ONCE UPON A TIME…
In my last editorial about the intersection of capitalism and COVID-19, I discussed the potential demise of the gaming studio Naughty Dog. In lieu of that discussion, I’ve also been catching up on my current horror games and the Resident Evil franchise comes to mind in regards to depreciating potential. We’ve received a bevy of remakes from Capcom to whet our appetites prior to the release date of Resident Evil 8. The remakes of the first three games within the franchise have all been a mixed bag and the reasons for this are the constraints of the original storylines, an unwillingness to expand the world of Raccoon City, and making every bit of additional content a monetary transaction. Once upon a time, games for various consoles had almost unlimited hours of potential playability with un-lockable characters, side-quests, different gameplay paths, etc. etc. The emphasis was high on style and appearance to be sure, but the crux of every game was its staying power in the hands of the player.
UN-POPPED POTENTIAL AND GREASE.
Now, let’s talk about my distaste with current video games. A lot of video games now more than ever are like a bucket of popcorn. Hot, salty, and titivating until you reach the bottom where there’s nothing but kernels of un-popped potential and grease. You can go ahead and leave the gaming experience to go get that refill — if it doesn’t cost something — like your time or sanity first. Shopping for games is like going to the grocery store. (Sidenote: Social distance and make sure to wear your masks and gloves please.) You initially went in there for something but the display tables always beckon the eye and your wallet. There’s a reason for this rapt excitement because we want to be wholly satisfied with our purchase and there’s a push from the powers that be to put that item in the front of the store for sale. Eventually, your game will depreciate, unless it’s a masterpiece and stay in heavy rotation like Resident Evil 4, but until then it will join the back of the shelves or the rubbish pile like all of the other pieces of merchandise. Other AAA title games are no different, and there are scant exceptions to this rule.
I’m dismayed that after having completed the remakes that perhaps we were unwittingly preyed upon for quick capital to ensure a safety cushion for the other IPs in Capcom’s library, to include Resident Evil, but that may be a reach on my part. Allow me this moment to put my tinfoil hat on and be suspicious because we’ve been burned by gaming studios before, but I digress. There was a lot to visually enjoy before all of the Resident Evil remakes’ released and our nostalgia meters were going off the charts. We salivated over early trailers and gameplay footage that was crisp, polished, and gory in the most beautifully stylized way we’d ever seen from the franchise, not discounting Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. When the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remake finally debuted, did the game truly live up to expectations or were we just allowing hype to sate our collective palates? I wasn’t particularly overwhelmed with rapture upon its completion or ready to sink my teeth into infinite replays afterward but the larger gaming public’s reaction towards its ‘reimagining’ was overwhelmingly positive. The praise for the game was momentous at the time, but like most things that are all the rage, the swell of adulation eventually dies down to be replaced for the next hottest console experience on the menu.
Games of this current generation oftentimes fall into two camps — endlessly playable or a great dust collector. Moldy too, if we’re keeping the Resident Evil metaphors going. Sadly, all of the remakes have transitioned into the latter category. The games’ flavor has tapered off, the hype train has run out of seasoning, and it has become a blink and you miss it special of the day. Yes, the games were indeed delicious remakes but they had limitations that kept them from the annals of greatness, where their potential originally lie. Graphically the games have been stunning, but the repetitiveness of the backtracking with no new un-lockable locales oftentimes made the games a chore to chew especially with the story modes for Leon, Claire, Jill, and Carlos. There should have been an impetus placed on fleshing out Raccoon City and making the entire world navigable rather than sandwiching every area between gorgeously rendered cutscenes. It would behoove the creators of the Resident Evil series to extend the microwavability of their games because the packaging formula of their titles has become stale and expected. Story mode, the game ends. Costume changes for 100% completion. Wait a few months or years, DLCs release. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Would it hurt the games to have some side-quests or something new for the audience to sample? The games have also suffered by feeling dated or ironically not feeling dated enough. This could be a side effect of style over substance and trying to eke out cool points by proxy of its remake status. One of the reasons the original games felt so nerve-racking was the limited inventory and weapons cache available. The carryover of rocket launchers, quick-time events, and so on from the modern Resident Evil games have inadvertently bled into these remakes and sadly not for the better. Also, well-worn media tropes from bygone eras are still sprinkled throughout. Do you recall those moments during the cutscenes where dialogue made you cringe? Well, jokes and realistic conversations are like cakes that either rise or fall flat due to improper baking technique or opening the door and letting all of the heat out. Writing is an art form — I should know — it takes practice and editing, but for goodness sake please no more one-liners and stilted interactions.
AN APPETIZER OF THINGS TO COME.
I’m proudly addressing my almost thirty age status here and I remember swallowing those writing moments then and folding them into my napkin now. Nostalgia certainly didn’t help those moments go down any easier either. I’ve made peace that the Resident Evil remakes are akin to that novelty popcorn bucket from the cinema filled with moments from a by-gone era that were fleetingly satisfying and memorable that hit our tastebuds at just the right time….and I guess that’s okay. I wish there were more to these games, but alas they are only meant to be an appetizer of things to come with the new graphics engine. There are a lot of other games in the sea, as it were, but I thought that time would satiate this particular craving for something bountiful. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see if Resident Evil 8 is another carte du jour with the same fare. Just in case, I’m hanging onto my receipt for a refund and I won’t entertain that free refill on the way out.