Iconic. I think that’s a fair word for it. That’s right, it’s been 25 years since Resident Evil was released on the original PlayStation, kickstarting the most successful video game horror series of all time. The Resident Evil universe has since expanded into live action films, books and CG features, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon as it hits its silver anniversary.
The first Resident Evil game is widely credited with defining the survival horror genre. It’s also seen numerous remakes and re-releases, proving just what an achievement it was. However, it wasn’t all rosy to begin with. The voice acting and character dialogue came in for heavy criticism for its B-Movie quality, with lines such as “That was too close. You were almost a Jill sandwich!”. Thankfully, it didn’t spoil what was overall an atmospheric and well-crafted horror story.
However, in 2002 the game was rebuilt from the ground up, including fixing the dodgy voice acting. The REmake was released for GameCube under Capcom’s exclusivity agreement with Nintendo (which sadly didn’t exactly fulfill its full potential). All of the original’s iconic elements were intact, along with some new segments of play including surviving several encounters with the terrifying Lisa Trevor. It’s this version of Resident Evil which is my absolute favourite, and still looks brilliant to this very day.
Despite the PlayStation being the home for the Resident Evil series in the early days, the GameCube did see Resident Evil 0 and Resident Evil 4 release exclusively for it (if only for a limited time). Direct ports of Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3 and Code Veronica also came to the system, which did not receive the same treatment as the first game.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica holds a special place in my gaming heart, and (in my mind) was criminally underrated. Of course, the plot and many of the characters were utterly ludicrous, but it was still scary as hell with plenty of nightmarish monsters for you to fend off. It was also great to see Chris Redfield again after so long, and the return of Albert Wesker was welcome despite him going into full comic book villain mode. Always has a trick up his sleeve that one.
It didn’t take much longer before the franchise became widely available across nearly all consoles thanks to the last exclusive game in the main series, Resident Evil 4, going multi-platform. This, as it turns out, was to become the norm going forward.
Talking of Resident Evil 4, it was with this that Capcom catapulted the franchise back to the top of everyone’s wish lists, creating something really rather special. It’s a truly fantastic game, which can legitimately be called groundbreaking. Despite the risky move of shifting the overall feel away from purely survival horror, it paid off big time. Leon S. Kennedy was back, now working for the government, and searching for the President’s daughter who had reportedly been kidnapped by a shady religious cult.
You weren’t fighting mindless zombies this time around: the “las plagas” parasite made the villagers quite clever, as well as turning some of the residents into absolute monstrosities that are hell-bent on bringing you to a bloody end. Standard Resident Evil then, in that sense. There were still puzzles to solve and secrets to find, but there was plenty of serious firepower to get your hands on as you had to fend off more enemies than ever before.
The story was tight, including interactive cutscenes which required lightning quick reactions, which meant that taking a minute to enjoy your cup of tea was certain to end in death. The characters were truly individual, and for the most part menacing (even everyone’s favourite travelling merchant was a bit creepy towards the end). Resident Evil 4 was one of those games where I enjoyed my 20th playthrough just as much as my first, if not more. It really is one of the greatest games of all time.
After soaring so high, the series took a turn for the worse with the next two main games in the series, and sort of lost its mojo. It was with the soft reboot, Resident Evil 7, where we saw once again just how amazing Resident Evil can be. It feels completely separate from the rest of the games, and sees you cross paths with the seriously unsettling Baker family. It’s only at the very end where you’re reminded this story is part of the wider Resident Evil universe, but being set away from it worked really well, all things considered.
Off the back of this success, we were treated to full remasters of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. Both are brilliant retellings of the original stories, however Resident Evil 3 felt very brief compared to its predecessor, and a missed opportunity to really show Nemesis off, oddly choosing to omit some of his iconic moments from the original game. It looks as if a Resident Evil 4 remake is coming next, however this has been delayed for the time being. If I’m honest, revisiting such an iconic game is a risky move, so seeing Capcom take their time can only be a good thing.
It’s inevitable that a franchise as big and successful as Resident Evil is bound to generate spin-offs, a lot of which are well worth your time. Games such as Resident Evil: Revelations, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles are all great fun in their own right, and compliment the main series very well indeed. There have been some duds too. It’s best to stay away from Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, for example.
Away from the video game world (and against my better judgement) I ought to mention the live action Resident Evil films, of which there have been plenty. The current crop has come to an end, but the series is due to be rebooted with a new film called Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, due for release this year. As a huge fan of the video game series, I never got on with the films but they have gathered a fanbase in their own right. I much prefer the animated movies that are set in the same universe as the games, and there’s a new series that looks to be similarly styled coming to Netflix this year.
I could quite easily ramble on about how much I love the Resident Evil series, however celebrations are starting to heat up for Resident Evil’s 25th Birthday, with the next game in the main series, Resident Evil Village, eyeing a May release date. Alongside this and included for free, Re:Verse is a deathmatch game featuring lots of characters from the series’ past. Judging by the hype, it’s clear that the future of the Resident Evil series looks to be as promising as ever. With rumours that more reveals could be in the pipeline as part of the anniversary celebrations, it’s as exciting a time as ever to be a Resident Evil fan.
What would you like to see get announced? Let us know in the comments below.