Op-Ed

Op-Ed
The Future of Resident Evil

Phillip Levin | 8 May 2009 16:00
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A ruined metropolis setting, fast zombies, destructible environments -- all these things are great and would likely make a pretty frightening experience. But more is needed to make Resident Evil a truly tense, riveting experience. It might not sound appealing, but a certain level of anxiousness is essential in the horror genre. The gameplay will need to be designed in a way that is focused on scaring you. It would be smart for Capcom to bring back some of the cheap scares that were so common in previous Resident Evil games. The next Resident Evil doesn't need to be overflowing with them, but a few well-placed cheap scares are a good way to keep you on your toes. Never knowing when something might jump out at you creates an edgy atmosphere. Many gamers hate cheap scares, but they can be used tastefully.

The pacing of the game is also integral. I'm not opposed to having hordes of zombies on screen, but I don't like the idea of turning Resident Evil into an action game. I think it should be rooted in the horror genre. So, as far as the Resident Evil 4 and 5 model goes, a couple of things have to change. Both titles gave you a lot of ammunition. More than enough to get the job done. The problem with this is that if you know you have plenty of ammo, that's not exactly going to create a tense atmosphere. I propose that the next Resident Evil make ammo scarcer. Ideally, Capcom would use some kind of smart system that always ensures there's enough ammo around so that you have enough to take on anything the game throws at you, but never so much that you feel totally safe.

One other change that would help create tension would be to get rid of the weapon upgrade mechanic. Instead, have players discover new, more powerful weapons as they explore the game's world. When you go to a menu screen to upgrade your gun, that's just another reminder that you're playing a video game, and the less Capcom takes you out of the game, the better. Also, by having you find new weapons as you progress, Capcom can remain in control of what weapons you have and when you get them. The more control a developer has over players, the easier it is to create the kinds of settings that instill fear. Despite popular belief, linear game design isn't such a bad thing.

Finally, there's the topic of co-op to consider. Resident Evil 5's co-op mode is the best part about the game; it's the reason I played all the way through the title. But I don't know if co-op and horror go together well. How can a game be scary if you have a friend with you? That feeling of isolation and loneliness - that you're on your own, and no one's going to save your sorry ass - is essential in creating the right atmosphere. Co-op kind of defeats it or at least diminishes it. I think it might be wise if the next Resident Evil sticks to just single-player.

When it comes to the next Resident Evil 5, Capcom has a lot of options to consider and several directions it could go. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that the publisher returns the series to its survival horror roots. It doesn't have to be the most terrifying game of all time, but it should be frightening, at least. It'll be disappointing if Resident Evil continues down this road of becoming just another action game. That's not how Resident Evil began, and that's not what it should become. Hopefully, Capcom's reading this and taking this advice to heart. If so, I think the next Resident Evil will turn out just fine.

But of course I'd say that. These are, after all, my ideas.

Phillip Levin is a freelance video game journalist who has been writing about games for seven years. He lives in Southern California and writes for numerous publications.

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