Alive & Killing

By: Brooks Clarke Editor-in-Chief

Oh, Resident Evil, you’re one of the biggest gaming franchises of all time. You literally changed the way we play video games, with your 3D tank controls on the Playstation in 1996. You gave us hours upon hours of fun with a seemingly unending list of extras in RE2. You introduced the ever-popular Jill Valentine tube-top and mini skirt cosplay with RE3. Most importantly, you gave us one of the greatest games of all time in Resident Evil 4 (though many critics and fans would disagree with the “one of ” part).

Known as Biohazard in Japan, Resident Evil was the first in a new genre of survival horror.

Focusing on suspense and conservation of ammunition rather than simply defeating as many enemies as possible, Resident Evil caused a complete shift in how games could be played.

Remembered as much for its cheesy live action cut-scenes and laughably bad voice acting as creating the survival horror genre, RE1 is loved by gamers for the simultaneous humor of “the master of unlocking” and fear of those damn zombie dogs.

Set in the fictional, twin peaks-esque town of Raccoon City, RE2 (1998) continued the events set in motion in RE1.

The T-virus has spread and caused zombie pandemonium among Raccoon’s inhabitants, prompting the military to quarantine the outbreak.

The true chaos of the situation is made all the clearer by the multiple perspectives from which you witness the degradation of Raccoon and its citizens.

Of course, what made RE2 such a success was the sheer quantity of things to do.

In addition to the two main story lines of Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, two alternate versions of the game become available after completion, as well as three separate minigames: “The Fourth Suvivor,” “The Tofu Survivor” and “Extreme Battle.”

After two hugely successful games, the expectations for Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999) were undoubtedly high. And while it had a shorter development cycle, RE3 was yet another hit.

Running semiparallel to the events of RE2, Nemesis introduced another series first. The game’s titular monster would show up at the most inopportune times and relentlessly pursue you from room to room. Loading screens that once offered some semblance of relief now carried an air of trepidation.

Seen as the black sheep of the series, Resident Evil: Code Veronica (2000 on Sega Dreamcast, 2001 on PS2) is largely viewed in hindsight as, “The last Resident Evil before the really good one.”

And while it is true that, with the exception of replacing pre-rendered backgrounds with 3D environments and improved lighting, RECV didn’t introduce any meaningful changes to a stale formula.

The series’ tank control scheme was long overdue for any kind of replacement, and the mechanic of unlocking doors with inordinate puzzles, while dodging zombies, and managing ink ribbons needed zombification in the worst way possible.

Still, RECV was heavy on ambiance (set in a dark military base and an Antarctic Umbrella Corp. facility) and saw the return of fan-favorite, Claire Redfield.

Set in a nondescript rural area of Spain, RE4 is best known for popularizing the “over-the-shoulder” perspective most third-person games use today.

It was also the first game in the series (technically) not feature zombies. In their stead was a religious cult infected by a parasite called “Las Plagas.” For all intents and purposes, these infected cults-men are just zombies that can run, use weapons and communicate.

Regardless of what you called them, the combination of an entirely new control scheme and more complex enemies were just what the doctor ordered for this aging franchise.

It didn’t hurt that, in addition to the lengthy campaign, later iterations of RE4 featured an abundance of extra modes and content.

While Resident Evil had always featured two protagonists running parallel to each other (with the exception of RE3 and RE4), playing as each character was always a separate affair. With the release of RE5 (2009), gamers could now play through the entire campaign cooperatively.

Widely criticized for ditching any semblance of horror in favor of a more action-oriented experience, RE5 is the most polarizing game in the series. Many of RE4’s mechanics and story progression were implemented in RE5, and that may not seem like a bad thing, gamers had grown somewhat tired of RE4 after its countless re-releases.

Nevertheless, RE5 was a blast to play through with a buddy, and improvements to RE4’s comparatively inhibiting controls and the arcadey Mercenaries mode made RE5 a respectable addition to the Resident Evil name.

Due out for Nintendo’s handeld, the 3DS, in January 2012, not much is known about the actual plot of Resident Evil Revelations.

There’s a plane crash in the snow, and a mysterious boat, but other than that, it looks as though RER will continue to build on RE4’s foundation.

Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine  are back – in wetsuits. So there’s that. Ridiculous door puzzles and zombie suplexing abound, if the last two games are any indication.

There have been a ludicrous number of spin-offs and re-releases in this franchise. Most are hit or miss, but here are a few worth a gander.

On the Gamecube and Wii, there’s the remake of RE1 and RE: Zero, as well as the lightgun Chronicle series. For the PS2, Outbreak and Outbreak File #2 are both forgotten gems. And for the current-gen consoles, Operation Raccoon City (late 2011 or ea rly 2012) looks mildly interesting, though developer Slant Six doesn’t have the best track record.

Anyway, this has been a Halloweentastic look at one of the best franchises in gaming. I know a lot of people were introduced to the series with RE4. So hopefully this will inspire you to go back and check out the games that started it all.