Hey, does everyone remember survival horror, the genre that the first Resident Evil gave a name to? Resident Evil 4 marked a highpoint in the franchise, and Resident Evil 6 showed just how far you could fall in a console generation. Resident Evil 6 did cross 5 million in unit sales worldwide, but that was 2 million below Capcom's expectations.
Now Capcom is looking to make things right. A month ago, Capcom senior vice president of marketing Michael Pattison made the transition over to Sony Computer Entertainment Europe as vice president of third-party relations. From his new position, Pattison has told MCV that Capcom has learned its lesson with Resident Evil 6.
"We have obviously seen the consumer response and the PR response," Pattison said. "There was some great positives out of that, but it was a mixed bag, as we saw from the review scores. We have got to take that on-board, we can't ignore that, and we have to take that onto the next game when we make the next Resident Evil."
Resident Evil had three different focused campaigns, each with a different story, protagonist, and playstyle. Leon Kennedy's campaign played more like Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil and Resident Evil 5 lead Chris Redfield went through a campaign more focused on action combat. Jake Muller's campaign played like Resident Evil 3: Nemesis with an ever-present foe dogging Jake's tracks. The problem is that each of the three campaigns were aimed at different types of players. Jack of all trades, master of none.
"With Resident Evil 6 specifically, we probably put too much content in there, there were comments from consumers that said it felt bloated," said Pattison. "The Leon missions went down very well, and because we did Resident Evil Revelations on 3DS, there was a cry out for us to focus our attention on survival horror, rather than be too many things to all people. You'll find where we go next will likely be more targeted at our core fanbase."
Pattison pointed to The Last of Us and Tomb Raider as titles showing what consumers want from survival games. The Last Of Us sticks closer to what I want from a Resident Evil game, but I enjoyed Tomb Raider as well.
The problem is that big-budget horror games don't tend to stay horror games for very long. EA's Dead Space series, which looked like the heir apparent to Resident Evil, became more action-oriented with each iteration. Now the series is on hold, so we may never see a return to form. Is the horror genre just not big enough for big budgets?
At the beginning of this year, former Epic Games designer Cliff Bleszinski said that the horror genre doesn't work in the $60 disc-based market. He was replying about complaints leveled at Dead Space 3 for being an action title.
"Generally speaking, the scarier a game is the less empowered a player feels. Controls are often clunky on purpose, and the pacing is quite different from an action movie," he wrote. "In the $60 disc-based market horror doesn't fly - it's the ultimate 'Campaign Rental' that's played for two days and traded in and I'm sure EA knows this. When we're fully digital we'll see more true horror games coming back."
Pete talked about jump scares earlier this week, but for me the pinnacle of survival horror, Resident Evil 4, wasn't really all that scary. In fact, 'survival horror' should focus on the first part of that name: surviving. It's a fine line, and being on different sides of it provides a different experience. There's titles like Silent Hill, where they give you just enough weapons to make you think that you can fight back. (Newsflash: you can't.) There's games like Dead Space 3 and Tomb Raider where you have the overwhelming power to fight back - the action survival horror games live here - and most deaths are because you failed to pull off a move.
And then there's a fun balancing point in the middle: you have weapons, but maybe not enough ammo for them. More power requires taking more risks that may get you killed. The sweet spot is that give and take between power and risk. I think the Last of Us erred on the Silent Hill side, but it was a solid shot at my heart. Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space 2 sit right on my sweet spot. Dead Space 3 lost a great deal of it for me because making the modular weapon system work required making universal ammo. I never had any fear - see how that pops up - that I was going to run out of ammo on my favorite weapon because all ammo would work in it.
So where is the perfect survival horror for you? Is Slender and Amnesia more your speed, or do you want the tools to fight back against the dark?