has still sold over 3 million copies to date far cry from “Needed a change to sell” that many people try to point out.
Fans were blown away (good and bad) when Resident Evil 4 hit store shelves, not much was known about the game prior to it’s launch the best we had to go on was old beta-game footage that was nothing near what the revamped game actually looked like.
While the existence of a “Beta” version of Resident Evil wasn’t a shock to many the drastic difference in gameplay and concept were. In the original planning phases and well into development (So much so it looks like some areas enemies and concept of RE4 Beta and even a early beta of RE5 where zombies were the main baddy are coming back) was about Leon exploring a “Haunted” castle where the T-Virus had evolved into some sort of “Fog” that was stalking and slowly attempting to take over Leon over the course of the game.
Far from the Tommy-gun wielding villagers in RE4 the enemies seemed far more traditional, with ethereal ghosts and possessed dolls haunting Leons every step it was a far more tense atmosphere. But around the time of Development for RE4 costs to produce a game had started to spike phenomenally, no doubt investors were not happy at the concept of not turning a dime on a game that took risks such as the traditional RE series.
All the while creating a action oriented game to draw in a larger crowd became a more and more interesting concept to investors. It appeared as if the Old RE4 project was dropped like a rock and work began anew on a faster paced more action packed game with a Resident Evil spin on it.
Much to the chagrin of fans of the old series RE4 was applauded in almost every aspect, it was a game among games to the general populace and for many gamers it was their first time experiencing a game even laced with a hint of horror, it took all the conventions of a Action and Horror game and smashed them into one conviently creating the “Action Horror” sub-genre we see so prolificly among Third person shooters (Dead Space and hell even Silent Hill for the most part has fallen down this path) all while under the guise of “Survival Horror” despite the utter lack of survival mechanics that the games that heralded the name had.
Although as far as Capcom was concerned the only thing they seemed to understand now is that “Action sells” setting us up for the amazingness of…
Capcom had once again had a game that was going to be prime with Horror building on the foundation that it started to lay with RE4, but I can only assume the higher up’s wouldn’t have these kind of shenanigans present within their company. The zombies suddenly disappeared from RE5 and again came the Las Plagas crammed in like a bad plot twist in a M Night movie.
While the game was ripe with references to the legendary T-Virus (Showing that once again the concept was probably dropped well after the game was in development) the Las Plagas took the stage as the more “Intelligent” and therefor more threatening foe. What’s a game without Multiplayer these days, many would say “A single player game” But Capcom instead said “Crap, let’s add a terrible AI partner and balance the game so poorly if some poor sap does find someone to play with the game will be childs play.” Even though they added a full blown co-operative aspect they seemed to retain the next to brain dead AI that got Resident Evil:0 plunged in a pit of fire. Was Capcom done having their turn on the failboat yet? I don’t think so, Capcom in a genius move left many multiplayer functions outside the main game on the disc…but wouldn’t let you access them without purchasing it.
While terrible DLC choices are almost a givin for Capcom these days, the utter lack of any tense atmosphere that gave RE4 some props for at least trying to be scary went right out the window with the games newfound balls to the walls action at every turn. You couldn’t much turn a corner without Chris diving into a group of Manjinis with naught but his fists, or if he didn’t feel punchy that day he could just start lobbing grenades, rockets, or any other variaty of heavy arsenal into the enemy lines.
It’s hard to take the series seriously anymore when it has taken such a drastic turn from it’s roots, we have all heard about a game reinventing itself, but Capcom flat out turned it’s back on the genre it had nurtured with it’s own hands. When the game goes from being alone in a dreary mansion full of zombies you barely had enough ammo to keep at bay let alone kill, to lobbing grenades at tanker sized tentacle monsters that would make any fan of …(risque) anime blush it’s hard to even look at it like the same series anymore.
Was Capcom so afraid to drop the Resident Evil name from the new action oriented series of games? Did they think that fans wouldn’t embrace a new IP, I can’t imagine why hell one of there other great IP’s was actually created from RE2 Beta code.
It’s no use trying to make sense of Capcoms actions though as I stated earlier in this article Capcom has made some decisions that have probably made almost any of their fans cringe at one point or another…but I digress.
While the best way to see the revival of the Survival Horror genre would be for it’s creators to take a real shot at bringing the scares and tension of the genre back, I doubt we will be able to see that anytime soon (RE:velations is still a far cry from Survival Horror but closer than RE4 will ever be) Perhaps if Revelations takes off Capcom will notice there is still a market for Scary games.
Let’s lay off Capcom for a while though and look at where Survival Horror is still clinging (and where it’s loosing it’s grip).
Dead Space has to be near the original the balance of Horror and Action that Capcom may have been looking for before they went crazy. Blending a tense enviroment and (Slightly) powerless character in a more action packed game did wonders. While it may not be the true Survival Horror fans cup of tea the first Deadspace is a rather fun romp that tries to keep the old ways while expanding upon the idea itself.
While Dead Space wasn’t the best representation of the genre, they had everything in place to make it better in Dead Space 2 unfortunatly Visceral games seems to have caught the same Action bug that Capcom has. lured by the larger potential audience in action Dead Space 2 took off in the Action oriented side of things and continues to cut more and more of the horror elements from the game and focus more and more on the action.
To be continued….