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Resident Evil

Entry updated 11 May 2020. Tagged: Game.

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Videogame (1996; vt Biohazard in Japan). Capcom. Designed by Shinji Mikami. Platforms: PS1 (1996); Saturn, Win (1997); rev GC (2002); rev vt Resident Evil: Deadly Silence NDS (2006); rev Wii (2008).

Resident Evil was not the first game that could be categorized as Survival Horror, but it was the game that codified the form. The gameplay focuses on puzzle solution and combat within an apparently deserted mansion overrun by undead Zombies and lethal biological experiments, in a scenario strongly evocative of George A Romero's Living Dead films. The flavour is that of a cult B movie, with cliched dialogue, strikingly poor voice acting and a well crafted atmosphere of unease and intermittent terror. As in many later Resident Evil games, the player is offered a choice of characters, one male and one female. The game is set in Raccoon City, a company town in the midwestern US, dominated by the morally suspect Umbrella Corporation. Members of a local law enforcement team, the Special Tactics And Rescue Service (STARS), are dispatched to investigate an outbreak of murder and cannibalism on the outskirts of the city, and find themselves trapped in the mansion. The narrative is of relatively little importance compared to the ambience, but documents can be found which explain the background as an embedded story (see Interactive Narrative). The player can discover that Umbrella's illegal experiments, intended to create "Bio Organic Weapons", have exposed both humans and animals to a mutagenic agent known as the T-Virus, converting them into animalistic zombies and distorted freaks. The virus is also capable of resurrecting the dead. Ultimately, the surviving members of the STARS team can escape after discovering a secret underground laboratory.

While other members of the Survival Horror school have often adopted a more subtle approach, concentrating on psychological horror, the Resident Evil series has remained resolutely focused on shock effects and horrific monsters. Few changes were made to the gameplay until the release of Resident Evil 4, though the original game's somewhat awkward control system was significantly improved. Resident Evil 2 (1998 Capcom, PS1, TGC; 1999 N64, Win; 2000 DC; 2003 GC, vt Biohazard 2 in Japan) designed by Hideki Kamiya depicts an infestation of Raccoon City by zombies after the T-Virus is accidentally released into the sewer system. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999 Capcom, PS1; 2000 DC; 2001 Win; 2003 GC, vt Biohazard 3: Last Escape in Japan) designed by Kazuhiro Aoyama, Shinji Mikami is divided into two parts, one set before Resident Evil 2 and one after. The players must escape from the contaminated Raccoon City described in the earlier game before the US government sterilizes it with a nuclear warhead, fighting their way past the bioweapon code named "Nemesis". (This game's plot was used as the basis for the film Resident Evil: Apocalypse [2004].) Resident Evil Code: Veronica (2000 Capcom, DC; 2001 rev vt Resident Evil Code: Veronica X DC, PS2; 2003 GC; 2011 PS3, XB360; vt Biohazard Code: Veronica in Japan) designed by Hiroki Katoh, Shinji Mikami is sometimes considered the most entertaining of the earlier games. Set partly on a private island owned by the Umbrella Corporation and partly in Antarctica, it features the Corporation's owning family, who have mutated themselves using the new "T-Veronica" virus (see Genetic Engineering). Resident Evil Zero (2002 Capcom, GC, vt Biohazard Zero in Japan) is a prequel to the original game which explains more of the backstory; uniquely for the series, the player controls two characters simultaneously.

Resident Evil 4 (2005 Capcom GC, PS2; 2007 Wii, Win; 2009 rev vt Resident Evil 4: Mobile Edition iOS, Phone; 2011 PS3, XB360; vt Biohazard 4 in Japan) designed by Shinji Mikami, Hiroyuki Kobayashi made several changes to the established formula, emphasizing combat over puzzles and rejecting slow moving zombies in favour of a fast paced "splatter horror" feel. It is perhaps best described as a Third Person Shooter with Survival Horror elements. At the beginning of the game, the Umbrella Corporation is bankrupt as a result of the Raccoon City disaster described in Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. The player character, a survivor of the incident, has become an agent for the US government. He is sent to Spain to rescue the President's daughter, who has been kidnapped by a mysterious cult which uses a parasitic organism to control the minds of its members. The player must face enemies old and new; there is a great deal of bloodshed. Resident Evil 5 (2009 Capcom, PS3, XB360, vt Biohazard 5 in Japan) designed by Jun Takeuchi, Kenichi Ueda is similar, but makes it possible for two participants to play through the game cooperatively. Set in Africa, it revolves around the activities of another corrupt Western corporation, who have infected the population with a variant of the T-Virus. Resident Evil 5: Lost in Nightmares (2010 Capcom, PS3, XB360) and Resident Evil 5: Desperate Escape (2010 Capcom, PS3, XB360) are expansions for Resident Evil 5 which illuminate previously undisclosed aspects of its plot.

With the release of Resident Evil 6 (2012 Capcom, PS3, Win, XB360; vt Biohazard 6 in Japan) designed by Eiichiro Sasaki, Jiro Taoka the developers moved the gameplay even further in the direction of the model established by Third Person Shooters, while revisiting characters and enemies from many of the game's predecessors in its narrative. While the several segments devoted to different protagonists each have their own style of gameplay, with some favouring escape and others emphasizing puzzle solution or relentless combat, all are centrally concerned with fast paced gun battles between the players and their many foes. Narratively, the various storylines interleave to depict the first use of a newly invented bioweapon, the C-Virus, though the presentation is perhaps overly linear, with many sequences where players have only limited control over events. Melodramatic moments of gruesome excess are frequent, but the steadily building tension and fear characteristic of Survival Horror games are notably absent. Resident Evil 6: Additional 3-Mode Pack (2012 Capcom, XB360; 2013 PS3) is an expansion which adds new options for online player versus player combat.

The sixth major iteration of the franchise performed less well commercially than its developers had hoped, and the indications are that they may return to a more restrained and less combat-focused approach for the inevitable sequel. While the market for Third Person Shooters is an ocean compared to Survival Horror's lake, sales of the series may benefit if it devotes itself to being a big creature in a small lagoon rather than a medium-sized shark in a greater sea.

Related works: Resident Evil: Survivor (2000 Capcom, PS1; 2002 Win, vt Biohazard: Gun Survivor in Japan) is a First Person Shooter, heavily focused on combat, set on a private island owned by the Umbrella Corporation which has been overrun by the living dead. Resident Evil: Survivor 2 – Code: Veronica (2001 Capcom, Arcade, PS2, vt Gun Survivor 2: Biohazard Code: Veronica in Japan) is similar, with a plot based on that of Resident Evil Code: Veronica. Resident Evil: Dead Aim (2003 Capcom, PS2, vt Gun Survivor 4: Biohazard – Heroes Never Die in Japan) is another version of the same basic concept which makes use of a third person view; the story involves an outbreak of a new form of the T-Virus on board a cruise ship. All three of these games have received somewhat mixed reviews. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (2011 Tose / Capcom, 3DS; vt Biohazard: The Mercenaries 3D in Japan) pits players against endless waves of the undead, with gameplay based on an optional mode included in Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5.

Resident Evil: Outbreak (2003 Capcom, PS2, vt Biohazard: Outbreak in Japan) is set during the Raccoon City disaster. The gameplay is similar to that of games in the main series, except that there is no true storyline; instead, the player chooses one of a range of disconnected scenarios. The game includes a cooperative multiplayer option in a temporary Online World; the design of this aspect received mixed reviews. Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 (2004 Capcom, PS2, vt Biohazard: Outbreak 2 in Japan) is similar, adding five more scenarios. Resident Evil Gaiden (2001 Capcom, GBC, vt Biohazard Gaiden in Japan) is an action game played in a two-dimensional overhead view. The player controls an agent of an underground anti Umbrella organization who is sent to an ocean liner which has suffered a T-Virus outbreak. The game ends on a cliffhanger which remains unresolved.

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (2007 cavia / Capcom, Wii; 2012 PS3; vt Biohazard: Umbrella Chronicles in Japan) designed by Masachika Kawata recapitulates the most important events of the series before Resident Evil 4, perhaps in the hope of introducing new players to the backstory. The Umbrella Chronicles plays quite differently to those earlier games, however; participants essentially reenact combat scenes from several previous works. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (2009 cavia / Capcom, Wii; 2012 PS3; vt Biohazard: The Darkside Chronicles in Japan) is similar, but is based primarily on the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica; it also serves as a prequel to Resident Evil 4.

Resident Evil: Revelations (2012 Tose / Capcom, 3DS; vt Biohazard: Revelations in Japan) plays similarly to the earlier games in the main series, with a focus on shocks and puzzles rather than combat and gore. It is set between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, on a cruise ship which has been contaminated with a marine version of the T-Virus. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (2012 Slant Six / Capcom, PS3, XB360), on the other hand, is a Third Person Shooter which emphasizes gunplay in its depiction of the actions of an "Umbrella Security Service" team at the time of the viral outbreak seen in Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. Reviews of this latter game were somewhat mixed.

Five live-action films have been made based on the franchise: Resident Evil (2002), Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) and Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), all of which could be said to reuse images and themes from the games in the service of a different, and rather less coherent, vision. They have all received notably mixed reviews. Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008) and Resident Evil: Damnation (2012) are computer-animated films which, unlike their cinematic relatives, are part of the same continuity as the Videogame series. The former uses characters from Resident Evil 2 to tell a story which largely reiterates that game's themes, but is set after Resident Evil 4, while the events of the latter occur between Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6.

Several spinoff novels have been written by S D Perry. The Umbrella Conspiracy (1998), City of the Dead (1999), Nemesis (2000), Code Veronica (2001) and Zero Hour (2004) are novelizations of respectively Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3, Resident Evil Code: Veronica and Resident Evil Zero. Caliban Cove (1998) and Underworld (1999), also by Perry, are original novels within the franchise, sequels to The Umbrella Conspiracy and City of the Dead respectively. Resident Evil: Genesis (2004), Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) and Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), all by Keith R A DeCandido, are novelizations of the first three live-action films, while John Shirley's Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) is based on the fifth. Several spinoff Comics series have also been published, including the five-issue Resident Evil (1998), the four-issue Resident Evil: Fire And Ice (2000-2001), the four-issue Resident Evil: Code Veronica (2002) and the six-issue Resident Evil (2009-2011). [NT]

see also: Triple A.


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