Despite the revelation that the image of a supposed E3 Resident Evil 7 poster that had been circulating around the internet turned out to be part of a hoax, it brings up a very important question regarding the future of the Resident Evil franchise. Is it too soon to start thinking about the next entry in the series?
It seems that with nearly every article I have written lately, I’m always criticizing Capcom for its more recent Resident Evil titles. I feel that it is with good reason, as it is truly a shame to see a franchise that I have played for 15 years slowly de-evolve into a series characterized by titles that provide unmemorable experiences. I remember nearly jumping out of my seat when I first saw the licker crawl by the first floor police station window in Resident Evil 2. I also remember being chased throughout Raccoon City by the relentless Mr. X and Nemesis. What is there to remember about Resident Evil 6?
It is no secret that Resident Evil 6 was a clear disappointment to fans and a critical failure for Capcom. Featuring four campaigns around some returning and new characters, this sixth entry emphasized the distance that the makers of the series have put between the more recent entries and the series’ survival horror roots. Discussions with some fellow fans revealed a sense of disgust at the thinly veiled attempt by Capcom to court fans of a certain popular shooter series with RE6.
Resident Evil 6 was a letdown for me as well. I remember anxiously waiting to learn the identity of Ada Wong’s co-op partner. Surely, I thought, Capcom is keeping us in suspense by delaying the release of the co-op campaign for Ada. I wondered who her mysterious partner was going to be. Could it be HUNK, the elusive Umbrella agent who has made his way into several in-game files as well as the Mercenary modes of various titles in the series throughout the years? My hopes for an interesting reveal were dashed when I learned that I was simply waiting for an unnamed agent character with no personality and no story to serve as Ada’s ‘partner’. If Capcom doesn’t care, why should I?
To be fair, however, there are some good points in Resident Evil 6. Some of the characters, including Piers and Helena, were memorable. It was also a nice treat to see the return of Sherry Birkin, as fans last saw her in Raccoon City as a young child in the second game. Many fans also stated that they appreciated the nods to survival horror that Leon’s campaign provided, including the return of zombies as in-game enemies, as they had been largely absent since being replaced by the faster and more ruthless Ganados in the fourth game.
These elements do not save Resident Evil 6, however. The game is bland at best, being neither a memorable horror game nor an outstanding shooter, and fans of the series have made this clear to Capcom. Thus, Capcom has responded by saying that it would, among other things, consider rebooting the series.
It has been nine months since the release of Resident Evil 6, and prior to E3, I thought I might have been the only person hoping to hear about an upcoming Resident Evil title. I was proven wrong when the supposed ‘leak’ of a Resident Evil 7 poster prior to the conference turned out to be a hoax begun presumably by a fan who, like me, is looking forward to the next entry. Capcom made no mention of Resident Evil 7 at E3, and has stated that it is first focusing on the fan response to the recent re-release of the original 3DS exclusive Resident Evil: Revelations on the PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii U. This, however, is where my worry regarding the fate of the series is intensifying.
Revelations is a better title than 6, but in my opinion, that isn’t saying much. While it is a decent game, it is by no means revolutionary. Granted, Revelations, unlike 6, has a both old and new Resident Evil elements. Running around a ship and retracing my steps is refreshingly challenging and seems a bit reminiscent of the more classic entries in the series, especially compared to the overall linear path the player had to take in the fifth and sixth games. Also, like the more recent entries, Revelations features a co-op partner who is by your side most of the time. In all, this title features elements from both the old-school and newer Resident Evil titles and, while fun, it provides nothing new to the series.
Thus, this makes me wonder why Capcom is reserving its stance regarding the future of the series until Revelations is deemed a success or failure. As Revelations is not revolutionary, I worry that Capcom is looking to the potential success of the game as a source of validation for what it has done in the past. It would be ironic if this turns out to be the case. The Resident Evil series is no stranger to innovation, and thus it would be unfortunate if Capcom is looking to Revelations as a way to justify at least some of the nonfunctional formulas that plagued RE6.
Simply put, a Resident Evil: Revelations type of approach to Resident Evil 7 will not save the series. Now is the time for creativity and innovation. Now is the time to refocus.
As I mentioned in my article about The Last of Us, I suggested that Capcom should look to this survival horror title for some inspiration. For starters, if Capcom wants to revolutionize Resident Evil, a good start would involve making an engaging story with complex characters and emotionally difficult situations that will leave a lasting impression on the player. As Capcom drew inspiration from unlikely sources such as Gears of War and Call of Duty to create a substandard third-person shooter with Resident Evil 6, I hope that the company soon realizes that it makes more sense to look at a critically successful game that is more closely related to its franchise.
Let’s go back to the question posted above. Is it truly too early to start thinking of RE7? Given what Capcom appears to be doing regarding Revelations, my answer is no. I’d rather Capcom not focus on Revelations as a reference point to try to rescue Resident Evil and instead start fresh on the concept of Resident Evil 7 as soon as possible. If Capcom wants to attract old and new fans alike, it’s time for an honest assessment of what the series is, what it isn’t, and what it can be. Resident Evil was best when it focused on survival horror. Overall, simultaneously going back to its roots and thinking of fresh and innovative ways to accentuate that horror could restore Resident Evil to greatness once again. Capcom already proved that the Resident Evil series can be adapted to the times. Now is the time for the series to change again for the right reasons.