It looks like Capcom has heard the voices of their fans, and are responding with a new promise - to make Resident Evil not suck anymore.
Resident Evils 1-4 are widely accepted as some of the best games in the survival horror genre, because that's what they are - survival horror. RE4 started a shift in the series that was initially well received by long time fans, and added some much needed changes. The control scheme was overhauled so that you would move the same direction that you moved the analog stick, not have to turn and push up. Aiming was streamlined and made easier with the inclusion of the laser sight, and a new full range of motion. Suddenly what used to be a frustrating experience of aiming high, aiming low and depleting entire magazines became fluid and smooth. Resident Evil 4 was what fans wanted, and also allowed for the developers to take some risks, try new things and evolve the series. Then they got a little bit carried away.
Enter Resident Evil 5 and 6. This is where Capcom started to get lost along the way, and the franchise began suffering a major identity crisis. The gameplay changes introduced in RE4 started a shift towards a more fast paced, action oriented experience. It still contained enough survival horror elements to keep you on your toes such as limited ammo, overwhelming numbers of attackers and, of course, that scary dude with the chainsaw. With RE5 the series began to shed its survivor horror skin, and commit fully to becoming a shooter.
Going into RE5 it felt like Capcom had a meeting and asked, "How can we make this game feel more like Gears of War?" Add a partner? Check. Add more enemies per area? Check. Ridiculous "action" sequences? Check. Stupid looking, roided up protagonist? Check. Chris Redfield has always been a beloved character in this franchise, and suddenly he's jacked up and his muscles have muscles on top of muscles. In hindsight, everyone probably should have known the series was veering off course with those early promotional images that looked like something straight out of a Spawn comic. Once you actually start playing the game it feels like the developers took everything that you loved about the previous game and just went ape shit with it.
It didn't feel like survival horror. It didn't feel like action horror. It just felt like a run of the mill shooter. With Call of Duty breaking records that were set by the previous installment of Call of Duty, the first person shooter was taking over. Action. Action. Action. That's what people wanted, and the games with the most mindless action were selling out left and right. This zombie "culture" is something that has also exploded in the last few years. Call of Duty had its popular "zombie mode," games like Dead Rising and Left 4 Dead were on the shelves, and each had what? Action, and lots of it. So what does Capcom do? They pander to the masses.
It's a move for which they can't really be blamed. Gaming as an industry is bigger now than it has ever been. If you have a franchise that's been around for almost two decades then you're going to need to find new, and invigorating ways to keep it relevant. Metal Gear Solid and Mortal Kombat come to mind. Not everyone hated Resident Evil 5, but everyone seemed united in thinking that it was inferior to the Resident Evil 4. Some things were good, some were terrible. RE5 wasn't enough for most to turn their back on the series - they just needed to keep what was good, and scrap what was bad. Then came Resident Evil 6.
The early images of Leon Kennedy traversing an eerie, zombie infected college campus. Chris Redfield in the chaos of China. Holy crap, is that Wesker's kid?! Alright, let's do this. Then the first trailer comes out and Leon has to shoot a zombified President of the United States. Hell yes! This is going to kick so much ass. Nope. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...I'm probably not going to buy anymore of your games. I was hoping that it was just a bad demo, because that happens all of the time. Then the game was released and...GODDAMNITSOMUCH!
Seriously Capcom, what the hell? This is not Resident Evil. Sure, these are all of the character we've come to know and love over the years. Sure, these are similar plot and gameplay points...but a [expletive] jet sequence? For real? Like I said, you have to evolve your franchise to remain relevant, but at what cost? Also, with how terrible the experience of playing Resident Evil has become - can it really be consider an "evolution?" You see, evolution is a mystery. Playing the last two Resident Evil games is like watching the final four fights of Muhammad Ali's career.
Now there is talk of "fixing" Resident Evil from Capcom, and the possibility of a reboot. Because if there's one trend more popular than "horde mode" style of gameplay - it's the reboot. For once, I'm not uneasy about the idea of a reboot, and encourage it. When they released the remake of Resident Evil on the Gamecube it was awesome. They kept everything that they needed, changed a few quirks here and there and added some new material to keep it fresh. A full-scale reboot? Imagine the possibilities. Hell, the Tomb Raider reboot looks pretty damn good. Capcom has recently said that they want to return Resident Evil to its survival horror roots, and what better way to accomplish this than by a reboot?
The plot of the series is already convoluted and ridiculous. There's always a new virus, a new Umbrella and Albert Wesker never really stays dead. Code Veronica did some interesting things to try and flesh out the backstory of Umbrella and genetic experimentation, but it's a tiresome plot device at this point. G-virus, T-virus, Las Plagas, C-Virus, Las Plagas/Virus hybrid. Ugh, enough. Just burn it down and start over. I'd rather see a reboot/fresh start than see Resident Evil 7: Deus Ex Machina on the shelves.
The potential is there. Remember the early footage of Resident Evil 4 when it looked spooky as Hell? Let's start heading that direction. Remember back when ammo was precious, and you saved your six magnum rounds for bosses? More of that, less of, "Oh here's a machine gun to mow down hordes with." Just think of all the directions that the reboot could possibly take. Maybe a retcon of the mansion scenario, but I don't know if I'm ready to go back there after how many games it's shown up in. They could start with Racoon City as the outbreak is occurring By the time Claire and Leon get to there in Resident Evil 2 it has already been devastated, but what if we got to play as things were going to Hell? Leon's first day on the job, and he has to respond to various disturbances as zombified citizens are running amok. Then by the end a mass evacuation, and a confrontation with the military as the nuclear warhead is about to destroy Racoon City. That would be an interesting way to do it, but the possibilities don't stop there.
Maybe they'll retell the story we all know, or maybe Capcom will completely redo the story. We might see Barry again, we might not ever go back to the mansion. We might get to see Racoon City as the virus outbreak begins. There might not be a virus at all. Umbrella could be in it. Or they could be completely excised. If Capcom is serious about getting the games back on track there are several paths they can take. The one thing they need to keep in mind though is less action, more horror.