Resident Evil turns 20 today. Most fans would think that it's a good time to celebrate, but let's be honest: Capcom hasn't exactly given fans much to get excited about over the past few years.
Ever since Resident Evil 4 was released back in 2005, Capcom's biggest series has been in a depressingly steep decline. While not every game has been totally awful, the vast majority of recent Resident Evil titles have fallen flat on their faces. Even worse, it's already been four years since the last numbered entry in the series was released — at this point, there's really no telling where the franchise is headed.
There is hope, however: Resident Evil may be a shadow of its former self, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Capcom has made major changes to the series before, and it's time to do so again. The horror genre has evolved quite a bit over the past few years, and it's about time for Resident Evil to do the same.
Here's how the Resident Evil franchise can get back on its feet.
Completely Reboot The Story
Resident Evil features one of the longest-running stories in gaming history ... and Capcom needs to forget all about that and start fresh.
What started as a group of survivors trying to fight their way out a zombie-infested mansion has devolved into a series of backstabs, triple-crosses and impossible-to-ignore plot holes, and Resident Evil's overarching story is an absolute mess. Trying to make sense of the series' current storyline is a nightmare, and the individual stories have only gotten worse over the years.
The series deserves something better, and the only realistic way to do that is to start over. There's no need to shoehorn the same characters into yet another bioterrorist attack; just give fans a new cast of characters trying to survive and go from there.
Focus On Atmosphere And Scares
Looking back at the older Resident Evil games, it's clear that they weren't all about action: zombies usually attacked one at a time, and players were encouraged to run away from combat as often as possible. The first few games in the series succeeded because of this sense of vulnerability, and it's something that desperately needs to return.
If Resident Evil wants to make a comeback, it needs to let go of its Hollywood action movie mentality and return to being an actual horror story. Bring back dark corridors and eerily silent rooms, and forget about explosions and one-liners. This is Resident Evil: players should be scared about what's around the corner, not worried about suffering through another lame shootout or quicktime event.
Ditch Co-Op Entirely
You know what's not scary? Having someone watch your back.
Ever since Resident Evil 5, the series has had a strange fascination with tag-team gameplay. Artificial intelligence partners or full-blown co-op gameplay would be welcome in most other series, but Resident Evil is supposed to be a horror game — having an extra gun at your side takes away any sense of vulnerability, and the scares have suffered as a result.
There's nothing wrong with multiple characters interacting with each other, but the idea of playing alongside someone just doesn't mesh well with Resident Evil. The series started out as a solo experience, and it should stay that way from here on out.
Bring Back Old Monsters In New Ways
After years of over-exposure, simple zombies just aren't scary anymore. This may be considered heresy, but there's no reason why T-Virus zombies should make a return. At this point, gamers have gunned down so many undead that there's just no room for shambling bullet sponges in a modern horror game.
That being said, Capcom shouldn't just ditch the series' entire roster of mutated freaks. Classic enemies like the Hunters and Lickers are an intrinsic part of the franchise, and if Capcom could re-introduce them to players in a new and interesting way, there's no reason why these foes couldn't make a return. They're giant piles of flesh and teeth — how could you go wrong?
Combine The Old With The New
The classic Resident Evil games are still scary, but they haven't aged all that well from a gameplay standpoint. Newer Resident Evil games can be fun to play, but their stories and scares are about as lackluster as you can get. So ... why not combine the two?
It worked with Resident Evil 4, and it can work again: Capcom should simply focus on recreating the scares of the classic games in the gameplay framework of more recent titles. Look at Dead Space; it followed that same exact plan and became a blockbuster franchise overnight. Clearly, the formula still works — Capcom just needs to take advantage of it.
Resident Evil used to be the best horror series in gaming — and, with a bit of work, it could be again. Whether or not any of these changes will actually happen is still up in the air ... but, if Capcom is willing to take a few risks, it could bring one of its biggest franchises back from the dead.
There are no solid plans for the next Resident Evil game just yet, but fans should definitely keep an eye on Capcom's booth once E3 2016 kicks off this June.