As a Survival Horror fan and a huge Resident Evil fan I am constantly hearing from gamers that Resident Evil is no longer a Survival Horror franchise.
The fan boy in me cringes at these remarks, but I must admit the basic themes of this franchise have been through a major revamp.
Progressively, the series has shifted away from its Horror themes. I am not dropping any bombs here and saying Resident Evil 5 is not a Survival Horror game but what I will say is that this franchise is not as scary as it used to be.
5.) Where are the Zombies?
This is the big question fans have been asking since Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil was originally THE ZOMBIE GAME, which made it terrifying. A putrefying corpse that knows nothing but hunger used to scare the crap out of me as a kid. Back in 1996 when the game was released Zombies were scary, now they are a novelty. Which is part of the reason they were nixed from the franchise I am sure.
Instead of Zombies in Resident Evil 4 and 5, we have LIVING individuals who are injected with parasites that attack the brain, making them totally psycho. The parasites continue to grow to the point of bursting from the head, killing the host.
Although the concept of human experimentation is still quite frightening, I think the idea of a foreign entity growing in a person to the point of bursting out of them has been a long time Science Fiction theme. Alien is perfect example of this, although the splat was through the chest instead of the head.
4.) It's a fine line between Sci-Fi and Horror!
Horror and Science Fiction are very closely related genres, and if you have a film with both elements you have to walk a fine line on which theme should be paramount. Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Alien are films with fantastic horror elements, but the Sci-Fi theme's of Futurism, and Space Travel are much more overpowering; deeming them Sci-Fi films.
The Resident Evil franchise has had a consistent Science Fiction theme, one that is a vital part of the main plot line, which is Umbrella Corp. A super secret corporation that specializes in radical experimentation. If you drop the theme of a haunted mansion (or city in the case of Resident Evil 2, and 3), and zombies but keep the theme of a Umbrella - than you have a story based on labs and experiments, which in and of itself (sorry people) is a Science Fiction based plot line.
3.) Survival Horror game = Gore fest
More and more, horror films are getting more violent, and more shocking. Today there are horror films in the movie theater that would have only existed as independent films a few decades ago. Survival Horror is the same - the games in this genre have progressively become more and more disturbing, and if your game isn't truly shocking it's going to lose its street cred.
Survival Horror fans love violence, it is the bread and butter of the franchise but in the past few years it seems Resident Evil has been toned down. It is true that Capcom is trying to reach a bigger audience with this franchise, and the effects are clear. Resident Evil games now play like action shooters like Gears of War, and although both are violent they certainly don't have the feel of Survival Horror.
2.) Location, Location, Location
Part of the strength of the original Resident Evil game and why it was a genuinely frightening, was simply because you were confined to a single space; in this case the Spencer Mansion. The felling of being trapped is one of the oldest themes and most potent of the horror genre.
The idea that there just may be a chance you will never leave that mansion alive added a feeling of dread to the game play. With Resident Evil 5 you have large open and expansive environments that nullify that feeling of being trapped, and ultimately detract from the terror.
1.) Action on Steroids
If you look at any great Horror film - what makes it great is the helplessness you feel while watching it. Whether it is Jason, or Freddy, or a little girl that crawls out of your T.V. set, they all have something in common; they can't be killed! It is this theme of helplessness that is the Horror genre's foundation, and Survival Horror is exactly the same.
With the Resident Evil 4 reboot it is hard to feel helpless when you have Leon S. Kennedy A.K.A. killing machine behind a shotgun picking off crazed villagers like they are those cardboard ducks at a carnival. The same can be said about Resident Evil 5 when you look at Chris Redfield, an all around BA military guy, you don't feel quite so scared playing this game in the dark. The Characters in the Resident Evil games don't seem quite so vulnerable any more, and that is part of the reason the franchise just doesn't quite have the scares it used to.
Don't get me wrong I still love this franchise I just have to except the fact that it has changed, and in some ways for the better. There are still Survival Horror themes in this franchise but it just does not feel the same. What do you guys think?
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