Resident Evil – A Series That Seems to be on Thin Ice, but Don’t Fret, There is Hope


I’m a big sucker for the Resident Evil video games. Give me the scrawny-turned-jacked Chris, “Made in Heaven” Claire, or even a Jill sandwich, and I’ll be good to go. However, even as a fan of the series, I too have been questioning and am somewhat conflicted with its change of pace and its approach to gaming that it has made in its more recent instalments. In general terms, the Resident Evil series has shifted away from its well-known survival horror aspects and become more focused on action. Sure, making it more of an action game doesn’t immediately make it horrid, as there are admirable features, but the concern is that the series that many have come to know and love now merely exists as a label, and not for what it has done exceptionally well in the past – survival horror.

Many yearn and cry out for the Resident Evil series’ beloved classic survival horror genre to make a return to its roots, even if it’s through HD remakes/remasters of past instalments. Some even consider the series dead due to the more recent instalments. Nonetheless, while I am crossing my fingers and hoping for another Resident Evil game to test my puzzle skills and get my heart racing, I do not consider the Resident Evil series dead. Sure, it’s on thin ice, hanging by a thread, or whatever you want to call it, but with RE: Revelations and RE: Revelations 2, there’s hope for the series and the anticipated Resident Evil 7.

The Resident Evil Series’ Classic Survival Horror

(Editors Note:  In terms of outlining the RE series, the focus will remain on its main games and not the spin-off games like Dead Aim, Outbreak, Operation Raccoon City, etc.)

Resident Evil, first released on the original PlayStation console, set the stage for the series’ immersive survival horror. Gamers experienced a scarcity of ammo, the feeling of an enemy lurking around every corner, limited saves through ink ribbons, limited inventory space with accessibility to a storage box, intriguing puzzles, and a dynamic area to explore and backtrack that gradually expanded as one progressed through the game. What shall never be forgotten, however, is the cheesiest of cheesy voice acting and dialogue.

When RE2 was released, it was a real game changer. Although it inherited the same elements present in RE, it was one new feature that made it unique all on its own – the “Zapping System”. Being able to play through four different scenarios each presenting unique events and choices that affect the next scenario. It was a step in the right direction for the series. Then came RE3: Nemesis, a game that added the ability to dodge attacks, shoot objects like explosive barrels, utilize an ammunition creation system, and occasionally choose between two options that affect the game and story. Not to mention, you also had Nemesis chasing after you throughout the game. A year later we were given RE Code: Veronica, where gameplay stayed relatively the same as RE3: Nemesis, but it was the upgraded visuals, the ability to use dual-wielding pistols, and the addition of a “continue after a game over”, where we saw the improvements.


“…the concern is that the series that many have come to know and love now merely exists as a label, and not for what it has done exceptionally well in the past – survival horror.”

The last game to have a strong focus on survival horror, and keep elements that represented the classic RE series, was RE Zero. Again, largely the same as past instalments in terms of gameplay, there were two new key features: the removal of the storage box and a new “Partner Zapping System”. With the removal of the storage box, fans were forced to drop items on the ground and retrieve them at a later time to create free space in their inventory. The “Partner Zapping System” incorporated the ability to switch (“zap”) between Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen throughout the game to solve puzzles and explore an area. These two new features provided a new approach to surviving in the infected and zombie filled world of Resident Evil.

Even with the tweaks and changes to instalments that came after the first RE game, the games still had survival horror at their forefront. They progressively made changes to improve the experience, instead of changing their approach entirely. Even when implementing game changing features like the “Zapping System” or “Partner Zapping System”, it was implemented in a way that complemented the survival horror genre. Of course, there comes a time where we run out of things to improve and tweak – or at least think we have – which is where things can get a little crazy.

The Choice of Action Over Survival Horror

Starting from RE4, we saw many key elements that made up the Resident Evil series’ classic survival horror formula begin to disappear. In RE4 we experienced a new camera angle, follow-up attacks, quick time events, enemies approaching in hoards, and a section-by-section level design which had minimal backtracking and revisiting areas by choice not possible. While the typewriter was still used to save your game, the function of the ink ribbon was removed. Next, RE5 was released and the changes made in RE4 were still present along with some new features such as a focus on co-op play, vehicle related fights, an abundance of ammo, and puzzles that weren’t as appealing as its predecessors. We also saw the complete abolishment of the saving technique with the typewriter. Finally, when RE6 came along, we witnessed action indefinitely chosen over survival horror. RE6 brought the changes in RE5 forward in addition to even more features, such as herbs transforming into tablets, a completely different inventory style, the ability to tumble, roll, shoot while lying on the ground, perform a quick shot, and the presence of an excessive amount of quick time events and vehicle related fights. It also brought in multiple campaigns that intertwine with one another which served to be quite interesting.

Now, it might seem like I’m pointing out how each Resident Evil game, starting from RE4, became progressively worse than the one before it, which is not exactly the case. What I am trying to point out are the changes each game had, especially changes to elements most prevalent and important to the original Resident Evil games that had survival horror in the forefront.

In RE4 there were a number of changes to the right things that made it a near perfect fit for the time it was released back in 2005. From RE4 to RE5 we saw a relatively nice progressive change, but changes that hinted in the shift towards more action; however, the jump from RE5 to RE6 was so drastic with many changes to elements that didn’t necessarily require any. RE6 is immensely detached from its RE roots that even with the return of key characters from the RE series – Leon, Chris, Ada, and Sherry – it is easily a more enjoyable action game than an enjoyable Resident Evil game. As it stands, this is where I find the RE series to be on thin ice. With that in mind, consider this: people don’t like change, especially to something they adore. Meanwhile, people also don’t like it when things stay the same and become repetitive. So, what’s needed? Something that might seem obvious – A balance and middle ground between change and sameness, action and survival horror.

A Balanced Approach and the Spark of Hope

Although RE: Revelations was released a few months before RE6, it surprisingly debuted on the 3DS instead of a home console. Even more surprising was that it brought back elements prominent in the series’ almost forgotten survival horror genre. We were reunited with features like the scarcity of ammo, the feeling of enemies lurking around every corner, emphasis on exploration, slower paced action, and intriguing puzzles. Even when played on the 3DS I felt a sense of nostalgia with feelings that mirrored the ones I had when playing the original RE games. Running out of ammo and hearing an enemy creeping around a nearby corridor was something I missed experiencing and it finally had returned. Even more so, it showed that a balance between action and survival horror was slowly being grasped and implemented. Eventually RE: Revelations 2 came along and was jam-packed with references to previous games. It presented a sort of hybrid between RE2’s “Zapping System” and RE Zero’s “Partner Zapping System” in which choices and actions made by Claire and Moira effected Barry’s and Natalia’s play through, while also allowing  you the ability to switch between Claire and Moira or Barry and Natalia for further exploration and to solve puzzles. Again, there was a scarcity of ammo, scares I wasn’t  expecting to experience, and the start towards a balanced approach. In addition, it has a storyline that focused heavily on characters and events important to the RE series.


“Seeing elements of the survival horror genre make a return and having action complement them instead of running the show is what sparks my hope for the series and continues to fuel that fire.”

Based on RE: Revelations and RE: Revelations 2, there’s a progressively stronger grasp on the needed balance between action and survival horror that is being realized and acknowledged. This progress towards a balance can potentially change the fate of the RE series for the better. RE: Revelations and RE: Revelations 2 may not be the ideal games fans are seeking, but it seems to be getting closer to the one they’ve been yearning for. Seeing elements of the survival horror genre make a return and having action complement them instead of running the show is what sparks my hope for the series and continues to fuel that fire. As a result, the Resident Evil series is on thin ice, but isn’t dead quite yet.

Whether the series takes a turn for the worst, or the better, in Resident Evil 7 can only be judged once we see it in action. As for me, I yearn for a balance that will bring the series back on track to please not only newcomers, but also the fans that have stuck around from the beginning. At the very least, I hope we can get our hands on remakes/remasters of the original RE games…specifically RE2; however, for the moment, we’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best as we head into the future.