Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of Resident Evil, providing us with two entire decades of zombie video games and deeply questionable dialogue. The Escapist's writers have quite a few retrospectives lined up to commemorate the event, but I'd like to open the week with a slightly different take: Why it's high time to scrap the storyline and reboot Resident Evil for its own good.
You see, much like the long-running Metal Gear series, Resident Evil is the rare franchise which covers an enormous, decades-long alternate timeline. Outside of a few minor retcons in the Chronicles series and non-canon entries like Operation Raccoon City, we've been following the same cast of characters responding to the zombie fallout which started with the original PlayStation trilogy. But unlike Metal Gear, these constant sequels have not been especially kind to Resident Evil. With over twenty video games in the franchise, only three are considered legitimate classics: The original, its sequel, and Resident Evil 4. Everything else was disappointingly forgettable, gimmicky, or had the misfortune of exclusively launching on a lackluster platform.
And it's only getting worse over time. The core series has been chasing after Resident Evil 4's action mechanics while missing the point of what made it engaging. Survival horror has been minimized so much that Revelations is the only modern story arc to use it anymore. And for some reason, Capcom has been cramming co-op into Resident Evil at every opportunity, from the core series, to the disappointing Operation Raccoon City, to the upcoming Umbrella Corps.
Meanwhile, the only Resident Evil games which have been unquestionable successes of the past decade are remakes. The original game has seen two impressive HD remasters which are genuinely fun to play. Resident Evil 4 still gets a new edition for each console generation. And the fan-favorite Resident Evil 2 is finally joining the remake train with its own remastered edition. With Capcom's expectations through the roof, the Resident Evil classics seem to be the most reliable income the series is likely to receive in some time. Every other sequel and spin-off seems to be flailing about, trying to figure out the formula for the next big hit while catering to fan nostalgia wherever possible.
Drastic action is needed for Resident Evil to become the beloved zombie series gamers remember. And as much as it pains me to acknowledge, the quickest way to do that is roll back the clock and restart the entire story from scratch. Doing so would let Capcom reimagine the best elements of the classic series without getting bogged down in the bad stuff. In a worst case scenario, we'd have another Resident Evil 6 on our hands - which is more or less where we are now. But if it works, we'd have a cohesive Resident Evil experience that's worth playing all over again.