Welcome back to the Resident Evil love/hate series! In this entry we’re looking at Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, an intriguing spinoff for a number of reasons. For one thing, it was released in the spring of 2012, the same year as Resident Evil 6, and featured squad-based third person shooter gameplay developed by Slant Six Games, who had worked on some latter-day SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals games. Considering the somewhat awkward co-op shooter gameplay the mainline entries were engaging in at the time, the developer’s pedigree suggested that this could have some of the strongest Resident Evil gunplay in the franchise. Perhaps the biggest selling point though was that its story was a non-canon “what if?” scenario where you play as Umbrella special forces going into zombie-overrun Raccoon City to cover up Umbrella’s involvement in the outbreak. The idea of exploring the iconic location on HD consoles was too much for some to pass up, but how did the concept play out in execution? Read on to find out…
Oh, and before we get further, I just want to note that I played this game on the Veteran setting, just in case that difficulty setting added some elements to the game which coloured my perception of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it did, apparently in this mode enemies receive 25% less damage, inflict 25% greater damage, and drop items with less frequency.
The Wolfpack – Operation Raccoon City was overtly edgy even when it was released, but playing in 2022 I can’t help but find the way that it leans into “dark, badass evil guys” for its characters endearing. They clearly just looked at HUNK, used him as a baseline and then created a bunch of similarly mysterious, black-clad, mask-wearing special-ops. Their designs are all unified but distinct enough that you can pick them out in the chaos of combat (which, honestly, is pretty impressive considering they’re all dudes in black). They also all have their own special abilities and perks which make playing each member of the team distinct (which, obviously, is important for a squad-based shooter like this). I also enjoy the little touches, like how each character has their own little bio you can read and how cutscenes and dialogue change depending on which characters you’d brought with you on each mission.
Weapon and Ability Upgrade System – Perhaps unsurprisingly, Operation Raccoon City features a system to upgrade your weapons and abilities using XP you earn in each mission. It’s in the squad lobby screen and isn’t really signposted so you might miss this (I certainly did for the first couple missions), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that each character has dozens of weapons options and multiple perks to choose from, and perks all have multiple ranks you can purchase to increase their effectiveness. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it works and it helps make you feel like you’re growing more powerful as you go.
It’s Only Like 7 Hours Long – Your mileage is definitely going to vary on this one, but I for one was glad that Operation Raccoon City is a finite, focused experience. You can just play through a shooter story campaign and then be done with it if you want to, or go back to unlock more perks, find secrets, etc.
Snap-to Cover System – As a rule I don’t really like automatic, snap-to cover systems; I prefer to be able to manually enter cover with the press of a button. However, if you’re going to implement a snap-to system then it had better work well. Compared to Resident Evil 5 and 6, Operation Raccoon City‘s implementation is better, although it still has some hiccups that make it more annoying than I’d like. Half the time I’ll get put into cover without wanting to be there, but then when I do want to get into cover it will work seamlessly 99% of the time. However, occasionally you get those stupid situations where you’re in cover and can clearly see an enemy but the game decides you’re not allowed to shoot from the specific spot you’re standing in, so you end up either wiggling until the game decides you can shoot now or just leave cover to get control back, which is always infuriating. Again, I give the cover system some credit for working most of the time, but it has too much in-built annoyance for me to give it any serious praise.
Weak, Inaccurate Guns – Operation Raccoon City is a shooter, so you’d hope that they’d make sure that they get the shooting right at the very least, right? Well, unfortunately one of the worst parts about this game is that the guns feel like shooting a fucking peashooter. With your starting assault rifle you can expect to use nearly an entire clip to down a single enemy at medium range. Seriously, as soon as I started the game I noticed that it was taking me around 20 rounds to kill basic enemies; even if you’re a headshot god it takes 2-3 headshots just to down a basic special ops soldier. Playing on Veteran difficulty exacerbated this (enemies get 25% more HP), but requiring 16 rounds on a lower difficulty instead of 20 isn’t a great look either. It also doesn’t help that most of Operation Raccoon City‘s weapons are really ineffective outside of medium range, seemingly gaining massive amounts of random bullet deviation away from where you’re actually aiming and adding substantial damage drop-off. It wasn’t until I unlocked the strongest assault rifle, the Hammer, that it felt like I was doing an appropriate amount of damage. Even this was a double-edged sword though, because the Hammer has a paltry amount of ammo, to the point where I was constantly having to scavenge for ammo boxes to stay alive. That’s the trade-off Operation Raccoon City gives you – lots of ammo but no damage, or good damage but no ammo. Also not helping matters? The guns sounds are also weak, they feel like stock assets and don’t make the shooting feel any better.
Weird and Unintuitive Controls – Shooters were more-or-less figured out by 2012, which makes it so weird that Slant Six really tried to break the mold with Operation Raccoon City in some truly baffling ways. Why are my active abilities tied to the same button as the melee execution? I don’t know how many times I went to execute an enemy and accidentally activated my temporary invulnerability (thereby putting it on a cooldown when I might need it in the meantime). Why is X the interact button but also the button to perform a slide if you’re moving at the same time? The absolute weirdest decision though is your side-arm. If you tap L2 then it’ll switch to your pistol. That’s weird enough on its own, but if you hold L2 it will let you draw your pistol and the game will auto-target enemies and let you shoot at them for as long as you hold the button down. Naturally, there were lots of moments where I meant to tap or hold L2 and it registered the opposite command, leaving me vulnerable, but the real issue here is how weird the camera controls are when you hold L2. On the one hand, the auto aim is more accurate and reliable than manually aiming. On the other hand, the camera doesn’t follow where you’re aiming at all in this mode, so you’ll be pointing your pistol around and often won’t even be able to see the enemy when you shoot at them. I have no idea what they were thinking when they implemented this control scheme, it’s one of the most baffling core design decisions I’ve ever seen in a AAA game.
Infuriating, Unfun Enemies – Aside from the zombies (which are actually pretty enjoyable to fight and dismember), every enemy in this game is a chore to fight. Special Ops soldiers? Bullet sponges who always just have a limb or two poking out of cover so you can stagger them out and then shoot them, over and over and over again. NE-α parasites who’ll power up zombies and then detach to infect another one if you don’t shoot them first. Stun-locking lickers who always show up in the dozens. Tyrants who literally take hundreds of rounds to down. Worst of all though are the Hunters who dominate the last couple levels of the game. Fuck. Them. They are bullet sponges who take 3-4 full clips from a Hammer to down, they’ll close the distance to you in an instant, stun-lock you and then rip off massive chunks of HP with each swing, AND they enter the arena in drop pods that trigger when you walk beside their landing zone, meaning that you instantly lose half your HP before the fight has even begun, what the absolute fuck is this bullshit? Seriously, their implementation in this game has got to be one of the most infuriatingly unfun enemies in the entire franchise. Like, I get why the game’s like this – you’ve got to balance it for four people to feel challenged and not just steamroll their way through everything with concentrated fire, but it is really unenjoyable in execution.
Terrible AI – This entry breaks down into two subsections of note:
On the bad-but-not-gamebreaking level is that enemies and allies are just plain dumb. You’ll see enemies and allies standing in place all the time, oblivious to the firefight going on around them. You’ll see zombies running in circles, you’ll see zombies right in front of allies and no one is opening fire (in fact, with friendly fire and the random bullet deviation, if you shoot the zombie yourself then you are probably going to do more damage to your allies than the zombie), you’ll see special ops getting swarmed by zombies but decide to shoot you instead… You’ve also got AI so bad at pathfinding that the game will literally teleport NPCs in front of you when needed and hope you don’t notice (I did). It’s pretty much par for the course to expect bad AI in a shooter during this era, but it’s certainly immersion-breaking.
On the unacceptable end of things though is the sense that this game is out to fuck you over if you dare play the game with AI companions. Seriously, it got so malicious that it began to feel like a cruel joke that the developers were playing on me. We’re talking AI not being able to detect huge, glaringly-obvious trip wire mines and setting them all off, half the map being on fire and the AI just walking into it because they have no pathfinding ability, and an environmental hazard on an elevator where you have to move side to side to avoid flames and of course the AI just stands still the entire time and get barbequed. These hazards would all be so trivial with co-op partners that the devs needn’t bother to include them at all, but with AI partners it feels like an intentionally-cruel, spiteful joke that the devs have included to give you the middle finger for not making three of your friends buy a copy of the game to play with you.
Noticeably Bad, Poorly-Considered Design – Operation Raccoon City has got to be the most scripted video game I’ve ever played. It feels like such a weird complaint to say, but I can’t think of another game where you could feel the developers’ hands everywhere, where you could feel all the scripted moments triggering when you perform a certain action in a very transparent, ham-fisted fashion. Like, I get that this is how all video games work, but in most games you don’t notice it. In Operation Raccoon City, it’s jarring how obvious it is.
Most firefights with spec-ops boil down to a handful of enemies rushing into the room and taking cover. The second you kill the last one, three more guys come in from just off-screen and take cover, starting the cycle again. The second the last of this wave dies, the final wave comes in and does the exact same thing. This pattern happens in nearly every spec-ops fight; I was literally calling it before it happened it got so predictable.
The other really obvious example of this is that like half of the closed doors in the game are zombie jump-scare machines. Walk by a closed door and there’s a good chance that this will trigger the door to open and for a bunch of zombies to suddenly attack you. This will happen whether you’re in the middle of a gun fight (which can be pretty intense), or after you’ve killed everyone and are just exploring the area (in which case it’s just annoying). Humorously, you can also just avoid these doors entirely and they’ll never trigger. Again, this just becomes predictable. It doesn’t really make the combat any more enjoyable, it’s just something that the developers threw in hoping that it would make the game feel tense.
I also want to mention how the guns and cover system seem to be at odds with each other in this game’s design. As I’ve already said, shooting does less damage and is more inaccurate the further you are from enemies, and the game doesn’t give you enough ammo to win a firefight at range. That suggests that you need to move forward to close in on enemies, but enemies are accurate and points of cover are often far enough away that you’re always going to get shot once when you move forward. Furthermore, health doesn’t regenerate, so you’re almost always going to be low on HP if you play the game the way it incentivizes you. Maybe Slant Six want you to feel like you’re barely hanging on at any given time, but it makes the basic gameplay of Operation Raccoon City frustrating.
Mindless Gameplay – If Operation Raccoon City had fun shooter gameplay then pretty much all of the other complaints I had here could be ignored, but unfortunately the game gets real dull real fast. The gameplay is truly mindless – unless you’ve completely cleared an area, there’s very little downtime or breathing room; as soon as you reach the next area you’ll be swarmed by zombies or spec-ops all over again. Combat doesn’t have much variety either: zombies make up the majority of the enemy combatants and they just need to be mowed down with impunity, whereas the special ops all follow the same “stagger them out of cover and then pump them full of bullets” gameplay from start to finish. Other than using an active ability to stay alive or conserving some of your ammo because the game is too stingy, there’s barely any thought you have to put into it at all – just shoot, shoot, shoot.
Ugly Graphics – The PS3/Xbox 360 era were notorious for dreary, dull colour palettes and Operation Raccoon City has to be one of the most soulless games to be released of that generation. It’s so bad that even the blood in this game is so desaturated that it is straight-up black. 10 years on from its release, this game’s graphics are also noticeably aged, with most of the enemy designs looking really bad (William Birkin looks so plasticky, Crimson Heads look like they dyed the standard zombies red, T-108s appear to be made of chrome, a lot of people think that this is the worst-looking version of Nemesis, etc). Considering how many issues this game has, the graphics are the least of its worries, but they’re still bad enough to be worth mentioning.
Poor Performance – Piggybacking off the last point, Operation Raccoon City‘s performance chugs at times, especially in large, open areas like at city hall or the cemetery. I’m talking like 15FPS for considerable lengths of time, sometimes through entire levels.
Infection Mechanic is Annoying – Operation Raccoon City has an infection mechanic where if you get attacked by a zombie you can randomly get infected with the T-virus and then have a limited amount of time to dose yourself with the anti-virus or become infected and start attacking your teammates (or just get a game over if you are playing solo). On the fun side of things, your enemies can also become infected and start attacking their allies when they succumb. This did happen once or twice in my playthrough and, honestly, seeing a spec-ops soldier turn and go off on his allies was really cool. However, for the most part it’s just annoying. Anti-viral sprays are the only way to stave off an infection and if you don’t have one on you then your only option is to sprint around to find one (bonus: they also happen to be pretty rare, maybe 2 or 3 per level), hope an ally will save you (bonus: AI companions won’t do jack shit for you) or just die. This means that infection is either little more than a nuisance, or it’s a game over that takes way longer to complete than normal. Even infected enemy soldiers aren’t that common either as you’ll usually just gun them down before they can be turned.
Several Awful Gameplay Segments – Even with everything I’ve mentioned above, for a while I was thinking “well, at least this game’s only about 7 hours long, I’d probably prefer this game over Resident Evil 6‘s bloated 20 hour campaign…”. However, the further I went, the more infuriating moments cropped up that were literally causing me to reevaluate my distaste for Resident Evil 6, which is always a sign that someone has made a major mistake.
On the more minor end of things, the first level ends with a QTE boss fight with William Birkin and you barely have any time to react to the prompts, which usually means you’ll die in a hit or two. It was bad enough that I died on this several times, and then you have to try to run away from him while figuring out which direction to go in, dodging obstacles and trying to avoid getting stun-locked. It was a really annoying way to cap off the start of the experience.
The first real taste of how bad this game gets though is the Power Generator station. Sometimes this game just becomes pure, unfiltered chaos. It’s a pretty simple objective – raise three generators and plant an EMP on each. The complication is that you’ve got spec-ops spawning all around you whenever you interact with a console, zombies appearing from nowhere throughout the entire fight and Nicholai from Resident Evil 3‘s up on a catwalk during the entire fight sniping at you and there are very few safe places you can hide from him. It makes for an incredibly difficult and frustrating battle as you’re rarely able to find a safe place to hide from Nicholai and the spec-ops’ gunfire, let alone find an opening to activate the generators and EMPs. You’re always going to take some damage, meaning that you then have to find health pickups to stay in the fight (oh and for a fun bonus, one of the health pickups in the area is glitched to make it hard to pickup unless you approach from a very specific angle). Oh, and to make matters worse, if you die at any point here, you have to redo the entire fight (eg, it doesn’t checkpoint after each generator is destroyed). I imagine it’s significantly easier with co-op partners, but that doesn’t make it any better designed, it’s just throwing unending waves of shit at you in place of actual difficulty.
Next is the Nemesis fight, which should be a highlight of the game, but instead is just mindless. Here you pump Nemesis with a seemingly endless number of bullets (which absolutely no feedback from him to show that you’re doing anything), while hordes of zombies swarm into the room and then special ops soldiers show up halfway through to make it even more chaotic (and tank the performance even more). Given how weak this game’s guns are, it should be no surprise that I went through all my ammunition and grenades several times just trying to put a dent in this giant, annoying sponge of an encounter.
The Umbrella lab level is also so poorly thought out. You’ve got barely any ammo pickups, bullet-spongey Hunters and Crimson Heads are everywhere and barely any health pickups, meaning that you’re just dying over and over again. It got bad enough that I just said fuck it and started running for the exit instead of actually playing the game, which was the only reason I managed to get through to the end of this level at all.
The crown shit has to go to the final level though. My God was it awful. Once again, no ammo pickups for your weapons, swarms of zombies and Crimson Heads are everywhere which will infect you in seconds before you’ve gotten a chance to find an antiviral spray, snipers picking you off from so far away that your weapons won’t be able to hurt them (and for a bonus I had a sniper glitch to be able to shoot me through the wall of a crate, hooray)… and this is literally just the first area. In the next area you’ve got a literal endless swarm of Crimson Heads spawn in and run at you. If you try to play smart, take cover and whittle them down, then the devs clearly think you’re a fucking idiot because you will be overwhelmed. To make matters worse, I actually managed to have two people join my game at this point (in 2022 no less!) and we were still being overrun, forced into an endless retreat and were each downed several times. If not for being able to be revived I would have undoubtedly died here many times, but after my fifth or sixth death I decided to run and dodge past the zombies until I reached a ladder to end this part of the level. You then have to choose to fight or defend Leon (I chose to fight him, obviously), which results in yet another bullet sponge boss battle as you pump dozens of sniper rifle rounds into the rookie cop, while fighting everyone else who chose to defend him. It is a truly shitty fight and the ending is just embarrassing as Claire gets executed off-screen and the game immediately cuts to credits, no epilogue, fanfare or anything. What a shitshow of a level, literally not a moment of fun to be had in it.
Operation Raccoon City has the spark of a good idea buried in it, but the execution is so fatally flawed that it somehow manages to be even worse than the bloated and much-maligned Resident Evil 6. One kind of wishes that Capcom would have tried to iron out the issues with this game for a sequel but… well, they gave usUmbrella Corps instead.
Welcome back to the Resident Evil love/hate series! In this entry we’re looking at the truly bizarre and unique Resident Evil Gaiden, the oft-overlooked, non-canon Game Boy Color spin-off that started Resident Evil‘s obsession with cruise ships. Having sprung out of Capcom’s desire to port Dino Crisis and the original Resident Evil to handheld, developer M4 felt that a direct port wasn’t feasible and so a new game was developed to make the most of the handheld’s more limited capabilities. How did this stripped down concept play out though? Read on to find out…
Oh, and before we get further, I do want to note that I played this game on my Retroid Pocket 2+, not original hardware (and there were no ports either). I will address what I feel was the game experience “as intended”, but I do also want to acknowledge that the vast majority of people playing the game now are going to be doing so via emulation and therefore will have access to save states, rewind, cheats, etc. I did use the rewind and save state functions pretty frequently which made the game easier for me, without a doubt.
Impressive Use of the Hardware – Considering that Resident Evil Gaiden is running on 8-bit hardware (which was already archaic when the game came out in 2002) and only has four buttons and a d-pad to work with, it is insane just how well they managed to translate the Resident Evil formula to Game Boy Color. While the graphics and combat aren’t great on their own, they’re incredible by the standards of the hardware and it’s clear that developers M4 were very skilled at their work. Combat, easily the most contentious aspect of the game, works really well within the hardware constraints and the way it has zombies attack you in first person mode is jaw-droppingly impressive. In fact, I’d be willing to say that this is probably the most technically-impressive 8-bit game I’ve ever played.
Core Gameplay is Solid – Resident Evil Gaiden really nails the fundamentals, in particular the exploration of the early Resident Evil games. You’ll spend the majority of the game wandering around the Starlight, finding keys items which will allow you to unlock rooms to gather more key items, weapons and supplies to survive. Helpfully, all the key items give you hints about where they need to go, so you get into an enjoyable loop of “get a new item, head to place where the item is used, find use the item, find another item, repeat”. Gaiden also retains the ability to “feint” zombies to get around them and avoid combat, which is great for conserving health and ammo.
Non-linear Progression – Resident Evil Gaiden will show you where your next destination is on its map, but you can actually collect items and unlock areas in a non-linear fashion (a fact which I discovered after forgetting that the map tells you where to go next…). It’s kind of cool that you can choose to unlock areas and get items to help progress sooner than expecting, cutting down on a lot of potential backtracking later on (seriously, I just blitzed through the latter part of the game because I already had all the key items I needed at that point).
Combat – When you boil it down, combat in this game is just a reticle moving left and right with a limited window in which you can press a button to do damage. Like I have said, the presentation of this game’s combat is technically impressive and with the hardware limitations it was probably their best option. However, your feelings about this system are probably going to make-or-break your enjoyment of the game. It takes the very simple “ready and shoot” combat of the early Resident Evil games and instead replaces it with a system that demands twitch reflexes to not only succeed, but survive. That reticle moves pretty quickly and every shot you miss is a punishing mistake because ammo is a finite resource that you can’t afford to waste and the knife only works in close range. You can also wait for enemies to get close to make aiming easier, but this is also a problem because they will instantly attack you up close and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. You also can’t just run away because attempting to do this will cause enemies to instantly start attacking you, which will always result in at least one hit. It’s a functional system all-in-all, but I dislike how it turns Resident Evil‘s combat into a game of precise reactions when you can’t afford to miss a single shot.
Game Tells You Which Enemies Have Loot – Okay, so you don’t want to get into combat because it drains your resources. Well, Gaiden has a stop-gap solution where certain enemies can drop supplies when you kill them. The game will actually pop up an “!” in the corner to let you know when an enemy will drop items on death, which is handy but I feel like it isn’t a very elegant solution to item scarcity. I’d prefer if the game was less stingy with items in the first place, or make item drops more dynamic depending on the player’s inventory rather than just saying “Hey, shoot this zombie in particular!” since this system also lets you know when you don’t want to fight an enemy because it will be nothing but a resource drain.
Multiple Characters Doesn’t Add Much – Resident Evil Gaiden allows you to switch between three characters on the fly (one of whom is Barry goddamn Burton!), which sounds cool but in practice all this adds is the ability to equip a weapon to a characters and then hot-swap to it in combat without having to dig through the inventory. Different characters don’t bring any unique skills or abilities, which is a bit of a missed opportunity.
Slow Movement Speed – The Starlight is a pretty big place and navigating through it can take quite a while, which isn’t helped by the game’s leisurely movement speed. This gets especially annoying when, for example, the game will have you go from the fourth floor east side of the ship down to the first floor west side.
Making this worse, I noticed that Resident Evil Gaiden had a lot of slowdown during gameplay, especially when several sprites were on-screen at once. This makes getting around take even longer and if you try to shoot at an enemy it can cause your ability to react take even longer. It’s possible that this was an emulation issue, but given how well my Retroid Pocket 2+ runs Game Boy games, let alone more demanding hardware, I have a hard time believing that.
Artificial Restrictions on Non-linearity – As much as I love this game’s non-linear structure, there are some really annoying restrictions on it. The most egregious would be that you can get into rooms ahead of the “proper” time to do so, but key items won’t do anything and weapons will be unavailable until after a particular game state is reached. This is so annoying because it feels arbitrary, you know you’re in the right place for your item but the game just won’t let you use it. In regards to weapons as well, if you don’t follow the “proper” order then you’re probably going to miss some of the most powerful weapons because you won’t need to go back to those rooms later and there’s no indication that these weapons are going to become available there later (see: the shotgun in the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil 7, those games will tease you something you can get later rather than just hiding it away).
Save System Isn’t Great – Rather than letting you save when you want, Gaiden has a checkpoint-based save system where you get to save after completing a certain story milestone. If you’re playing the “proper” way then this should give you a save after every 15-20 minutes of gameplay. Unfortunately, if you do as I did, you might spend an hour or more between save points (which could make a death devastating) and make it so that latter saves are coming up every 5-10 minutes. Now, as I’ve said in the intro, most players are going to be playing this in 2022 by emulator so this issue is significantly lessened, but it is worth mentioning considering how the game was originally experienced.
Weapon Switching in Combat – Simply put, it sucks. If you’re in combat and you don’t have another character, or you forgot to give them a weapon, pray you don’t run out of ammo. Combat still goes on in real-time as you fumble through your inventory to try to find a weapon, often resulting in taking at least one hit, if not more. It’s an extremely clunky system and it can be especially devastating in boss fights.
Menu Diving to Use Keys – Likely due to hardware restrictions, you can’t use a key to open a door without first diving into your menu and then trying to manually use it. The fact that most keys will tell you where they need to go lessens the guessing game, but there are times where multiple locked doors are in an area and you’re stuck trying them on all the doors. There are also times where a key item will be automatically used when the game lets it be used, but you don’t know this so you walk up to every computer and try to “use” the Data Disk to try to activate the computer, only for it to not work…
Final Gauntlet is Brutal – I did pretty well at conserving ammo throughout Gaiden. I avoided combat whenever possible, I missed very few shots and made sure to make notes whenever I found powerful ammo that I wasn’t able to pickup yet. In fact, the only weapon I missed was the gas launcher… which was a crippling mistake because I dare say that the final gauntlet is damn-near impossible to complete without it. The final gauntlet sees you fighting a beefy parasite B.O.W. three times, and it takes at least ten shots to take down every time. Use all your rockets and grenades the first time you see it? Sucks to be you, you’re gonna die now. Oh and if you beat it and don’t immediately run it will fight you again and you’ll waste even MORE ammo. On top of that, there are swarms of bullet-sponge zombies between you and the exit and avoiding them all is simply impossible, meaning that you are going to waste tons of ammo just to escape… unless you get the gas launcher, which one-shots entire rooms of zombies and saves you that ammo that you need in order to survive the final battles. I got to the point where I was at the final battle but I just didn’t have the supplies I needed to beat the game… so I just put it down and Youtube’d the final cutscene.
Given its reputation I had assumed that Resident Evil Gaiden was going to be a shoddy experience akin to Survivor. I was shocked by just how much I enjoyed this game; don’t let the amount of “Hates” dissuade you, my “Loves” far outweighed them. It reminded me a lot of the MSX MetalGear games and it plays like a perfect demake of the classic Resident Evil gameplay style. It’s also fairly short, taking me only four hours total, so I’d definitely recommend giving it a look.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Welcome back to the Resident Evil love/hate series! In this entry we’re looking at Resident Evil: Revelations2, 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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
…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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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?
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…
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.
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.
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.
Resident Evil 6 is often considered the point where the franchise jumped the shark, leading to Capcom’s total rehaul of the series with Resident Evil 7 and REmake 2. I also never played it and didn’t know a whole lot about it, other than that there were three wildly-different main campaigns and they all had a co-op component, so I was going in largely blind. Is it nearly as bad as its reputation would have you believe? Read on to find out…
Oh and one thing I want to note before going further is that I played this game on Veteran on my first playthrough. This is in contrast to the other games on this list which I usually would play on Normal first time since I was unfamiliar with their gameplay. However, by the time I got to Resident Evil 6 I was like 5 Resident Evil games deep and figured I’d be down for a challenge (I usually prefer to play games on Hard if I’m familiar with their gameplay). I don’t think this affected my experience with Resident Evil 6 disproportionately compared to other games in the franchise, but I wanted to note this just in case the higher difficulty did affect my enjoyment and I’m unaware of it.
Free Movement – After Resident Evil 5 took a half-measure of modernizing the series’ movement controls, Resident Evil 6 goes all the way, ditching the last vestiges of tank controls in favour of Uncharted-style, fluid movement. It makes the game play far more intuitively for modern audiences without any kind of learning curve involved. In addition to this, Resident Evil 6 finally also allows players to move and aim at the same time, adds a sprint to your already-fast movement speed and even throws in options for slides, dodges and even shooting while lying on your back. These may not be the best option in most circumstances, but at least it’s an option that you can utilize if you choose to (especially in boss fights). All-in-all, it gives Resident Evil 6 probably the most developed movement system in the whole franchise.
Gameplay and UI Customization – I’ll be honest, I may have squealed a bit when I went into the menus in this game and saw all the customization options available. In addition to the standard options, there are several control customizations (including if you want to manually or automatically reload when you run out of ammo), you can choose whether you want a reticule or laser sight for aiming, and you even get to choose the colour of your laser sight! Given how I kept losing sight of the red laser in Resident Evil 5, I immediately went with green and never regretted it. It’s a little thing, but holy crap do I love when developers go to the effort to include these kinds of optional quality of life improvements for players.
Improved AI Partner – Capcom must have taken some complaints about Resident Evil 5 to heart because your AI companion in Resident Evil 6 is (usually) great. In addition to just being straight-up smarter in the minute-to-minute gameplay, you never have to micro-manage their inventory, health, weapons, pathing, etc and they’re even more helpful in combat. This makes the single-player experience a hell of a lot more enjoyable than I was expecting. Unlike Resident Evil 5, I didn’t play any of this game in co-op so I have nothing to compare my experience to, but I can’t say that I felt like I was getting a lesser experience, because my AI companion was mostly unobtrusive throughout. Sure, a human partner would have been more useful but an AI that stays out of the way, draws aggro and doesn’t die is all I could ask for. That said, there’s one big caveat to this and that’s when your AI companion has to do something that’s outside the scope of their normal tasks (eg, manning a gun camera, staying away from an enemy, etc). At these points their AI is completely useless and makes for some of the most frustrating sequences in the whole game. Still, compared to Resident Evil 5‘s pain in the ass AI companion? It’s an undeniable improvement.
Unique Character Builds – I really like how Capcom have differentiated the characters in Resident Evil 6. Whereas Chris and Sheva played identically, every character in Resident Evil 6 brings something unique to the table, from their starting weapons to unique abilities. For example, if you play as Leon you start with a pistol and knife and can dual-wield with another pistol for crowd control, whereas Helena starts with a stronger pistol and a shotgun she can rapid-fire, but she has to deal with more reloading due to her smaller clip-sizes. The most unique pair have to be Jake Muller and Sherry Birkin. Jake gets powerful melee abilities, whereas Sherry gets a burst-fire pistol and stun rod, both of which bring entirely new options to the table when going through their campaign. These different loadouts encourage unique playstyles and it’s enough to tempt you to replay each campaign just to see how it differs with the other character. That said, characters get a bit more homogenized as the game goes along – soon you’ll find a shotgun, a sniper rifle and an assault rifle, but these are almost always some sort of unique variant for each character.
Melee System – I’m kind of torn on whether Resident Evil should even have a melee system to deal with enemies, but that said I really enjoyed it in this game. When you’re not aiming a weapon, the attack button allows you to unleash a melee strike at a foe, which can be comboed to unleash a flurry of blows in quick succession. In Leon and Jake’s campaigns, I actually prefer melee to shooting because most enemies will die to 2-3 hits (especially if you can get an environmental kill or kill them with their own melee weapon), or will get knocked prone so I can go for a one-hit-kill curb stomp if you position yourself near their head. Melee works on a stamina bar, so you can’t spam it too much either, which encourages a healthy balance of shooting and melee for the best effect.
Some Attention to Detail Can Make Combat More Interesting – Imagine my surprise when I started shooting at a zombie and all of a sudden the flashlight mounted on the zombie’s body got damaged and went out. Similarly, shooting a J’avo in the chest causes their shirts to get torn off from the bullet impacts. It was a bit of extra effort which didn’t really do anything but was cool to see and made the world a bit more immersive. That said, Resident Evil 6 does give these bits of extra detail some actual gameplay importance later on when there are enemies carrying dynamite (either in-hand or on their body), oil lamps or grenades and if you shoot them it makes for an easy instant-kill on all surrounding enemies. Perhaps the most impressive example of this comes in the first fight against the Ustanak – the arena is full of cover, but Ustanak bursts right through it all to get to you, which is terrifying in its own right and further illustrates how relentless this foe is in an organic manner. This level of extra attention is the sort of thing I really didn’t expect from this game but it was really cool to see.
Ustanak – Despite being a blatant Nemesis ripoff and having a design which screams “late 2000s edgelord”, Ustanak makes for a fantastic antagonist in Jake and Sherry’s campaign. Every time he shows up, shit gets real and the game gets a whole lot funner. In fact, he disappears for a good chunk of Jake’s campaign and is definitely missed. There are also several boss fights with Ustanak and they’re all by far the best and most impressive showdowns in the whole game. I particularly enjoyed the first and last Ustanak fights. In the first fight against him, the level of destructibility in the environment is shocking for a PS3 game and it does a great job of conveying just how dangerous Ustanak is (akin of what God of War would do to introduce Baldur years later). Meanwhile, the last fight is just badass, culminating with Jake literally fist-fighting Ustanak over a pit of lava and the whole fight makes great use of this game’s dodge mechanics. I went in assuming Ustanak would be a discount Nemesis, but I was pleasantly surprised that he holds his own despite his obvious and far more iconic influence.
Inventory Management is… Different – Inventory management has seen another drastic overhaul in Resident Evil 6. You open the menu which brings up a menu similar to the XMB UI on the PS3 – your horizontal cross houses weapons, items (like herbs) and ammunition, whereas the vertical bar holds grenades, explosives and first aid sprays. Oh and this is done in real-time like in Resident Evil 5, so enemies can attack you if you’re not careful. It’s pretty meh on its own, but what makes this better than Resident Evil 5‘s clunky system is that weapons and items are automatically mapped to the d-pad, making hotswapping far more easy. However, it also comes with the caveat that ALL weapons and items are mapped to this system, meaning that you’ll likely have to cycle through several things you don’t want before you reach the item you do want. In addition, if you use a grenade the game automatically swaps back to your weapon, so if you wanted to use another grenade you have to hotswap all the way back to find the grenade you wanted. It’s still cumbersome but it works a bit better on the fly, especially if you memorize how many times you have to cycle through to get to the weapon you want.
The Graphics – I’m really mixed on the graphics in this game. The character models for main characters? They’re quite good, I played this on PS4 and I wouldn’t have noticed that this was a PS3-era game if I was shown the main character models. Pretty much everything else though? Hoo boy. The environments especially can look like ass, with textures so bad at times that they’re literally PS2-era quality. NPC character models are also noticeably worse than the main characters; if some rando comes along and starts talking to the main characters, there’s a stark difference in quality. This is actually a legitimate problem, because this happens several times in the campaigns and you can always tell that the poor bastard is about to be used as cannon fodder by the devs.
Improved Cover System – Compared to Resident Evil 5‘s half-assed system, the cover system in Resident Evil 6 works much better, although it is rougher than its contemporaries. Sometimes you want to free aim near cover, but it will automatically snap you into cover and mess up your shot. Or, let’s look at the sequence of buttons you have to press to actually use cover and shoot an enemy, shall we? To take cover you have to hold L2, then press X, then move to a corner with the left analog stick and then poke out and shoot enemies… all while continuing to hold L2, because if you let go you will immediately exit cover. Could they not just make it a single button press? Press X to take cover, press X + left analog stick to vault. Simple, why do I need to press half the buttons on the controller for such a simple action? In addition, sometimes the system itself is just frustrating – I can’t count the number of times it looked like I should be able to pop out of cover to shoot an enemy but the game just wouldn’t let me, because it wasn’t registered as a location where you’re allowed to do that. It’s functional enough, and you damn-well need to use cover to survive some of these campaigns, but it definitely could have been better.
No Weapon or Loadout Customization – While I appreciate that Capcom differentiated each character, that comes with the caveat that each characters’ weapons are locked to them and unlocked at the same time in every playthrough. No saving up money to get a rocket launcher early or beelining through a dangerous area to get your favourite weapon, when Resident Evil 6 says you get a weapon is when it happens (hell, even if you miss picking up a weapon it will force it into your inventory by the time the next chapter starts). Again, I appreciate that this contributes to differentiating and specializing the characters, but it’s somewhat disappointing compared to Resident Evil 4 and 5‘s system.
J’avo – After two games focusing on parasite-infected enemies, Resident Evil 6 brings us a new variety of cannon fodder in the J’avo. I was expecting to get another round of Plagas-esque parasites from these guys, but was pleasantly surprised to see something completely unique. J’avo initially are just psychotic humans with masks and extra sets of eyes, but they have the ability to rapidly mutate in response to your actions. Miss your headshot and hit the J’avo in the arm? It’s suddenly going to sprout a massive arm that it will then attempt to beat you down with. Blow a J’avo’s legs off? It might just grow a pair of wings and fly around to harrass you. You also run into various special J’avo, such as ones that skitter around like spiders, ones with grasshopper-like legs for long jumps, one with a Rhinoceros beetle head to instantly down you if you’re caught and others with gigantic centipede-like heads which they use to hide their weak spot. They’re a cool enemy type whose dynamic transformations make for really interesting combat… which makes it a shame that their actual implementation often spoils the promise they have. Most J’avo either run at you with a machete or spray bullets at you the second they see you, which isn’t helped by their braindead AI. Seriously, you see these guys walking past you obliviously in a gunfight all the time. In Chris’ campaign they can also be difficult to differentiate from your allies so you can find yourself getting attacked unexpectedly by a J’avo who wandered past you that you didn’t even notice. Their transformations are still cool enough that I have to give them some credit but the actual execution is lacking polish. It’s too bad, J’avo could be top-tier Resident Evil foes in a better game.
Jake and Sherry’s Campaign – Of all the campaigns in this game, I was actually surprised to find that I enjoyed Jake and Sherry’s the most. All of Resident Evil 6‘s campaigns are blatantly aping other game franchises which were popular at the time, but Jake’s campaign is the most successful in this regard. It mixes the gameplay and character of Uncharted (seriously, about halfway through the campaign Jake and Sherry literally put on two of Drake’s outfits) and the villain of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis to mostly-good results. There are all sorts of setpieces which are fun and just ridiculous enough to feel tongue-in-cheek (Ustanak chasing you through a convoy of helicopters and the avalanche snowmobile race being particular highlights), the gunplay is eased back enough that fights feel fun rather than a slog and it’s the only campaign that has an ending that’s at all satisfying. In fact, I would have put this under love if not for one major caveat – in nearly every chapter there will be one stretch of gameplay which ranks amongst the absolute worst in the entire game. I’m not exaggerating either, I really liked this campaign but these are inexcusable gameplay segments:
Chapter one ends with the awful giant J’avo fight which is just as bad as it was when I first played it in Chris’ campaign.
Chapter two has a sequence which is damn-near unplayable in single player where Ustanak is breaking through a series of sealed doors and your success or failure hinges entirely on whether you can rotate the analog sticks extremely fast. With a co-op partner there may be more margin for error, but with an AI? That crazy bastard will walk right up to Ustanak and get instantly one-shotted unless you rotate those stick stupid fast. I only managed to get through this because there’s a bug (?) where you can rotate the left and right analog sticks at the same time and this counts as rotating faster as a result, but I was absolutely infuriated dying here over and over again for no good goddamn reason.
Chapter three starts with an abysmal stealth sequence where enemies can spot you unpredictably and, if they do, you get swarmed until you die. Making it worse, enemy damage has been nerfed, but you have no real way of surviving, meaning that you die and restart the sequence slower. Again, this is designed with a co-op partner in mind, but the AI is not built to handle this kind of gameplay.
Chapter four has a sequence where you’re supposed to help Chris and Piers deal with a helicopter, but all this really results in is you sitting around waiting for a helicopter to show up from off-screen so that you can miss your shot and have to wait another thirty seconds for it to come back.
The Story – My initial impression when starting Resident Evil 6 is that this game puts an emphasis on telling a cinematic story far more than any previous game in the franchise. I thought that perhaps the hate this game gets was due to this change in direction, but as I progressed further I soon came to realize that this game’s story is not good. To be fair, Resident Evil games tend to have B-movie quality stories at best, but they either lean into the campiness (Resident Evil 4) or are unimportant compared to the survival gameplay (REmake 2). However, Resident Evil 6‘s story fails for several reasons:
Resident Evil 6 continues the po-faced, self-serious tone that 5 started. This could potentially work, but Resident Evil 6 also wants to be a bombastic action game like Uncharted, so one minute you’ll have gruff characters having a serious conversation and then the next an entire highway will be exploding as you run away from flying cars, or you’ll be jumping from one helicopter to another and then start shooting down your own convoy to stop an approaching enemy, all without a hint of irony. These spectacular setpieces could be incredible if the game leaned into the comedy of them, but they’re so few and far between that I can’t help but think that they were intended to be completely serious (at least in Leon and Chris’ campaigns, in Jake and Sherry’s they come often enough that it feels more intentionally campy).
The plot is also so poorly paced. For example, in Leon’s campaign you spend an hour and a half in a zombie-filled campus before you get into a car and escape. I shit you not, you barely even get onto the road before the damn vehicle crashes and explodes. At another point, you fight through a swarm of zombies and then the second you get free from them suddenly a giant shark appears, not even giving you enough time to breathe and build the tension back up. Entire sub-chapters feel like they were done by separate teams and then mashed together in the end haphazardly. For another example, in chapter 2 of Chris’ campaign you go from gunfights with enemies in the streets of a city, to fighting across a random bridge in the middle of a gorge, to suddenly being back in the city and then fighting at city hall with little-to-no story or context linking these gameplay segments together. On a wider-level, entire campaigns just feel “off”. Again, Leon’s campaign feels sluggish for the first three chapters, then suddenly in the fourth chapter they get to China and immediately get in a plane crash set piece, then there’s two boss battles back-to-back and massive setpiece battles. It just feels like this plodding campaign goes off the rails out of nowhere. Similarly, in Jake’s campaign he and Sherry get captured and spend all of chapter 3 trying to escape… only for them to get captured again at the end of chapter 4. It feels like a cheap excuse to get the characters from place to place but it is so deflating to the momentum of the story.
One of the major issues with Resident Evil 6‘s story is that it is fundamentally over-ambitious and bites off far more than it can chew. I addressed this in a previous article about Resident Evil 6, but to summarize the way that the developers have put four overlapping campaigns together makes it so that none of them can tell a satisfying story. Each one feels incomplete and incomprehensible on its own and even when you bring them all together it doesn’t make for a better experience than one, focused, well-told story: it’s just four half-baked stories. Ada’s campaign especially gets shafted. I went in expecting her story to be the most important and revelatory, but instead we get one chapter of unique setup and then the other four chapters are 90% recycled content, anything from recycled boss fights to reused environments and enemy encounters, and Ada’s role in the story becomes more about providing backup to the other characters rather than actually doing anything substantial on her own. Sure, we get a handful of revelations which explain what’s going on, but the campaign itself feels like an afterthought.
Just… bad writing in general. I’ve already said that the campaign crossovers make it so that there’s no satisfying payoffs in this game, but that’s just the start of this story’s problems. Take Chris’ storyline, where for some inexplicable reason the writers decided to give him amnesia. This begs the question of why the BSAA would knowingly force a PTSD-ridden, revenge-fueled amnesiac to lead a squad into battle. It’s so stupid and then Chris spends the whole campaign trying to get revenge on Ada Wong, until suddenly he runs into Leon and decides that he doesn’t need to get revenge anymore. I’ve said it before, but it is literally that sudden. Oh and there’s the constant shifting of the stakes – the J’avo attack in Eastern Europe and the catastrophic C-virus outbreak in Tall Oaks that take up entire chapters of gameplay? Just a distraction! The C-virus missiles being launched in Lanshiang are the real plan! Oh wait, these were also a distraction, the actual plan was… to have a single, giant BOW called HAOS escape and spread the C-virus through the Earth? WTF? (Also, given that all it takes to stop HAOS is the destruction of its containment facility, I’m pretty sure most governments could kill it before it becomes a problem, honestly missiles full of C-virus are way deadlier.) Worst of all though is the fact that this entire game’s plot revolves around… Jesus Christ, it’s so stupid, are you ready for this? The entire plot revolves around US National Security Advisor Derek Simmons being a simp for Ada Wong. When she rejects him he creates a virus to clone her, forcing a female scientist to become an Ada Wong doppelganger. The clone is so mad about this that she decides to destroy the world. Like… holy fucking shit, I have no words.
Unrewarding Level Design – One of the obvious ways that Resident Evil 6 takes inspiration from other AAA franchises of its era is that the level design has gotten far more linear, akin to Call of Duty. Resident Evil 4 and 5 may have ditched the maze-like exploration of Resident Evil-past, but at least those games had lots of hidden secrets and rewards waiting for those willing to go looking. Resident Evil 6, on the other hand, is distinctly underwhelming for those who bother going off the beaten path. You may find a crate that you can smash to get a little bit of ammo or a miniscule amount of Skill Points, but that’s about it. Basically, nearly every level in Resident Evil 6 is functional window-dressing, funneling you along to the next gun fight and isn’t meant to be appreciated on any deeper level than that.
Skills – Resident Evil 6 ditches the merchant/upgrade system from Resident Evil 4 and 5 in favour of the new skills system, which operates similar to Call of Duty‘s perks system. Honestly, this would be great if it was done as its own, separate mechanic, but as a replacement to the upgrade system it is infinitely inferior. Instead of improving the stats of my favourite weapons as the game goes on, I just get three flat upgrades to my character, which are far less consequential. Oh, and Resident Evil 6 doesn’t put in interludes between sub-chapters, meaning that you only get to upgrade your skills at the end of a chapter or from the main menu, meaning you get far less use out of the system… not that you will get much use out of it anyway because holy shit any useful skill is stupidly expensive. Seriously, I’ve gone through entire campaigns and still haven’t been able to afford an upgrade by the end, making this system feel even more unrewarding. This also means that your weapons never really get better – your weak-ass starting pistol is still your weak-ass starting pistol in the endgame unless you use one of your extremely limited skill slots on it and several chapters worth of skill points to improve it, but ultimately it’s just not worth it.
Zombies – What’s that, franchise purists, you miss zombies? Well, they’re back in Leon’s campaign in Resident Evil 6, for some reason (actually, the reason is literally because fans whined about it)! While I was initially rather impressed with the zombies in this game, they outstay their welcome quickly. On the one hand, they’re suitably squishy and they can even be a bit scary at times when they swarm and suddenly pounce at you from afar. They also show up in urban locations, bringing us our first real glimpse of a Resident Evil zombie outbreak on modern hardware. That said, they can take a lot of shots to put down, which can be annoying for a game like this where you’re expected to kill every enemy you come across and it gets really annoying when they’re constantly pouncing on you and grabbing you, interrupting the action as you deal with their lengthy animations. What really annoys me though is the super-zombies which, by the time you reach the second chapter, the game will throw at you endlessly. They feel like a bunch of bargain-bin, Left 4 Dead knock-offs – screechers, berserk zombies and fatties… that’s about it. They aren’t particularly fun to fight and the worst part has to be their uninspired designs. This is a franchise where zombies stand side-by-side with iconic enemies like Lickers, Tyrants and Hunters and feel like they are an integral part of the experience, the “special” zombies in Leon’s campaign are completely forgettable. Compared to J’avo, this game’s zombies are underwhelming foes.
Respawning Enemies – You know what’s annoying? Having enemies spawn from behind you, out of nowhere, all the time. Congrats, you now know what Resident Evil6‘s combat encounters feel like. Seriously, you can completely clear out an area, move on to the next one and get into a gun fight when suddenly you’re attacked by multiple enemies who showed up from behind you. While I have seen enemies spawn literally out of nowhere in this game, the main culprit seems to be Left 4 Dead and Vermintide-style “nests” where enemies can spawn at will and then enter the area. Unlike those two games, Resident Evil 6‘s system isn’t nearly as dynamic or interesting. Hell, it even gets predictable and exploitable at times, because apparently the developers of Resident Evil 6 are terrified of the idea of having an area completely cleared of enemies. At one point in Chris’ campaign I noticed enemies kept spawning from two directions, one at a time, during an encounter with a giant monster where I took cover in a place where the monster couldn’t reach me. The enemies are obviously meant to keep pressure on you but they were so dumb and predictable that I could just cycle over to them every 15 seconds or so and then get back to the fight. This is a best-case scenario for the respawning enemies, usually they’re just a frustrating pain in the ass.
Over-animation – Resident Evil 6 has a bad habit of over-animating actions to the detriment of the gameplay. Like, whenever a dead body is placed into the environment, your character will trip over them, causing you to lose control of them for a couple seconds as they stagger forward. This is especially prominent in Leon’s campaign, but it is always incredibly annoying when it happens. You also get knocked down A LOT in combat. As I understand it, every time you lose a square of health you will be knocked down onto your back. With some enemies, this will happen every time they hit you. As you can probably imagine, this gets infuriating as you get up and then are immediately knocked down over and over again. In addition, there’s also a baffling bit of animation in chapter 4 of Chris’ campaign where the ship just… bobs and there’s an animation as you steady yourself. It’s completely random, very infrequent and I just had to ask why they even bothered to make this happen. (Pretty sure that this is representing Ada fighting her doppelganger during this part of the game… but still, why bother making a whole animation for this?)
Very Rough and Unpolished – For a game that had over 600 developers working on it, Resident Evil 6‘s quality is wildly inconsistent. On the one hand, you have those cool (but useless) details I mentioned earlier like being able to shoot out the lights on zombies. On the other hand, you’ve got things like terrible lip synching, sniper laser sights that clip through cover and a game engine that can’t handle sprinting if you do it on stairs. Everywhere you look there’s something that makes this game feel rushed, like the devs needed more time to actually go over everything and give it a consistent level of quality. There are far too many examples to go over them all, but one of the most egregious is that the NPC squadmates in Chris’ campaign are completely braindead, unable to provide any sort of support in a fight and are more likely to stare at a wall than they are to actually shoot at an enemy. It’s so bad that the game will actually spawn more allies ahead of you hoping you won’t notice and will assume your allies are actually doing something. On the gameplay side of things, there’s also moments that feel like they were barely tested to ensure they were actually fun. For example, in the underground in Leon’s campaign trains will pass through the area. When one is coming, you literally have a second to figure out where a train is coming from (behind you, it’s always behind you) and you get insta-splatted if you happen to be on the wrong side of the tracks at the time. Similarly, later on in the campaign you end up in Tall Oaks at a gas station where, late in a siege, an ambulance will come careening through the area out of nowhere. If you just happen to be standing in its path when this happens, you die and have to redo the entire fight. The first time I did this, my AI partner happened to be in its path and died. Suffice to say, I was livid, there was nothing I could do to avoid that cheap game over.
The Treatment of Female Characters – Resident Evil 6 feels like the peak of the PS3-era, pre-Gamergate, corporate-fueled pandering to teenage boys in gaming. Resident Evil games up to this point have always had female co-leads which were just as important (if not more) than their male leads (with Resident Evil 4 being the one exception, but that game also had a much different structure than past games and even this got rectified in the Separate Ways expansion that came out not even a year after the original game).
For a game that’s so obsessed with reliving its past glories, great female leads like Jill Valentine and Claire Redfield are conspicuously absent. However, Sheva might be the most conspicuous omission of all. Chris’ campaign continues exploring the heroics of the BSAA, but instead of bringing back Sheva or even Jill to act as Chris’ partner, they’re instead replaced with Piers Nevan, a boring, oorah soldier-boy type who feels like he was made specifically to pander to the male, teenage, Call of Duty-loving crowd. Given that this campaign was designed to be the most action-heavy, it wouldn’t surprise me if the decision to have two male leads in this section was 100% deliberately intended to pander to teenage boys.
Helena Harper, Sherry Birkin and Ada Wong are cool characters in their own right, but it’s all soured by all the design decisions in this game that make me roll my eyes. For one thing, we’ve got deep cleavage for Helena, Hunnigan, both Ada Wongs and Helena’s sister (who, for bonus points, get transformed into a big titty naked mutant). Even Sherry at one point in the game gets captured and stuck in a medical gown that, for some reason, has a deep v-neck. In addition, Helena’s storyline revolves around the idea that she’s “too emotional” for her job as a Secret Service agent (the unlockable records literally state this), which results in her being used to assassinate the US president and causes an outbreak which requires an entire city to be nuked to prevent it from spreading. Oh, and the trophy for completing Leon’s campaign? Literally “The Trouble With Women”… Like, none of the characters are stuck in bikini armour or anything like that, but seriously? Literally every female character in this game is showing prominent cleavage?
I also get annoyed by the way this game positions its characters and campaigns. In the records section, it’s not Leon and Helena’s campaign, it’s “Leon’s campaign”. It’s not Chris and Piers’ campaign, it’s “Chris'”. It’s not Jake and Sherry’s campaign, it’s “Jake’s”. It straight-up acknowledges that the male characters are what’s important here not the women (and that Piers loser). This isn’t a super big deal by any means, but when you add it on top of all the other decisions it’s just another thing that annoys me about how this game places its female characters.
Here’s a baffling bonus: during Leon’s campaign there’s a segment where you have to fight a boss inside a cathedral full of civilians. These civilians will almost certainly all be killed and/or turned into zombies during the fight – you can try to save them but it’s almost inevitable that they will all die unless you go out of your way to save them. Well, turns out that there’s a trophy for that… except to get the trophy you specifically have to save at least two female survivors for some reason. Oh, and the name of that trophy? “I Prefer Them Alive”. Is… is that a necrophilia joke? Just… why, Capcom?
Resident Evil 6 is an over-ambitious mess of a game. It went the route that all AAA games of the PS3/Xbox 360-era were going and tried to be a bombastic, serious, cinematic action game and lost a lot of the series’ identity in the process while not being anywhere near as good as the Uncharted, Gears of War or Call of Duty games it so wants to emulate. Hell, it’s not even worthy to stand next to its closest contemporary, Dead Space. It’s peak early-2010s Capcom, in trying to be something for everyone the devs bit off way more than they could chew, leaving us with a game that is lesser overall than if they had made a more focused experience. Thankfully, at least it seems that they took these lessons to heart because the series would make a dramatic shift going forward…
Resident Evil 5 was actually the first Resident Evil game I got far into. I had a friend in high school who was a big fan of the series and when this game came out we played through two thirds of the game in co-op and had a good time. Since then, Resident Evil 5‘s reputation has taken a bit of a hit as it took the franchise into a more action-oriented direction. How did it hold up for me? Read on to find out…
Improved Controls – When you start up Resident Evil 5, one of the first things you’ll notice is how much smoother the game plays compared to Resident Evil 4. Aiming is much quicker, you can strafe (when you aren’t aiming), the knife animation plays much faster and overall the game is easier to play today compared to its predecessor.
Graphics Still Look Good – Certain parts of Resident Evil 5 look dated but the game has a distinctive look which make it stand out even today. This largely comes down to the game’s very bright, washed out tones which (like many PS3-era games) was clearly inspired by Black Hawk Down. The lack of colour can be dreary, especially since every other game of this era was just as washed-out, but at least Resident Evil 5‘s early chapters do it in a way which is distinct for this game.
Albert Wesker – Resident Evil 5 gets noticeably better as soon as Albert Wesker enters the picture. He’s such a perfect camp villain with his delusional, smug attitude, silly sunglasses and grand monologues. He makes for a far more memorable and enjoyable antagonist than Saddler was and, honestly, this portrayal of him may just be the best villain in the whole franchise (only truly rivaled by Nemesis).
Voice Acting is Pretty Good – Resident Evilgames have always been known for their dodgy voice acting, but Resident Evil 5 definitely has the strongest voice acting in the series up to that point. This is especially highlighted by Roger Craig Smith and D.C. Douglas’ performances as Chris Redfield and Albert Wesker, respectively. Even if I couldn’t give a shit about what’s happening in the game, they are clearly giving it 100% and their performances elevate the material considerably.
Game Picks Up in the Latter Half – Resident Evil 5 reminded me of Dark Souls in that it gets significantly funner when you’ve finally built up your arsenal and aren’t starved for resources anymore. While this flies in the face of Resident Evil‘s survival horror roots, I’ll at least say that the game they’ve built here isn’t firing on all cylinders until it stops pretending to be anything other than an action game around the start of Chapter 5. There are still plenty of bone-headed decisions made in this part of the game (which I’ll get to), but at least it’s a funner time… plus that’s when Wesker shows up and Wesker makes everything better.
A Few Really Fun Bosses – While a bunch of the bosses are bullet-sponges, rinse-and-repeat snorefests and/or puzzle bosses that aren’t well-suited to this game’s controls, there are a few really clever and fun bosses in this game.
In particular, I found the second battle with an Uroburos-infected enemy really fun. It’s standard Resident Evil-fare where you exploit the weakness to expose the weak spots and then blast ’em away, but the game gives you lots of environmental methods to defeat the boss if you didn’t pack specific weapons to make the fight easier… that said, they make it glaringly obvious going in that the boss is weak to fire, giving you a bunch of incendiary grenades and flame rounds before the fight, so on my second try I beat the boss in less than 30 seconds which was a bit much…
The final battle with Albert Wesker is also a total blast. It’s fun, cinematic and gives both players something to do while Wesker closes in on them before the final showdown which uses the tried-and-tested Resident Evil formula of blasting the weak spot to win the fight. It makes for a really great and memorable finale to the game.
Co-op – Mandatory co-op was the big feature of this game, for better or worse. On the one hand, playing with a friend is enjoyable and the game is best experienced this way. However, even then, the co-op aspect brings some baggage with it. Most notable is that the menu-based inventory management of Resident Evil 4 has been ditched entirely. Now you get a mere nine inventory slots per character and it all has to be managed in real-time – no pausing when an enemy is bearing down on you or to get the item you need in a boss fight. It’s a far more clunky and inconvenient system, especially because you can only map four items to d-pad shortcuts. It also doesn’t help that the game only lets you upgrade and buy items between chapters or after you die… I’d get it if it was just between chapters but the fact that they let you do it after you die makes it just feel like this was bolted on as a solution to the problems created by forcing co-op in.
Brings Back the Main Plot of Resident Evil – Some people feel like Resident Evil 4 diverged too far from the main plot of the series, but honestly it felt like the main storyline was reaching its limits by the end of Resident Evil 3 and the destruction of Raccoon City. With Umbrella gone, they were going to have to go to new places and Resident Evil 4 figured out a way to do that while reinventing the franchise. Resident Evil 5 feels like it’s pandering to the fans at times, it tries to make the parasites linked to Umbrella and brings back some fan-favourite monsters (with diminishing returns). Let’s be honest, Resident Evil‘s plot tangles of viruses and corporations isn’t all that interesting anyway, I’m more interested in seeing the characters survive than anything else. I will give Resident Evil 5 some credit though, it loops back to the series’ main plot while also creating a scenario with the BSAA where Resident Evil games can continue indefinitely.
The Serious Tone – After the delicious camp of Resident Evil 4, pivoting to a very self-serious, grim tone for Resident Evil 5 was… interesting. It is perhaps unsurprising for a modern military shooter of the PS3/Xbox 360 era to go this way, but the game’s opening especially is a mess of military and counter-terrorism jargon that is delivered in a very self-serious manner. Of course, this all gets dropped by the final third of the game where it basically turns into a freaking anime with acrobatics and superpowers, not to mention that the “serious” story was still a tropey, D-grade effort. It’s interesting to see the attempt at a serious story, but I can’t say that it was successful.
Bullet Sponge Enemies – There are few things that will turn me off of a shooter more than bullet sponge enemies. I’ve written off games like Borderlands, Destiny, The Division… basically the entire looter-shooter genre because every single enemy soaks up entire magazines of ammunition. You can imagine my frustration in the opening hours of Resident Evil 5 as it takes entire clips of my starting pistol to down even basic enemies and even a single point-blank shotgun round is usually not enough to down them either. Look at the tweet I made above when I started this game – in what world is it reasonable for an enemy that can one-shot you to take that much damage to die? At least in a traditional Resident Evil game, which also have bullet sponge enemies and much more limited resources, you’re intended to avoid combat unless it’s a necessity. In Resident Evil 5, you’re intended to kill every single enemy you come across (other than a few optional mini-bosses, but these reward you for your efforts so it’s always worth trying). I will admit that, as I said previously, this becomes less of an issue in the final third of the game when your weapons are fully upgraded and you’ve given your pistol the max crit chance so you can headshot most enemies to death in a couple shots, but even here the game likes to tip the balance. The last fight in the game is against a mob of enemies who are supported by two giant Majini with mini-guns who take several high-powered shots to down, and God help you if you don’t have any explosives, rifles or a magnum when they show up.
On a similar note, several of the big setpieces and boss battles turn into mindless exercises where you unload literally hundreds of shots into an enemy for 5-10 minutes until it falls over and dies. One of the worst examples of this is the first Gigante fight, where you and your partner fire miniguns at the boss constantly, with the only sort of “strategy” involved being that you have to avoid overheating your gun. It isn’t fun and it feels like it goes on forever. Too many of the bosses also last for far too long and are far too repetitive as you pump hundreds of rounds into their weak point. I felt like Irving and the spider boss in Chapter 5 are especially egregious examples of this as each of their boss fights take 10 minutes or more of the same repetitive actions.
The AI is Dumb – In this most recent playthrough, I had to play solo and experience Sheva’s AI for the first time. I will admit that she’s not quite as bad as I had feared or heard, but there were some situations where she was incredibly frustrating. There’s an early encounter where you have to lure an enemy into a furnace to kill them. This would be simple and fun with a co-op partner but with the AI Sheva kept walking into the furnace and getting trapped inside, burning to death over and over again. Towards the latter end of the game I also needed Sheva to shoot a button to raise a crate, then she had to go over to the other side so I could do the same for her. Simple enough with a partner but when I did it Sheva would then jump off the crate and refuse to come forward unless I did the task the way she wanted me to. It was very frustrating. Beyond that, she’s at least reasonably okay in a firefight, I don’t feel like she ever wasted resources and she was constantly keeping me from dying, but I was doing all the heavy lifting in this game. If Sheva wasn’t there at all I certainly wouldn’t have minded.
Co-op Ruins the Single Player Experience – As you may have gleaned by now, the decision to add co-op to this game results in a lot of compromises to the Resident Evil formula. That’s all well and good if you’re playing with a friend as intended, but try to play the game solo? It just makes for an inferior game all-round. The bullet sponge enemies are only that way because they were balanced for two players gunning them down, when you have one player doing all the work it becomes a chore. Don’t want to deal with an AI companion? Too bad, you’re stuck with them (at least Dead Space 3 had the good grace to keep co-op entirely optional). You can’t even pause to change your items, even though the whole reason this is even a thing is because you can’t pause during online co-op. All-in-all, the single player experience has clearly been shoved to the wayside and it makes those of us who don’t have someone to play with have a clearly-compromised experience.
Zombies With Fucking Guns – You read that right, in Chapter 5-2 zombies with guns suddenly show up as regular enemies and then you’re stuck with them for the rest of the game. It’s not like these are like the single-shot archers or dynamite enemies you deal with in Resident Evil 4 and 5 either, these are full-on automatic weapons that they’re spraying at you. Unsurprisingly, facing off with these enemies sucks because it suddenly forces the gameplay into an extremely stiff cover shooter (gotta ape Uncharted and Gears of War after all), which the game clearly isn’t designed for. This turns into a boring game of “shoot the bad guy when he reloads” and “take cover when they shoot or you’ll get filled with bullets”. Every time these enemies show up it’s a pain in the ass.
Quicktime Events – QTEs sucked in Resident Evil 4, so of course they brought them back here too. In one egregious example near the end of the game, I didn’t enter the button prompt within a second of when it flashed on screen, so I had to go through a lengthy cutscene all over again and all the button prompts therein. Mercifully you can skip ahead to each button prompt, but fail and you have to do it all over again. I’m so glad that these fucking things are a relic of a bygone age now.
Lickers – I could have put this under the bullet sponge entry earlier, but lickers get wasted so badly in this game that I feel like they deserve their own special mention. Lickers are, in my opinion, the most horrifying and iconic enemy type in the entire franchise, in part due to their sound-based hunting method which requires the player to confront them differently. However, in Resident Evil 5 they are a shadow of their former selves. For one thing, their design is butt ugly. For another, they have been turned into hordes of bullet sponges which crawl towards you and are more annoying than horrifying. Sure, you can technically sneak around them when encountered, but sooner or later they’re going to get automatically triggered and then you’ll have to deal with huge hordes of them all at once.
The Knife – Holy shit how the mighty have fallen, the knife is pathetic in this game. The range on it is ridiculously short, I’m talking like less than an arm’s length, somehow. On top of that, unless you’re at the exact perfect angle, the sweep will only hit one thing in front of you. This means that if you’re standing right in front of two crates that are literally side-by-side, the knife will only break one of them, even if a second swing without moving or readjusting your aim will break the other box. Just… why? The only positive is that the animation speed has been considerably improved, otherwise this thing is nothing more than a last resort. (POSTSCRIPT: Turns out that this may actually be a bug associated with the port to PS4/Xbox One. That doesn’t really change the fact that this is an issue, but it gives it greater context that’s worth mentioning.)
The Aiming Reticle – Maybe it’s just me, but I’m constantly losing track of where exactly my character is aiming at any time. This is due to the game’s laser sight aiming, I’ll often try to line up a shot but it goes beyond the enemy, or I’ll start shooting and it will recoil off the enemy without me realizing. I’m not sure if it’s the brightness, the more zoomed-out FOV compared to Resident Evil 4, or the fact that the dot disappears entirely if you’re not on an enemy, but this was a problem for me from start to finish. I can’t say that I ever had that issue with Resident Evil 4 or even in other third person shooters of the same era, whether their aiming reticule was diegetic (Dead Space) or non-diegetic (Uncharted).
So… Uh… About That Racism… – I remember there being some discourse about Resident Evil 5 being racist due to the way it depicts black people and at the time I brushed it off. After all, they portrayed Spanish people the same way in the last game! Well, let me tell you, playing this game 12 years later in 2021, this game feels fucking racist. Sure, it is indeed the same sort of scenario that the Spanish were put in in Resident Evil 4, but the way that the Majini are depicted feels different. They’re all treated as these ravenous, angry, mindless beasts, which hits differently with the history of colonialism and racist propaganda against Africans. It’s almost certainly unintentional but that doesn’t make it any more comfortable.
Look, all-in-all, Resident Evil 5 is fine. I hated it at the start but by the end I was moderately enjoying myself. It’s a huge step down from Resident Evil 4, but it’s still reasonably enjoyable even if you aren’t playing it in co-op as intended.
Resident Evil 4 is often considered once of the greatest games of all time, having reinvented the Resident Evil franchise and whose influence changed the way action and horror games were made to this day. I was late to the party on this game – after the PS3 came out, I got a copy of the PS2 port, but could never muster the interest to make it past the first village segment. Well, after devouring Resident Evil 2 and 3‘s remakes, I finally had an itch to knuckle-down and give the game a serious try for once. With rumours of a remake on the horizon, how does Resident Evil 4 hold up in 2021? Read on to find out…
Insanely Ambitious and Influential – You can’t really talk about Resident Evil 4 without bringing up how big of a deal it was when it came out. 2005 was a big year for the 6th generation of consoles with huge games like Devil May Cry 3, God of War, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Shadow of the Colossus coming out, but Resident Evil 4 still manages to stand out as the biggest game of the year, if not the entire generation, and has definitely been the most influential too. For example, the Dead Space franchise owes its existence to Resident Evil 4, as its entire gameplay is ripped-off wholesale from the Regenerators, which are just a single enemy in one chapter of the game.
Adapts the Franchise Well to a New Design – Resident Evil 4 makes me realize that tank controls aren’t really the barrier to entry that makes me struggle with old-school Resident Evil games; rather, it’s the fixed camera angles. Resident Evil 4 is basically still using classic tank controls, but with a freed camera. It takes a bit of getting used to by modern standards, but I found it far more easy to get used to compared to REmake despite being effectively the same control scheme. It’s also worth noting that the game has third person shooting mechanics instead of auto-aim, which actually opens up entirely new gameplay opportunities. For example, having to shoot the parasites hidden inside the Regenerators’ bodies just wouldn’t work without manual aiming and having to shoot hidden items means that environmental exploration goes to entirely new heights.
Great Level Design – Resident Evil 4‘s levels are packed to the brim with secrets, be they hidden treasures, optional ways to get an advantage on enemies, or full-fledged mini-games you could sink hours into on their own. The game’s levels are also quite distinct from chapter-to-chapter, which keeps it all fresh. The first two chapters take place in the village and grow more horrifying as it progresses. Chapter 3 then takes things in an entirely different direction, taking place entirely within a spooky castle. People love to hate on this part of the game but honestly, it’s nowhere near as bad as they say it is, I enjoyed it. Chapter 4 then takes you into an underground cavern while Chapter 5 goes to an island military base for the action-packed finale.
Quality of Life Improvements – In addition to the new shooting mechanics and free camera, Resident Evil 4 also brings some quality of life changes to the Resident Evil formula. The biggest one would have to be that ink ribbons are gone entirely, meaning you can save as many times as you want to now. The game also has a checkpoint system, meaning that if you die you’re not punished for not saving regularly. These both help to alleviate a lot of frustration.
Leans Into the Camp – Part of the reason Resident Evil 4 is so fun is because it is so unabashedly silly and relishes in it. You’ve got the memorably-weird Merchant, Leon (and Ashley!) performing pro wrestling moves on enemies, one of the main villains is a tiny, shrill, monologuing weirdo, you can kill enemies by throwing rotten eggs at them, etc. It’s yet another reason why some series purists hate this game, but this just reminds me of the people who hate Jason X, despite it being the single funnest Friday the 13th movie. Resident Evil isn’t high art, give me more silliness of this variety because it’s really enjoyable.
On a related note, Resident Evil 4 is basically the original Metal Gear Solid 4. Capcom were clearly inspired heavily by Kojima’s franchise, as the game’s structure closely mirror’s one of Snake’s adventures – you’ve got the world-ending terrorist plot, over-the-top baddies, a similar sense of humour, literal codec calls, and there’s even a post-credits scene.
Inventory Management – I usually hate inventory management and consider it a total chore (oh hi Nioh and The Witcher 3!), so it is truly remarkable that I enjoyed this aspect of Resident Evil 4 so much. How many games are there where inventory management is a freaking highlight!? Resident Evil 4 gives you an attaché case and each item you pick up takes up a certain number of blocks of space. As a result, you’re arranging and rearranging your items to fit together and, over time, you start organizing everything in a convenient and satisfying manner. I know I was keeping all my grenades in one area, all the healing in another, ammo was all stacked together, etc.
Introduces All-New, Iconic Enemies – Gone are the zombies, Tyrants and Hunters of the old games, Resident Evil 4 completely shakes up the franchise with an entirely-new stable of enemies (another fact which pissed off purists). Many of these enemies are now iconic in their own right, such as Dr. Salvador (aka, the chainsaw man), the plagas parasites, the Garradors (aka, the claw man) and, obviously, the Regenerators.
Fleshed-out Optional Side Content – The amount of work put into Resident Evil 4 is insane. You’ve got treasures and emblems hidden all over the game world just waiting to be found. You’ve got silly little mechanics like the chickens who lay a variety of egg types you can find throughout the villages. You’ve got a freaking trick system for the jet ski that you ride for only a couple minute escape sequence at the end of the game! There’s also a shooting gallery mini-game you can find that’s so extensive that it has its own series of reward items and challenge levels. The level of detail is just ridiculous to consider.
Cool Boss Fights – Nearly every boss fight in this game is enjoyable, if not for their mechanics then because they all bring something unique to shake-up the gameplay. For example, the first boss Del Lago gives you a spectacular battle on a lake where you have to balance throwing javelins and avoid getting gobbled up when you inevitably fall in the water. Later you get to fight Mendez, whose transformation into a horrifying monster shakes up the cultist shootouts you’ve been having to that point. Then there’s the relentless hunters Verdugo and U-3, which can be almost Nemesis-like in their relentlessness. Krauser is a fan-favourite for the spectacle of the fight and the final showdown with Saddler is a good excuse to unload all your magnum rounds on the guy. Really, the only fight that’s more annoying than fun is against that little shit, Salazar, but it isn’t so bad that it detracts from the game.
Ashley – People like to hate on Ashely, but honestly she was completely fine in this game. For an AI companion who can be kidnapped or killed, and who is susceptible to friendly fire, she only got captured once and walked in front of my gun once in the entire playthrough. Honestly though, if anything Ashley may be under-utilized as a game mechanic. I only really had to hide her from a horde of enemies once and she’s separated from you for large chunks of the game, so she’s not that much of a factor most of the time. That said, she could definitely get annoying if she became more of a burden so it may be for the best that she’s mostly a non-factor.
Controls Take Getting Used To – Resident Evil 4 feels very sluggish and archaic by modern standards, so there’s definitely a frustrating learning curve in the opening hour or two. It doesn’t help that the first encounter of the whole game is the tense siege segment where you’re getting swarmed with Ganados and a Dr. Salvador, so you’re probably going to die several times just due to being unfamiliar with the game’s tank controls and the stiff aiming at this point. However, things definitely get easier quickly and soon it all becomes second-nature. I also suspect that the starting pistol is part of the reason why this opening is so painful is because the starting pistol seems to be intentionally sluggish to aim compared to the weapons you get later. As soon as I got the Punisher the game suddenly became significantly easier from there onward.
The Water Ski Segment – Oh my God the water ski escape at the end of the game was by far the most frustrating moment for me in the entire game, to the point where I died there more than any other part of the game. Hell, I died there more than I did in entire chapters of the game. Why’s that? Well, because you have to maneuver around pillars while a tidal wave is chasing you and if you aren’t going fast enough, or if you hit an invisible, ambiguous kill-point, you die. Seriously, I swear I was avoiding the pillars but it wasn’t good enough for the game and it pissed me off so much. Worst of all, it’s literally the last bit of gameplay in the whole game, so you’re stuck doing this new mini-game in order to finish the game you’ve basically already beaten.
No Hotswapping – One unfortunate design that Resident Evil 4 carries over from its predecessors is that you have to dive into a menu in order to change your weapon. It really hurts the pacing and tension when you’re constantly pausing the action in order to switch to another weapon or grenade. This feels particularly egregious to me for two reasons. First, the game isn’t using the d-pad – it’s used here to literally just double the function of the left analog stick, which in itself is a legacy control scheme left over from when Resident Evil games didn’t even have analog sticks to utilize. Secondly, the game is already drawing inspiration from Metal Gear Solid, it couldn’t use that game’s item and weapon menus to make things a bit more convenient?
Quick Time Events – Resident Evil 4 introduces QTEs to the franchise and they’re a blight on the game. You never know when one is going to happen and when they do you’ve got about a second to pull it off or you get punished for it. Worse, some of them will even one-shot you if you fail.
Resident Evil 4 is still a fantastic game. While Resident Evil purists love to vocally hate it to this day, I had an absolute blast playing it from start to finish. Given how readily available the game is and how minor its issues are, I’m adamant that the game is not in need of a remake at all. Hell, REmake is more in need of a remake at this point than this is.
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…
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.
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.
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 2 – REmake 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.
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…
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.
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.
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.