Let's Make Resident Evil's Survival Horror Great Again
The original Resident Evil games were goofy on so many levels but in terms of gameplay, they knew exactly what they were: Survival horror. Any player taking the cowboy approach of firing wildly into zombie hordes would quickly run out of bullets and have to rely on melee weapons to survive, which usually didn't last for long. All of your supplies had to be carefully managed, from ammunition, to health, to the ability to save the game using ink ribbons. Every single decision to use a particular resource had weight, lending a sense of tension on even the easiest difficulty levels.
Level design reflected a horror atmosphere as well. Most environments consisted of enclosed hallways, locked doors, and claustrophobic environments. While that design was partly based on technological limitations, like Silent Hill it had an excellent gameplay impact. Even one or two zombies could pose a real threat to anyone trying to preserve their ammunition. Should you risk bullets by trying to clear away every single zombie? Or rush past them, hoping to save resources for later? Meanwhile, cameras were always positioned so you couldn't quite see zombies until you purposely explored each corner of the room. And if you managed to kill each zombie with the minimum number of bullets? Some would mutate and rise again later on, terrifying you just when you thought it was safe.
Then along came Resident Evil 4, upsetting the zombie corpse cart with open environments and action-oriented gameplay. Don't get me wrong - it's still a blast to play, and felt like a breath of fresh air compared to previous titles. It's probably even appropriate, given how Leon was a hero who'd survived zombie outbreaks before. But it also lost the tension inherent in the design of earlier games. It had to rely on monster designs and gore to shock players, which wasn't anywhere close to the same experience.
What's more, these action mechanics were so successful, they were adopted by other third-person shooters. Games like Dead Space and The Last of Us even improved on the action-horror formula in ways Resident Evil couldn't keep up with. But that never stopped Capcom from trying, although nothing had the same impact. Resident Evil 5 and 6 were left spinning their wheels, with little in the way of unique, lasting appeal.
It's no wonder Capcom can re-release the original Resident Evil every half-decade and have each one be a critical success. This game was a unique survival horror experience that wasn't copied to death by the entire games industry. It even managed to stand apart from Silent Hill and Alone in the Dark as a distinct, iconic experience. These days, remarkably few RE spin-offs can make the same claim.
A Resident Evil reboot is a great opportunity to return to its survival horror roots. Sure, a properly structured sequel could do the same thing, but it would also need to juggle RE lore into the backstory somehow. And let's be honest - the Resident Evil survival horror brand has been damaged so extensively that a clean break might be necessary. It would also let new creators offer a fresh perspective on the series to address other problems. One of which especially gets on my nerves: