Capcom just announced another title update to Resident Evil 6 that will be effective in late January. This is the second title update to the much criticised and lowly scored game. In the last update, Capcom made the Ada Wong campaign, which originally needed to be unlocked after finishing all other three campaigns, available right from the start. Also it allows “co-op” mode in this campaign. In the latest update, the Agent Hunt mode is available right from the start and no longer requiring you to finish at least one campaign first. Also the much-criticised abuse of quick time event reactions was dealt with by making them more accessible and less tedious.
Since its release, Resident Evil 6 was criticised by followers and critics alike. At that time Capcom was unrepentant in saying that they are not going to please fans simply because it is Resident Evil but will go with how they want to “evolve” the franchise. I don’t know whether anyone else felt this way, but these two major title updates did seem to be a slap to Capcom’s face. Capcom has admitted that Resident Evil 6 is going to miss the target as despite a strong start, demands for the game dropped off significantly. Considering that it is a game that was released in November last year, the game being already in the bargain bins of retailers did not paint a good picture for the game. Further, the two title updates were targeting some major issues that were highly criticised by fans and critics – the tedious quick time events that were over-utilised, and the lack of interest for people to finish three campaigns to unlock the fourth one.
So what went wrong? First of all I have no problem in Capcom attempting to evolve the game. I still think the change of approach from Resident Evil 3 to Resident Evil 4 was one of the best decisions made for the franchise. But before Resident Evil 4, in Nemesis (3), Capcom was already trying to evolve the game but without much success. The concept of Nemesis chasing you was good on paper but not so much in execution. Also the respawning of enemies in a survival horror game, where resources are limited didn’t go down very well with Nemesis either. But to completely write off this game would be unfair as it did introduce some strategic elements such as using the environment to defeat enemies in the gameplay, and this still fares pretty well even now. However, Nemesis was trying to survive the horror brought by the success of the first two games, so the stake was set very high.
In Resident Evil 4, the bold move of making it more action oriented had paid off. Debut on Nintendo’s ailing GameCube platform, Resident Evil 4 not only managed to move copies but also sell the console itself. Resident Evil 4 further went down to become a landmark title in gaming history. Even after rebooting and re-leasing (it was released on PS2, PC, Xbox 360, Wii and PS3 later) Resident Evil 4 still holds up as a brilliant title itself. However, Resident Evil 4 also introduced a new evil into the franchise – quick time events.
In Resident Evil 4, quick time events were introduced during several cut-scenes and action sequences. These quick time events made sense and it increased the tension of the game as the days of sitting back watching some cheesy cut scenes were gone. They were refreshing and context driven. The move paid off because it provided some great gaming and engagement experience for players. In Resident Evil 5 the tradition continues. Playable in coop, Resident Evil 5’s quick time event started to show problems, as if your coop player failed the quick time event it is game over. However, since it is scattered over the whole game sparsely, it was still bearable. Having said that I still could not forget the frustration the troll boss on the truck gave me during my different playthroughs. Then came Resident Evil 6, where Capcom probably had decided that it is cool to compile a game nearly completely out of quick time events. The massive abuse of reaction buttons, wriggling of the analogue stick and the smashing of different buttons, had made Resident Evil 6 a horrible experience. You do still feel a sense of survival horror, but this time the horror was brought to you by quick time events and what they required of you to do to complete them.
Certainly Capcom’s title updates seemed to be caving in to what fans of the franchise want. But the question is, from this point onward where can Resident Evil go? How could Capcom continue to re-invent the franchise without alienating everyone from the franchise at the same time? There is no easy answer, but as a gamer and follower of the franchise, I do think that there could be tweaks here and there, but once it bears a number as a main flagship Resident Evil gain, gamers will expect certain things. For me they are the sense of tension created by the atmosphere (and no I don’t mean a white out in Jake’s campaign and pitch dark in part of Leon’s campaign), an intuitive and interesting inventory management system (I still think Resident Evil 5 got this right), and an engaging but sometimes cheesy story. Resident Evil 6 might tick the box in the story department, but it failed in all other aspects. It would be interesting to see what lessons Capcom has learnt from the failure of Resident Evil 6 and how they will “evolve” from this point onward.