Love/Hate: Resident Evil Village

Welcome back to the Resident Evil love/hate series! In this entry we’re looking at Resident Evil Village, the most recent entry in the franchise thus far. After the successful resurrection of the franchise with Resident Evil 7 and then the blockbuster hits that were the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes, everyone was excited to see what direction Capcom were going to go next. Their answer was Resident Evil Village, a game which (thankfully) looked to push the bounds of the franchise with vampires, werewolves and a gothic aesthetic that looked more than a little inspired by Resident Evil 4. Could Capcom keep the series’ revival going? Read on to find out…

Also, just before we get into the meat of this article, I played this game on a base PS4. The game still looks and runs fantastically on old hardware, I didn’t really notice any issues in my playthrough. I’m sure it looks absolutely stunning on current-gen systems, but don’t feel like you have to wait to get the full experience.

Love

  • Great Characters – Most Resident Evil games have one or two really compelling leads and maybe a good villain, but Resident Evil Village has one of the most compelling casts in the whole franchise. There’s at least three top-tier villains, two solid heroes, a top-tier side-character and nearly every other major player has a ton of personality that makes them memorable. The four lords in particular are all fantastic, having more in common with a Metal Gear rogues gallery than they do Resident Evil, which works in their favour. Alcina Dimitrescu makes for a very compelling, haughty antagonist as she stalks you through her castle with her daughters and toys with you, believing you to be below her attention. Donna Beneviento is just creepy, the way she messes with your mind during her level tells you more about her than any exposition could. Salvatore Moreau is a pathetic momma’s boy, you feel a lot of pity for him as you put him out of his misery. Karl Heisenberg is really interesting, a truly chaotic force within the plot whose performance nails the “Nicholas Cage” energy it was going for. Mother Miranda has less personality than any of the four lords, but the game builds up an appropriately intimidating atmosphere around her character which keeps her from falling flat. As for the leads, Ethan Winters has so much more personality here than he did in Resident Evil 7, reacting appropriately as he tears his way through the village to save his daughter. As for Chris Redfield, this was honestly the first time a Resident Evil game has made me interested in him. His heel-turn is definitely contrived, but the portrayal of Chris here is one who is supremely confident and weathered, actually feeling like a proper soldier for once. Perhaps the biggest surprise has to be The Duke though. I was expecting him to be a second-rate Merchant, but he manages to be interesting, mysterious and strange all at once, allowing him to stand on his own merits.
  • Variety – Going into Resident Evil Village I expected this game to just be a ripoff of Resident Evil 4. While it is clearly drawing some inspiration from Resident Evil 4, Village is very much its own game. Perhaps the most interesting way that Village differentiates itself is in how wildly it shifts tones and gameplay in each section. The village is reminiscent of the early hours of Resident Evil 4, then Castle Dimitrescu feels like the original Resident Evil with a gothic coat of paint, House Beneviento goes full-on P.T. with its psychological horror/escape room vibe, Moreau Reservoir has lots of puzzle/environmental hazard gameplay in a Lovecraftian fishing village, the factory plays like a slow-paced Doom game and then the last stretch of the game goes from tank-battle, to full-bore shooter and then to an almost Souls-like final boss. It’s a lot of different styles and tones across a 8-12 hour playthrough and while some work more than others, there should be some levels that catch your interest.
  • Some Great Level Design – Compared to Resident Evil 7, Village is a more linear and expansive game. However, it still does work in some looping areas as it goes along. The most obvious example of this is the main village area, which you can nearly fully-explore in your initial visit, but as the game progresses you will be able to return to areas you couldn’t open at the time, and after nearly every major event some new enemy type or secret area will open up, encouraging you to explore the world as much as you can. Castle Dimitrescu also feels like classic Resident Evil level design as you trek out from the one safe room to find keys, solve puzzles and dodge the pursuer enemies looking to drain your blood. House Beneviento, as I’ve stated, feels like the fulfilled promise of P.T., utilizing frequent backtracking and escape room-like gameplay to mess with the player and build tension until unleashing it all in truly terrifying fashion.
  • Secrets Everywhere! – While I’m mildly disappointed that Village doesn’t have deviously well-hidden items like Resident Evil 7 did, it makes up for it with all the hidden secrets it backs into its levels. Whether its the hidden areas full of rewarding gear, tough bosses off the beaten path, or the iron balls you can use to unlock the rewarding (and fun) labyrinth puzzles, there’s always something new to do in the village after you complete each level. In fact, I know for a fact I missed a few of these secrets in my playthrough and it almost makes me want to go back to find them again.

Mixed

  • Story Goes Off the Rails in the Last Hour – Surprise, surprise, another Resident Evil game has a narrative I can’t fully get on board with. In some ways, Village may just have the deepest narrative in the franchise, if only because it actually has a theme that it weaves throughout the entire narrative. Specifically, the story is very much about parenthood, the lengths that parents and children will go to for each other. Many of the game’s strongest and most horrific moments revolve around this very theme. However, the story really falls off the rails in the last hour. Much of this has to do with the game’s opening, where Chris kills Ethan’s wife, Mia, and kidnaps their daughter, Rose, who then gets intercepted by Mother Miranda and brought to the titular village. While this makes for a really intriguing narrative hook, the game undermines it in the last hour when it reveals that “Mia” was actually Miranda in disguise and that Chris was actually trying to save Rose… but didn’t bother to tell Ethan for absolutely no reason. It’s stupid, transparently so, and is the one thing that makes me second-guess whether this is the best Chris Redfield portrayal or not. It also doesn’t help that after all the hyping up, Mother Miranda doesn’t get a lot of opportunity to shine and live up to the hype. She very much suffers from a “tell, not show” approach. If she had some more opportunity to get fleshed out she could have been one of the most memorable Resident Evil villains.
  • Hints of What’s to Come – The closing minutes of Village are perhaps some of the most interesting to talk about. It is revealed that the BSAA, the heroic anti-bio-terror organization which has been a fixture in the series since Resident Evil 5, have become corrupt and are now deploying B.O.W.s to combat bio-terror. Obviously, this is hinting at a future where we may have to take down the BSAA, which sounds interesting to say the least. The other big reveal is that Rose grows up infected with the mold, which has given her powers that the government are monitoring closely (kind of like Sherry Birkin in Resident Evil 6). On the one hand, my gut tells me that these plot threads are going to lead us back down an action-heavy direction for the series like Resident Evil 5 and 6 did. If followed to their natural conclusion, you’d need either a soldier-type like Chris or Jill leading the fight against the BSAA and all their B.O.W. soldiers, or you’d need a super-powered Rose Winters leading the fight. Either way, it’s far away from the intimate, tense, horror-focused gameplay of the best Resident Evil games and I’d hate to see the series leave that behind again right after finding its footing. That said, I really don’t want Resident Evil to have yet another major plot hook meet a dead-end. Jake Muller (who was poised to take over the franchise) hasn’t been seen in 10 years, nothing has been done about Alex Wesker’s personality taking control of Natalia and we still know basically nothing about Blue Umbrella or what Mia was up to in Resident Evil 7. Oh, speaking of which…

Hate

  • Mia Gets Totally Shafted – If there’s one character who truly gets done dirty in this game, it’s Mia Winters. In a rather shocking twist, Resident Evil 7 reveals that Mia is secretly a part of a freaking bio-terror organization, a fact which comes to light over the course of the game. It was kind of expected that this would be explored more in Village, maybe even be why Chris shoots her in the opening sequence… but no, it is never brought up at all. In fact, Mia is relegated to the role of damsel and crying wife. She’s literally just locked up in a cage throughout the entire events of the game, gets rescued by Chris about 30 minutes before the game ends and then cries and freaks out asking where Ethan is. It’s borderline insulting that Mia gets treated this way, she was (and is) a far more compelling character than Ethan is and could have made for a great hero (or antagonist!) in this game if they’d just stuck with the narrative threads they’d established for her. Honestly, I want her to come back for Resident Evil 9. I think the villainous route could work really well for her. Maybe she had Rose with Ethan in order to continue her research, it is implied she knew Miranda and maybe she was working with her as well. This could lead to a F.E.A.R.-like situation if Mia turns Rose evil, which could be an interesting direction that could keep the games from getting too action-heavy.
  • Two Back-to-Back Awful Levels – The second half of this game really soured the experience for me. I know some people don’t like either Moreau’s Reservoir or they don’t like the factory, but I had the unpleasant experience of hating both.
    • Moreau’s area was unfocused and mediocre enough in the mines, but when you have to make your way to drain the sunken village it became an incredibly frustrating game of trial and error. Basically, you have to maneuver across planks before they go in the water, but if you fail, or if you happen to try at a moment when Moreau jumps past you, then you fall in the water and instantly get killed. I must have died here more times than in the rest of the game combined, and nearly every death was total bullshit. You can tell that there were some major cuts made here, a fact which was only recently confirmed. The original concept for the area sounds way more intriguing than what we got and I’m sad that the developers didn’t get more time to make it work.
    • Meanwhile, Heisenberg’s factory is just a slog. You have a fight tons of cyborg-zombies which become stronger and more well-armoured as the level progresses to keep things interesting. While I appreciate the attempts to keep the fights from getting too routine and I like some of the level design, the factory just goes on way too goddamn long and outstays its welcome. The game is also a lot more action-heavy during this time and every enemy feels like it takes too many shots to down them… everything is just “too much” and really should have been scaled back. Cut 20-30 minutes off this level and the game itself would be vastly improved.
  • Exploration Just Suddenly Ends Without Warning – As I headed off to Heisenberg’s factory, I had no idea that, once I went through those doors, the freeform exploration that the game had allowed up to that point was done. I had some puzzles and areas to explore still, but I figured I’d get a chance to clean all that up after the factory and before moving on to whatever area Miranda was in… haha, nope. As soon as the factory’s done the end-game gauntlet begins and goes on for nearly an hour. There’s also no merchant or weapon upgrades during this time either, so I sure hope you made use of The Duke’s services before you fought Heisenberg. Honestly, this is kind of baffling to me, I can’t help but wonder if they had to rush the ending or cut out some more areas, but it really annoyed me that you couldn’t get one last chance to explore the village before the final showdown.

Resident Evil Village was a big of a mixed bag for me. The first half was fantastic all-round, but by the time I hit the mid-point the game really nose-dived in quality and it left me feeling disappointed at how things went. I appreciate Capcom’s willingness to experiment with the franchise, but I definitely preferred the more focused and small-scale stakes of Resident Evil 7 and hope that the series will try to emulate that experience going forward.

Love/Hate: Umbrella Corps

Yeah that’s right, this one doesn’t even have the Resident Evil moniker, Capcom literally just called it Umbrella Corps. I’m not even going to mince words, this game fucking sucks. It is far and away the worst Resident Evil game I’ve played and I have a hard time imagining how a AAA studio could make a game shittier than this in future. How they managed to make a worse shooter than Resident Evil: Survivor in an era when shooters had been long figured out is beyond me. Oh and as for why I’m covering this game now instead of later with the Resident Evil spin-off titles? Despite being a multiplayer shooter, it is somehow, inexplicably canon.

Love

  • No Microtransactions – I shouldn’t even have to give a game any sort of kudos for not being predatory, but Umbrella Corps seems so ripe for microtransactions that it is shocking to see them absent. Especially for a hollow game like this, you’d expect it to be nothing but a vector to shove microtransactions at gamers, but no, somehow Capcom had some pride in this game. Hooray?
  • Fan Service – Okay, I’ve got to admit that seeing the Resident Evil 4 village in full HD is pretty damn cool. The game even adopts some of the movement mechanics of that game into the map design, encouraging more verticality. Similarly, the Kijuju village map features much more aggressive enemies, similar to how Resident Evil 5 plays, making the game almost feel like a bite-sized remake at times.

Mixed

  • Customization – Like I mentioned on Resident Evil 6, I love when a game lets you customize trivial things to your liking. Wanna pick the colour of your uniform, your helmet emblems, your gun sights and reticule? Umbrella Corps has you covered. However, you get the sense that they may have put the horse before the cart because you’re telling me that you only start out with two shotguns, two SMGs and 2 pistols? Seriously? I mean, you could theoretically unlock more, but… well…
  • Movement Speed – Holy crap you move FAST in this game, which feels at odds with the tiny maps you’re running around in. Even with just your base movement speed you can cross a room in a couple seconds at most, which I can only imagine was to copy the blistering mobility of games of the time like Titanfall and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. I don’t really like the speed of the game, it feels “wrong” to me, but that’s more of a subjective annoyance rather than an actual flaw so your mileage may vary.

Hate

  • An Online Shooter With No Online – The big issue with online-focused games is that they are inevitably going to be worthless and most of the content inaccessible once the online part of the game comes to an end. It’s one thing to hold that against a game like MAG or Warhawk where they provided years of online play to people who were buying the game. However, I have absolutely no reservations about Umbrella Corps, because it was dead on arrival. Within a month it was basically unplayable, with less than 50 people playing at any one time. In its release year it spent more time in an unplayable state than it did playable, which mean that this is the game’s content as far as I’m concerned. And Capcom’s still selling the “Deluxe Edition” for $33.50 on PSN! For a completely dead game!!!
  • The Experiment – Full-stop, the single player content in this game is miserable. This would be bad enough if it was just a bonus mode you could ignore, but this especially hurts because it’s the only part of the game that’s actually playable. It plays like Black Ops Declassified, the bargain-basement PS Vita Call of Duty game Activision shit out. You do spec ops missions with such engaging objectives as “kill a bunch of enemies” and “hold some points for 10 seconds”, bored to tears the whole time, stuck with the default weapon loadouts and each mission may take like 2 minutes at most to complete. To compensate for this, the game makes all enemies kill you in 1 or 2 hits, so if you make any kind of mistake then you’re punished severely. If you want to make the game even more boring you can cheese this by standing in front of the meat piles that zombies spawn from and just shoot them before they can even react, but… like, the game is boring enough as is. I’m not ashamed to admit that I quit about halfway through The Experiment, it was that joyless. The game had me doing a tedious “kill 20 enemies” mission and then round 2 was “hold point 10 seconds 5 times”. I died in the 2nd round and had to replay the entire first round again. I wanted to see Raccoon City, but fuck this, I’m not playing this game ever again.
  • Basic Design Decisions Are Flawed – Umbrella Corps just feels “off” when you’re playing it. The aforementioned movement speed doesn’t help too much but on it’s own it’s not an insurmountable problem. The problems arise from how awkward the basic shooting gameplay is. The game’s in a third person perspective, but suddenly switches to first person when you aim down sights. This is disorienting enough, but for a bonus it doesn’t do this if you’re in cover, in that context it just zooms the third person camera when you ADS. It got to the point where I was just hip-firing at all times rather than deal with the camera zooming in and out all the time.
  • Repeated Voice Lines – Get ready to tear your ears off if you hop into The Experiment. Every time you pick up a DNA sample you’re going to hear “This one’s mine!” and “There is is!” over and over and over and over and over and over and over. I swear to God that no one in charge tested this game, no one would greenlight a game this annoying and “yeah, that’s acceptable”.
  • Information Overload – Umbrella Corps‘ UI is buck-wild. In addition to standard shooter UI, the game shows you exactly where you can climb, take cover and the exact range of your melee weapons… which, combined with the small maps means that at any one time your view is going to be filled with obtrusive, over-animated bullshit, whether you wanted to or not.

Umbrella Corps is fucking garbage. I spent $6.50 on this game and I kind of knew what I was getting into, but even that felt like I was getting ripped off. I really want to know how Capcom fucked this up so badly, because there are Steam Greenlight games with better all-round design than this piece of shit.

Love/Hate: Resident Evil – Revelations 2

Welcome back to the Resident Evil love/hate series! In this entry we’re looking at Resident Evil: Revelations 2, a game which, in hindsight, feels like Capcom testing the waters between Resident Evil 6 and 7. Like its predecessor, Revelations 2 experiments with the franchise’s usual formula in plenty of interesting ways. Does it work out for the better? Read on to find out…

Love

  • Horror Is Back, Baby! – The first Resident Evil: Revelations was clearly trying to harken back to the survival horror gameplay of the franchise’s classic entries, but Revelations 2 decides to lean full-tilt into being a horror game. It wears its influences on its sleeves – the Claire/Moira sections are very intense, like Saw II mashed with a creature feature (there’s even a chapter with its own Saw traps!), whereas Barry/Natalia’s sections are much slower-paced and have a post-apocalyptic feel, like The Last of Us. It’s a much more small-scale and intimate return to form for the franchise, which had been going off the rails for years by this point.
  • Lots of Great Characters – Revelations 2 scales down the cast compared to its predecessor, but in doing so it crafts a far more focused and impactful journey for most of them. By far the best of the bunch are Barry Burton and his daughter Moira. It’s really nice to see Barry again after so long and the fact that we like him so much makes us want to find his missing daughter all the more. Speaking of which, Moira has a great debut here. Like most modern-day Resident Evil heroines, she has a serious potty mouth, which goes along with her off-the-charts sass, but it makes her endearing. Learning what caused the rift between her and Barry and helping her overcome her fears makes for a surprisingly poignant journey. Natalia is also a surprisingly decent character, I was worried that a little girl character could get annoyingly precocious or just be used as a vector for limp scares, but she manages to hold her own. I also found the game’s villain to be very creepy, I wish that they had gotten a bit more to do but they really made an impact here.
  • Some Interesting New Enemies – Most of Revelations 2‘s enemies are the usual variety of fast/slow zombies, heavy weapon zombies, etc, but Barry’s campaign has a couple of really interesting new enemy types.
    • First of all are the glasps, which are basically big, invisible bugs. As they close in on you, the camera begins to lose focus in their direction, giving you a hint about where they are. In addition, Natalia can see them, so you can either switch to her to see where they are, or aim and listen to her call-outs to know where to shoot. They’re usually not much of a threat, but they are spooky, so they fit the game’s horror ambitions well.
    • My favourite enemy though are the Revenants, big, creepy zombies with armour all over their bodies which move erratically as you blow the plates off. The really interesting part though is that every Revenant has a randomized parasite in one of its extremities, kind of like the Regeneradors from Resident Evil 4. If you know where their weak points are, you can kill them in as little as two shots, but if you don’t you can waste a lot of ammo guessing. This incentivizes strategic play any time you encounter a Revenant. Natalia can see the parasites, so you can switch to her to know where to shoot, or you can use stealth to get close and one-shot them with a knife takedown. All-in-all, they’re a nice shake-up from the usual sorts of enemies we encounter in these games and the fact that they require some strategizing to kill effectively is appreciated.
  • Partner Switching Returns! – Thirteen years after being introduced in Resident Evil 0, seamless character switching makes its triumphant return in Revelations 2! With a press of a button you can instantly switch characters. While there aren’t quite as many puzzles requiring your characters to separate, in some ways this feature felt more necessary in Revelations 2, because your characters are far more specialized. Claire/Barry are the only characters who can shoot guns at enemies, meaning they’re going to be doing most of the combat, whereas Moira and Natalia can be used to stun enemies and find hidden items in the environment. Because of this, I got into a rhythm of playing as the item-finding characters 60% of the time and then switching to my fighter when combat gets triggered. Of course, if you don’t want to partner switch, then you could always use…
  • Split-screen Co-op! – I was legitimately surprised when I found out that Revelations 2 had a split-screen mode. Considering that Resident Evil 5 and 6 both had split-screen, I probably shouldn’t have been, but it’s a welcome surprise. It may not be as fun of an experience as those games since one player is going to be severely underpowered at all times, but having to adapt to being a support character could make Revelations 2 a unique co-op experience.
  • An Actual Dodge Button – Capcom must have heard my complaints about the dodge in the original Revelations, because the dodge here solves every single problem I had with that game’s system. All you have to do is press a button and it will play an animation, oh my God! Honestly, this probably shouldn’t even warrant an entry on the list, but the fact that I loathed the original game’s dodge so much made this such a joyous addition.

Mixed

  • Nerfed Weapon Upgrade System – Considering how much I loved the weapon upgrade system in the original Revelations, I was really excited to see it back in Revelations 2. However, the devs have made some tweaks to this system which make it so much less satisfying. First of all, the upgrade screen now shows you far less information – you can’t even see what effect applying an upgrade will have to your stats until you have applied it… why would they do this? Secondly, parts kits are significantly rarer than they were in the first game. You could reliably find 1-2 parts kits every time you passed a weapons bench in the first game, but here it’s not unusual for me to go a whole chapter and only find a couple upgrades the whole time. The devs seem to have made the decision to have parts kits be hidden much better in the environment, meaning that you really have to go looking to find them now. You can argue that it’s more rewarding, but I just find it leaves your weapons feeling far less personalized over the course of the playthrough.
  • Oh Hey, Skills Are Back… – Skills return from Resident Evil 6… and they’re about as useless as ever. As you play through the game you can find gems which will earn you BP which you can use at the end of a chapter to purchase skills, but most of these skills are very underwhelming. I can increase my fire rate when I crouch by 10%? Wow. I can heal my partner from a downed state faster (a state that I had my partner get into once in the entire game)? What a steal… But hey, at least BP is pretty easy to come by and they combined Skills with an actual weapon upgrade system, so it’s at best unobtrusive. It is, however, pretty underwhelming considering that they included a medal system to try to incentivize getting lots of bonus BP.

Hate

  • Linear Level Design – Probably the biggest change in Revelations 2 is that it drops the looping level design in favour of a far more linear progression, which feels pretty disappointing in comparison. Some of this could be chalked up to the game’s episodic release structure, which could make it difficult to design the game with hub areas, looping levels and gradual exploration of a larger area. Making matters worse, Barry’s segments recycle areas from Claire’s campaign. In fact, Barry doesn’t get any substantial new areas until Chapter 3 (of 4, for the record), meaning that nearly a quarter of the game feels like an asset flip. Thankfully, like I’ve said, the tone and pacing in Barry’s version of these areas is completely different so it doesn’t feel too egregious.
  • Claire Gets Shafted – Going into this game I thought that Claire Redfield was the main character, but holy shit does she ever feel like an afterthought. She basically adds nothing to the plot. Like, the ingredients for her to actually matter are there – Moira needs to overcome her fears in order to save the day, why can’t we make it clear that Claire is the one to inspire her? Hell, the game’s T-virus strain is triggered by fear and the villain wants Natalia specifically because she’s fearless… yet she casts aside Claire without a second thought. You’re telling me that Natalia’s more fearless than Claire is at this point? Hell, even at the end when Claire comes back to finish the fight, Barry’s just like “fuck off, this is my fight”. Sure, Claire gets the final hit in, but again it all feels like an afterthought… And oh my God don’t even get me started on her “relationship” with Neil that comes out of nowhere. It’s so badly done that it undermines and sort of emotional heft that could have been mined from it. All-in-all, this is the Burtons’ game and Claire is one again relegated to supporting character which is very disappointing.
    • On a related note, Kaya Scodelario who plays Claire in Welcome to Raccoon City got dragged by Resident Evil fans for saying that Claire gets screwed over after Resident Evil 2… but, like, she undeniably did. After 2 she gets Code: Veronica, which puts her in the back seat for Chris halfway through, and then… this. Claire got shafted hardcore by Capcom and anyone who argued otherwise needs to take a step back and look at just how under-represented Claire is.
  • Bleed/Healing System – One of Revelations 2‘s experiments with the series’ survival horror formula involves adding a bleed status and I’ve got to say that I’m not a fan of this system at all. If you get hit by a strong attack from an enemy, this will cause the edges of the screen to turn a sharp red and your health will drain over time. The only way to stop this is for you or your partner to either apply a tourniquet or use a green herb. It’s fine in concept, but in execution it doesn’t work. First of all, there’s no hotkey to use a tourniquet, so you have to dive into your menu to do it… but if you got hit by an enemy then you’re still in combat and you won’t have time to do that (opening the inventory doesn’t pause the game in Revelations 2). Secondly, you never know if your partner is going to use a tourniquet on you or not, it’s a crapshoot really. Thirdly, I don’t like the way this game indicates damage – you can’t really tell how damaged you are, and even a couple small hits turn a third of your screen red so for all I know I was healing all game while still over half health. Oh and the game also has ANOTHER system where your vision can be obscured by gunk so you can apply disinfectant to clear your screen, but again… why? With no hotkey I’m not digging through my inventory for this.
  • HOLD ONTO THE FUCKING BRICK, NATALIA – Holy fucking shit this annoyed the hell out of me. Natalia’s only offensive option is to pick up bricks in the environment and throw them at enemies or bash them up close. You’d think she could just carry them around easily, but no, if you do anything she will drop it automatically. Went up a ladder? Brick’s gone? Slide down a hill? Bye-bye brick. Open a door? No bricks allowed. It’s so stupid, it makes it so that you can’t even reliably plan to have a brick for any upcoming combats and I honestly can’t wrap my head around why the devs would program the game like this.
  • Doesn’t Take Advantage of A/B Scenario – Revelations 2 makes some attempts for actions taken in Claire’s scenario to affect Barry’s scenario, but these feel token at best. There are a handful of enemies in each chapter with glowing heads whose survival or death affects Barry’s campaign, plus interacting with a couple objects may open up different paths, but that’s it. It could have been cool if there was more ways to “leave a mark” on Barry’s campaign, but unfortunately the execution here is so limited that it is effectively non-existent.
  • Bugs – There are bugs everywhere in this game, and not just of the invisible-variety. Animation bugs are by far the most common and egregious – you will see objects and characters clip through the environment all the time. Even the mandatory sliding animations to load into new areas will blatantly show Barry and Natalia halfway up to their knees in the environment which is really immersion-breaking.
  • The Story Crumbles By the End – By the end of the first half, Revelations 2 had one of the best stories in any Resident Evil game going. The character drama is strong and Chapter 2 ends with a hell of a cliff-hanger, but after this point the plot quickly starts to fall apart. Chapter 3 really puts Claire’s “relationship” with Neil center stage and it goes off like a wet fart, whereas Barry’s Chapter 3 is basically just busywork, feeling like padding. However, by the time you reach the story revelations in Chapter 4 the plot crumbles with any level of scrutiny (spoilers ahead). For example, if Neil was secretly supporting bioterrorism, why did he kidnap his own employees as test subjects? And, for that matter, why kidnap Claire goddamn Redfield!? All that said, Revelations 2 ends on a cliffhanger that must be addressed in a future Resident Evil game, it’s far too big to just leave it as a loose end forever.

I enjoyed Resident Evil: Revelations 2 quite a bit, but it is a far different game than its predecessor. I like some things they did here more than the original, but for every improvement there’s a step back which hinders the experience somewhat. If they had ironed out a handful of the annoyances (eg, drop the bleed system, keep weapon upgrades how they were in the original, tighten the story, etc) then it’d probably be a clear head and shoulders above the first Revelations, but as-is I appreciate both for their unique takes on survival horror.

Love/Hate: Resident Evil – Revelations

Welcome back to the Resident Evil love/hate series! In this entry we’re going to start arguably the most prominent and popular spin-off series in the franchise, Resident Evil: Revelations. Conceived as an interquel set between Resident Evil 4 and 5 and initially designed as a handheld experience, Revelations has since made its way to TV screen and computer monitors. This game also came out at a time when Resident Evil was at its most troubled – the horror elements of the franchise had been forgotten and Resident Evil 6 and Operation Racoon City were just on the horizon to make things even worse. With all this in mind, how does Revelations hold up today compared to its full-fledged console brethren? Read on to find out…

Love

  • Really Impressive For a 3DS Game – While it’s not quite on the same level as Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Revelations makes the jump from handheld to console surprisingly well. You can definitely tell that the game was designed for less-powerful hardware – the graphics range from near PS3-quality for some of the character models to sub-PS1 for parts of the environment, the animations (especially for enemies) can be very stiff and limited and the whole experience feels like Resident Evil 5-lite. However, this ultimately makes the game all the more impressive because throughout the entire playthrough I found myself saying holy shit this was running on a 3DS?!
  • Great Pacing – Resident Evil games, especially after 4, had a bad habit of trying to stretch out their levels as much as possible, making each one take around an hour to get through. Revelations, on the other hand, is designed for handhelds and so most levels top out between 30-45 minutes, which are often divided up between 5-30 minute chunks of gameplay, and each chapter ends with some sort of cliffhanger which makes you want to find out what will happen next. Honestly, I enjoyed this “TV drama” approach more than I expected to.
  • Some Great New Characters – Resident Evil can struggle at times to introduce interesting new characters (or, hell, can be adverse to introducing any), but Revelations has a bunch of fun, delightful additions that I really want to see come back to the franchise someday. The most notable is Parker, a super charming guy who is as memorable as fan-favourite Barry Burton. BSAA director O’Brian is also a solid character, literally a Colonel Campbell type (they even got Paul Eiding for the English dub to play him). Despite being one-note, I also found Jessica to be quite endearing, especially because she plays off of Chris and Parker well. I would be sad if none of these characters ever return to the series – don’t make me sad, Capcom!
  • Return to Classic Level Design – Resident Evil 4 moved the franchise towards a more linear level design, but a good chunk of Revelations harkens back to a more classic-style in line with the original Resident Evil. Over the course of the game, Jill will explore every area of the Queen Zenobia at least twice over, coming back to get to previously-inaccessible rooms and items as you go, which keeps the environments from feeling overly-repetitive. Like I’ve said, it’s pretty stripped-down compared to the classic Resident Evil games, so don’t expect to find an item and then have to trek to the other side of the ship to use it, the game is pretty good at funneling you where you need to go (which is good because the in-game map is not very helpful and the Queen Zenobia isn’t anywhere near as memorable as the Spencer Mansion or Raccoon Police Department).
  • Genesis – I was initially annoyed by the introduction of the Genesis scanning system; it felt like an unnecessary barrier to item discovery, when you should be able to just pick items up in the environment. However, soon enough I found it to be a fun, optional bonus you could use. Low on ammo? Pop out the Genesis and you’re sure to find some. It’s also very handy that when you walk into a room the scanner will tell you if there’s an item there, so you don’t have to waste time searching every corner of every room. It also has the bonus function of producing green herbs when you scan enough enemies… but it’s most effective when they’re still alive (some enemies can’t even be scanned when they die because their bodies dissolve immediately), so you have a strategic decision to make when using it. I’m not sure I’d like this to be added to any other Resident Evil game, but it works surprisingly well here.
  • Weapon Upgrades System – Revelations may have my favourite weapon upgrade system in the entire franchise. Hell, Revelations may have my favourite kind of weapon upgrade system in any game. Put simply, you’ll find parts kits in the environment as you play, the most valuable of which are in hard-to-reach places and/or hidden with the Genesis. If you’re actually looking for them, you should find one or two kits every time you set off to complete an objective. These kits allow you to equip perks onto your guns at workbenches. Each gun comes with a certain number of perk slots, perks can be swapped in and out at will and some perks are exclusive to each weapon. Furthermore, each perk has multiple levels of effectiveness which dramatically improve their quality (eg, Damage 1 boosts your gun by 10%… whereas Damage 5 boosts it 50%). All-in-all, it’s a great system that gives you a ton of flexibility and customization, encourages exploration to get the most out of your weapons and are doled out at a good pace to feel rewarding.

Mixed

  • The Shooting Gameplay – Revelations plays a lot like Resident Evil 5, which I was pretty meh on. Thankfully, the enemies in this game aren’t quite as bullet-spongey, but some of the endless shooting galleries (especially any time Hunters are on-screen) get to the point of being tedious and mind-numbing. Unlike, say, the Resident Evil 2 remake where you are encouraged to avoid/ignore enemies when you can, Revelations seems to expect you to kill everyone you come across, which clashes somewhat with the more classic survival horror elements of the game. It can be especially problematic during the handful of sequences where you get absolutely swarmed by enemies, where your success or failure will likely come down to whether you happen to have enough ammo stockpiled.

Hate

  • …And Some Awful New Characters – As much as I like the new cast in Revelations, there were some utter stinkers added to the roster which I would be remiss to ignore. Worst of all has to be Quint, an annoying dork who refuses to just shut the hell up for five seconds. He’s joined by his comedy side-kick, Grinder, who isn’t anywhere near as bad but ever time Quint said his nickname (which is all the time) all I can hear is “Grindr”… Anyway, this game is also saddled with Raymond, an even bigger dork with an awful, out-of-place anime character design, complete with huge red haircut and gigantic chad chin. Raymond himself isn’t that bad, but his design is so off-putting that I hated every moment he was on-screen and it definitely undermined the “cool guy” energy they were clearly aiming for.
  • Dodging – Okay, I will acknowledge that there is a good chance that this may be 100% on me, but holy fuck I could not dodge to save my life. There’s a whole dodging tutorial section in the early parts of the game where it tells you “move your analog stick and press X to dodge” and if you do it at the right time your character will dodge. Simple enough, but Jesus Christ it doesn’t work. First of all, there is no associated animation for a failed dodge, so you either do it perfectly or don’t do anything, making it difficult to know if I’m even performing it right. Secondly, I would constantly perform dodges at random in this game without even intending to and I can tell you for a fact that all I was doing at the time was moving the stick, I was definitely not pressing X too. Worst of all, dodging is crucial for your survival, because several enemies and attacks are clearly designed to be dodged and your health reserves will barely get you through on Normal if you can’t. Anyway, suffice to say I got extremely frustrated during the dodge “tutorial”.
  • Story Goes Off the Rails – I’ll be honest, for the first half of this game I was enjoying the story here way more than most Resident Evil games. The TV drama format means you’re getting new twists and turns every 30 minutes or so, but at a certain point it just collapses in on itself. Probably the dumbest moment in the whole game is when you play as Chris and Jessica fighting your way through a ship to rescue Jill and Parker… only to get to the end of the level and discover “oh no, the princess is in another cruise ship!” Seriously, someone decided that it was a good idea to have two identical cruise ships with monsters in them and the only reason I can think for that is to pad the runtime and reuse some areas for a dumb twist. As if that wasn’t dumb enough though, it turns out that there’s also a third ship after all this. Oh, and the whole plot is a false flag operation orchestrated by O’Brian to prove that his boss is a terrorist-sympathizer… which he does by unleashing a deadly virus on two (retired) cruise ships and then throws his best agents into them because he can’t risk having the truth leak out! Throw in a couple non-sensical betrayals and it’s pretty clear that twists took precedence over a coherent and satisfying narrative.
  • Enemy Design – The design of the T-Abyss monsters really doesn’t do it for me in this game. On the one hand, blob-like enemies hadn’t been done in the franchise at this point, I can appreciate their deep-sea creature inspirations and they’re differentiated well enough that you can always know exactly what variant you’re fighting. However, blob monsters seem so uninspired to me. Their jerky motions remind me of the necromorphs in Dead Space, but their design as a bunch of flesh blobs make them far less interesting and disturbing as far as I’m concerned. On the other side of the coin, the Hunters and infected wolves clearly got the short end of the stick here, as each are clearly given far less attention with their animations and attacks, preferring to just swarm you and hope you don’t notice.
  • Partner AI – I’m not even sure why Revelations has a partner with you at all times, because they are basically useless. I can only assume that “everyone liked it in Resident Evil 5” so it’s an expectation that it will be there? Anyway, your partner will never do anything useful in combat, can’t hold items for you, can’t heal you and will rarely draw any sort of aggro for you… Honestly, the only good part about having an AI partner with you for the whole game is that at least it helps flesh out their character, which is a big reason why I liked Parker and Jessica so much.
  • Jill’s Redesign – This is a pretty minor issue all-told, but I couldn’t get it out of my head throughout the entire game. Capcom changed Jill’s face model for this game and it just feels… wrong. The new model isn’t that far off from the one they had been using from Resident Evil remake through to 5, but (weirdly enough) that just makes it feel worse, like they subtly screwed up how she’s supposed to look.
  • Horny Devs – Resident Evil 6 was in development at the same time as Revelations and you can definitely see that both games had the same level of horniness in the dev teams (for better or worse). First of all, Jill has a dump truck ass in this game and is always showing some cleavage. This is super minor and I wouldn’t have minded at all if that was the end of it, but there are two particularly egregious offenders. First of all is Jessica, whose special ops wetsuit design apparently doesn’t need to cover an entire leg or ass-cheek. It’s just so transparently horny that even the guy who designed her thinks it looks stupid. The worst offender is, without a doubt, Rachel Foley, an agent who goes into combat on the Queen Zenoba with her two gigantic knockers exposed. You come across her getting fucking murdered right in front of you and you’re probably going to come away from all that thinking “man she had big tits”. Oh, but then she gets infected with T-Abyss and takes it to a whole other level as she suddenly becomes the only ooze monster to retain enough of a human shape to be constantly thrusting her bulbous boobies at you. I’ve heard justifications that they were trying to mix horror and eroticism together in this design, but it just looks like some weirdo’s fetish unleashed. Naturally, Rachel has become one of the most popular Revelations characters, fancy that.

While it may look like my opinions on Revelations are polarized, I honestly feel like most of the “Hates” are relatively minor. Overall, I really enjoyed this game, the mixture of classic Resident Evil level design and Resident Evil 4 and 5‘s gameplay works really well and its characters and unique eccentricities really grew on me the more I played. It just goes to show what you can do with a strong design team, even on an underpowered system like the 3DS.

Love/Hate: Resident Evil 0

Welcome back to the Resident Evil love/hate series! In this entry we’re going to be looking at Resident Evil 0, the oft-overlooked Game Cube prequel to the original game. Having come out at a time when classic survival horror fatigue was at an all-time high, does this game hold up 20 years later? Read on to find out…

Love

  • Partner Switch Mechanic – By far the most notable addition in Resident Evil 0 is the ability to switch characters with the press of a button. Not because it opens up new gameplay possibilities (which it does, but it’s arguably under-utilized), but because the technology of it is so cool. Seriously, in a game series where opening every door results in a loading screen, the ability to press a button and then a second later be on an entirely different part of the map with another character is mind-blowing. Seriously, this is the kind of thing that modern games struggled with until the most recent generation where SSDs became standardized, but seeing it on a Game Cube game is wild.
  • Graphics – Resident Evil 0 was easily the best-looking Resident Evil game until the series made the jump to PS4. The pre-rendered backgrounds look great and, uncharacteristically, Capcom managed to not lose their hi-res masters so the HD remaster actually looks fantastic in action (although, like the Resident Evil remake, the cinematics are still in stretched 480p). I feel like the art direction in Resident Evil remake is a bit more distinctive overall, but Resident Evil 0 is definitely the prettiest of the “classic” era of the franchise.
  • Train Opening – Resident Evil 0 makes a big impression in its opening hour, which sees you having to deal with zombies on a train. It’s easily the most memorable and unique area in the game and… well, honestly, it was pretty frustrating to play this section but the art direction and level design are so distinctive that it left a positive impression on me overall. It’s too bad that the rest of the game feels like it’s recycling series tropes with its locations, but at least the train at the start of the game gives 0 its own legitimately iconic identity.
  • Billy and Rebecca – Like Sherry and Jake in Resident Evil 6, Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen make for a great odd-couple pairing (albeit without the romantic tension). At the game’s outset, Billy is straight-up a convicted murderer whereas Rebecca is the straight-laced soldier, which makes their forced cooperation and eventual warming up to one another great to see play out. The voice acting is also better-than-average for a Resident Evil game, especially from Billy’s actor, James Kee, who gives his character a confident, menacing, sarcastic edge.
  • Innovations – It’s not unusual for a prequel to be used as an excuse to repeat familiar beats one more time, but Resident Evil 0 actually makes the brave decision to shake up the gameplay of the franchise. For better or for worse this gives the game its own unique identity. First of all, as I’ve mentioned, it introduces an AI partner for the first time in the franchise who you can switch to control on the fly. The game also allows you to drop items and they will stay on the map later, alleviating some stress about item management. Both of these changes fundamentally switch up the way you play the game and make Resident Evil 0 an interesting entry even now, whether you like the changes or not.
  • HD Remaster Costumes – Okay, I’ve gotta say that the plethora of costumes available in the HD remaster right off the bat is a great touch. Most Resident Evil games will have unlockable costume sets that only become available for subsequent playthroughs, but I don’t tend to replay games all that regularly so I never really get to use them. However, right from the outset you get a bunch of choices to customize Rebecca and Billy and can swap them on the fly. It’s a small touch but I personally loved the option!
  • Wesker Mode – THIS is how you convince someone to replay a game that they just beat. The HD remaster of Resident Evil 0 adds the ability to have Billy swapped out for Albert freaking Wesker, complete with his own unique moveset and abilities which fundamentally shakes up the gameplay. It’s such a cool idea and I don’t understand why more games don’t have cool bonus modes like this to reward players for completion.

Mixed

  • Partner AI – Your partner’s AI can be reeeeeeally stupid at times, often being more of a liability than an asset. You get a few toggles you can set to make them passive or aggressive, or to stay put or follow you, but even if you put them on attack mode they will often stand around doing nothing half the time. Worse, they will usually have to be micro-managed to avoid taking any damage and in certain areas of the game you’re best off leaving your partner behind so you can weave through enemies alone so your partner won’t waste your resources, which you’re only going to know through either pre-existing knowledge or trial-and-error.

Hate

  • The Load Times – Here’s a caveat: I played this game on Switch so maybe this is just down to the platform I played on, but oh my God the load times kill me in this game. Every time you go through a door it can easily take ten seconds or more before you get back in control, which adds up big time over the course of a playthrough. Hell, it’s not unusual for me to spend more time waiting for an area to load than actually playing in an area before getting to the next loading screen. This is especially baffling when the player switch is so seamless and quick, despite you potentially being on the other side of the game world at the time… is it not loading in the same resources either way? Why does that take only a second whereas entering some rooms takes upwards of fifteen seconds…? Hell, the Resident Evil remake didn’t take nearly this long either and its definitely comparable technology. In any case, this is a major frustration which makes Resident Evil 0 a slog to playthrough in the moment-to-moment gameplay.
  • No Item Box – While being able to drop items where ever you want is handy, the way it is implemented turns it into more of an exercise in frustration than the Godsend that it sounds like. This is mainly because the game decides to show off this feature by doing away with the traditional item box, which leads to two big issues:
    • First of all, while it sounds more realistic and immersive, managing your big stockpile of items is not intuitive when they’re in a big pile on the floor. There are a couple rooms in the game which were clearly designed as your “item drop” areas and you’ll find yourself annoyed as you try to maneuver just right to be able to pick up the one item you want to get, and not the item beside it. Remember, this is a fixed-camera game and you’re trying to reach the exact point you want to get to in 3D space, it’s not as easy as it sounds and I often found myself grabbing the wrong items. Making matters worse, all areas have a cap on the number of items you can drop there and you will eventually run out of space, forcing you to find another safe area to be your backup item drop room, meaning you now have to remember where you put which items.
    • The second, bigger issue is that eventually you are going to have to move all those items. There are three points in this game where you are going to have to move all your shit around, which is a long, annoying process of dropping all your items, heading back to get more, dropping those off and then backtracking again to get whatever stuff you weren’t able to bring the first time. It’s not fun and all that they would have needed to do to solve it is give you an item box that you can put your stuff into in addition to being able to drop stuff on the floor if needed.
  • The Worst Enemies in the Franchise – Resident Evil 0 has some of the most frustrating enemies in the whole series to have to face, to the point where it makes the thought of replaying the game less enticing. The leech zombies are everywhere in this game and I hate them. They are vulnerable to fire, but if you don’t have a couple molotov cocktails or a grenade launcher then you will literally waste all your pistol and shotgun ammo trying to kill them if you don’t just take the damage and run past. Again, like I said earlier, if you already know how to deal with them or learn through trial-and-error then you can mitigate the frustration, but if you go in blind then it’s just straight-up unfair. The leech zombies aren’t even the worst enemies, that would probably be the Eliminator monkeys since you can’t just run past them. These little bastards can stunlock you, deal huge amounts of damage, attack in groups and take several shotgun rounds to take down. Oh, and I’d be remiss to not mention the Lurkers, which can show up if you cross one particular bridge. If you happened to not bring your partner with you at the time, you die instantly and without warning… how fun!
  • The Leech Controller is Super Lame – So, the main villain of Resident Evil 0 looks like… this. I don’t find myself hating him because of his actions or for being threatening, I want him dead because he’s such a stupid looking villain. That’s it, I just hate this character. When I get through the series I want to do a character tier list and this loser is going to be in the bottom tier, no question.
  • Just a Really Frustrating Experience – I would argue that Resident Evil 0 is probably the hardest game in the franchise. Even playing on normal mode, the game is designed to keep you on the absolute bare minimum of health and ammo, while also throwing you into situations where you have to fight, have to take damage, or get put up against enemies like the leech zombies which you can’t possibly deal with without losing all your resources. Sure, maybe you’ll figure out a way to deal with these problems through trial and error, but you’re going to want to throw your controller across the room because of it. I died maybe a couple times playing through Resident Evil remake on normal and was able to stockpile a lot of resources, whereas I must have died more than a dozen times in Resident Evil 0, and each death just pissed me off. Resident Evil remake feels like it’s more interested in being fun than difficult, but Resident Evil 0 is definitely trying to be difficult.
    • The first half of the game especially is so frustratingly designed, putting you in very narrow corridors where dodging enemies is not a realistic expectation, while also not giving you nearly enough ammunition to kill all the enemies the game throws at you. Even then, it’s not unusual for the game to respawn enemies in areas where you’ve already cleared them out (the train is especially bad for this). This can lead to unwinnable situations where you’ve already used all your ammo or health and can’t deal with one of the big enemies that show up in the early game.
    • You can also get screwed over out of the blue when the game decides to throw a boss fight at you, as these are mostly one-character-only battles. What’s that, you were using Billy as Rebecca’s inventory monkey and all he has is a pistol? Too bad, he’s gotta fight this giant centipede now, good luck!
    • Special mention has to go towards one of the big “fuck you’s” the developers put in this game. See, these bastards knew that their no item box system meant that you were going to have to drop items and backtrack to get more, so they spawn a group of fucking Eliminators in this path after you’ve dropped all your items to free up inventory space. Thankfully I happened to have a shotgun with me, but holy shit that is a clear as day example of the developers knowing their shitty design decisions and then just trying to fuck over the player. It’s either pre-existing knowledge, pure luck, or frustration.
    • Speaking of backtracking, there are chemicals that you have to find and add to Rebecca’s mixing set throughout the game. I just added these by habit during the game, but you need specific chemicals for two or three puzzles at various points in the game, so it was pure dumb luck that I happened to have the right ones when needed. If I didn’t I wouldn’t even begin to know where to go for what chemical, or even know that I needed a specific one. Again… pre-existing knowledge, pure luck, or frustration.
  • The Story – Oh hey, another Resident Evil game, another underwhelming story. Resident Evil 0 has some unique issues though that make it particularly frustrating. First of all, its status as a prequel creates issues, the most glaring being that Rebecca’s characterization in this game and in Resident Evil remake is completely off. Here she’s a capable badass, but in Resident Evil, which occurs literally a day later, she’s a scared little girl who can’t do anything without Chris’ help. The presence of Albert Wesker and William Birkin also irks me, since they don’t really do anything and it spoils their roles in Resident Evil 1 and 2, meaning that new players shouldn’t experience the games in chronological order. It also just isn’t a very good prequel. The idea of finding out what happened to S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team sounds cool, but the premise is almost immediately dropped as the team splits up in the woods and gets lost on their own side quests. We encounter Enrico about three quarters of the way through and then, after blowing up another Umbrella lab, Rebecca decides to wander into the mansion at the end of the game, but that’s not really a great connective story now is it? Honestly, Resident Evil 0 would have been better without trying to tie it directly into the original game.

Overall, I did enjoy Resident Evil 0 and I appreciate its attempts to shake-up the series’ formula which was growing stale at the time. However, there are so many intentionally-frustrating design decisions that the idea of replaying it anytime soon is totally soured for me. I’d recommend checking it out, but unless you’re a masochist then glancing at a walkthrough to know what to expect would probably be wise if you want to avoid some rage-inducing moments.

Love/Hate: Resident Evil Survivor

Welcome back to the Resident Evil love/hate series! Previously we went through the series from the remake of the original to Resident Evil 7. At the time I said I’d pickup the franchise’s several spin-offs and other media at a later date, and that time has finally come. We’re going to start with Resident Evil Survivor, the franchise’s first spin-off video game. While oft-forgotten and overlooked, it is still a canonical entry thanks to the shoutout it gets at the start of Resident Evil 0. At a time when Resident Evil games used pre-rendered backgrounds, fixed camera angles and auto-aiming, Survivor differentiated itself by being a first-person shooter with fully 3D environments. How does it hold-up playing it today? Read on to find out…

Love

  • The Writing and Voice Acting – Early Resident Evil games are known for having bad voice acting, but Survivor‘s bad voice acting combined with its atrocious writing come together to make every bit of dialogue and every file you come across into an unintentional comedy sketch. The main character is often reacting incredulously to the things going on around him but their voice actor sounds like he’s holding back his performance, as if he’s recording his lines while hiding in an attic as the police are searching the house for him. The writing makes it all worse though – the writers want you to know that, get this, VINCENT IS A MURDERER, so every file and line about him hammers home what an over-the-top monster he is, how everyone hates him and is afraid of him, and they’ve got to write all this down to record it because people need to know how much of a murderer Vincent is. There’s even a part where the main character comes across a recording of Vincent’s mother calling to tell him to stop being a murderer, it’s fucking hilarious. Every line feels so unnatural and inhuman, even innocuous stuff like when a character says “At the request of my friend, Leon S. Kennedy, I came here to investigate!”… because we wouldn’t know which Leon they were referring to without throwing in their middle initial. It’s so bad, I legitimately adored this part of the game.
  • Branching Pathways – So the one legitimately good thing that Survivor does is that at a few points in the game you will get a one-use only key item which can be used to open a couple different side-routes of your choice. For a game that is expecting replays this helps keep the game from feeling the same every thing time and there can be some extra rewards for going through some of the more off-the-beaten-path routes.
  • It’s Short – After spending like 20+ hours of my life on Resident Evil 6, I appreciate that Survivor only wasted a couple of my evenings. That said, the fact that it’s short also gives you some excuse to check it out – it’s not going to waste a ton of your life so if you’re curious then maybe give it a shot.

Mixed

  • It’s Still Survival Horror, For Better or Worse – Survivor plays very much like a first-person version of the classic Resident Evil games, including tank controls, item management and even much of the button layout. One big difference though is that pistol ammunition is unlimited, so you’ll always have at least one gun available for any situation. However, ammo for other weapons and healing items are very limited, which is nice for keeping the game from getting too easy. That said, the game gets real stingy about doling out healing items in the latter section of the game… which is the part where you are actually going to need your healing and special ammo the most. Seriously, health was pretty abundant early on but I don’t even think the game gave me more than one herb during the entire last area of the game, not even before boss fights, which is a major problem because I reached the final boss with literally 1 HP left and low on special ammo types, so I had to either git gud or replay the whole game knowing that you’re not actually supposed to use the resources the game gives you because it will stop giving you them later. I went with option three and just Youtubed the final cutscene.

Hate

  • Bad Controls – Resident Evil Survivor is in the unfortunate position of being a console FPS before the control schemes for these kinds of games were figured out and standardized. As a result, Survivor literally lifts its controls from the main Resident Evil games, including tank controls, having to hold R1 to draw your weapon and then press X to actually fire it. Classic Resident Evil manages to get by on this control scheme, but for a first person shooter it does not make for a good time. Probably the worst part of this is that there is no way to move the camera vertically, which is a major problem for two reasons. First of all, you have to just walk over some items and hope you bump into them because you have to get too close to see them in order to pick them up. Secondly, dogs and lickers will get under your line of sight and be untargetable as a result, which is a major issue in a game where 99% of the enemies are trying to melee you. The game’s solution is to lock the camera onto enemies when you shoot them, but this can cause the whole camera to flail wildly as it tracks their erratic movements. Oh, and this also makes follow-up shots ridiculously easy to chain, which leads into the next problem…
  • Bad Game Design – Survivor has a litany of badly designed elements which can make playing it feel dull. One of the worst elements compared to mainline Resident Evil games is its brain-dead use of key items. Classic games in the franchise will have you collecting multiple key items and carrying them all over the map to find their use. In Survivor once you pick up a key item you’re rarely more than one or two rooms away from the place where it’s needed, meaning that you’re barely going to be holding them for more than thirty seconds. Also not helping matters is what I call this game’s “dummy button”, L1. Tapping L1 will lock-on to the closest door, item or enemy, which turns into a crutch to make you have to think even less while playing this game. Also, having played the game like a shooter and fighting all the enemies as I went, in retrospect this game is unintentionally encouraging you to not fight unless you’re going to take damage otherwise. Any area rarely has more than 2-4 enemies in it, there’s plenty of room to maneuver (even when you’re up against tougher foes like Lickers or Tyrants), and ammo for your stronger weapons is too rare to waste on every Tyrant and Hunter you come across because the game does not reward you for fighting them. Running through every room to avoid combat isn’t going to do this already short game any favours. Which leads into the next issue…
  • Bad Checkpointing – What do you do to make your two hour game feel longer? Why, make it so when the player dies they have to replay like a half hour of content to get back to where they were! Brilliant! Seriously, I died on the final boss and the game plopped me back in somewhere before the ruined mansion area, which was easily 30+ minutes of gameplay (and unskippable cutscenes!). Thankfully I was on an emulator so I could just reload a save state, but to make matters even more infuriating, there are no save rooms in Survivor. Anyone who bought this game for PS1 was expected to complete it in one sitting and only got three lives before they just straight-up lose. If I was playing this game back in the day, I would fling my disc across the room if that happened.
  • Bad UX – Item management is a real pain in Survivor. Any time you need to heal or switch weapons, the process is laborious. First, you have to pause, open the inventory, scroll through all your items to find the one you want, select it, press equip/use and then unpause the game. Oh and button inputs are delayed so everything just feels like it takes longer than it needs to, on top of the whole process taking several more steps than it needs to.
  • Bad QA – So, Resident Evil Survivor is so slapdash that it may not have even had a quality assurance team involved in its creation. I can’t verify the veracity of this claim, but it really wouldn’t surprise me because I came across a few bugs in my short playtime. Perhaps the most annoying one was that I had to go into the sewers in order to progress, which involved picking up a manhole opener and then walking over the manhole. I did so, but it wouldn’t trigger, making me think that I had to manually press “Use” on the item. This did not work. It wasn’t until I walked in a straight line from the place where I got the manhole opener to the manhole itself that it finally triggered, which is just ridiculous. How could they not anticipate players maybe approaching the manhole from a slightly different angle…? Perhaps the most common bugs though will be with the enemy AI. I’ve had spiders run headlong at me but not be able to do any damage, enemies getting caught helplessly on scenery and each other, and enemies just running around in circles while you shoot them.
  • Bad Sound Effects – How bad does your game have to be when I’m even ragging on the sound effects??? The pool of sound effects in this game are incredibly limited, meaning that every time you shoot your gun you’re getting assaulted with the exact same gunshot over and over again, and enemies just keep making the same stock sound effects every time they’re hit and die. The worst offenders for this are the Undertakers, bio-weapon soldiers who make this bizarre, ungodly screech like a jungle cat when they die (I guarantee that you have heard the awful sound effect they use for this before).
  • Bad Story – Look, the writing in Survivor is at least ironically funny, but the actual story here is even worse than I was expecting. Like, to set the stage for you, the whole plot revolves around amnesia and a bunch of ridiculously contrived misunderstandings and blatant lying from the writers to make you believe that you are Vincent (who is a MURDERER). It’s bad enough that any sort of story they could have told about what Umbrella was up to on Sheena Island gets lost in the shuffle.

My God Resident Evil Survivor was bad, easily the worst Resident Evil game I’d played up to this point and probably up there amongst the worst games I’ve played through, period. That said, at least it’s short so if you want to check it out you’re not going to suffer for long. And with all that said, Umbrella Corps can’t be worse than this though… right? Right?

15 Best Movie Posters of 2021

Welcome back to the mostly-annual year-end countdown of the best movie posters of the year! Obviously since we basically got no movies in 2020 I had to take the last year off, but we’re back for 2021 with a very solid selection of eye-catching posters that I had a seriously difficult time narrowing down into just a top 15. As before, I’m using impawards as the source for 2021 posters. Any poster released during the year is eligible, but special consideration is given to posters which are intended for mass distribution rather than posters which are intended to be limited-release, alternative, “artistic” posters. As usual, you can see the full-sized poster in all its glory if you click on the images. Anyway, with those considerations out of the way, let’s get onto the list!

Dishonourable Mention: Cosmic Sin

Okay, the idea of Bruce Willis and Frank Grillo as a couple of space marines sounds fucking awesome, but the cheap, obvious, awful headswap Photoshop job on this poster makes this whole movie seem cheap and laughable. Not that Cosmic Sin needs much help, this movie is apparently so bad and forgettable that no one has even fixed the numerous grammatical errors in its Wikipedia page as of October 21, 2021. Ouch.

15) The French Dispatch

This one mostly makes the list because you take one look at it and go “Oh hey, it’s a Wes Anderson movie in poster form”. It’s quirky, detailed and has tons of stuff to look at, each cell is practically a miniature character poster of its own and the Fibonacci sequence-like layout directs your eyes in an unusual and interesting way. The pulpy, 30s/40s serial art style also helps this standout amongst the other posters of 2021 and no-doubt reflects Anderson’s distinct visual style and aesthetics. All-in-all, a unique and fun poster which undoubtedly reflects the film’s aesthetic as well.

14) Spencer

This poster is very striking. Between the massive, elaborate outfit, the contrast between the dark and the light of the dress and Kristen Stewart’s flawless transformation into Princess Diana, there’s plenty to draw you in. What helps make this more than just a visually-appealing piece is that the design also belies the story’s darker elements, with Diana seemingly stifled, like she’s trapped in the opulence. It’s a true art piece in its own right and I’m curious if Spencer can live up to it.

13) Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry

I’m not really a fan of pop music (shocker), so unsurprisingly I don’t give a shit about Billie Eilish and could care even less for an Apple TV exclusive documentary about her. However, it’s hard to deny that she doesn’t have her own distinct style, best highlighted in these posters for The World’s a Little Blurry. I like the first one mostly, it has a moody tone to it, Eilish’s signature green hair gives it a strong hue and it (obviously) lives up to the “blurry” part of the title. It reminds me of the Joker poster from 2019 that I liked so much. Like most good posters, the use of colour is very intentional, bringing its own tone, mood, style and even symbology to these posters which I can’t help but appreciate.

12) Prisoners of the Ghostland

While I find this poster very visually-arresting, promising me the trippiest samurai movie you’ve ever seen, there’s one small element that really makes me love this poster. I love how this poster draws your eyeline downward – first you see a samurai badass with his back to you, then the spooky mask, then the title and then “This wildest movie I’ve ever made”. Wow, who’s saying that? Nicholas goddamn Cage and for him that is a freaking declaration. The poster itself is cool but that strategically-placed quote gets my imagination racing, just going to show that every aspect of poster design can be crucial to its success. For that, Prisoners of the Ghostland deserves special commendation!

11) A Classic Horror Story

This one succeeds for a couple reasons. First of all, it’s called A Classic Horror Story and the poster design makes this look like… a classic 70s horror story. Secondly, if I saw that horned devil lady in my doorway, I’d be legitimately unsettled. The fact that it seems to be happening in full daylight just makes the whole thing even more unsettling to me, while the red and black colours give the whole thing a sinister vibe. Like I said, colour is very important in good poster design (a trend which you will likely notice going forward) and the use of it here helps contribute to the horrifying atmosphere that A Classic Horror Story is giving off.

10) Honeydew

There are several horror posters this year that get by with their disturbing and unnerving imagery, including choices that just missed the list such as Malignant and We Need to Do Something. However, this poster for Honeydew is the most unsettling for me. I’m not entirely sure what is happening here, but it sure looks uncomfortable and you can see the fear in this guy’s eyes at whatever’s going on. It conjures images in my mind of some Saw-like trap and all the nastiness associated with that. The sickly, yellow hue over the entire poster just makes it feel even more disconcerting.

9) Old

This one is pretty simple but effective. While other posters for Old get across the idea that it takes place on a beach more, this one is far more interesting. In my opinion, it captures the concept of the inevitable, uncontrollable and even frightening passage of time and death very well, all wrapped up in a minimalist, black and white style that makes it striking to view.

8) The Sleeping Negro

Oh and speaking of minimalist styles, while the poster for Old mostly just looks cool, this poster for The Sleeping Negro uses it to get across some pretty clever racial imagery. This poster deftly gets across the theme of alienation and isolation in this film in a very simple manner that makes it even more effective than if they had gone for something more complicated or less stylized. Hell, they could honestly go even more minimalist if they wanted to, cutting out the title completely, and the message would still be conveyed just as strongly, as even the black character’s afro highlights that he’s singled out because of his race. When you can afford to strip down your poster even more then you know the designers hit on something right.

7) Bulletproof

This is another one of those posters where the imagery captures the ideas of the film in a really striking manner. Bulletproof is about the American response to school shootings and seeing children pointing finger guns at each other here is an eerie encapsulation of the topics this film will be exploring. Once again, the eyeline works perfectly – you see the finger guns, then you’re drawn down to the title and know what this movie is saying in chilling fashion.

6) The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad has a huge cast of extremely colourful and varied characters and this first poster captures that aspect of the film and its off-kilter tone in glorious fashion. It also doesn’t give any of the characters more prominence than the others, which makes the characters’ fates in the film even more ambiguous (which is pretty important for a movie where, like, 80% of these characters get annihilated in gory fashion). The second poster captures the feel of a pulpy, 60s-era action movie, which isn’t nearly as interesting but it it’s worth highlighting and contrasting it to the first poster. These are very different styles but they both work to capture the fun of this very enjoyable romp of a film.

5) The Green Knight

I love the use of bright red and gold and the subjects facing away from the camera across The Green Knight‘s posters, it gives them all a unifying, sombre tone. While the main theatrical poster would have made this list regardless due to its strong aesthetic, what really pushed this into the top five for me was the presence of that brilliantly huggable foxy boi. When I first saw that poster I squealed with glee. For the record, graphic designers, throw a fox on your poster and you’re pretty much guaranteed to make my top 15 if your poster is any good.

4) Godzilla vs. Kong

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Monsterverse consistently have some of the best posters of all Hollywood blockbusters. We get posters like Spiral which are pretty and posters like Bring Your Own Brigade and The River Runner which give you massive scale, but Godzilla vs. Kong gives you pretty colours and massive scale! The fact that they have so many cool posters and so many of these were actually used in the general marketing of the film make this even more impressive to me. Even if Godzilla vs. Kong was kinda disappointing, there’s no denying that the marketing was, once again, on point.

3) Army of the Dead

I didn’t really care for Army of the Dead – I thought it was bloated, poorly written and squandered what should have been an over-the-top action romp. While the film itself fell short, the marketing department for Army of the Dead clearly understood what this movie should have been. We get gorgeous poster after gorgeous poster of colourful, macabre excess, all of which make the film look way cooler than it actually is. This is just a handful of the great posters Army of the Dead got this year, so even if the quality wasn’t there (which it is) then due to pure variety this would have ranked highly. For my own part, I especially like the neon-hued skull in a river of paint and the pile of corpses in the shape of a skull. Man, seeing these posters is making me think about how I wish the movie lived up to them all over again…

2) The Night House

We’ve had a slew of spooky and disturbing horror movie posters in 2021, but for my money The Night House has the best of them. What makes it more impressive is that there isn’t much horror imagery to speak of – there’s a blood-red moon, a scared expression from Rebecca Hall and, in one poster, a ghostly hand cutout, representing a spectral figure or perhaps someone who’s been lost? Then there’s the strong use of red and black to give everything an eerie atmosphere. In any case, it works, I really want to see this movie and figure out what sort of thrills The Night House has in store for me, which makes it more than worthy of this spot. However, there can only be one #1 pick…

1) Jackass Forever

There’s something about this poster where I looked at it and said “this is perfect” and instantly put it as a frontrunner for the year’s posters. Like, just look at it, it’s the perfect encapsulation of what Jackass is. You’ve got the rainbow hang glider and obese man to draw your attention and then the eyeline goes down to the cactus plants and then down to the film’s title. Just by looking at it, it creates a story in your head that is equal parts funny, painful and so incredibly stupid that I can’t help but applaud it. It’s so simple, but so striking that I still can’t quite believe that it’s this good, especially because the other Jackass Forever posters don’t hit me the same way at all. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise though, this right here: this is art.

POST-SCRIPT: Well, shit. I usually have a rule here – only posters for movies released in the year in question are considered and here I have completely flubbed as Jackass Forever is going to be released in 2022 instead. To be fair, when I started this list it actually would have been a 2021 film, but it was delayed and I missed that in the time it took to make selections, write and release the list. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this issue due to unexpected delays, but it should probably go without saying that I’ll not take Jackass Forever into account for 2022’s list (because it would probably win again).

Love/Hate: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

After the bloated and unpolished Resident Evil 6, excitement for a new mainline Resident Evil game was at an all-time low. Capcom were certainly aware of this and actually took their criticisms to heart. Resident Evil 6 wasn’t anywhere near as successful as they had hoped it would be, so they decided to take the opposite approach – gone were the bombastic setpieces, action-heavy gameplay and globe-trotting story, instead we were going to get a back-to-basics, claustrophobic, true horror experience. Resident Evil 7 feels, in many ways, like a complete reboot of the franchise, but is it quite as much of a dramatic departure as it seems? Read on to find out…

Love

  • The Baker Estate – As much as I loved the intricate level design of Resident Evil 4 (and even 5 to a lesser extent), coming back to a confined environment with locked doors, puzzles to solve and monsters to dodge makes Resident Evil 7 feel like a true return to form.
    • First of all, the environments really feel like a lived-in location. The main house is covered with details that are just there to hint at the Bakers’ family life, hobbies and backstory before they turned into a bunch of psychos. Meanwhile, the old house is dilapidated and literally crumbling apart, making for a very eerie environment to explore. This makes the arrival of the Molded all the more frightening as you suddenly enter environments which are completely unnatural compared to the spaces you’ve been travelling through to this point.
    • While the Baker Estate is quite large, covering three separate complexes with several floors each, it’s so well-designed that you get very familiar with each location and can navigate with ease quickly enough. Undoubtedly you will enter an area and find something you can’t access right then, but file it away in your brain to come back later when you get the key or lockpick you needed for it.
    • I also have to say that the actual design of the environment really makes Resident Evil 7 a satisfying game to play. For example, early on in the game you’ll find a shotgun on pedestal. If you pick it up, the door behind you closes. So you put it back, but now you know you need to find something to put there in order for you to get that shotgun. Eventually you’ll see a broken shotgun on the other side of a locked door, so now you’re trying to find out how to open that door so you can get that. Eventually you find the way in and get the broken shotgun and trade it to get yourself a fancy new gun. However, later still you can find a wooden shotgun and, if you’re reasonably clever, you may realize “oh shit I can repair the broken one now!” and swap it with the wooden one. If you find one of the super-rare repair kits then you’ll net yourself an optional, more powerful secondary shotgun! It’s stuff like this where the devs make use of your environmental knowledge that makes Resident Evil 7 such a great experience.
  • Return to Survival Horror – One of the biggest changes in Resident Evil 7‘s design philosophy is that this game is a horror experience at its core. It takes inspiration from popular horror games of the era, such as Alien: Isolation, Outlast and Amnesia and applies the classic Resident Evil formula of combat, exploration and light puzzle-solving to make for a very compelling experience. The game also loves to build the tension, allowing you to explore and hinting at danger, but knowing when to hold back and when to finally unleash a pursuer enemy at you. I’d argue that this is as scary as Resident Evil has ever gotten, at the very least since the original game on PS1 as the game oozes an eerie atmosphere and builds tension effectively, while forcing you to make tough choices and conserve your resources in order to survive the horrors coming for you.
  • First Person Perspective – The shift to first-person was one of the most contentious changes in Resident Evil 7, but this isn’t simply trend-chasing or a further slide into Call of Duty-like gameplay, it’s a very calculated and (dare I say) brave decision to increase this game’s immersion and make the horror more effective. The third person perspective of previous games in the franchise is because the series started out trying to be a cinematic horror experience and carried that on even after the camera shifted to over-the-shoulder. This game’s first person perspective makes for a more intimate, focused and immersive experience which this game has clearly been built around. There’s a reason why it’s the default for most horror and survival games of the era.
  • Spectacular Boss Fights – Resident Evil bosses are almost always “shoot big monster in its glowing weak point until it stops moving”, which can get really frustrating because there’s usually little indication of just how much damage you’re actually doing to the boss. While Resident Evil 7‘s bosses don’t deviate from this too much, they do stand out as some of the best bosses in the entire franchise because of all the clever twists and environmental interaction that the developers have brought to the table. The first fight with Jack Baker has you searching around an enclosed garage for the keys to a car to fight him with and then the fight plays out in one of two ways. If you’re quick enough, you get in the car and can drive around, running him over until a scripted event happens that will end the fight. If you’re too slow, Jack will throw you out of the car and try to run you over instead. It makes this into two wildly different boss fights and it’s a big surprise seeing the different ways this can play out. Similarly, the second fight with Jack has him getting into a freaking chainsaw duel with him!!! I died several times in this battle but didn’t care because it was so much fun learning the mechanics and using the environment to my advantage to the point where I was feeling some of that Dark Souls-like satisfaction for overcoming the challenge. Meanwhile, spider-Marguerite is classic “shoot the weak spot” Resident Evil, but mixing it up by having her stalk you in a darkened, dilapidated house where she can emerge from literally any direction may be the creepiest showdown in the entire game. The showdown with mutated Jack is also a highlight, taking the classic Resident Evil boss formula and allowing you to strategically maneuver across two storeys to get different angles on his weak points. All-in-all, Resident Evil 7‘s bosses are consistently some of the most creative, fun and well-designed in the entire franchise.
  • Rewards Exploration – Unlike Resident Evil 6, 7 really wants you to look carefully around your environment. To this end, there are some diabolically well-hidden items in this game. Chief among these are the collectable Antique Coins, which you can use to unlock useful upgrades, including increased health, faster reloads or the freaking magnum. However, that magnum’s ammo is extremely limited and you only find 1 to 2 rounds at a time and they’re all hidden very well in the environment so you could theoretically go the whole game and never even see a magnum round if you don’t look carefully. To help with this, the game has a psychostimulant item which briefly highlights items around the environment, making these tricky hidden collectables more attainable and further incentivizing you to look everywhere for secrets.
  • Influences – While previous Resident Evil games paid homage to other horror media (most notably, George A. Romero films), Resident Evil 7 seems to wear these influences on its sleeve most proudly. As a horror fan it’s really fun to see all the nods to films that influenced this game’s design. Probably most obvious is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is most evident in this game’s iconic nod to the dinner scene. Taking that idea and tone and then transplanting it to Louisiana was an inspired move that helps it to feel like more than just a simple ripoff. Other big influences include The Evil Dead (Mia’s possession scenes and chainsaw duel), The Blair Witch Project (found footage and Andre facing the wall) and [REC] (Mia found footage sequence). Hell, there’s even a random Planet of the Apes reference for good measure! All these different influences also help shake up the Resident Evil formula, expanding the scope of what this franchise is capable of in the process.

Mixed

  • Found Footage – One of the obvious influences on Resident Evil 7 is the found footage trend that had been popularized in the horror film genre in the years prior to its release. At several points in the game you can find video tapes which, if you bring them to a VHS player, will allow you to play through the footage. On the one hand, these can provide clever ways to learn new details about the environment in an organic way, preview an area you haven’t gotten to yet or simply shakeup the gameplay a bit. The VHS tape filter also makes the environment just creepier – at a certain point, everything becomes blurry and out of focus. However, I have a couple issues with these tapes. First of all, the fact that you can die in them just doesn’t make sense. More importantly though, whenever I find a tape I get annoyed because I know I’m going to have to set aside what I’m actually doing in the game to go deal with some diversion for the next 15 minutes or so. Tapes can be a pace-killer and feel like they’re just there to pad time, or give you an excuse to breeze your way through an upcoming area. Finally, as the game goes on these “found footage tapes” lose a lot of their narrative justification. The first one you find was literally left by a camera crew, but by the time you find Mia’s tape in the last hour and a half the camera gimmick has been dropped entirely in that footage and it seems like it’s just… a memory maybe?
  • The Story – At a certain point I had to sit and ask myself “What is driving me forward? The narrative or the gameplay?” and concluded that it was overwhelmingly the gameplay. The story in Resident Evil 7 is far more personal and low-stakes compared to a globe-trotting, world-ending affair like Resident Evil 6, which works in this game’s favour. However, the specifics of what exactly is going on in this game are left ambiguous for a long time in the game, meaning that most of your time spent playing is going to involve you getting more confused and frustrated as narrative events play out around you. This all comes to a head towards the last third of the game where you’re given a choice between helping Mia (who’s the whole reason you’re in this place) or helping Zoe (some rando you’ve been talking to on the phone off-screen a few times), but by this point I still really didn’t understand what was going on. The ending of the game is tied to the choice you make here and while the “right” choice seems kinda obvious, if you’re going to implement a major choice like this then maybe inform the player better beforehand so they can actually understand what they’re doing. The final third of the game (and most of the DLCs for that matter) has many revelations which make things a bit better in retrospect, but personally I would have liked to have a bit more insight into what was happening earlier.
  • Molded – I’m pretty torn on the Molded enemies which permeate the latter-half of the game. On the one hand, I love their unceremonious introduction: at one point in the game you just enter a room and suddenly this freaking blob of oily flesh sprouts from the wall and starts chasing you out of nowhere, it sets a great impression for them. They’re quite intimidating when they first appear, taking at least two headshots to take down with your starting pistol, and if you find yourself facing off against multiple Molded then you’re probably going to die. However, as the game progresses you’ll become more adept at killing them and the game throws more and more of them at you. At this point, the Molded become more of a nuisance than anything substantial. The first half of the game works so well because you’re being stalked by one powerful enemy in each area, regularly getting into combat with handfuls of Molded is less interesting in comparison.

Hate

  • Sluggish Movement – I swear to God, Ethan Winters is the slowest motherfucker in videogames. Oh sure, there is a sprint button in this game, but it barely makes a difference and if you’re being chased, it’s not going to be enough to get you away from that enemy. The game’s sluggish movement is not not helped by the difficulty of avoiding damage from enemies. If an enemy gets right in front of you, you basically have to either shoot it and hope to kill/stagger, block and reduce the damage you take, or quick-turn and hope you can run away (thereby completely losing sight of the enemy). Strafing and backing up are pretty much unviable with this movement speed. Most encounters in this game are designed to be very close-quarters (there’s no easy sniping in this game) so this is a more frequent headache than you may expect. You can compensate for it a bit as the game progresses, especially if the developers throw a big obstacle in the room that you can use to generate distance, but there are times where you’ll be in a completely open hallway and your only real option is to run, or you’ll see an attack coming but have no way to actually avoid it.
  • Load Times – I don’t usually worry that much about loading screens, but good God the load times in Resident Evil 7 are brutal. For me at least, going from the main menu into the game takes around 45 seconds to a minute to complete. And those found footage tapes I mentioned? Well, having to sit and wait for a load screen whenever you start and finish one is just more reason why those segments annoyed me and brought the pacing to a halt.
  • The Final Third of the Game – The gameplay loop of the first two thirds of this game is top-notch survival horror, exploring areas, avoiding enemies, gathering and managing resources, etc. However, shortly after you finish with Marguerite’s section in the Old House, the game becomes far more linear and never really gets back to the same level of quality. It’s a bit of a mixed bag – on the one hand, we get more story context and Mia goes from a damsel in distress to a straight-up badass, but the game also suddenly strips you of all your items not once, but twice which is a bit of a momentum-killer and the shift into more linear, action-heavy gameplay takes away a lot of what made the game fun to this point.

Resident Evil 7 was a great return to form for the franchise when it desperately needed it. By going back to its horror roots and not feeling like it had to fit the same mold as previous games in the franchise, it revitalized the series and finally got people excited to see where the series would go again. After slogging my way through 5 and 6, it was refreshing to play a well-paced, focused experience that didn’t overstay its welcome.

Love/Hate: Resident Evil 3 (Remake)

While the remake of Resident Evil 2 was widely acclaimed, the follow-up remake of Resident Evil 3 has been one of the most divisive games in the entire franchise. Some people hate it, some people were left thoroughly disappointed and some loved it. With a reputation like that, you’d best believe that I have thoughts…

Love

  • Action Horror Spectacle – REmake 3 may look a lot like REmake 2, but this is a wildly different game. REmake 2 was more in the vein of the first REmake and RE7, emphasizing exploration, survival gameplay and inventory management. REmake 3 is more akin to RE4, 5 and 6, emphasizing action, set piece moments and narrative. I think this deviation disappointed some people, but what we got instead was a game that is completely focused on giving you fun spectacle and it totally delivers in that regard. Whether it’s fleeing Nemesis up a building that’s catching fire all around you, getting swarmed by a horde of zombies, or luring Nemesis away from a train full of civilians, there’s plenty here to get your blood pumping. That’s not to imply that there’s no horror here either, rather that it’s less “tense” and more “intense” and in-your-face. Between Nemesis chasing you at mach speed, the throat-fucking Drain Deimos hunting you in the power substation, getting stalked by two different varieties of Hunter and trying to deal with the Pale Heads, there’s still plenty in here to make you jump.
    • I need to give particular shout-outs to the first twenty minutes or so of this game in particular as it encapsulates this game’s strengths so well. After a quiet intro, Nemesis bursts through the wall and shows that he is basically indestructible. It’s all scripted so well and makes for one of the most badass and terrifying villain introductions that I’ve ever seen in a game. From there, Jill escapes into Raccoon City and finds that it is in total chaos as zombies roam the streets and quickly off her only ally, Brad. Then she has to flee to the roof of a parking garage, but Nemesis intercepts her, so Jill rams him off the roof of the garage with a car… but he keeps coming until Carlos shows up with a rocket launcher and takes him down, temporarily. It’s an incredible opening and I honestly don’t know how you couldn’t love it.
  • The Story and Characters – Here’s a hot take for you: REmake 3 has the strongest story in the franchise (well, that I’ve played so far anyway). It’s exciting, well-told, well-performed, the characters we meet along the way are all great and it feels like the gameplay is driven by the story. The game’s narrative is also bolstered by the fact that, due to the circumstances, Jill finds herself working alongside Umbrella. She isn’t forced to either, she makes an active choice to do so because she thinks it is the best option, which reveals insight into her character, while also ultimately humanizing the grunts at Umbrella who have been completely absent in the series to this point. The game also makes a point of showing Jill’s psychological damage from the Mansion Incident in the opening sequence. It’s very efficient decision because it never really comes up again, but you can tell that Nemesis becomes an embodiment of her trauma. This makes him more satisfying to take down since, thematically, he’s not just a big monster here, he’s all of Jill’s fears made flesh.
  • Jill and Carlos – Okay, I know I mentioned the characters in the last point, but I really need to hit home that Jill Valentine is a fucking badass in this game. She does so much cool shit, takes on an indestructible monster without letting the fear get to her and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She (justifiably) isn’t on very good terms with Carlos at the start of the game, but their relationship improves over time in an organic fashion. Speaking of which, Carlos is also a pretty cool character. He’s confident, capable and tries to do the right thing, which becomes more complicated when he realizes that his employers are responsible for everything that is happening. All-in-all, they make for a good duo, are given a ton of personality and the story wouldn’t be nearly as good without them.
  • Nemesis – Naturally, Nemesis’ shadow looms large over REmake 3. Every time he shows up, something crazy is about to go down. When he’s chasing you through the streets of Raccoon City, he’s utterly terrifying, making Mr. X look like a walk in the park. In fact, he may possibly too overpowered: he can sprint after you, snatch you with a tentacle and drag you back to him, dodge shots if you’re facing him head-on, launch a combo of punches at you, and turn regular zombies into dangerous NE-α zombies. Sure, a lot of his encounters are scripted, but damn if he isn’t one of the most intimidating antagonists in the whole franchise.
  • Dodge – Like the original RE3, REmake 3 includes a dodge mechanic. The game doesn’t do a very good job of explaining the timing for this, but I wanted a dodge so badly in RE7 and REmake 2. In those games, you get caught up close with enemies and have no real way to avoid damage at that point, so I’m happy that REmake 3 gives us this option. Once you come to grips with the dodge, it is a total life-saver, especially during fights with Nemesis.
  • Enemy Variety – There are quite a few different enemy types in this game, from regular zombies, to Cerberus, Drain Deimos, NE-α zombies, Hunter β and γ varieties, Lickers and Pale Heads, not to mention all the varied Nemesis encounters. The pacing for new enemy types is perfect as well, just when you’re getting used to an enemy the game will introduce a new one to spice up the gameplay. In fact it’s impressive enough that it made me realize how sparsely varied REmake 2 was in comparison.

Mixed

  • YMMV – I struggled to decide where to put this section, or if I should even include it at all. I really enjoy REmake 3, but I get that others are much more critical of it and that their complaints deserve to be addressed in some fashion. As this is a Love/Hate article based on my opinions on the game, it could easily give the wrong impression about the game to someone for whom those complaints could be a big deal. Ultimately I decided to address some of the complaints about this game here.
    • Cut Content/More Reimagining Than Remake – Fans of the original game were disappointed to find that areas from the original game were removed, most notably the clocktower sequence. Having not completed the original game, I don’t really have much nostalgia for it, nor am I expecting REmake 3 to play the same way, so ultimately this doesn’t impact my feelings about the game I actually got.
    • Short Playtime/Not Enough Replayability – REmake 3 is a 6-8 hour game on a first playthrough and can be completed in about a quarter of the time if you really rush through it, prompting some people to say it’s not worth the money if it’s that short. The game doesn’t include any alternate campaigns or bonus game modes like REmake 2 did. These complaints doesn’t hold any water for me, not only because I didn’t buy it at full price, but because I’m old and love games that deliver a great, focused experience in a reasonable amount of playtime. The way that the game is scripted to deliver fun in well-paced bursts makes it more than worthy of a replay in my opinion.
    • No Emphasis on Exploration/Too Linear – REmake 3 is a far more linear game than REmake 2, featuring much less exploration in its areas. You’ll basically just need one or two key items to backtrack through an area and completely explore it, which can take maybe half an hour of playtime or less. As I’ve stated, REmake 3 plays very differently than REmake 2 so if you were expecting or wanting the same gameplay then I can see how this would be disappointing. Personally I like a well-told, linear game so this doesn’t bother me much.
    • Nemesis Doesn’t Pursue You – After getting a load of Mr. X in REmake 2, a lot of people were expecting this game to have Nemesis pursuing you constantly in an unscripted manner. When they found that most Nemesis encounters were scripted events, they were disappointed by the result. I’ll be honest, Nemesis is at his most annoying in the unscripted sequences, being able to take away a lot of your ability to flee from him safely. For that matter, Mr. X worked well because he’s not following you through the whole game, I can see him being really irritating if you just want to get something done and you can’t because X gon’ give it to ya. Ultimately, while it might have been interesting to have a couple more unscripted Nemesis encounters, I am still pleased with what we got.

Hate

  • Nemesis De-evolution – About halfway through the game, Nemesis’ power limiter is destroyed and he starts to mutate. In the original, this just caused him to sprout some tentacles, although he retained his shape until he really devolved in his final form. However, in REmake 3, Nemesis goes from an intelligent pursuer to a large, dumb, beast-like form. It’s a big let-down, becoming a far less interesting foe than he was before. Sure, it’s still intimidating to get hunted by this relentless animal, but when he was still humanoid he felt far more cunning and dangerous.
  • Technically Rougher Than REmake 2REmake 2 was a very well-polished game but REmake 3 feels rougher in comparison. For one thing, the zombies in this game lack the dismemberment and gore system which was so satisfying in the previous game. Shoot a zombie in the arm and, instead of detaching, the arm will just explode and disappear. Similarly, distant zombies appear to render at a lower FPS, which is very noticeable at certain points in the game. I don’t know if these were all issues caused by the greater number of enemies on-screen, more detailed environments or maybe just a development issue, but it’s hard not to be at least a little disappointed that REmake 3‘s presentation is rougher.
  • Too Many Item Boxes and Typewriters – I feel like this is a weird complaint, but honestly there are way too many of these things in the game. The game’s areas aren’t all that big, but it feels like there’s always a safe room close-by when there really doesn’t need to be. It’s bad enough that there are multiple instances where you’ll be fleeing Nemesis and you’ll come across two safe rooms in the process, which not only breaks up the pace of the escape because he can’t follow you inside, but also trivializes the encounter since you can just save at each step. This also contributes to the game’s more linear feel, because if you throw save rooms around all over the place then the map doesn’t have to loop back to them. I just think it was an unnecessary and inelegant move. Like, if you’re gonna do that then you might want to rethink having an item box or typewriters to begin with and just do some other system. It feels like forcing survival horror elements into a more linear, action-focused adventure simply because it’s expected, not because it’s the best move for the game.
  • Siege Section – The hospital section of the game culminates with a big siege where Carlos has to battle a horde of zombies… and man, does this one part of the game suck. This is the game leaning too hard into the action side of action horror and it just feels like a chore, like the lamest version of Call of Duty‘s zombie mode. The worst part is that if you die, you have to redo the whole damn thing, which happened to me the first time I tried it.

I really don’t get the hate that REmake 3 gets. I can understand arguments about not being faithful enough to the original game, having a different feel than the acclaimed REmake 2, and being “too short”, but none of these hold any weight for me. The way I see it, REmake 3 is a game laser-focused on giving you a fun and totally badass romp through Raccoon City, and in that regard it succeeds with flying colours. During this most recent playthrough there were so many moments where I just had to stop and say to myself “How can you not love this?” Honestly, I enjoyed Resident Evil 3 remake more than Resident Evil 2‘s remake. Maybe that just speaks to my taste in games more than anything else, but if you write off REmake 3 then I just don’t understand you at all.

Love/Hate: Resident Evil 2 (Remake)

It took nearly twenty years, but fans finally got the Resident Evil 2 remake they had been begging Capcom for. While I had played several Resident Evil games over the years, this was actually the first game in the franchise that I played from start to finish, so it’s ultimately the reason I started this whole Love/Hate series. I gave it another replay before writing this article to make sure my impressions were fresh. How does it hold up after playing through the rest of the series? Read on to find out…

Love

  • RPD Design – The Racoon City Police Department makes for a great setting for this game, it has so much character and personality. The decision for it to have been converted from a museum was inspired, granting it a history that you can see and makes it far more visually interesting than if it was just a standard police precinct. I like the Spencer Mansion just a bit more, but RPD would easily be my second favourite area in the whole series.
  • Open-Ended, Interconnected World – Carrying on from the last point, the game’s world is initially maze-like, but over time you’ll get keys and unlock doors to allow yourself to travel back to areas you’ve previously explored. Even when you’re done with any story moments involving the RPD, you can find passages leading back to it so you can pick up items you missed or just to show how connected the various locales in the game are.
  • Graphics – Resident Evil 7 looked good, but REmake 2 looks incredible. The team at Capcom have clearly come to grips with the RE Engine and are pulling out all the stops in this game. These visuals aren’t just to look pretty either, there’s a clear attempt here to make the game feel grounded and realistic and the at-times borderline photorealistic visuals really pull their weight.
  • The Gore – Resident Evil games have traditionally had a warning at the start that they’re full of explicit violence, but very rarely do they live up to that. Well, REmake 2 is living up to its zombie movie inspirations because it is not fucking around. In explicit detail you’ll get to see got faces torn open, a dude getting ripped in half from the waste down, chests exploding… and that’s just the stuff in cutscenes. The zombies show wounds as you hit them, so subsequent headshots will quickly leave their faces as nothing more than a fleshy mess. That’s not all though – zombies have a dismemberment system, so if you shoot them in the arm, then it may slowly detach and fall off over time. Hitting them with acid is probably the most gruesome example of this though, because it causes their skin to slough off in real-time as it literally consumes their flesh. Also, as someone who has seen what a shotgun does to a human face, I’ve gotta say that the critical headshot animation in this game is disturbingly realistic.
  • The Map – All my complaints about the map in REmake are addressed in REmake 2, it is an incredible quality of life addition which keeps all exploration-based frustration at bay. It clearly marks locations explored/unexplored, locked/unlocked doors, what key you need for each door, the locations of items you’ve found but haven’t picked up yet, points of interest and where your safe rooms are. Seriously, every game with a map needs to take a lesson from REmake 2, this is how you do it.
  • The Zombies – It’s a minor miracle that the basic zombies in this game are so goddamn terrifying. They move very erratic and unnaturally, which makes them unsettling and makes it very easy to miss a shot. This is particularly problematic because zombies take a ton of ammunition to put down, it can easily take 5+ headshots to down one and even then they will get back up again if you don’t double-tap them while they’re down. The resource-intensive nature of zombie combat means that, especially in the early game, non-confrontation is paramount for survival. While your resources are limited, you’re generally going to avoid zombies or only shoot them enough to get past them safely.
  • Mr. X – X gon’ give it to ya! Making Mr. X hunt and pursue you around RPD may just be the most inspired design decision in REmake 2. Jack Baker could be a localized nuisance, but Mr. X will hunt you around the entire police department (minus a few safe rooms, which is a bit immersion-breaking but it’s a welcome compromise). The best part is that even if you know what’s going to happen in the game, Mr. X will inevitably surprise you sooner or later. He’s always good for a couple jump scares, especially if you left any lickers or zombies alive in the RPD when he starts pursuing you. Hell, even listening to him stomping nearby and opening doors to find you is frightening as you can’t be entirely certain if it’s safe for you to head out or not.
  • A/B Scenarios Encourage Replayability – While Leon and Claire’s campaigns go through most of the same beats, each character has access to exclusive areas, story content and bosses which really encourages players to go through the game again with the other character. In addition to this, there are lots of optional game modes and scenarios for players looking to get more out of the game’s ~8 hour runtime.

Mixed

  • Post-RPD – REmake 2 loses some lustre after you leave RPD, as the subsequent levels are less well-designed and more linear in scope. While I don’t hate the sewers like some people do, it really can be hard to find your way around from place to place. It also doesn’t help that the map doesn’t clearly layout where the various staircases in the level lead you to, so you can wander trying to find a specific room if you forget how to get there.
  • The Story – I like how Resident Evil 2‘s campaigns play out for the most part. Leon and Claire are very likeable and charismatic leads, the mishaps they get into in their campaigns are enough to keep pushing you forward and the greater “lore” is compelling. However, the actual narrative itself can’t help but feel a little hollow to me. Leon and Claire don’t really change much over the course of their adventure and the antagonists have no real reason to be after either of them. The plot itself basically boils down to “the characters try to escape Raccoon City” and that’s it. Again, this works but it made me less engaged with the actual story than I would have liked.

Hate

  • Story Does Not Make Sense With A/B Scenario – The intent for this game is that your A and B scenarios are playing out at the same time, but because they overlap so much this doesn’t make any sense. You’re telling me Leon and Claire just happen to fight William Birkin in the same place, one after the other, multiple times in a row? Most egregiously, if we’re to make sense of the A/B Scenarios, then Annette Birkin pretends to die for one character and then comes back for the other one only to die for real that time. On top of that, the original games made certain items and characters disappear in the B Scenario depending on your actions in the A Scenario, but this game doesn’t do that. All-in-all, this contributes to the somewhat hollow feel that the game’s story leaves me. It’s top-notch survival horror but without a stronger plot it doesn’t resonate with me as much as I would like it to.
  • Sherry’s Stealth Section – Oh hey, a stealth segment in a non-stealth game is annoying you say? How surprising. In Claire’s campaign you get to play as Sherry Birkin briefly and her scenario has a stealth sequence where Chief Irons is looking for her. It’s basically just trial and error. If you know where you’re supposed to go then it’s fine, but you have a moment to figure it out or you’ll get caught and instantly lose if you fail.

Resident Evil 2 is a fantastic melding of classic survival horror game design and modern, single-player, AAA polish. Even if you haven’t played any Resident Evil games before I’d heartily recommend it, it’s a phenomenal experience that’s a joy to play through. It’s also on sale cheap all the time so you really have no excuse not to give it a shot if it interests you.

Love/Hate: Resident Evil (Remake)

Welcome back to another Love/Hate series! You may be surprised to hear that, despite having a whole Retrospectives series about the Resident Evil movies, until just over a year ago I hadn’t played through a Resident Evil game from start to finish. Sure, I had owned and played several Resident Evil games over the years, but it never really resonated with me much til recently. I’ve since been on a journey exploring this franchise and I’m now ready to put out my thoughts on most of the mainline entries. To start, we’re going to look at the Game Cube remake of Resident Evil (aka REmake), often touted as the definitive way to play the game. Does it still hold up almost 20 years later? Read on to find out…

Love

  • The Spencer Mansion – There are several iconic and well-designed locales in the Resident Evil franchise, but the Spencer Mansion is probably my favourite of the bunch. Its layout is maze-like and filled with locked doors but you’ll become very familiar with it over time, which is helped by the way the developers encourage you to traverse the map in a figure eight pattern. Its design also reminds me of the best parts of Dark Souls, where opening up new shortcuts makes the whole thing more interconnected.
  • Compelling Gameplay Loop – The basic gameplay in Resident Evil revolves around “find items to open new areas” and “manage your items and plan your routes to best survive”. While simple, it’s very compelling to play through. Every time you figure out where a key item needs to go it feels satisfying and every single item you take with you has to be strategically calculated because you’ll never have enough for all the weapons, ammo and healing you may need. Moreso than any other game in the franchise, Resident Evil is a game that emphasizes exploration over combat. The game’s basic, slow and infrequent combat works well because it keeps the tension going and makes the exploration feel dangerous.
  • Encourages Replayability – REmake has a frankly ridiculous amount of replayability. First off, the character you pick at the start of the game isn’t just a cosmetic choice – they can have a huge impact on game progression, cutting off entire boss strategies, providing unique weapons, items and skills (eg, Jill knows how to play piano whereas Chris cannot which makes solving a particular puzzle different), and opening up opportunities to get items early (eg, Jill can get a shotgun early if she performs actions in a specific order). In addition to this, while the game plays out largely the same, the story itself changes pretty significantly as Chris and Jill interact with different cast members who are absent from the other run and the ending you get changes depending on how many characters you keep alive. This makes a “B Scenario” run a very different experience. In addition, the game is more satisfying and can be completed in about half as much time as a first playthrough when you already know what needs to be done.
  • Atmosphere – One thing REmake does really well is nail the spooky, gothic atmosphere of the Spencer Mansion. The art direction for this game is spectacular, giving the Spencer Mansion a very antique, lived-in feel that comes across as believable. In addition, the game’s fix camera perspective allows the developers to direct players’ attentions in very deliberate ways, hiding enemies just off-screen to get a very cinematic scare or showing the action in a very voyeuristic manner to put you on edge. It gives the whole affair a very cinematic feel.
  • Meaningfully Adds to the Original – REmake takes the skeleton of the original game and remixes and polishes it to make for a much smoother and expanded way to experience this story. Additions like defense weapons make the minute-to-minute gameplay less punishing and overall this feels less like a graphical overhaul and more like a second chance to let us experience Resident Evil as it was always intended.
  • Option For More Traditional Controls – While REmake originally released with classic tank controls, the HD remaster added in the option to play the game with an altered control scheme. This altered scheme essentially allows you to move with traditional analog controls and removes the need to hold the sprint button. Basically, point the analog stick in the direction you want to go and the character will move that way. The controls are essentially reset every time the camera moves, but if you were already heading in a direction the game will continue to move you that way until the stick is shifted, at which point it will update. It still takes some getting used to, but for someone who didn’t grow up on tank controls it was easier to get into and actually made tank controls easier to wrap my head around.
  • Crimson Heads – Crimson Heads were a brilliant addition in REmake. In case you’re unaware, every time you kill a zombie in this game, their body will stay behind and a timer will begin to countdown. You have about an hour to either blow their head off or light them on fire or the body will resurrect as a fast, hard-hitting zombie the next time you pass by. This works so well on numerous levels. First of all, it provides a huge, unexpected shock for a first time player or veteran of the original game. The best part though is that even if you know about them ahead of time, it transforms the dynamic of every zombie encounter. There isn’t enough kerosene to burn every zombie, so you find yourself avoiding zombies for as long as possible, burning them only at the most high-traffic areas and remembering where you’ve left bodies that you’ll have to deal with later. It’s so weird to me that Capcom hasn’t brought them back since (unlike, say, Regenerators) because they’re top-tier Resident Evil enemies and brilliant game design.

Mixed

  • The Map Feels Half-Baked – REmake‘s map is handy and will be a constant companion as you learn the layout of the mansion. Beyond showing the building’s layout, it will also show you what doors are locked and unlocked, where you have found typewriters and item boxes and whether a room is unexplored, has items still in it or has been completely explored. That said, while it’s nice that it’s more than a bare-bones map, it could have gone so much further to make for an indispensable resource. For example, knowing which key you need to unlock which doors, what items are still in each room, what other points of interest there may be, etc. There is a lot of shit to keep track of in this game, especially in the mansion at the start of the game, so having it laid out on-screen would have been nice. It feels like it’s just pushing you to buy the guidebook to get all the item locations in one place… which, now that I mention it, is probably why the map is the way it is.
  • The Story – I’m pretty mixed on the story in Resident Evil. On the one hand, it’s very simple and functional, which serves the gameplay well, so that’s a major point in its favour. However, for the story we do get, we’re missing some major context to understand it. We get thrown right into the game with no real idea who is in S.T.A.R.S. Alpha or Bravo team, so whenever we run across a comrade in this story I have no idea if this is one of the survivors I’m supposed to be finding or someone who came with me and got lost. The story is also baffling at times, like when the player finds Enrico and then he GETS SHOT by someone behind you… and then Chris or Jill decides to focus all their attention on Enrico instead of, y’know, the murderous gunman who is just behind them. That said, we’ve also got stuff like the story of Lisa Trevor, which is conveyed well over the game’s runtime through text files and environmental storytelling.
  • HD Edition Graphics – The HD remaster of REmake is the most accessible version of the game out there, but its presentation is compromised compared to the Game Cube original. Apparently Capcom either lost the assets or source code for this game and had to Frankenstein the HD remaster together with what they had available. The pre-rendered backgrounds have had to be up-rezzed and stretched into widescreen and the results are mixed. I’ve played this game in 1080p on PS4 and you can definitely notice the low resolution there, whereas in 720p on Switch in handheld mode it holds up much better. Worst of all are the pre-rendered cutscenes which are in incredibly muddy 480p stretched to HD widescreen. Imagine if someone threw a bad Youtube rip into a game and you can imagine how it looks. Thankfully the character models are pretty decent, although I can’t help but feel that Jill and Barry got a lot more effort put into them than Chris and Rebecca. Chris’ dead-eye stare is more unnerving than most of the game’s zombies… The graphics issues don’t really tarnish the game overall, but they do hold back the presentation because, when everything falls into place, this game looks incredible.

Hate

  • Old-School Design Takes Getting Used To – As I have alluded to, if you didn’t grow up on old-school Resident Evil then REmake is going to take time just to get used to the simple act of moving around. I had tried to play this game 2 or 3 times before I finally knuckled down and did a full playthrough for this series. That said, the experience and knowledge of the Mansion I got in my previous attempt certainly helped make this playthrough much easier to slide into. It’s just too bad that there’s such a potentially steep learning curve to overcome before you can enjoy the game.
  • Inventory Management Can Get Frustrating – While inventory management is a fundamental aspect of Resident Evil, it can be frustrating, especially in a first playthrough. The item box is never far away, but you don’t know what enemies to expect or what you’re going to find, so you pack your best weapons and head out. Within a few minutes, you’re loaded up on key items, so in order to advance you’re going to have to go back and dump them in the item box. Then you set back out and, lo-and-behind, you find where those (or a different) key item needs to go, so now you have to turn around again and get them, then head back to use them, etc. Resident Evil‘s game design encourages conservative play, especially with its punishing save system, but the drawback is that it will bore you if you play conservatively. Again, this is why repeat playthroughs will be a bit more enjoyable since you should know when and where you need key items, but prior knowledge shouldn’t be a crutch for game design. There has to be a middle-ground where you maintain the game’s strategic inventory management while making it less frustrating, such as having less inventory slots overall but you can carry all key items, or maybe you could get an attaché case pickup that can store key items only.
  • A Lot of Uninspired Enemy Designs – For a series with such iconic, mutated monsters as Lickers, Hunters and the Regenerators, it’s surprising to go back to this first game and find that most of the enemies are just big animals. Seriously, four of the main bosses in this game are a big snake (who you fight twice!), a big spider, a big plant and a big shark. They don’t even look mutated or disfigured either, they’re literally just big creatures.
  • Voice Acting – Look, I get that the dialogue and voice acting in this game are a HUGE improvement over the original game, but if you think the voice acting in the game is good then you have a serious case of nostalgia. Most of the line-readings in this game are stilted and awkward. It’s an early Game Cube game from a Japanese studio and the voice acting is what you would expect of that era (eg, Final Fantasy X). In Jill’s campaign this wasn’t too big a deal for me – Barry and Wesker give the best performances in the game so that helps offset things, and Jill’s line deliveries give the game an unintentional B-movie horror tone. But, oh my God, the voice acting and writing is so bad in Chris’ campaign. I beg you to check out that link; between Chris’ dead expression, the awful dialogue and bad line deliveries, I cannot take the story seriously at all.

While it did take me a long time to come to grips with this game, I’m really glad that I finally gave REmake a fair shot. It’s still a really fun time and its emphasis on exploration above all else still gives it a unique feel which no other game in the series can really boast. Plus it takes what worked with the original game and expands it, polishing it to a mirror sheen and establishing itself as the definitive way to experience this story. If you have any interest in the series, I’d definitely recommend checking this game out.

Love/Hate: Dead Space Extended Universe

From the very beginning Dead Space was conceived as a multi-media franchise. To that end it managed to build up quite the impressive collection of extended universe material in the five years it was active. Having dabbled in EU material from Star Wars, Halo, Warhammer 40,000 and Splinter Cell (among others), a lot of the time these story extensions are viewed as inessential marketing material. As a result, they typically aren’t very well written, don’t stand on their own merits, or are just “bolter porn” (eg, action fests with little in the way of characters or depth). Luckily, Dead Space has some real gems within its EU, although there is still plenty of material which fit into the latter categories… Sounds ripe for a love/hate breakdown to me!

Also, before we begin, I need to mention that the only piece of Dead Space media I never consumed was the mobile game, due to me not having a smartphone at the time. If I had played it I’d probably include it here and from what I hear it was a fantastic game, but the game is no longer supported on modern Android devices and is unavailable on the Play store. If I can manage to get ahold of it I’ll write a whole entry for it, assuming I have enough thoughts for a post. Anyway, with that aside out of the way, let’s dive in!

Love

  • Dead Space (graphic novel) – EA and Visceral games demonstrated that they were not fucking around with the Dead Space brand as the very first piece of media out of the gate was this six issue comic series and it is easily the best entry in the franchise outside of the actual games. There are a few reasons why this graphic novel is essential reading for horror fans. First of all, the writing is pretty great. Antony Johnston portrays how the entire Aegis VII colony goes to hell in compelling detail, slowly building up the tension to the point of absolute desperation. Secondly, Ben Templesmith’s art is perfect for this kind of story, being very clear but stylized and inked in a manner which gives it this manic, twisted and dark edge. Thirdly, it is the definitive tome about what happened on Aegis VII, which we only get bits and pieces of in Extraction, and therefore is essential for fans. Finally, it’s the perfect entry point to get into the franchise – you don’t need to know the lore to understand it, because everything gets laid out for you organically.
  • Dead Space: Extraction (comic) – Perhaps unsurprisingly, the one-off direct follow-up to the Dead Space comics is just as compelling and essential for fans of the series. Antony Johnston and Ben Templesmith essentially take a victory lap, showing us what Nicole is up to on the Ishimura during the outbreak and gives us more insight into her psychology and personality than any other entry into the franchise. That alone is enough to make Extraction worthwhile reading (especially since Nicole is essentially treated like an objective rather than a person elsewhere), but there’s such a bleak and tragic atmosphere to the whole proceeding that makes it so sad to read, especially since you know how it’s all going to turn out.
  • Dead Space: Martyr – This one really surprised me. Like I said up top, video game extended universe novels have a shaky track record and going through the first chapter of Martyr made me think that my low expectations were going to be met. However, by the time the second chapter starts, Martyr gets enthralling. It works for the same reasons that the Dead Space graphic novel works – it’s all about the build-up. You’re going to notice a trend as this goes along: necromorphs are great video game monsters, but an outbreak is boring in a non-interactive medium. Martyr focuses on the madness that the marker causes and the machinations of the people around it, for good or evil. It also gives fans essential insight into Michael Altman, the “Prophet” of the Church of Unitology, and shows us that he’s not a bad guy as we might have expected. Martyr really surprised me with how good it was and it makes for a chilling read with an ending which is just pitch-black.
  • Samuel Irons – I’ll cover Dead Space: Downfall in its own section later, but the one thing I love in it is Samuel Irons, who I would argue is straight-up the best character in the entire Dead Space franchise. Seriously, he’s a goddamn champ and is literally the only Unitologist we get to see who isn’t portrayed as a fanatic or outright evil. Dude even gets his own badass line before he goes off to face a swarm of necromorphs: “I’m not a hero… just a man”.

Mixed

  • Dead Space: Salvage – In the interstice between Dead Space and Dead Space 2, Ben Templesmith was dropped as the artist on the comic series and was replaced with Christopher Shy. I don’t know if this was for creative or financial reasons, but Shy’s artwork is as gorgeous as it is haunting and very befitting of the Dead Space universe. However, this is ultimately a blessing and a curse for Salvage. On the one hand, it lends the graphic novel a distinct and captivating visual style, making every panel a work of art. However, Shy’s style doesn’t lend itself very well to the story being told here. Salvage follows a team of “Magpies”, illegal salvagers who stumble upon the remains of the Ishimura as Earthgov is seeking it in the aftermath of the first game. We’re introduced to a huge cast of characters, but Shy’s art style makes it difficult to tell who is who in any given panel, who is saying what and even what is going on at times. Like, you can understand the broad strokes of the story with little issue, but good luck knowing what’s happening panel-to-panel. Hell, about two-thirds of the way through I realized that all the Magpies were on board the Ishimura – I had thought that only a recon team went aboard that whole time! Like I said, the art alone makes slogging through Salvage worthwhile, plus it gives us some really interesting insight into the greater Dead Space universe and the story itself is enjoyable enough when you can understand it, but the unnecessary confusion makes Salvage more difficult to appreciate than it should be.
  • Dead Space: Aftermath – I have a soft spot in my heart for Aftermath which makes me overlook its glaring flaws. First off, it must be said – the CG animation in this movie? DOGSHIT. Seriously, the animation is ReBoot levels of quality (which isn’t a knock on ReBoot, for the record, but you’d think that 17 years of advances in computer technology would raise the minimum threshold). Since almost half the movie is rendered in this machinima-level style, that’s a major issue right off the bat. However, the story structure and characters manage to make Aftermath interesting (for fans of the series at least). Each of the four main characters’ gets a POV section where their part in the story is told via a different anime style flashback. It’s really obvious that this was done so that five different animation studios could be working on the movie simultaneously and for minimal expenditure, but it’s integrated into the narrative itself in an ideal manner. Plus it helps that all of these anime segments are well animated, as opposed to Dead Space: Downfall (which we’ll get to soon enough…). The characters aren’t revolutionary, but they’re interesting enough to carry the proceedings, especially Nolan Stross, whose role in Dead Space 2 is far more interesting when you have this film’s insight into his backstory. Unfortunately, the film suddenly devolves into yet another outbreak story about halfway through, and I really do mean sudden – one minute everything’s fine, the next there’s necromorphs all over the O’Bannon. Aftermath‘s first half does a really good job setting up the madness and expanding the series’ lore, so when it rushes into a half-assed and boring outbreak scenario it’s a real bummer. Like I said, I have a soft spot for Aftermath in spite of its several flaws which would probably throw it right into the “Hate” section for most, but there’s just enough interesting lore and story here that I can’t help but find it interesting.
  • Dead Space: Catalyst – After the surprisingly good Martyr, my excitement for B.K. Evenson’s follow-up novel, Catalyst, couldn’t be higher as the hype train for Dead Space 3 approached. Unfortunately, it isn’t nearly as captivating as its predecessor was and is arguably the single most inessential piece of media in the Dead Space extended universe. It follows estranged brothers Istvan and Jensi, along with Jensi’s friend Henry. Istvan has some sort of mental illness which makes him psychotic, which eventually leads him to assassinate a political figure and end up in a remote prison facility where a marker research station is housed. Jensi and Henry try to rescue Istvan… but then another outbreak happens. Sigh. Compared to Martyr, Catalyst has far more interesting and compelling characters and the whole setup works really well. Unfortunately, it’s all in service of just giving us yet another necromorph outbreak story and little else beyond that. About the only revelation with potential impact is that Istvan’s mental illness is such that he can change the marker signal, but it is barely developed and Evenson is careful to cut off that source of potential future storytelling. It’s an alright novel, but it didn’t stick with me or demand my attention the way Martyr did.
  • Dead Space: Liberation – Acting as a direct prequel to Dead Space 3, Liberation gives us the backstory for John Carver, showing us the shittiest day of his life. Christopher Shy is back but this time his style has been reined in to be far less ethereal and abstract and instead more moody and realistic. This makes it far easier to follow the story and I can’t say I was ever lost or confused. However, Antony Johnston (writer on the Dead Space comics and games up to this point) was replaced with Ian Edginton (his series Scarlet Traces is well worth checking out!) and the difference in style between the two is night-and-day. Like Dead Space 3, Liberation is a fast-paced, high-stakes action story, where necromorph outbreaks are so inconsequential that we get two of them! Liberation really suffers from being a prequel – there’s no conclusion and all the major plot beats are basically just to set up stuff that will happen in Dead Space 3. Of all the Dead Space extended universe media, Liberation may just be the most obvious marketing ploy of them all. That said, the only things making it worthwhile at all are getting insight into John Carver’s character and Shy’s continued exceptional artwork.

Hate

  • Dead Space: Downfall – I rewatched this movie for this article and good God I still dislike it. The first big issue? The awful, bargain-basement animation. Just look at that screenshot above – it lacks any sort of detail and is meant to be as simple as possible. As bad as it looks in screenshots, it looks even more terrible in motion, with choppy animation demonstrating that they couldn’t afford/be bothered to key in enough frames to make it look smooth. I don’t know if the studio just got overwhelmed with the work they had to do, but it makes me glad that Aftermath took the approach of farming out work to several studios as its animated segments look leagues better (y’know, aside from the awful CG parts). The second big issue is that the main character, Alissa Vincent, sucks. She’s your generic take-no-nonsense head of security and spends the whole movie being insubordinate, hot-headed and doing random acrobatics in the middle of gun fights. She feels like a lame RPG character rather than someone who belongs in the more grounded Dead Space universe. The third big issue is that the story kind of sucks. There’s some enjoyment to be had in seeing the Ishimura plunge into chaos, especially Captain Matthius’ growing paranoia and delusion, but when the film turns into a montage of Vincent and her Dungeons & Dragons party getting into several shootouts with necromorphs it’s just plain dull. Sure, Downfall has Samuel Irons, but he’s the only thing about this movie that I actually love. Dead Space: Extraction covers the fall of the Ishimura as well, so as far as I’m concerned Downfall can be straight-up ignored in the continuity of the franchise.
  • Dead Space: Ignition – Soooooo, I know for a fact I’ve never played this game, but checking through my PlayStation account reveals that at some point I bought it and then never played it… So, um, I want my $5 back, EA. That said, I’m probably better off for never having played Ignition because it’s apparently the crappiest entry in the entire franchise (and that’s factoring in all the games and extended universe, including Downfall). Do you like hacking minigames and cheap comic book art? I sure hope you do because that’s all you’re going to get out of this experience! The only purpose this game serves to the series’ narrative is letting us know a bit about Franco before he’s immediately offed at the beginning of Dead Space 2, but like… who cares? Skip this one for sure.
  • EU Peters Out By Dead Space 3 – Moving on to more general thoughts, it sucks that Dead Space 3 killed the series because it effectively killed the extended universe while it was at it. This especially sucks because Dead Space 3‘s story was ripe for spin-off tales. After all, it introduced a rogue, militant terrorist faction of the Unitologist Church who come out of nowhere, wipe out Earthgov and then cause outbreaks across the galaxy, which the game promptly forgets. That’s a bunch of potential horror stories that went completely unmined. Even then, the two EU stories we did get during Dead Space 3‘s cycle, Catalyst and Liberation did almost nothing to expand the series’ scope or lore. Dead Space and Dead Space 2‘s cycles both gave us new insights into the universe or background events, which makes the sudden disinterest come Dead Space 3 even more depressing.
  • The Portrayal of Religion – One thing that has always annoyed me about the extended universe in Dead Space is that it’s really obvious that the writers have a bone to pick with religion. Everyone writes off Unitologists immediately and calls them crazy, despite the fact that they’re often being confronted face-to-face with the literal holy object of their religion. Like, I’m no Scientologist, but if someone showed me Xenu I’d at least consider the possibility that they might have some answers. Naturally, every Unitologist (except for Samuel Irons, the goddamn champ) gets written as a fanatic or downright evil, while the people who explicitly oppose them are “rational” thinkers like scientists, doctors and… uh… the police. This despite the fact that about half of the Unitologist characters weren’t even known to be Unitologists until the events of the stories, showing that they’re really just regular people for the most part. It’s just so obviously anti-religious sentiment and is excessively simplified to the point of being insulting (such as the implication that being religious causes you to be more susceptible to the marker’s maddening effects). This also ignores that the Dead Space series makes it explicitly clear that governments are the real villains, Unitology is just a tool. Hell, even the series’ writers seem to have forgotten this because by the time Dead Space 3 rolls around the government’s killed off-screen and we have moustache-twirling religious loonies as the villains. The treatment in the franchise is just lazy and makes “Unitologist” shorthand for “villain” 99% of the time.
  • No Resolution – Sure, you could argue that Awakened ends the franchise with everyone dying, but I don’t buy that. Dead Space has too many loose ends still dangling, the most crucial of which is Lexine. Dead Space 4 (or an EU story at the very least) NEEDED to bring Lexine into the forefront and make good on Nicole’s revelations in the Extraction comic – it is possible to defeat the necromorphs. Hell… I’m half tempted to write my own version, because EA sure as fuck is never going to.

Love/Hate: Dead Space 3

Man, I was being nice to this game back when I wrote my original review of it. The intervening years have made me more and more hostile to Dead Space 3, especially considering that EA used its moderate success as an excuse to kill the franchise. That said, there are things to love about Dead Space 3, so let’s dive in and check it out…

Love

  • Tau Volantis is Cool – I remember a lot of fans complained that a Dead Space game was going to be taking place on a planet back in the day, but I’ve never had an issue with this. For one thing, it’s still sci-fi and for another, a frozen planet is barely a step down from the existential danger of space. In fact, it opens up new opportunities for horror – enemies hidden in the snow, body temperature regulation, snow squalls, etc. Visceral Games use all of these elements throughout the game and make the most of the setting within the framework they set for themselves.
  • Side-quests – One of the most interesting new additions in Dead Space 3 is the optional “side-quests” that you can embark on. These reward the player with supplies for completion and, most importantly, provide little self-contained stories to uncover. I’m a sucker for side-quests and appreciate their inclusion in this game – it gives me some fun, optional content to explore and rewards you for taking the risk.
  • Co-Op is Entirely Optional – Co-op modes were being shoehorned into games during this time period and often resulted in you being forced to wrangle a friend whenever you wanted to play, or dealing with invariably awful AI companions. Dead Space 3 makes the elegant decision to make the game’s marquee co-op mode entirely optional. Want to play through the game solo? That’s cool, Carver will be awkwardly on the fringes of the entire story, but you’re otherwise not even going to notice. It is a far more preferable solution to this than brain-dead AI that turns into a frustrating burden. The only issue is that certain side-quests are co-op only, making it feel like you’re missing out on content for not participating.
  • Extensive Weapon Crafting System – Dead Space 3 is often criticized for its weapon crafting system, being blamed for reducing the horror. However, I feel like it provides a more elegant solution to the weapon management system from the previous games, effectively allowing you to pick the weapons you actually want to use and mash them together into two personal super-guns. Sure, this also results in them being potentially overpowered, jack-of-all-trades crutch weapons, but Dead Space 3 is designed around that so it works. Getting your preferred weapon to a “just right” state is satisfying in itself and there are so many combinations you can produce that it’s cool to see it in action.
  • Supercharged Kinesis – In the very late game Dead Space 3 goes off the rails in terms of its stakes. One of the best parts of this though is the supercharged kinesis – kinesis has always been fun, but how do you like the idea of tearing the limbs right off of attacking necromorphs or launching entire markers at the real hive mind of the necromorphs? It’s a power fantasy but it feels so damn good while it lasts.
  • The Space Section – After the introduction, Dead Space 3 spends a good hour or two in orbit around Tau Volantis. It feels like a watered down version of classic Dead Space, but it’s still a blast to play through as you fly through a spaceship graveyard and trying to get the parts to repair your own craft. I especially like the art direction on the necromorphs here, they’ve been dormant for almost 200 years and they look so desiccated after all this time.
  • Feeders – Dead Space 3 doesn’t introduce a lot of new enemies, but a couple of them are great. Most pertinent are the Feeders, blind necromorphs that are attracted to strong light sources and sound. Having to deal with enemies in a non-combative way is a great change for the series and provides some of the few true horror moments in the game. Plus their backstory is amazing, having been created after starving humans got desperate enough to feed on the flesh of defeated necromorphs. In addition to Feeders, the Shambler is also a cool concept, where a necromorph decapitates a victim and then embeds itself in their neck cavity to control the body.

Mixed

  • Body Temperature Regulation is Underutilized – I know I praised Dead Space 3 for how it makes the most of Tau Volantis, but one thing it could have done more with is body temperature regulation. When you crash land on the planet you have to stay in proximity to heat to avoid freezing to death, but you soon find a thermal suit and never have to worry about it again. If they hadn’t done this then there’s definitely the potential for this to just become a burden, but handled well I feel like having to worry about freezing to death would have added far more tension to the game and made Tau Volantis itself a more dangerous setting.
  • Awakened DLC – Once again, a Dead Space story DLC lands in the mixed section, for similar reasons. On the plus side, Awakened drastically ups the horror elements compared to the main game, making for a tenser and more interesting experience. However, its ending leaves a real sour taste in my mouth. For one thing, it effectively undoes the ending of the main game, going from a bittersweet ending to one that is straight-up nihilistic. The fact that this is the last piece of Dead Space story we’ve ever gotten just makes it worse. Don’t get me wrong, a bleak ending can work but I don’t feel like it was earned at all. In addition, are you telling me that no one managed to evacuate Earth to the several stations and colonies we know humanity has? Hell, I was under the impression that the vast majority of The Sprawl was evacuated in Dead Space 2 and that was in the middle of a full-on outbreak in a confined station. It just makes me even more annoyed that we never got Dead Space 4 starring Lexine Murdoch-Weller going out to kick some necromorph ass.

Hate

  • Balance Is Out of Whack – Dead Space and Dead Space 2 struck a fantastic balance of making health and ammo scarce while giving you just enough enemies to deal with where you felt like you were barely holding on. Dead Space 3, however, completely fails in this regard and just feels cheap at times. The game inundates you health pickups, to the point where I never managed to run out (and, to be more accurate, my inventory was chocked full of them at all times). You’re also never going to run out of ammo for any particular weapon, because ammo pickups are now universal. Enemy encounters are just a pain in the ass though – you get swarmed by enemies from all angles, to the point where it just feels cheap. I’m not sure if this is because the game only has one spawn system to cover for single player and co-op, or if the game has just been designed to try to overwhelm you, but it makes planning less important than spraying and praying.
  • Microtransactions – Dead Space 3 was the prototype for forced-in microtransactions in single player games. I remember thinking that it wasn’t a big deal back in the day because I never felt like you needed to rely on them to get supplies, but goddamn if their putrid legacy can’t be felt to this day. The fact that this game was so groundbreaking for something so shitty is an irredeemable blight on the game that can’t be taken away.
  • Human Enemies – By far one of the worst aspects of this game is that it turns into a cover shooter at certain points. I’m playing Dead Space, I don’t want to play a crappy version of Uncharted or Gears of War. It’s just… ugh.
  • Everything is Watered Down – Did you like Dead Space‘s mix of horror and gore? Cool, then how about we give you an action game in the vein of Uncharted instead… While Dead Space 3 does have occasional moments of light horror, the game is on the whole orders of magnitude less scary and far less violent. Hell, even aspects of the previous game which return here, such as the Stalkers, are changed to be less scary (instead of trying to flank you, they just charge instantly). Like I said, the weapon crafting and universal ammo reduce the tension as well in favour of straight action. What do we get instead? Over-the-top set pieces which quickly outstay their welcome. Even some of the necromorphs are wielding weapons in this game, which just makes them less inhuman terrors.
  • The Story – Hoo boy, strap in because there is a lot to talk about in this regard:
    • In regards to the set-up of this game, within the first few minutes we’re told that Unitologist terrorists have straight-up wiped out EarthGov and are launching terrorist attacks across the galaxy to try to initiate convergence. Holy shit, that’s crazy! I hope you don’t care about this interesting turn of events though because the game never returns to it and we never got any extended universe content to cover these monumental developments. To make matters worse, Awakened ends with Isaac and Carver trying to contact EarthGov so… did they (by which I mean the writers) forget what happened?
    • I also don’t like the concept of the Brethren Moons. For one thing, we don’t need to know what controls and creates the markers, the mystery is part of the allure. Beyond that, we’ve already got enough complication – the markers make the hive mind, which controls the necromorphs… so what’s the point of a hive mind if there are actually Brethren Moons? It’s the sort of plot development that I hate, where it relies on ever-growing stakes to feel important. Like, what was next for Dead Space 4, finding out what’s controlling the Brethren Moons?
    • Oh and nearly every single character in Dead Space 3 SUUUUUUUCKS. Main human antagonist, Danik? He’s such a lame villain. At least Tiedemann in Dead Space 2 was somewhat understandable in his motivations, Danik is just a monologuing asshole. And speaking of assholes, Norton spends the entire game being a jealous prick to Isaac. Even Carver’s a real dick, but at least he has something of an arc where he becomes friendly over time. Most of the rest of the cast are cannon fodder, except for…
  • Ellie Has Been Sexed Up – God damn, EA wanted Dead Space 3 to appeal to the Call of Duty crowd, so what’s one way they went about this? They sexed up Ellie Langford, softening her features, presumably giving her implants and then showing off a ton of cleavage whenever possible. Like… it’s so in your face and so obviously pandering that I hate it.
  • It’s Compromised to the Core – Perhaps the worst thing about Dead Space 3 after all this time is that the game is fundamentally compromised. Visceral clearly didn’t get to make the story or game they wanted to, but in order to keep the series going they had to give in to EA’s demands… and for what? The game still didn’t do well enough to keep the franchise alive and even if it did we would have gotten a Dead Space 4 that was even more removed from what made this franchise great in the first place. All we’re left with is a game which betrays everything we liked about Dead Space to begin with and ends the series on a truly sour note.

Love/Hate: Dead Space 2

Welcome back to the next entry in the Dead Space Love/Hate series. Today we’re going to be looking at Dead Space 2, which is probably my favourite entry in the franchise and straight-up one of my favourite games ever. That said, there are still things that bother me even in my favourite games, so let’s get into them…

Love

  • Builds On The First Game’s Strengths – For the most part Dead Space 2 plays like the first game did, but better. There’s more of everything – more enemies, more weapons, more varied encounters, more intensity, more polish, etc. It doesn’t take any huge leaps forward but it doesn’t need to – it takes an already solid foundation and just makes it better in every way.
  • Balance of Horror and Action – A lot of people say that Dead Space 2 isn’t nearly as scary as the first game, but I disagree. While Dead Space 2 has a bit more action, it still balances this with intense encounters and a pervasive scary atmosphere. Just as much as the first game you’re having to balance your sparse reserves of health and ammo and plan out how you’re going to survive every encounter. Big set-pieces like the Tormentor fight are still intense and terrifying and to this day I can remember moments of horror like fighting my way through the necromorph infested school.
  • Isaac Speaks! – Dead Space 2 really drives home how much Isaac Clarke’s silent protagonist turn in the first game was a mistake, because he displays so much more personality here. It opens up so much more opportunity to interact and react to the world around you. It also makes it easier to show off his personality and the influence that the marker is having on his sanity.
  • Story Is Improved – One area where Dead Space 2 excels over its predecessor is its much more interesting story progression. Kicking off in one of the most viscerally-memorable opening sequences I’ve ever experienced in a game, Dead Space 2 throws you into the middle of an active necromorph outbreak as Earthgov and the Church of Unitology fight over control of Isaac. Meanwhile, Isaac is just trying to figure out how to destroy the marker and survive, while being taunted by haunting visions of his deceased girlfriend, Nicole, as his sanity is ripped away. It makes for a far more interesting narrative than the relatively simple “bitch work” in the first game. The story even explores some deeper themes, showing the toll that grief takes on the mind and the process of overcoming it.
  • New Enemies Are Amazing – Dead Space 2 introduces several new and iconic enemies to the series, making combat encounters even more varied than they were before. The best is by far the Stalkers, velociraptor-like necromorphs that hunt in packs, peeking out around corners at you and running away to find the best place to get a sneaky flank on. Hearing one of these things letting out their charge-scream when you don’t know where it is coming from is panic-inducing. Pukers are also very iconic enemies, to the point where I had completely forgotten that they weren’t in the first game. Their corrosive and slowing projectile vomit attacks can create really tense problems for Isaac if they aren’t managed carefully and getting too close is a potential death sentence. The Pack and Crawlers are also great enemies and terrifying reminders that the necromorphs are merciless, wiping out all living beings regardless of their age.
  • New Weapons Add More Variety – There are three new weapons in Dead Space 2, adding more ways to dismember necromorphs. Of these, by far the coolest is the javelin gun, a weapon which shoots out huge javelins which can impale necromorphs and pin them to walls and, to add insult to injury, be electrocuted for additional damage. The detonator is also cool, acting as a grenade launcher that can be used to set traps around the environment. Finally, the seeker rifle is effectively a powerful battle rifle, allowing you to fire at distant enemies with greater precision. Furthermore, old weapons have been rebalanced to make them more useful, such as the pulse rifle gaining a far more useful grenade launcher alt-fire mode. The flamethrower’s still pretty meh though.
  • Free Movement in Zero-G – The space sections of Dead Space felt gimmicky, but the feature is fully fleshed out in Dead Space 2, allowing you full ability to move and shoot in zero gravity. Put simply, it makes these sequences much more exciting and fun to play through.

Mixed

  • Severed DLC – The Severed story DLC for Dead Space 2 is such a mixed bag of glorious highs and disappointing lows. One the plus side: holy shit, it’s a bite-sized narrative sequel to Dead Space: Extraction! It gives us even more of Dead Space 2‘s fantastic gameplay! We get some really interesting lore for the factions in the Dead Space universe! Twitchers are back! But on the disappointing side… it’s barely an hour long (for ~$7)! Lexine’s back and gets screwed over even harder than in Dead Space: Extraction (she’s shunted into a relationship with Gabe, despite both of them not getting along at all in Extraction, and spends the entire game being damselled despite once again being the most important person in the Dead Space universe)! Ultimately, it’s more Dead Space 2 so it’s worth it for me, but I can’t help but wish it was its own fully fleshed-out experience.

Hate

  • Obligatory Multiplayer – Like many AAA games of the era, Dead Space 2 has a tacked-on multiplayer mode that no one wanted or asked for, which exists purely to extend player engagement and sell multiplayer DLC packs. Don’t get me wrong, there are tacked-on multiplayer modes from this era which were surprisingly fun, such as Metal Gear Online and The Last of Us, but that was because they offered some sort of fun unique experience that you couldn’t get elsewhere. While the concept of playing as a necromorph is enticing, it is ultimately just not very fun to play and struggles to justify the mode’s existence. Like… if I’m playing Dead Space 2, I’m there for the story mode. There’s nothing here to keep me interested.
  • Hard Core Mode is BRUTAL – I don’t bother to go for Platinum trophies unless I really enjoy a game, so the fact that I went for it on Dead Space 2 should show how much I was dedicated to the pursuit. To this day there is only one roadblock keeping me from the Platinum – beat the game in Hard Core mode. Can’t be that bad, right? I soldiered through Zealot mode no problem, what more can the game throw at me? How about beating the game on Hard but with only 3 saves to get you through the whole 6+ hour runtime of the game? So not only do you have to plan out the points you save ahead of time, but if you reach that point and your health/ammo are low? Too bad, you’re screwed. Oh, you died? Say good bye to an hour and a half of gameplay! And don’t even think about having a life, you have to dedicate it to this game solely if you want to earn this trophy. Seriously, I just don’t have the time to throw myself into this mode and deal with the frustration that it demands just to get a digital trophy. The fact that even 6% of players have beaten the game on this difficulty is insane to me.
  • Final Boss Fight… Again – Once again the final boss fight in a Dead Space game is questionable. After blasting through hordes of enemies and barely surviving the regenerating ubermorph, Isaac reaches the marker and gets dragged into a hallucination where he has to fight off Nicole, necromorphs and damage the marker. Do this three times and convergence is stopped… because the marker’s creator has to be absorbed in order for it to work? What? The marker is destroyed because he managed to literally overcome his grief? It’s better than the original Dead Space‘s ending and it makes sense thematically, but it’s a weird-ass way to defeat the final boss for an otherwise straightforward game like this and just makes the lore around markers convoluted… Okay, that’s a bit of a nit-picky hate, but seriously, this game is just so damn good.