Monday, May 27, 2013

9 Ways to Save Resident Evil 7

The apotheosis of all theses pertaining to horror was stated in Danny Boyle’s sort-of-zombie-epic 28 Days Later, in which the scientist at the very beginning of the film says, “In order to cure, you must first understand.”

          With that being said, I’ve composed a list of everything that CAPCOM should avoid in Resident Evil 7, and what they should bring into the mix.




          There’s a reason why Dead Space 3 wasn’t as good as the first two; it wasn’t necessarily story or gameplay—it was having a partner to dull the scares. When you step into a survival horror game, you don’t want a partner because it makes things too easy; unless the partner, of course, isn’t armed, isn’t strong, and is important to keep alive—such as Ashley from Resident Evil 4—or are capable of dying, like in Deadrising, and NOT from dying via cut scene, but rather dying because of your own in-game decisions. That would be the only scenario that having a partner—whether armed or not—would be a good idea.

          Hasn’t CAPCOM learned from Resident Evil Zero that we don’t want an AI partner that will make the game easier to play, along with less scary?

          Resident Evil 7 needs to put an end to the partner system, plain and simple. Have Mercenaries be for co-op or multiplayer, because co-op has no place in a Resident Evil game.




          When you think Resident Evil and Zero, you think of a mansion; Raccoon City’s streets and police department is what you think about for Resident Evil 2 and 3: Nemesis; a village, castle, an industrial facility for Resident Evil 4; a boat in Revelations. And then it takes a dive. In RE5, nothing was really distinguishable; I certainly can’t name my favorite location. Perhaps the swamps. But when you think of RE5, you don’t think swamps—you think the shantytown that is . . . uh, what’s the name of the city again? Kijuju? Something like that. (And yes, I’m deliberately playing dumb because I can easily Google the name, but that’s not the point.) And in RE6, get out a notepad and make a list of all the locations—you’ll need a couple pages. Then how many of those locations were significant to the actual story? How many of those locations were interesting? Only a handful. And even if a location was interesting, that doesn’t mean that the gameplay elements were.

          Part of the reason why RE5 and RE6 had the weakest locations (and location designs, mind you), is because it’s pointless to backtrack in either game, pointless to explore. Even though RE4 was a straightforward game (it wasn’t as if you were stuck in the village for the entire game), there was still need (and rewards) for exploring every nook and cranny. Backtracking is good. And it creates incentive for the game developers to put more detail and passion in the actual locations.

          For Resident Evil 7 to be effective, it needs to pick a location and then make it interesting. CAPCOM needs to add some RPG elements to make it necessary to backtrack and find things they couldn’t have otherwise; for instance, if at the beginning of the game there is a crumbly wall and then later on you find grenades and realize that you could blow that wall up, then that is smart game design. That’s also why The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask were so good, and why Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword weren’t as good—because the latter two games had less emphasis on exploration. In Resident Evil 7, I want to find secret weapons, treasures, etc. . . . by exploring, not by following a cookie crumb trail to the next objective in the game.




          What the first several games of the franchise had—and you can’t dispute this—was a moody atmosphere. The atmosphere alone (contributed by a creepy score, of course) made those games terrifying as they were. And then add sound design, creature design, pacing, etc. . . . and, well, you needed to bring along an extra pair of underwear.

          This is where some fans might disagree on. Resident Evil 4. Okay, so the game might not have had a dark, sinister atmosphere as the first several games had, but it did have an atmosphere of its own. And it worked. Perhaps the first few games were the equivalent to hot sauce, and Resident Evil 4 was rich, almost-spicy cinnamon. It was Resident Evil even though it was different; it might have had a different taste, but it had a similar tang nevertheless.

          And then Resident Evil 5 had no atmosphere, and Resident Evil 6 had inconsistent atmosphere in all the campaigns.

          What Resident Evil 7 needs to do is create an atmosphere that creates a mood. The early trailers for Resident Evil 5 hinted at such a mood, whereas the actual game didn’t deliver. And RE7 needs to deliver—whether its taste is different than the other games, it needs to have a tang of horror, mystery, depression, hopelessness.




          I won’t spend much time on this category, but it needs to be addressed. Resident Evil 5 had decent controls (upgraded from Resident Evil 4); Resident Evil 6 had terrible controls. Reason for which: the loose camera that follows the character. It’s sad that I prefer the fixed camera behind the character over the incoherent one from RE6. If I want to see my character’s face, I’ll wait for a cut scene.




          All the best quick time events come from RE4—cutting the rope after the fight with the giant salamander, Jack Krauser’s fight, dodging the lasers, avoiding certain enemy attack, etc. . . . In RE5 and RE6, the quick time events are . . . sad to say . . . gimmicks. RE5’s quick time events are better than RE6’s.

          Resident Evil 7 needs to take a step back and think before doing. It would be awesome to see Chris Redfield having a hand-to-hand fight with a group of enemies and using a QTE to fight through them. But, the quick time events can’t be cut scenes anymore. The Last of Us is what Resident Evil 7’s QTEs need to look like. They need to be intergraded into the gameplay.

          Imagine this (in cinematography terms): During gameplay (not a cut scene) you see (character) getting surrounded by the enemy (whether zombie, human, ganados, majini, whatever). You’re prompted to press “X”—you miss your chance. An enemy damages you. “Y”—you press it and punch an enemy; “B”—you press it and counter an enemy attack and manage to get the enemy in a headlock. ‘Hold “A”’—you hold it, and your character is trying to break the enemy’s arm or neck and the enemy is struggling. Meanwhile another enemy attacks. While holding “A,” you’re prompted to press “RT” (if you succeed, you block the enemies attack and finish breaking the current enemy’s neck; if you fail, you lose your headlock and that enemy is free. Essentially you can choose this method of fighting a lot of enemies, or you can choose to blast them away. It’s an option. There’s pros and cons to going hand-to-hand, pros and cons to using a gun. This sort of QTE would be an optional risk assessment. Do you want to take a group of enemies hand-to-hand (which would save ammo but you’re more likely to get injured)? Or do you just want to start shooting? And even if you want to shoot, you can still apply some hand-to-hand.

          That sort of innovative gameplay is what Resident Evil 7 needs to have. And it serves survival horror. It’s not just mindless QTE that was in RE6.




          A) limited enemies (that don’t drop ammo, that don’t respawn); limited ammo; innovative weapons (not to the extent of Deadrising, but if I don’t have ammo and I see a board of wood, I’ll want to use it).

          B) No more “end of chapters,” instead bring back the typewriter. Or, hey, if typewriters are outdated, then why not send an email on a computer or laptop and that’s how you save the progress? That’s a good modernly relevant solution, isn’t it?

          C) Bring back the “safe room.”

          D) Enemies should be able to break down doors (aside from safe rooms).

          E) The inventory needs to be fixed. As with all the games up until 5, bigger items took up more room; you had to be smart about what items you wanted to bring along.




            The Uroboros from RE5 was way too simple and not scary enough and it never really made sense how Ricardo magically turned into a sea monster because he injected himself with the Plagas on a boat; the C-Virus from RE6 could just do waaaaaay too many things, the mutations were too numerous and inconsistent—even an enemy with a biological chainsaw for a hand. It didn’t make sense how the C-Virus could create zombies, monsters, the Ustanak, and J’avos (which were the same thing as Majini but only looked different). If they really did want a virus that could do all those things, they needed to have had A LOT more in-game documents to read. In fact, RE6 didn’t have any in-game documents. That was a disappointment.

          I think Resident Evil 7 needs to have a novel’s worth of documentation within the game for whatever their “virus” is going to be. Because it needs to make sense in order for suspension of reality to happen for the player. And sure, it doesn’t have to be journals or pieces of paper, but cell phone text messages too. RE7 needs to be modern.




          Bring back the merchant. Enough said.




          Examples of simple Resident Evil plots:

          1) Leon’s sent to a European village to investigate leads on the kidnapping of the president’s daughter; once he finds her, he needs to save her. (RE4)

          2) You’re trying to survive and you discover the story/plot as you play (RE1, 2, 3, ZERO, Revelations)—and most of the “plot” in those games is actually more or less the backstory.

          Here’s an example of a plot that doesn’t make sense (or gets too discombobulated): For some reason the president of the United States is at a university in Tall Oaks and Leon shoots him and he is with a girl who he doesn’t know and Hunnigan somehow knows her and meanwhile there’re zombies everywhere in Tall Oaks; meanwhile, in Russia, Sherry Birkin magically finds Jake Mueller and discovers instantly that his blood is special and that a cure can be made  byusing it and, uh, somewhere else Chris is a captain of a BSAA team and

          (where’s Jill?)

          he . . . I have no idea what his objective is, other than killing B.O.W.s—and that’s the problem with RE6. The plot was WAY too overcomplicated. (And I still have no idea why Simons’ wife wanted to clone herself into Ada Wong and I had no idea why Simons’ wife wanted to kill Simons’ and!—brain!—hurts!

          Resident Evil 7 really needs to tone it down and find a simple story.

          My example of a simple plot:

          In a city a bioterrorist organization holds a group of people hostage and for every day that they don’t get what they want, they’ll kill a hostage and release a new B.O.W. into the city.