RESIDENT EVIL has been a huge part of my life since I was around 9 years old. I bought the games; I had the imported action figures, hell I even got a day of school suspension for wearing a RESIDENT EVIL 2 shirt. If you are a gamer chances are you have played at least one RESIDENT EVIL game. It is a series that has managed to reinvent itself multiple times to stay relevant in the gaming world. It is a series that has had very high points and very low points throughout the years. Regardless of some hiccups, horror gaming would be a lot different if it wasn’t for the Umbrella Corporation. RESIDENT EVIL 7 is right around the corner and it looks to be an oddly unique take on the series. Let’s take a quick look back at some of the classic RE moments that made us love the franchise.
The first RESIDENT EVIL was released in 1996 and it had a little bit of everything for a horror fan. The live action opening may look like a joke to gamers now but at the time it was anything but. The trek through the woods to escape the vicious dogs set the stage for a horrific journey through the Spencer Estate. The creepy mansion filled with hungry undead made my first play through an unforgettable experience. RE’s fixed camera angles and the old-school saving system made the game even more intense and reaching the ending credits really felt like an accomplishment at the time. My favorite moment has to be the infamous dog breaking through the window. Nothing in videogame history has ever scared me that badly, and I doubt anything ever will. The game is now widely available with a “REmake” port on GameCube, Steam and even current gen systems.
RESIDENT EVIL 2 released in 1998 and was an amazing follow up to the first one. RE2 is typically the fan favorite among gamers. This horror/action adventure featured Claire Redfield (Chris’s Sister) and rookie cop Leon Kennedy. Taking place in Raccoon City the threats were even larger and the monsters were deadly than ever. This game featured different scenarios that extended the length of the game and broadened the scope of what occurred during the incident. The atmosphere was incredibly dreadful and the creature design was groundbreaking. My stand out moment from RESIDENT EVIL 2 is tied between the first encounter with a “Licker” and the crocodile battle in the sewer. Fans have been petitioning for a remake for years and it has been reported that one is in the works.
The events before and after part 2 were covered in 1993’s RESIDENT EVIL 3: NEMESIS. It followed Jill Valentine and her attempt to escape the city. RE3 was probably the only main entry to the RE franchise that I only played through once. It was a solid game but it basically just felt like an expansion of the far superior sequel. It was almost like DLC but that wasn’t a thing yet. It had a couple of memorable moments and great characters but it lacked the replay value of the first two. Nemesis was pretty bad ass though.
RESIDENT EVIL 4 is loved and hated by most fans of the series. It was an amazing game that still holds up beautifully today but it was also the title that slowly turned RE into an action franchise. This title followed the now U.S. Government Special Agent Leon and his journey to rescue the president’s daughter from an evil cult. This was obviously a huge departure from the usual Umbrella bio warfare, but it was also a welcome change for most. The menacing small Spanish village filled with psychotic killers is an image that will probably haunt most gamers forever. RE4 rightfully ditched the fixed camera angles to make aiming a lot more practical and it dramatically upped the intensity. RE4 pretty much got everything right and I think it will go down as one of the best horror games ever made. Unfortunately the follow ups are not as well received.
The 5th entry picked back up with Chris Redfield from the first title and his new adventures in Africa working for the BSAA. The new cooperative gameplay modes and vicious melee combat made this one a favorable experience for me but overall it did not feel like RESIDENT EVIL. Chris was almost unrecognizable and his new partner Sheva Alomar’s AI was unbearable in single-player. The first mob attack was very memorable and some of the imagery was interesting but not as iconic as previous entries. Overall RE5 was fun with a friend but it was brutally obvious that the franchise was abandoning its horror roots.
RESIDENT EVIL 6 was the last straw for a lot of gamers. The game was epic, loud and had a lot of firepower but it did not capture the survival horror elements that fans loved about RE. The game was split into multiple interwoven stories that only kind of made sense when you finished them all. The world of RESIDENT EVIL had become convoluted and although it was great to see the return of Chris, Leon and Ada Wong it just wasn’t quite enough. Nonsense story aside it wasn’t all bad. The controls had been tightened up significantly and it was nice to have the cooperative option once again. Leon’s campaign brought back the traditional zombies of the early games, and the game offered several reasons to stick with it. I am a sucker for unlockable content and RE6 did deliver that.
After the mixed reviews of 5 and 6 a lot of people including me thought the series was pretty much doomed. Honestly that is why I think RE7 looks like the perfect direction for RE. Ditching the games of the past (as far as we know) and going with a more OUTLAST/AMNESIA style of gameplay may be exactly what the franchise needs! I guess we will all find out when it is released on January 24th 2017.
I know some people are thinking what about the movies? Well… as a die-hard fan, I have seen the movies but I am not a fan. I understand that some people love them and I am glad but I do hope that one day we get a movie that resembles the first couple of games. The CG movies “Degeneration” and “Damnation” were much more in line with the games and they are worth checking out.
I can’t do a retrospective of RE without mentioning some of my favorite RE spin off games. RESIDENT EVIL SURVIVOR was a bizarre first person RE game that had moments of fun but was hurt by the terrible graphics. CODE VERONICA was probably the most difficult entry into the series but it had an amazing story that followed up with fan favorite Claire Redfield. RESIDENT EVIL DEAD AIM had horrific voice acting but I enjoyed the gameplay and the graphics were amazing for the time. UMBRELLA and DARKSIDE CHRONICLES were incredibly fun light gun games for the WII that made it possible to go through the games without the puzzle solving and navigation. Lastly I have to mention RESIDENT EVIL ZERO which originally came out for the GameCube in 2002. RE0 was a horror filled prequel to the first game. While it wasn’t quite as memorable as the first few titles, it was the last game with the original playstyle and the survival horror elements. The characters Rebecca and Billy were great together and their story was incredibly interesting. I suggest picking up the RE ORIGINS bundle on current gen systems if you missed it. There are several journeys into the RE world that range from Gameboy games (where you play as Barry Burton on a cruise ship?) to the more modern games such as REVELATIONS and UMBRELLA CORPS. Everyone has a favorite, so which RESIDENT EVIL game is yours?
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