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13 Days of Horror, Day 1: A Resident Evil Retrospective

Welcome to the first day one in Dead Pixels thirteen day long celebration of the holiday we love: Halloween. I tried to do this for my birthday but apparently, my aging a year isn’t as big an event as I always assumed it was, so unfortunately The 13 Days of Adam was canceled. Hopefully you’ll find this series a little more interesting, but I want you to remember what could’ve been.

In case you’re still wondering what this series is all about, every day we’ll do something a little different, ranging from retrospectives of series we consider to have had a helping hand in shaping the horror genre into what we enjoy today, to lists, and anything in between. The first series I’ll be taking a look at is arguably the most influential one in the genre: Resident Evil. Resident Evil is important for a myriad reasons; it’s the most successful horror franchise (both in terms of sales, critical reception, and the success of the films that are loosely based on them; it has zombies (everyone knows zombies make anything better), and it’s one of the few games in the genre that’s managed to create for itself a legacy that’s inspired many games even today (Gears of War was influenced in part by Resident Evil 4).

Since its inception in 1996 the seres has managed to sell well over 40 million units and its films have managed to gross a hefty $621 million worldwide. But there’s a good chance you knew most of that, and since numbers are boring (just ask anyone currently in a math class) let’s get down to the real meat of the franchise.

So why do we like this series so much and why has it managed to grow over the years when most of its siblings have slowly faded away? Other than zombies, a sub-genre that’s proved impossible to die off (forgive the pun) I think Resident Evil has remained so popular because of its ability to evolve successfully. Plenty of horror series have tried branching into different genres or mixing up he gameplay a bit but while most have failed (like, Dino Crisis 3 for example) Resident Evil has proved itself capable of adapting to the ever-changing world of video games with sometimes fantastic results.

Granted, the series hasn’t always been successful as the second Outbreak title received lukewarm reviews and sold far less than its predecessor and Dead Aim isn’t looked upon too fondly. The best example of the series success is without a doubt Resident Evil 4, which removed most of the horror elements that defined the games for so long and replaced them with (then) responsive controls, an over-the-shoulder camera, and amazing gameplay. Puzzles, searching for keys, frustrating cameras, and tank-like controls weren’t gone completely but for the most part RE4 marked a revolution for the series, and more importantly, the genre.

The latest game in the main series, Resident Evil 5, was a huge success, but it wasn’t everything Capcom hoped it would be. Because of that they’re going back to the drawing board, promising yet another RE4-style reboot of the series, and hopefully returning it to its roots in horror.

And while Resident Evil was busy redefining what it meant to be a horror game its competition was trying something much different, but we’ll save that for tomorrow.



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