The Evolution of Evil

The Evolution of Evil

The arrival of Resident Evil coined the term “survival horror”. However Capcom’s franchise title was inspired by the 1992 game, Alone in the Dark. Polygonal characters were rendered on a two dimensional backdrop with foreground elements overlapping.  The player could select to play as either a male or female protagonist. While the game play mixed together combat, exploration, and puzzle elements.



Alone in the Dark - Gameplay

Despite the obvious influence, Resident Evil took the formula and made it its own. Combat took a bigger stage. Zombies and B.O.W. creatures (biological organic weapons) stalked throughout the mansion. A short supply of ammo and weapons meant you had to wisely employ your arsenal. Not to mention health refills were as equally rare. The locked camera angles kept the player from seeing what was around the corner. When you did encounter something it’s typically accompanied with a nice jump scare. Like when the rotting dogs burst through the windows.  The intensity and nervousness induced by encounters where further amplified by the “tank controls” which make your character plod along as if they were stuck in mud. This recipe would forever leave an impression with gamers.

Capcom is not the kind of company to let a success go to waste. Resident Evil would see a Director’s Cut, a Dual Shock version, and numerous platform releases and remakes over the years. Each sequel would take things to new extremes. Resident Evil 2 in particular expanded onto two discs, introduced the “zap system” which let the player plunder from or leave supplies for the other playable character, and the T-Virus reanimated monsters were now alongside the mutating G-Virus infused pursuers. Resident Evil 3 seemed content to stay the course. The overall presentation was much more polished than the previous games.

Code Veronica on the Dreamcast brought the series into a full three dimensions. Ignoring the voice actor for Steve Burnsides and the heavy backtracking, the numerous settings showed that nowhere was safe from Umbrella’s dubious experiments. The intro still stands out as one of the most ridiculously awesome things to me and gave an early hint at where the series was going.



Resident Evil: Code Veronica - Intro

Resident Evil 4 was in development for awhile. And the complete reworking of the game play took the series further into action horror territory. The over-the-shoulder camera enabled the player to precisely aim. For instance zombies could be staggered by capping their knee. While a well placed headshot puts them down for good.  No longer a mindless mob, the enemies attack in groups and will alert others to your presence. Intensity is now found in being overwhelmed or dealing with extremely deadly enemies. Leon also grew into this wise-cracking smart ass which is a departure from the deadpan and direct tone of the prior titles. Even though it’s nothing like the original, number four is one my favorite games in the series

The series officially became action horror with the release of Resident Evil 5. Chris Redfield, the lead, evolved into this mountain of muscle that can punch his way through crowds. His partner, Sheva, is a gun-toting babe that easily doubles the kill rate. Supply hoarding took a step back as diving up ammo and health between two people became the focus. The enemies this time out are just as well armed as you. They’re even smart enough to take cover. Also the fight scenes with the “Masked Lady” and Albert Wesker employ all sorts of slow motion and acrobatics.



Resident Evil 5 - WESKER!!!

A lot of people have complained about where the franchise is going. It’s still technically a survival horror game. Instead of fretting over supplies and creeping along like in the original, you’re now faced with overwhelming numbers and intelligent (as far as programmed) bad guys. Resident Evil has been around since 1996. That’s fourteen years old and counting. If the developers didn’t change things up, the series would have gotten stale long ago. I’m glad they actually had the balls to experiment and keep things fresh. Which is a miracle when you consider the other games Capcom has ran into the ground.



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