September 14, 2012

Resident Evil

Just finished seeing R.E. Retribution and I must say it was completely undersold by the advertising I wasn't expecting nearly what I got, it was REALLY good. Thinking about it though aside from that is how you make a movie based on a game, a note which all directors should take and film students should learn in class, is that any media popular enough transitions in to another media which is something I hadn't considered prior. While you may think it's high hopes or fantasy that something I make might one day sell in the rank of the various AAA series titles the question comes if that were to happen how would I maintain control over official books and movies? While I have the inherit rights to these things surely I would benefit from allowing these things to be made. Though obviously I would want them to remain true to the core of my material which becomes difficult. Though Silent Hill proves it can be done with an absolute control over who does what and how considering the movie sequel was postponed  because the director was in prison for 2 years yet the contract was so tight only he could make it, something worth looking in to.

So to consider what Resident Evil aka Biohazard did right and wrong over the years and what we might learn from it is also worth looking in to. I remember the early days on ps1 playing with the different control scheme and the real selling point was more the story and the ambiance than the gameplay facts driven home by the fixed camera keeping you from really knowing what's around the next corner and the painful axis based movement. While I may not have ever understood why you needed a key for a wooden door you could break down any number of ways the puzzles themselves were usually clever. The resource management and inventory coupled with the hard to find resources made you value every item you got really convincing you it was a fight for survival and the best option was to always be careful with everything you do because one accident could make the game unforgivably difficult for you. The different perspectives however also made the game something you were bound to play more than once by going through the story as chris or jill and their partners. While the mansion itself is almost a character in its own right it also feels like home after a while. When the first RE movie came out I thought for sure we'd be seeing more of the mansion instead it seems we followed bravo team on their way to their deaths which if you remember were all over the mansion when crhis and jill came in. This is how I knew the RE movies were going to become an amazing series, filling in gaps from the games and remaining true to the core while telling their own story rather than carbon copying the games, just that small freedom makes the movies good in their own right and as additions to the RE universe.

Keep in mind though the movies started long after the first few games had already come out. The sequel to the first game RE2 introduced leon and claire which we didn't see in the movies until much later, leon I think didn't even show up until retribution, and jill disappeared between apocalypse and the end of afterlife though if you've played the games the time slot is filled and we know what happened, and claire showed up in extinction so we did eventually introduce all the main characters. Back to the game it was an evolution of everything presented in the first which really stood out as making clear improvements across the board in a sequel is surprisingly difficult apparently.  In particular it was nice how the survival became more apparent as you suddenly slowed down and held your side while you move because you're in critical condition after a zombie horde attack and then as you strive to find health spray and ammo you're constantly on edge about not running in to any surprises which when they happen can instill terror as you fear for your survival for many different reasons in particular is having to revert to your last save. Thankfully they had the sense to keep the same controls which as annoying as they were just added that slight level of difficulty and more importantly made the game easy to pick up for people who played the first, as having to learn yet another control scheme would've been annoying, this is also true of RE3. Though in fairness while the control scheme itself is the same the controls in and of themselves are refined, more so in RE3 which leaves an impression that they were trying to make everything more fluid.

RE3 brings back a familiar face in a familiar setting but in a completely new perspective as you make a desperate run to escape the city while facing a constant barrage of zombies, the umbrella henchmen sent to deal with them and you and the ever terrifying nemesis mutation constantly hunting down you and your fellow stars members. I found it interesting how they decided to include nemesis in RE apocalypse, something which really gripped me as how they make these connections with the game and draw you in. The game also introduced the ever addictive mercenary arcade mode though I fear at the cost of your standard second character as the game this time is only played from jill's perspective. Carlos doesn't count! Though it's worth noting that the story itself is also substantially improved upon and making an alternate perspective on this may have proven either too difficult or too time consuming to be a viable option for the game which was already spread across multiple discs.

These core games while they stand alone as great games they're made giants by the fact that at the time they were also in direct head to head competition with another giant Silent Hill another great survival horror game competing for the better story and the customers. This competition I'm sure drove devs to push harder and make the games better knowing that they had to beat the competition.

Then there was the big risk of RE4 which proved to be well calculated. The risk was the fact that capcom was basically severing ties with everything you knew about RE up to that point. No longer were you dealing with the T virus and it's effects, the controls and design were changed and while improved the controls were still a little lacking, the story taking place in a completely new environment with a new threat, the only think they really kept was the main character. This drastic change should've almost been a new title however considering the work put in to build a story and a universe around the previous games seemed a waste to just throw away. Sadly not much from the game ever made its way to the movies. Thankfully they at least let you kick doors in this time. One important concept introduced though was a thinking horde zombies that did more than just sluggishly walk and moan about now they're wielding weapons and thinking a little. Though to compensate they had to make a change of camera from fixed position to third person which took away from the tension but in order to allow the player to fight effectively. I for one would've liked to only see the third person in combat relevant situations though in RE4 it's fitting that they kept it persistent as otherwise you'd always know when that may be taking a bit of the thrill out of it. The addition of the action worked well to balance the combat compared to the difficulty it had before along with the survival horror part of the game so you no longer had any reason to blame anything other than yourself for failure or death. Though it also had quicktime events, which is something you should know about me, I absolutely hate quicktime events with a passion. Additionally in this iteration they shifted from simply surviving at all costs to more about just surviving the horror, which may not make sense at first but to give it some context I'll say it's a shift in methodology. Before your survival was based on how well you used your few precious resources now you had quite a repository of resources and it was more about tactics than strategy. It didn't matter how many bullets you had if you didn't know where to shoot making your skills necessary where as before you didn't really need them you just had to know when to shoot rather than where to shoot. This is also reflected in the inventory as you needed to decide what you were going to take with you and how important it was to have, picking the tools for the job so to speak as a poor decision in this area would easily be reflected, even more so in the upgrades. This is also one of the first times the RE series or Capcom itself has had a real technical achievement as the prior games didn't innovate much on what could be done with hardware. RE4 showed really what the gamecube's potential was which admittedly up until that point wasn't much.

As for the movie that was taking place in theory around the timeline extinction was too far away from the source material and it showed. Later in the franchise RE5 has tricell and the world clearly hadn't ended, with the BSAA and such it brings the question does the series perhaps in the upcoming 6 or later ever reflect and join the movie  from which afterlife and retribution are based on? Speaking of which Afterlife was almost a carbon copy of RE5 in truth yet was different enough that I was quite satisfied.  Sadly RE5 was more of a refinement than an evolution and the controls clearly aren't fitting in well with new generation games. While it might be  good game on merit it's a failure as a new iteration or sequel regardless of expectations from RE4 as truthfully it's more of an extension of existing material rather than the innovative next step in the franchise that it should have been. I prefer to look at it as an amalgamation of the past, a glorious homage to what was as capcom looks to the future namely RE6 which I hope will bring a much needed overhaul to the series to bring it not only into the present but launch it into the future. Hopefully they will also bring back the missing horror part of it which was strangely absent in RE5 while the story and design all seem to fit in, it was like RE extinction in a way, it deviated too much, was too bright and open, and wasn't scary in the least bit. It's one thing to improve combat, but a total shift to go straight from survival horror to combat needs appropriate compensation something which clearly wasn't present.

The core games really set the standard for the movies, not the spin offs so while I'll mention them I won't be quite going in to detail like the others, as their merits are based entirely on the core game. The quick rundown is code veronica, code veronica x which the two almost were worth being considered core games, umbrella chronicles, operation racoon city, revelations, outbreak, the mercenaries,  and any others I neglected to mention.

To review simple rights and wrongs: what they did right: design, ambiance, story, characters, inventory system, save point spacing, progressive evolution among sequels while remaining true to core concepts and story. What they did wrong: control scheme, inconsistency among spin offs and later sequels, color palette, shifting genre's without accounting for genre design differences.

For a spoiler to retribution type the konami code.

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