7 ways Resident Evil 7 can return to its roots
Due to the disappointing sales figures of Resident Evil 6 as seen by Capcom, they have told the fans, once again, that the Resident Evil series will be returning to its roots with the seventh entry, citing inspiration in other games such as the reboot of Tomb Raider and The Last of Us in terms of directions they would like to take the game. While both of those games are great in their own regard, Resident Evil was once standing proud, stumbled, and has since fallen on its face and will need to look into its own past to gain its ground once more.
Here are seven things I believe the seventh game must do in order gain back the respect of its older fans while also keeping the new fans happy, and keeping everyone surprised. This is going to be a long ride, so grab a drink and prepare yourself.
1 – No More Parasites
This one I cannot stress enough. No more Ganados, no more Majini, no more gun wielding C-Virus soldiers. These enemies are not scary, they are not smart, they do not add anything to Resident Evil. Originally in Resident Evil 4 they were scary at first because they could wield weapons (farm tools and chainsaws) and seemed to be able to cooperate to take Leon down, but here’s the problem: they’re as dumb as a bag of rocks. They’ll run toward you and stop five feet short so you have time to shoot, waste time muttering things in other languages instead of just attacking you, and give you breathing room. No! That’s not tense at all.
Then, towards the end of Resident Evil 5, they gave them guns. Infected people with guns may as well just be stupid human AI with guns. It’s like Capcom was aiming for the Call of Duty crowd and injected some pathetic excuse to hang onto Resident Evil in a way. Players don’t care what they’re shooting at in order to have fun (or be scared) Capcom.
Zombies are the bread and butter of Resident Evil. They’re slow, deadly in numbers, and are constantly whittling down our ammo and making us question if we should save our supplies or expend some to be rid of them. Capcom did right by bringing them back into the series with Resident Evil 6, but the problem there is that they were only in Leon’s campaign, not Chris’ or Jake’s. You can argue that some parasites transform when wounded but their transformations are hardly game changing. Plug them full of bullets and they die all the same. Resident Evil should be about zombies and wicked bio organic weapons, which leads me to…
2 – Frightening Monsters and Bosses
The most frightening thing about the older Resident Evil’s were the hideous monsters in-between the zombies. When you first saw the Hunter running towards you in the original Resident Evil, it freaked you out. When you heard the dripping of the blood and the hiss of the Licker in Resident Evil 2, you wanted to run away. When Nemesis roared and called out to S.T.A.R.S., you started booking it. Not since the older Resident Evil games have I encountered monsters in the series that actually intimidate me. Zombies can be easily killed with patience, ammo, and well placed shots, but the big baddies? No, you need powerful guns, dodging skills, and the herbs and F. Aid Sprays to cure the damage you will inevitably incur from these things.
Resident Evil 4 had a few good enemies: the first chainsaw maniac, the lake monster, El Gigante, the Regenerators (oh god), but Resident Evil’s 5 and 6 dropped the ball here. They re-hashed older fights, re-used the Lickers , and relied on their parasites to split tentacle heads and turn into deadly man eating pac-man rip-offs. While some of the monsters in the newer games are cool, they don’t have that same oomph to them. The final boss in Leon’s campaign in Resident Evil 6 started off as a mutant lion thing, transformed into a T-Rex, and eventually became… a gigantic fly. I think that pretty much sums up what I’m trying to say. A gigantic fly.
3 – Use Lesser Known Protagonists, Give the Stars a Break
One of my biggest pet peeves in the Resident Evil series is all of the lore, background information, and characters just lying around that the games never use. Leon and Chris are cool, but for crying out loud, they need vacations. Chris has been the star in four Resident Evil games, and Leon in three, with two movies all to himself. Claire was in Degeneration, but she hardly had a hand in the action. Whatever happened to Billy, Carlos, Rebecca, or Barry?
Every time a new game comes along, Capcom throws in new characters we know nothing about and expects us to care about them. Sheva was literally a pack mule and actually replaced Barry in the planning stages of the game. Helena was annoying and no one cared at all that we had to kill her monster sister because we knew nothing about her sister, we had no time to know her and feel for her. Jake was the smart-ass son of Albert Wesker that is a literal walking contradiction of the story. Jake is twenty years old, yet Wesker gained his powers fifteen years prior to 6 during the mansion incident. If Wesker wasn’t super-human when he knocked up Jake’s mom, how does Jake get his strength and regenerative abilities? (Piers is the one exception, because he was actually awesome and we got to know him before the end of Chris’ campaign.)
I could go on and on. Alex Wesker, the body of Steve Burnside, the shit Ada keeps stealing, etc. There is so much lore to dig into hiding in the background of Resident Evil, yet Capcom continues to pile onto it and onto it instead of sorting out this huge mess they’ve created.
4 – Bring Back the Ambient Music and a Little Backtracking
This is something Resident Evil 4 got right for the most part. A few sections of the game had chilling background music as you walked the village at night or stalked the giant and seemingly empty halls of the castle. Though Resident Evil’s 5 and 6 mostly take part in industrial and urban environments, they don’t have good frightening music. They have tense music, during some of the bosses, but despite the beautiful graphics bringing the world to life, I never really felt threatened. I was never too scared to move on or worried that the next room or area would bring my characters death. They were straight shots, giving us no exploration opportunities or time to appreciate the environment and architecture.
Backtracking doesn’t need to be in the whole game, not like the old Resident Evil’s (as much as I would like it), but just enough that the games can mess with us. Take for example the original Resident Evil (or REmake). You go through the mansion killing zombies and make it to the back lodge. When you return, all remaining zombies are dead and replaced with horrid, powerful hunters that make the zombies shooting dummies. And to boot, there’s a creepy new track looping all throughout, giving you this unsettling feeling that something is wrong. Backtracking is an element Capcom can use to make us feel safe when we’ve cleared an area of threats and then surprise us with subtle changes when we return. Areas that branch into multiple and maze-like paths encourage exploration but can be foreboding and filled with monsters or traps. It makes us wonder, is it worth searching for supplies or should I move on and avoid a possible, horrible death?
5 – Tone Down the Gunplay, More Melee Encounters
Gun’s are good and fun. They’re what you use to kill monsters and stay alive, and you’re constantly scrounging for ammo. But what’s really, really scary is when the gun doesn’t cut it or you run out of bullets and that thing is coming towards you and now you’re white knuckling it. Time to pull out the knife!
Unfortunately, Resident Evil now encourages you to get close to monsters because you can suplex their heads off or throw them over your head like they’re disobedient children. That’s not scary at all, that’s empowering the player, and horror games are supposed to do the opposite, depower you. Survival horror games should have weak melee, used primarily for defensive purposes to push enemies away or do little damage in the hopes of killing or at least stunning them. The first Dead Space and The Last Of Us did this right.
Think about those moments when ducking beneath the licker’s tongue, maneuvering slowly around deadly tentacle traps and rattling the stick to get Nemesis to drop you. Those are scary moments that stick with you. When a game gives you big arms and powerful guns with tons of ammo, all the fear is taken away; what you can kill, easily, can’t hurt you. This is why games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent are scary as hell.
6 – Multiple Game Story Arc
Resident Evil is a meta-series, which means its a series with a lot of games in it. Resident Evil 7 is going be the tenth or so game in the main series, not including spin-offs (maybe, I’m not sure. Capcom practically crap these things out). Each game in the series tends to be a stand-alone story affair that offers a problematic situation that gets sorted out before the credits roll. Yes, sometimes those games build up for others. The first game sets up a sequel, Resident Evil 2 infects the city, creating a problem situation for Resident Evil 3, and sends Claire on her way to Europe and thus Resident Evil Code Veronica, etc. However, Resident Evil’s 4, 5, and 6 don’t do this. They have new bad guys that die (save Wesker, sort of), most often by turning themselves into giant monsters to kill the good guys, followed by a messy death with a big gun, end of game.
If Capcom wants to insure the long and healthy life of their biggest, most money-making series they have, why not create a Resident Evil game with a story that’s so big it can’t be told in one game? Metal Gear Solid is the perfect example of this. That series has multiple stories spanning decades!
A multiple game story arc would allow Capcom to use a wealth of characters, old and new, and build them up, give us time to know them and care about them, then horribly rip them away from us with gruesome deaths like all those awesome television shows. This long story would let us get to know the bad guys, understand their motives, and watch them descend into madness like the interesting Resident Evil villains of old.
7 – Single Player Story Mode, Multiplayer Mercenaries Mode, Or…
If Resident Evil is going back to its roots, that means fear. Fear is greatly reduced when you have back-up. Resident Evil’s 5 and 6 aren’t that scary on their own, let alone with two people. Two people made the game fun, yes, but it wasn’t Resident Evil. Exploring those dark, rotting buildings by yourself with only half a clip of handgun ammo and no health items is tense. When you have an invincible pack mule calling to you all the damn time, it’s laughably annoying. Resident Evil’s story modes simply must be single player affairs if Capcom is to achieve a return to the series roots, in my opinion. But that doesn’t mean multiplayer is out of the game.
The Mercenaries in all the Resident Evil games are fun as all hell. I’ve played them for hours on end to unlock all the different characters, kill the boss monsters in the stages, and rack up ridiculous scores. Playing The Mercenaries with friends is when co-op in Resident Evil is an absolute, welcome blast. So Capcom, why not a 4-player Mercenaries mode in Resident Evil 7? Humans versus monsters, two teams of two seeking to score more points than the other, free for all, whatever. That sounds great to me, when its all about the killing and scoring points over the story and atmosphere.
But… if you must have co-op in the story mode of Resident Evil 7, then consider using it to your advantage to up the tension, fear, and gameplay. Imagine being stuck in a mansion, castle, dilapidated hospital, some horrible, awful place full of monsters. Now imagine your only friend and support is stuck on the other side, cut off from you by locked doors, broken bridges, fail safe shutters, something, anything. Imagine a horror game with both players moving through separate rooms at the same time, fighting their own monsters and solving their own puzzles, ocassionally working together to pass an obstacle that isn’t a garage door shutter or a high wall. Perhaps their main means of interaction is a radio so you can hear their calls for help and the struggling of their survival? Of course, the whole game can’t keep the players separated, but I believe that’s a good start to making a co-op horror game actually scary.
Those are my big seven wishes for Resident Evil 7. There’s always more to say, but I think I’m already hoping for too much. I keep hoping the next game will play with darkness and flashlights, add stealth so we can hide and save our items, return a focus to ammo and health management so we could choose our fights instead of being forced to kill everything, maybe add an infection meter so we’re really motivated not to get hurt, and so on and so on.
Let us know readers, what do you think of my points? And what are some of your own hopes for Resident Evil 7’s return to its roots?