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Resident Evil: Are they doing it wrong?

If you have look at the Wikipedia entry for Resident Evil 6, you'll notice the game's genre is listed as 'third-person shooter' and not as 'survival horror', which given the series history would seem a more fitting appellation. But if you've played the game, you'll know that that isn't some kind of Wikipedia ninja-edit, since Resident Evil 6 really is an action game, much to the chagrin of long time series fans.

Now, after some careful reconsideration, Masachika Kawata of Capcom is thinking maybe that was the wrong way to go. In a recent interview with VideoGamer Kawata thinks perhaps the series needs a return of focus on “horror and fear.”

Kawata's new perspective is a complete reversal of his opinion that the series needed to move toward an action setting. Speaking with Gamasutra in 2012, Kawata said that especially with regards to the North American market the "series needs to head in that [action-oriented] direction,” adding that there was a “need [for Resident Evil 6] to be an extension of the changes made in Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5.”

In the more recent VideoGamer interview, Kawata revealed that his change of heart was as a result of “user feedback from the last couple of games”. With 3.79 million units sold across all platforms, it's hard to call the game a failure, so it's encouraging that Kawata is still willing to listen to the fans in an effort to give them what they want.

The thing is, I don't know that Kawata was wrong in reshaping the Resident Evil franchise into an action game.

The Resident Evil games have been making a slow - yet organic - transition toward action over the last few years, the focus shifting away from its horror roots and adopting a more Gears of War/Michael Bay approach to it's gameplay. While it's true longtime fans haven't taken to this approach, from a narrative perspective the shift in gameplay makes a lot of sense. Putting aside the convolutions upon convolutions that is the plot of the Resident Evil game, as the plot stands now, it makes sense that the games should change up their gameplay, to match the changes within the game's world.

By now, most of the characters - and by extension, the fans of the game - are aware of the threat the Zombies and the related monstrosities pose, extinguishing the fear of the unknown, a core tenet within the horror genre. With the realisation of what the enemies are in place, it's only logical that some of these character would go on the offensive, especially when you consider their military and law enforcement backgrounds. In fact, the formation of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA), introduced in Resident Evil 5, is a clear sign that series primary protagonists are taking a more aggressive stance now that they know what they are dealing with.

When people grief on Resident Evil 6, calling out it's action aspirations, they are typically attacking the wrong problem. The shift to action was never the problem. The failings the game had having little to do with the decision to make it an action game and more to do with the fact that it was a badly made action game. If we judged the game on it's own merits, absent the Resident Evil name, would we think it a better game? Not Likely.

The problem with the game is that it didn't fully commit to it's new direction, insisting on keeping legacy designs of its survival horror roots. The inventory system, the scarcity of ammo, a lot of those elements seemed forced within the games new dynamic and actually held it back.

If Resident Evil had just gone straight action, we would still have had angry fans lamenting the death of a genre. But in return maybe we would have had a solid action game, instead of the mess of a game the didn't know what it was.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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