For many of you this may sound like a crazy question. How could a brand new series compete with one that’s been around for 15 years, sold over 45 million copies, spawned an incredibly successful series of films and is a worldwide recognized brand? Easy, because the Resident Evil brand is changing. Regarding the games, it’s tough to maintain an argument that they’re still “horror.” Granted, this genre is huge and covers a variety of sub-genres like survival horror and action horror. But in the end, what’s so scary about this franchise?
Did Resident Evil 5 scare you at all? Did you jump a single time? Does it have a foreboding atmosphere that makes you dread what awaits beyond the next corner? Was there ever time that you didn’t feel like an overpowered badass? This argument’s been beaten until it resembles a rotting zombie’s brain but with the critical and commercial success that is EA’s new Dead Space franchise, I feel there may very well be a new competitor for King of the Horror Hill. If you don’t agree, read on so we can talk this through, plus you know you’re going to have to click that little Read More button if you want to call me all sorts of names for even bringing up such blasphemy. Right off the bat I’d like to get something straight. This isn’t a discussion for fanboys of either series and we won’t be spending any time measuring dick lengths (though I hear Wesker is very well endowed). This also isn’t an argument over which series is better and this definitely isn’t the place to tell me why you think Resident Evil is still horror.
Whether a game is scary or not is relative to the person experiencing the game. The popular opinion is since Resident Evil 4 the series has strayed from its ‘horror roots’ so that’ll be what we’re going with. Why? Majority rules. If you feel the need to vent go to a forum where such nonsense is welcome. I hear NeoGaf has a healthy troll population.
With that said, let’s get to the meat of the article, the filet mignon if you will. In a recent interview with IGN EA Games President Frank Gibeau discussed the future of the Dead Space franchise and EA’s plans for the future of the series. In his interview he referenced Capcom’s ability to adapt the Resident Evil brand so it appealed to a wider audience. This was likely a comment on the series’ stronger focus on action over tension and horror and the inclusion of cooperative play.
Gibeau then continued by saying “”I think we still have some areas to grow with Dead Space in terms of trying to reach a broader audience without losing the quality and that survival-horror mechanic. That’s how we’re going to think about it as we think about Dead Space 3 and what we do next with the IP.” And this is where EA’s plans differ from Capcom’s. In the end, it’s all about the money. A corporation needs money to function and both EA and Capcom are corporations.
However, while each of them are looking to get more gamers interested in their horror series, only EA is planning on retaining the elements that made Dead Space shit-out-your-spine scary in the first place. If you had the pleasure of playing both of the main games, let’s leave out Extraction for now even though it was rather fantastic, you’ll probably agree that both games were fucking terrifying. Of course, if you didn’t think the first was scary there’s little chance you’d find the second terrifying in any way, but that’s besides the point.
Now think of the original Resident Evil games. If you played them and remember them as fondly as I do you’ll probably remember the intense need to conserve ammo, the fear of what was waiting just out of view and the overwhelming sense that you just don’t have good enough weapons or nearly enough ammo to take out the hordes of chilling enemies that stand in your way.
Now, why don’t you hop into my time machine, don’t worry there’s room for two (we can always cuddle) so we can fast forward to a handful of years when Resident Evil 4 released. No zombies, a ton of ammunition, lots of explosions, enemies with guns/cannons/crossbows and very little to be afraid of other than the incredibly unnerving Regenerators that haunted my dreams long after completing the game. But one (or two, let’s not forget the Chainsaw dude) scary enemies does not a horror game make. I think Abraham Lincoln said that.
Now let’s jump back into my time traveling apparatus and crank that fucker to 88mph until we reach 2009. Resident Evil 5’s out and it has even more explosions, guns and technically capable baddies and on top of all that it has co-op. I don’t think it’s possible to be terrified when you have twice the ammunition, twice the guns and twice the cleavage.
Alright, I’m done picking on Resident Evil. Let’s take a closer look at Dead Space. The first game was scary. Unless your insides are filled with ice and you’re void of a soul you had to think that game was scary. Predictable? Yes. But still scary. Was it ‘keep an adult diaper handy for when your bowels relieve themselves’ scary? For many of you, probably not. But it had the eerie, uneasy atmosphere that was the USG Ishimura. It had the grotesque, reanimated corpses that were the enemies. It had some of the best, and most haunting sound design I’ve heard in a game. It also had an utter lack of ammunition (unless you played it on easy, but if you did that you should definitely be removed of your gaming console).
Its sequel, the brand new Dead Space 2, aimed for a wider audience than its predecessor did while retaining essentially everything the original did that made it great. You still felt like the same person with some minor control polishing but it was the enemies that evolved. The Stalkers in particular are some of the most intimidating foes I’ve come across in a game. Not because they seemed smarter or more capable than you but because they merely seemed intelligent. The way they worked in packs to flank Isaac or the way it sounded like they communicated with each other (Velociraptor style) or even the way they peeked their heads above or around obstacles to find their target.
Name a single enemy in Resident Evil that doesn’t act like a programmed AI and I’ll give you a cookie. Well, I actually won’t since I’m fresh out of cookies (and even if I had some I definitely wouldn’t give any of my delicious sweets to you). I’m not saying Dead Space has better AI than Resident Evil (though it most certainly does), I’m merely saying everything about the Dead Space games has been tailored to act, look and feel like a living, breathing enemy. You rarely have a reprieve from the dangers waiting to tear you in half but in Resident Evil you can now rely on your trusty sidekick.
If you’ve made it this far I commend you. Your reward is I’ll explain the point of this seemingly pointless rant on Dead Space vs. Resident Evil. I want my Resident Evil back. I want to be scared again because to be completely honest, while I adore Dead Space and what it’s done for horror I’ll always be a diehard Umbrella Corporation fanboy. I don’t want to see my favorite series of all time get sent to the retirement home or worse, changed completely to a Gears of War rip-off (and that’s where it’s headed?.
So really, I just want my Resident Evil back, and from this feature’s headline I’m sure you didn’t see that conclusion coming.
If you agree with me, let me know. If you want to do something about this, send Capcom a letter. If they’ve proved anything it’s that they listen to their fans.
Oh, and with Resident Evil’s 15th anniversary coming up we have a pretty big feature in the works to commemorate such an event. Keep an eye peeled on the 22nd folks.