Resident Evil has never been afraid of transformation. For better or for worse, every mainline installment to the long-running series has been a reflection of the era that it was engineered in. To look upon the history of Resident Evil is to see a snapshot of the video game industry's evolution, and through this lens, you can catch but a glimpse of big-budget design at its most ambitious and its most gluttonous.
In more recent years, Resident Evil has attempted to embrace its legacy with one hand and forge a new identity with the other. You see the past respected in the form of Resident Evil Revelations, not to mention the remakes of both Resident Evil 2 and 3: Nemesis. The future coming to bear in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard – a transfixing overhaul that arrived at a time where Capcom seemed afraid of defying tradition. If the recent Resident Evil 8: Village leaks are to be believed, those worlds may be about to collide.
Side note, we're about to touch upon a handful of Resident Evil 7 spoilers. You've been warned.
Look to the future but learn from the past
The Resident Evil 8 details seeping through the cracks are fascinating, both in isolation and within the wider context of the time that they are arriving. If Resident Evil 8: Village is indeed a folk horror experience infused with occult leanings, a return to the type of locations and systems that helped inscribe Resident Evil 4 as legend, and an evolution of the mechanics that recently propelled the series through its most impressive transformation in over a decade, then Capcom could be in a good position to get the series looking forward again after a few years of being fascinated with the past.
While the intent behind the Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 Remake is likely rooted in a desire to leverage our nostalgia for the PS1 era of Resident Evil as much as it is anything else, it's difficult to look at these games and not see them as tests for future creative endeavours. While it's true that Capcom has a litany of internal teams working on Resident Evil games, with traditionally little overlap between them, they are all working towards the same goal – the refinement of design techniques, the incubation of new ideas, and the ongoing refinement of the proprietary RE engine that has been used to power the last three Resident Evil games and Devil May Cry 5. It means that the studio and the teams within it are becoming more confident and capable with the technology, improving asset pipelines, experimenting further with photogrammetry and artificial intelligence routines, and the development of all-new game systems and mechanics.
There's a thread between Resident Evil 7's Jack Baker, Resident Evil 2's Tyrant, and Resident Evil 3's Nemesis. They behave differently but have echoes of one another in the way that they are able to so reliably stalk the player and move across (and often through) their respective environments with intent. With leaks suggesting that Resident Evil 8 has a tyrant of its own in the form of a Witch that is said to wield such unshakable presence that it effectively "haunts" the player, it's possible to look at the work completed in these three titles and get a sense of the horror that could be coming our way in the near future.
Resident Evil 2 Remake was able to introduce pretty incredible limb degradation, with players able to render bones apart with precise shots. Not only was this pleasing, aesthetically, but it served a mechanical purpose too. With it, we were able to better tend to the flock of zombies pouring through the claustrophobic corridors of the Raccoon City Police Department with little more than a limited cache of weapons and ammunition. Decapitating swiping arms would cause enemies to alter their attack routines while forcing others to drop to their knees would create a cascade of foes falling over themselves – the physics and AI systems of 2 Remake are still to be applauded.
The legacy of Resident Evil 4 collides with the spirit of Resident Evil 7: Resident Evil 8: Village leaks suggest that the series is about to undertake a radical transformation
When that didn't work, you could always try boarding up windows to help stop the flow of new foes to fight. The Resident Evil 8 reports suggest that large parts of the 2021 release will take place in a village made up of interlinking pathways filled with hordes of enemies dressed in medieval garb that are able to easily overwhelm the player, forcing you to make smart use of limited ammunition, even barricade off areas while you grab a second to think and develop a new plan of attack.
While the Resident Evil 3 Remake isn't as forward-thinking as either of its predecessors in terms of design innovations, you are able to get a sense of just how capable Capcom is becoming at reliably turning out some of the best looking games in the industry. Resident Evil 3 is visually stunning with some of the most awe-inspiring lighting I've seen in an action game; the streets of Raccoon City easily draw you in with their deft blend of vibrance and viscera. The quality is especially apparent in the all too brief first-person sections of gameplay. The few minutes we are able to walk around Jill Valentine's apartment from this perspective gives a real sense of just how far Capcom's first-person systems and mechanics have come in the three years since Resident Evil 7 landed.
Again, that's great to see, given that Resident Evil 8: Village will reportedly follow in its predecessor's footsteps and be cast from a first-person perspective. If Capcom is able to further its achievements in Resident Evil 7 – smoothening out movement, refining the limited UI, and refining first-person action mechanics – then it will be further vindicated in its decision to stick with this divisive shift to play for the series. It's impressive still to see how incredible the character models are for returning characters. Leon S. Kennedy, Claire Redfield, and Jill Valentine, in particular, look like modern and faithful interpretations of their blocky PS1 polygon counterparts. Given the backlash that was levied at the RE Engine's strange rendering of Chris Redfield in the closing beats of Resident Evil 7, it's great to know that Capcom has since proven itself capable of bringing legacy characters to life should any make the jump to Resident Evil 8 as is rumoured.
Given how preoccupied Capcom has been in recreating past success stories in recent years, it's important to remember that Resident Evil 8 will need to once again get the series looking forwards rather than back. It will likely do this by drastically overhauling many of the key cornerstones of the franchise, just as it did with Resident Evil 7. But even with a desire to take the series in a bold new direction, it's comforting to think that Capcom is taking everything it has learned, iterated upon, and engineered by exploring Resi's past to help secure its future.
Interested in our impressions on the latest release in the series? Well you're in luck, because here is our Resident Evil 3 Remake review.