20 Years of Resident Evil

The horror game genre has been a prominent part of the video game industry for years. While many series in this genre have gained prominence, one in particular has managed to endure for 20 years as a fixture of video games and making an impact on pop-culture in general: Capcom’s “Resident Evil.”

Amassing a whole franchise of spinoffs and other media, the characters in the series have also made prominent appearances in other Capcom works such as the “Marvel VS Capcom” fighting game series. With a myriad of spin off games, comic books and film adaptations; the most success the series has had are from the main numbered installments.

The first three games in the series established the early blend of “survival horror” that the series and other subsequent entries in the horror game genre became known for. The original “Resident Evil,” along with “Resident Evil 2” and “Resident Evil 3: Nemesis” provided an ideal blend of a creepy atmosphere, creative monsters and challenging but rewarding gameplay that sees characters such as Chris Redfield; Jill Valentine and Leon S. Kennedy investigate undead phenomena in the fictional town of Raccoon City.

“Resident Evil 4” saw the gameplay style undergo significant changes. The control scheme differed significantly from the strategic “tank controls” of the original installments, and the enemies in the game were a maniacal cult rather than zombies.  The use of quick time events and over the shoulder aiming became common features in other shooting games in the following years, such as the “Gears of War” series. Overall, the game was well-received; and many elements introduced in this title became key fixtures of later installments.

Even so, the relationship between the survival horror elements and the action elements has often been a double-edged sword in the series. “Resident Evil 5” had a mixed reception for this reason, as well as the AI of new ally character Sheva often being shaky (though she fared somewhat better when she was controlled by a human player). “Resident Evil 6” became the nadir of the franchise’s main installments because of the horror taking a backseat to excessive action. Some people within Capcom claiming they were trying to ride the coattails of the “Call of Duty” franchise didn’t help matters either.

Then, this year’s “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard”  marked a return to form for the series, restoring the survival horror gameplay that made the series a hit in the first place. With its subtitle also referencing the original Japanese name of the franchise, the game was a critical and commercial success that has been hailed as one of the best installments of the series.

With over 68 million copies sold worldwide, the “Resident Evil” series has left its mark on video games after 20 years on the market. Whatever lies ahead for the series, let’s hope it can keep up the same level of terror for the next generation of fans.

Story by Steven Pryor

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