Resident Evil has come a long way since the mid 90s when Jill Valentine and company entered that mansion for the first time, revolutionizing the survival horror genre for the better. The formula has definitely changed over the years and it is hardly recognizable from it's origins so let's get in our time machine and take a look back at Resident Evil and go through some of the games and how they change the series and also evolved over time.
Start at the beginning
It's hard to believe that there is a whole generation of gamers who never played the original game or even the original 3 for that matter. Some started out with Resident Evil 4 and some even started with the remakes, but back then in 1996, Resident Evil changed the game with that first outting. Resident Evil actually started out being originally developed on the Super Nintendo as a remake of a game called Sweet Home. However, gaming evolved and jumped more into 3D with the PlayStation and gears suddenly changed with Resident Evil being born instead of that remake of Sweet Home.
It is quite interesting to think what if that remake was indeed made instead. We would probably still have Resident Evil but would it be the same game series that we have come to know? Resident Evil had pre-rendered backgrounds and consisted of puzzles alongside exploration, but it was also more than that. It had an inventory system where you had to manage space and really think about what you wanted to carry or leave behind. Also had a save system that made you think on when you should save. The camera angles also added alot as sometimes it left alot to imagination as you could hear things off in the distance or off screen and it made you wonder what and where it was. All these things added to the sense of horror in the game and it paved the way for the series where alot of these elements have been carried throughout most of the series.
It stayed with the majority of that formula through 1, 2, and 3. Let's not forget that the games made the resurgence of zombies come to life with more zombie games and movies which is also important. Now even though we imagined 4 being the turning point and the big change but even before that there were spin off games that very much changed things. So let's take a look at a few of those!
Resident Evil: Survivor
Resident Evil Survivor was a game on Playstation that threw out the third person perspective and really turned things on it's head when it comes to the Resident Evil formula. It was a first person shooter kind of more like a house of the dead type deal that used a light gun controller. It's worth noting that light gun support was actually dropped for the US version of the game because at the time, the unfortunate Columbine Massacre was still fresh in everyone's mind and shooting games were partly taking the blame of it's motivation. The Japanese and European versions of the game did however have full light gun support. The game itself is actually not that great and was also poorly received overall. To me it was just a forgettable generic shooting game that they slapped the Resident Evil name on it to try and make a quick buck off of fans. It had super long loading times between doors opening and closing alongside just having really bad graphics even for the time.
Somehow though, even with it's poor reception, it got a sequel on the PlayStation 2. I'm not honestly too sure why a second one was made. Maybe they thought they could improve it. It couldn't be too hard to make a better game than the first. So.. How did it do? Well to start, it actually wasn't released stateside, instead only got a Japanese and European release on PS2. It also got an arcade version in Japan that was actually listed as being the most successful arcade game of the month in August 15th, 2001. Now I never got to play this second game but I know it is based on code veronica and also that is was better received than the first game. The graphics were definitely better with it being a ps2 game but also it had a much better story and overall just felt like an overhaul compared to the first game. These were the only two games in the survivor series but there were actually even more light gun games to come out.
Resident Evil: Dead Aim
Dead Aim was also a lightgun game. Maybe even more different than the survivor games, this one has an all new main character that we don't know about and pretty much feels like it's own contained story compared to the rest of the games atleast to me. I remember getting this and playing it on PS2 back in the day. I actually really liked this game. I have fond memories of thinking this game was pretty cool. It's worth noting that this is considered part of the gun survivor series so I guess technically you could call it a survivor game but for me, it's just in the same vein as them. This was far better than the survivor game. Like night and day better. The game had third person as you explored and then first person for shooting so to me it had a more balanced mixture of old-school resident Evil mixed with the first person shooting of the survivor games. It had great graphics for the time and and overall was a good game in my opinion. I am pretty sure it was mixed when it came to what others thought and really it seems to be the one game people forget being a resident Evil game.
It kind of slid under the radar and was forgotten fairly quickly. It was also very cheesy, but what Resident Evil game doesn't have a little cheese in it. I don't think anyone seen this one coming to the states the survivor games were considered dead in the states and thrived more in Japan/ Europe, but sure enough it was released stateside and I am sure glad it did because it was an enjoyable experience for me. It was the first light gun game that I actually got immersed into because of that hybrid of the old and new feel and well, I have always been a big Resident Evil fan. The only downside I can remember for me was the games being extremely short. If my memory serves me correctly, you only get about 3 or 4 hours out of it before the story wraps up. Now for a light gun game, that is pretty damn great, but for the average game? It was very short.
Resident Evil: Darkside & Umbrella Chronicles
You would think that we covered all the shooting gun style games but nope we still got more. We've got 2 on rails shooters for the Wii called Resident Evil the Darkside Chronicles and another called Umbrella Chronicles. Darkside Chronicles was marketed bundled with the Wii zapper and if you could ever think what would be the best place for an on the rails shooter, you can look no further than the Wii. Both Chronical games were later released as an HD collection for the PS3, but the experience was just better for the Wii as you had the zapper. You could play cooperative style with a friend or an AI controlled character. It had a shaky and confusing camera for those used to the old style, but both were still pretty fun and the graphics were great for the time. A very underrated pair of games indeed and it's unfortunate not a ton of people played them. It would be awesome to have the HD collection on newer consoles.
Resident Evil: Gaiden
Resident Evil Gaiden was a very interesting one to me mainly for what it tried to do. It was a top down style exploration style with combat being in first person. What made this one most interesting to me was that it was on the gameboy color. Battles played out with a sort of "hit the button at the right time" sort of system. It was very ambitious as a gameboy game and they tried to do something different so I have to give them props but it was to mixed reviews across the board. With the graphics being a gameboy color game, it was hard to make it truly a horror experience as there was alot left to the imagination. Also the save system just wasn't up to snuff along with pretty much no puzzles beyond collecting items and keys for an exploration style Resident Evil game. The story had lots of twists and was actually good so it did have that going for it. It did do alot though and as a Resident Evil game in some form being on a gameboy color, it was actually pretty cool.
Resident Evil Outbreak 1 & 2
These were the coolest to me in terms of what it did and pulled off. The outbreak games which were Resident Evil Outbreak and Outbreak File 2. They were a fully online Resident Evil experience like nothing else that was out there. When you died in the outbreak games, you would actually come back as zombie and hunt you former team mates down and try to be their downfall. This is what I wish the newer multiplayer modes in the more recent games would have done. A new outbreak game attached to a main game would be miles better than what we got with the multiplayer games recently. The outbreak games were a number of scenarios played out the multiple characters you could pick from and you would play with other players and experience it all together, letting the scenario play out and just trying to get through it.
The one thing that I felt was always weird was that the games didn't have voice chat. The games required team work and to communicate, but yet no voice chat option. The games sound awesome right? The only issue was that they just didn't sell that well. It did have a cult following with people trying to keep the games alive even after the official servers died. Both were ambitious in what they did but maybe they were just too different. I do think an outbreak now would do much better if they did it right. With voice chat and the technology now, I think an Outbreak game would be awesome. There was a third game planned, but with sales being not what they wanted, the third game was scrapped. I say now is the right time for an Outbreak file 3!
Resident Evil: Code Veronica
Resident Evil Code Veronica was originally a Dreamcast game but then seen release on multiple other consoles along the way. Interestingly enough, this game cam to fruition when the developers had made a failed attempt at bringing Resident Evil 2 to the Sega Saturn. After they came to the realization that they just couldn't port the game over to the Saturn, they started on a whole new game and this was it! The game was intended to be the true sequel to Resident Evil 2 and even deemed as Resident Evil 3 at some point within the project. Later it was obviously changed to Code Veronica and became a spin off instead. The game had that old Resident Evil feel as well it was around the same time as old-school Resident Evil games were still being made. The game didn't sell all that well because of the smaller user base on the Dreamcast but the game was released as an extended cut titled Code Veronica X on PS2 and eventually it was re-released on multiple other consoles such as gamecube, ps3 and xbox 360. It was well received and highly praised for being what Resident Evil was and improved on. I thought the game was really a great addition as a side game to the main series.
Operation Raccoon City
This is another online Resident Evil game but more action oriented than Outbreak with the game also having a single player mode and the game actually did well. The game followed mercenaries that worked for Umbrella and it is based on a non-canon hypothetical scenario. It sounds kind of cool right? Well even though it sold well, the game actually was mixed when it came to opinions about the game. The single player was it's main deal and then you had a 4 player coop mode as well as a versus mode. The game was actually pretty good and I sunk plenty of hours into it. It was just fun and addicting to play. It was however held back by questionable AI whether it was team mates just being useless or enemies being worse than braindead. Other than that, I thought that the environments didn't have enough flair to them. It left the game feeling slightly generic to me. You do have familiar characters from past games, BUT they are only available in multiplayer online mode. The campaign mode has these no name forgettable faces that no one knows. It was a great amount of fun but the potential could have been so much more than it ended up being. Fun online but it lacked personality and brains beyond that.
Oh god why does this game exist. This is probably the worst Resident Evil game to date by a long shot. It is supposed to be a multiplayer competitive shooter where players have to work together in order to eliminate the threats in the game. The meat of the game if you can call it that is indeed the multiplayer, but you also had a single player (barely) that is just a glorified horde mode.
Not only was it just way to far away from being a Resident Evil, it was just a game that was truly generic that they decided to slap the Resident Evil name on. I'm serious. If you would have just not told me the name, I wouldn't have said Resident Evil. It is just that generic and dull. The maps were so boring and alot of the things the game tried to do just didn't work well together. It was very questionable on what the developers were trying to do here. It has no passion at all in this game and it really is below the quality you would expect from the Resident Evil games. Overall this game just needs to be forgotten and we all need to back away slowly from it.
Resident Evil Revelations 1& 2
Resident Evil Revelations started on the 3DS and then eventually came to other platforms such as the Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, and Xbox one, and the switch. It was designed to bring the game back to that original formula for the most part of exploration and puzzles. It was a mixture of that survival horror from the earlier games mixed with the modern style gameplay of the more recent titles. The game took place on a cruise shit where it had tight corridors that made everything feel extremely claustrophobic. It worked in helping add that extra tension as you never knew what was going to be around the corner waiting for you face to face and not much room to make the space between you and whatever monstrosity it would be.
It was well received enough to pretty much be ported over to most other gaming platforms with better graphics and minor changes for consoles. It also did well enough to spawn a sequel that wasn't as good as the first by a small difference. The first one just felt more horror toned with it's small corridors and tension. Revelations 2 also chose an episodic approach kind of like you would expect from a telltale game which was a little odd. Both games ultimately had strong sales because it was pretty much on every major platform at the time and fans were interested in them for sure. I for one didn't discover this games until I seen them on a ps4 sale bundled together. I'm glad I checked them out!
Back to the main series
Getting back on track with the series. After the third game, the series entirely divulged with what it was. Resident Evil 4 was more action oriented and had a new over the shoulder like camera angle. It was very different from the originals and it made some fans just not like the game. I myself was in that same boat. I loved the original 3 games and this 4th game was vastly different. It wasn't even zombies anymore. It was entirely new besides some familiar characters. Regardless of how some series fans felt, the game won multiple awards and is said to be one of the best video games of all time. I'll be honest, like I said, I just wasn't a huge fan of 4 when it first came out.
I still tried it because of all the hype around it. I still wasn't impressed at the time. It wasn't zombies and it wasn't what I expected, BUT I played it again years later after my brain had more time to acclimate to Resident Evil changing after 4. It stayed more with the formula of 4 after that and only deviated with side projects so I figured I would give 4 another shot. It changed my mind after that. I gave it a chance and I actually liked it as long as I looked at it as it's own contained bottle of sorts and kept in mind that it was different but not bad. 5 kept with the same brand spankin' new formula but added co-op to it as well which made it more fun for sure.
Then there was six...
Six is where is started to try something different again. Different and a little bit familiar at the same time. There were multiple campaigns in Resident Evil 6 with alot of familiar faces going on. Every story was different and unique within itself with the gameplay a little tweaked for each and it kept the co-op option. The thing I liked was that it had a return to zombies but I didn't like that it was an even further step away from horror it seemed. It felt even more action oriented than previous entries in the series, but playing with a friend is actually a ton of fun. Resident Evil 6 felt really arcade like in nature with it's button pressed and the mechanics felt really more geared like an arcade game. It is just the feel of the game to me.
It is broken down into chapters and feels more episodic. This one was very much mixed with some people liking the game and others just down right hating it. I think it had a ton of variety with various campaigns all seeming fresh from one another because they all did something different and had it's own gameplay style for each. All campaigns revolve around 2 characters thus making the whole game coop style which really adds to the fun of it as there isn't much more fun than a zombie killing session with a friend. Even if you didn't have a friend to play with, the game gave you an AI partner that was actually capable of helping so for me, the game was actually alot of fun even though it felt more like a mindless action packed shoot em' up.
7 Was the Magic Number
Seven marked a new era for the series to me. It was once again changing up the formula and to me a fresh take on what Resident Evil was. It was vastly different than anything Capcom has done with the series before. The story is self contained as it's own thing and on top of that, it was first person. It was very much an exploration survival horror game, just no zombies. It was more w deranged family with some kind of virus that was different than what we've seen from the games before. It feels familiar in the sense that you are exploring, solving puzzles, collecting just enough ammo to get by, and those elements very much feel like a Resident Evil game to me. Everything else about is entirely different though but that is okay because Resident Evil 7 is one of my favorite games in the series.
It was the first Resident Evil game to run on the new RE game engine alongside also being the first to be played in VR via PSVR. The game itself had a cast of entirely new characters for the most part. It revolved around a family that would give chainsaw massacre a run for it's money for sure. You would be chased and hunted down and overall the game did have it's scares alongside lots of gore. It wasn't really about zombies, but the game feels pretty much self contained on it's own with a sequel coming soon. I enjoyed this game so much and definitely one of my most favorite games. It has lots of tension and the survival horror elements are there. It does a fantastic job of balancing ammo with the moments in the game. You always seem to have just enough ammo barely to get through what you need to. Absolutely an amazing game in the series.
Soon there will be 8!
Lastly is the next game coming out May 7th and you bet I got that pre-ordered and coming to me the day of release! It is the sequel to 7 and even though it looks to be radically even more different, if it is similar at all to 7, I'm in. It actually has alot more similarities to Resident Evil 4 with it's item management system in place alongside having a merchant to upgrade weapons and to buy things. Also well the most obvious is that it also has a village like Resident Evil had. The developers said that they were bringing the essence of Resident Evil 4, while Resident Evil 7 functions as the base for the game. So essentially it sounds like Resident Evil 4 and 7 mixed all up into one game which I am game for. So here's to hoping for the best out of Resident Evil 8!
Thank you for coming on this journey!
It has been a wonderful time going down memory lane and remembering all these games and exploring them once again. I hope I brought up some great memories for everyone else as well. Everyone knows Resident Evil whether it is through the earlier games, later games, most of us have a favorite. Or perhaps you are a fan of the movies. Everyone has atleast one game or movie they liked I bet. Thanks once again for going on this long journey with me and I hope you check back again soon!