As Resident Evil Village fast approaches, Ross is going to be revisiting some of his favourite titles from a series that has undergone many permutations since 1996—from survival horror to white-knuckle third-person action—reinventing itself whenever the formula became too staid, to varying levels of success. But when it works, it really works.
If you’ve read any of my work over the years, you’ll know that many great game series’ have passed me by for one reason or another. Probably because of my Football Manager obsession, but not always. One such series that I’ve long been hidden away from is Resident Evil. But with the remaster of Resident Evil 2 hitting the shelves recently, I plucked up the courage, and stepped into Racoon City.
Racoon City, Umbrella, Claire Redfied, Leon S. Kennedy, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine are names that hold an irresistible thrill when mentioned. You know Resident Evil is being talked about, a series that dominated the late 90s and has continued to re-invent itself over the years.
The action-oriented Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 might have broken away from the survival-horror elements off the original titles, but they still sold like hot-cakes. After a five year lull though, Capcom were back with Resident Evil 7, a return to the survival-horror drive of the classics in the series, but with a first-person twist thanks to the new RE Engine.
With the power of the new game engine, Capcom revealed the Resident Evil 2 remake at E3 last year, showing off the new third-person camera, a drastic change from the static camera of the original.
Even then, I didn’t pay much attention to the news. I had played a smattering of RE5, but was left feeling underwhelmed. After years of avoiding the series, worrying that the tension of trying to survive would be my undoing, I wondered what was going on. Yes, there were zombies to kill, but it didn’t feel at all like I had expected, where was the horror I was left asking myself. After a few hours, I put it aside and probably went off and played a third-rate action game.
It wasn’t until I read Wesley Yin-Poole’s piece on Eurogamer about the Tyrant that I thought the re-imagining of Resident Evil 2 was worth checking out. I’m so glad I did, and also so glad that Capcom offered a standard difficulty mode that offered easy saves and zombies more willing to lie down and play dead.
The Hardcore mode is present and correct for those who want to feel like they’re back in 1998, and I’m actually kind of tempted to try that out during the second run stories that are on offer.
You see, despite being a 2019 release, Capcom haven’t forgotten their roots and turned the series into a Battle Royale. The elements of games from the 90s that made so many of them so great are well and truly present. Secrets to find, a smattering of lore that doesn’t overwhelm, and replayability that offers a substantial difference to your original journey.
There have certainly been moments where my pulse has raced, my palms sweaty and I’ve just had to pause the game and walk away. My first playthrough was with Claire, and when I first came across the Tyrant, at gone midnight in an empty house, I had to call it quits.
Playing as Leon, I started off cocky and full of myself. I’d completed the game as Claire and thought I knew all of the tricks to survive. Little did I realise how wildly different their stories would be upon first escaping the police station. Ammo was scarce, my health was in danger, I was short of any herbs or first aid sprays and I somehow managed to escape the zombie dogs.
I haven’t played a game like it for some time, and it offers a refreshing difference to a world that is full of open-world games and Battle Royale titles. If you’ve never dared pick up a Resident Evil before now, I strongly recommend you pick up the courage and get your hands on this one.