The year is 1996, and zombies have not yet overtaken vampires to become the most ubiquitous monster in fiction. Capcom releases Resident Evil on the Playstation, giving survival horror its foothold in video gaming. Sure, other zombie games existed — Zombies Ate My Neighbors, anyone? — but this was a different, darker beast entirely. Seventeen years and 20+ reissues and sequels later, the series has traded in the scares for the action, much like the film series, whose most frightening aspect is that it’s still growing. With The Walking Dead making zombie survival scary and carnage-minded again, maybe it’s time for Capcom to go back to the blood-soaked drawing board.
Capcom’s Masachika Kawata, who has worked on and off with the game series since Nemesis, gave an interview with IGN that hinted at a Resident Evil reboot that would return the series to its horror roots. More often than not, just the term “reboot” can blast a person’s most negative opinions straight to the surface, but this one deserves some consideration, seeing as how the aim is to bring it back to what made it popular in the first place, instead of continuing to adapt the concept to fit the more popular trends in video gaming.
For the interview, Kawata was promoting the Wii U, PS3, and Xbox 360 versions of the popular Nintendo 3DS franchise entry, Resident Evil: Revelations, which showed a marked improvement in atmosphere over bullet count. But Operation Raccoon City and Resident Evil 6 were not treated as kindly by fans, and Kawata has morphed his opinion that action games are how to stay relevant in Western markets.
“Survival horror as a genre is never going to be on the same level, financially, as shooters and much more popular, mainstream games,” Kawata said. “At the same time, I think we need to have confidence to put money behind these projects, and it doesn’t mean we can’t focus on what we need to do as a survival horror game to meet fan’s needs.” And in keeping those needs in mind, he goes on to say, “At the same time I think a lot of what people want now is to have Chris and Jill in a game, or they want it to look like Resident Evil used to look like. That’s what makes the game work for them. We should be able to start from scratch and reboot it. It would still be Resident Evil.”
Perhaps most importantly for jaded fans, Kawata says, “The most important thing with a Resident Evil game is to bring across that feeling of horror and fear that’s such a part of the series.” With any luck, they’ll keep the horror biological, even though I could do without all the giant plants in the basement. Not that we’ll be seeing anything moving forward for a while, but it’s good to know that playing RE with the lights off might do more than just save electricity next time. Do the kids still know what typewriter ribbon is?