Seriously, how many times can you smack the dying corpse of this game for some easy money?
Yesterday brought the frankly unsurprising news that Resident Evil 4, 5 and 6 are getting PS4 and XBox One ports.
Taking the obvious questionable raised eyebrow to porting the much-maligned Resident Evil 5 and the balls-out unrepentantly lame Resident Evil 6 – games which, to be fair, are archetypes of their time, rather than true classics in their own right – I am struck dumb by the notion that once more, Resident Evil 4 is Capcom’s go-to title to generate hype and revenue. So much so that rather than kick off with Resident Evil 4, like any sane company would (by releasing the games in the correct chronological order), they’re holding yet another port of the title to ransom by releasing Resident Evil 6 first, with a smattering of jeopardy hovering just overhead with the unsaid notion that if Resident Evil 6 and 5 – ports which will cost another $20 EACH – sell like bottled farts in a candle shop, that Resident Evil 4 runs the risk of not happening.
You know what? I’d be okay with that.
I think I’ve itemised over the years that Resident Evil, and by association Capcom in general, has in the last few years suffered from serious developmental fatigue. For all its self-evident virtues, and they are many, trying to get excited over yet another port of Resident Evil 4 is starting to make me weary, especially when Capcom’s ports of Resident Evil games in the past – including the volume of Resident Evil 4 ports, most of which were defined as lazy damn hack-jobs that did nothing to improve a game which definitely has more than a few rough edges of its own that could be filed down (unless you had the old PC version, which fans turned from lazy hack-job into something of actual damn merit) – haven’t exactly been smacking of a company that cares about its product, rather than a company so desperate for monetary scraps that it seems oblivious that the horse it’s smacking about with the money stick has been dead for a while now, and it ain’t coming back to life without some serious magical intervention – although from a franchise about zombies, one would hope Capcom has paid attention to the perils and pitfalls of necromancy…
Sure, the Resident Evil Remake and Resident Evil Zero re-releases in HD were decent; but that’s not to say Capcom did a stellar job on those ports. As I said in my last rant, Resident Evil Remake and Resident Evil Zero hold up today on a pure gameplay front – the distilled essence of the classic survival horror genre permeates through both releases, often blinding ourselves to the games admittedly obvious faults; I like the One Dangerous Zombie mode, for example, but sometimes I want the big shiny infinite ammo gun to just have a balls-out run through the base game without worrying about exploding zombies! Which you can’t do because if you load that save file up for a repeat trip – it’s forced upon you by default, and that is just annoying. The games haven’t been improved on any other way than by touching up the visuals from a time when wide-screen was still more of a novelty than it is today, and in credit to the original releases – I’ve been back to their original forms and both the REMake and Zero are far from ugly games even now. Both have aged well – equally in terms of visuals, atmosphere and base gameplay – so Capcom could afford to dump out admittedly lazy ports and be praised for doing so.
Resident Evil 5 and 6, by token, have aged badly – really badly, even. And there’s no suggestion that Capcom is going to spend any actual time tinkering under the hood of these admittedly superficially attractive games and modernise and improve the base mechanics and suspension of either game beyond upscaling them to 1080p – which, for the record, we could do with both games on PC and as someone who owns both games on PC, may I be the one to point out that it never actually improved either? Resident Evil 5 was just a bit “Meh”; by all accounts for me it was the entrant into the series pantheon that had suggested that people working on it either didn’t get the raw potential of the black comic humour of previous Resident Evil games, or simply didn’t care and ran head-first into the Gears of War uber-serious market which in recent years – especially with Gears of Yore, a.k.a. The Order 1886, failing to set any world on fire – has slumped harder than Enron stock! As for Resident Evil 6; I said before I don’t hate the game like so many others, but I’m the first to admit that the game flails from decent and safe to annoying, tiring and frustrating in a hummingbirds heartbeat in each of the four campaigns on offer which just never sits well – there’s no consistency to it, just a game that throws a load of ideas against the wall in a desperate hope to see what sticks – hoping we’ll ignore the rest of the mess!
Even Resident Evil 4, a game I still love, has aged pretty badly if we’re being honest about this. Sure, the cheesy B-Movie theme is still there, and the knowing humour and often fourth-wall breaking one-liners still elevates the games script far beyond its po-faced sequels. But on a purely mechanical front? Resident Evil 4 suffers greatly from the franchise – and numerous other games in the industry over the years – having borrowed all its best ideas only to run each and every gimmick into the ground, and as I played it again recently I know I had a muffled sigh at each cliché and trope that has become epidemic over the years; the quick-time events, the instadeath, the cheap shocks, the mechanical practice of gating things behind kill X to open Y, the escort system and so much more besides. I still love it; but time has not been kind to the girl, and it’s high time we just admitted that.
I know, of course, this isn’t the fault of Resident Evil 4. It’s a game that first hit the shelves in 2005, and eleven years later its successes were always going to be replicated by an industry that can never let so much as a half-decent idea go. But on new consoles, will any new players be quite as forgiving as those of us who have been there since importing it from the US because the UK market had a delay as wide as Springfield Gorge? Even if they do, I wonder if most of them won’t just find it a mere historical artefact; a curio from a bygone age which is single-handedly responsible for popularising most of the tired, worn-out mechanics and ideas that so many people just see as an annoyance today. Whatever the context you apply; it’s not aged well.
And that’s before you get to how hard Capcom have been pimping out this poor broad; Gamecube, PS2, Wii, XBox 360 and PS3, two different PC ports, android and iOS and hell, even the Zeebo (a console that was pitched at developing markets, which is why you probably haven’t heard of it) – this game has jumped into bed with so many platforms that I can’t imagine that Capcom will let the NX pass it by, and as a word of advice to Nintendo; use protection and get checked for STD’s when its done, alright? Resident Evil 4, in this context, is a running joke and the defining punchline of how to milk something dry – what was once a highly respected entry into the series that dared to reinvent the wheel has been bled dry, and it’s not pleasant to see happening either.
So why does Capcom need to do this at all? After all, it’s going back to remake Resident Evil 2, with an eye on rebooting the series after the last two critically-panned games! Why would they want to re-release the same games which led them down the dark path of having to go back and so much as consider rebooting the franchise?
Well, I’d pin the reason on simple economics – as in, they just plain need the cash!
It wasn’t long ago that Capcom was in a serious financial hole; after a battering at the end of fiscal year 2013, in which Resident Evil 6 was released, it was revealed that Capcom was really strapped for cash – not surprising after the catastrophe that was 2012/2013 for Capcom (and the industry as a whole). Whilst it’s certainly been improving for the company in the last few years, I’d be lying through the hole in my backside if I said that I didn’t think fiscal incompetence has something to do with this current fiasco; quick, we need money! What HAVEN’T we ported yet? *looks at the decaying bodies of Resident Evil 5 and 6* Oh look, fresh meat! *eyes Resident Evil 4* And Biltong! Mmm…
Capcom, seriously, we get it. We really, honestly do. Resident Evil didn’t turn out quite the way you were hoping it would – join the club. But this… *waves hand in direction of ports* this isn’t the way to go about it. Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 need more than just a 1080p facelift; they each need a new heart, liver and kidney! You can doll them up on the outside but we know at this point that they’re rotting from the inside. You can’t just pump them full of steroids and send them out on the track – they’ll still run slowly, wheezing and panting before passing out long before hitting the finishing line. Both games – and even Resident Evil 4, aside the fan-enhanced PC version – need extensive modernisation, which in considering a reboot of the whole franchise you yourselves don’t really seem that sure will actually fix anything of note!
I still love Resident Evil; but it’s a franchise that I admit as a dyed-in-the-wool fan is the best possible example you can pick when it comes to what is wrong with video games today in general. I can’t defend it, because so much of this is indefensible. It’s been a long and weary road for all of us, and the whole point of a reboot – at least of Resident Evil 2 in old-school Resi-Remake style – was to take the sour, bitter taste of both Resident Evil 5 and 6 out of our mouths. Releasing both (as half-arsed ports if Capcom’s history is anything to go by) in a likely attempt to offset the increased development costs for this is kind of self-defeating; we don’t WANT these games, Capcom! We really don’t, and YOU KNOW THIS!
If you, Capcom, really want to re-release anything – try a re-release of Haunting Ground. I’ll buy that without it consciously registering in my brain. Heck, how about Clock Tower 3? God Hand, Maximo, Onimusha – there! Sorry, got it. Capcom, you want to HD Re-Release anything? Onimusha 1, 2 and 3. Seriously, for many of us, our lips will be wrapped around your proverbial naughty bits in perpetuity (just not the fourth one – my gag reflex suppression won’t go that far…). Even more modest stuff like Chaos Legion – I liked it! – and Viewtiful Joe would be great to see back! All of these are PS2 games and Sony has gifted you with PS Now and re-releases of many PS2 games to outright buy an audience that is actually hungry to relive that era and pay for the privilege! I mean, sheesh, you couldn’t ask for a better opportunity; with many of them not even bothering to upscale to modern screen resolutions, you can phone in the ports and STILL be praised as somehow not compromising the original vision!
If money is the objective – Capcom has plenty of games which it hasn’t milked dry yet, and a market hungry for those games. But for some reason, it’s content to just push out the two games which, for so many, signalled the death-knell of the modern Resident Evil series.
And that’s actually kind of depressing.