A franchise of ups and downs
As the year comes to a close, it is normal practice for a gamer to think ahead to the future, and in particular, which of their favourite developers will make their mark on the next year.
For horror fans, many will look towards the developers of the franchise that birthed survival horror on the PlayStation. Resident Evil has been around for nearly 25 years, with some considerable highs and dismal lows.
Innovating survival horror on consoles with a claustrophobic setting and plethora of spine-tingling enemies to dispatch, the first Resident Evil proved to be a hit and like most hits, a trilogy emerged. The first 3 Resident Evil games were serviceable and dominated the once naked and now saturated horror market on the PlayStation. For the time, they were great, but if you play them now, you’ll find they have aged about as well as that unfinished corner shop vodka in the back of your cupboard.
After releasing the Resident Evil: Survivor games, a shameful attempt to grab at the popularity of on the rails shooters such as House of The Dead, using their Resident Evil formula to inject dinosaurs into horror with the Dino Crisis games, and a really good sequel in the form of Code Veronica (Code Veronica X to us PS lovers), Capcom declared the fourth entry of the mainline series would be gracing the PS2.
It would take a while for us to actually get the fourth game mind you, with the game going through so many changes you could call it a Kardashian. We can thank the long development for bringing us hack ‘n’ slash series Devil May Cry, another example of Capcom’s ability to turn off cuts into a franchise. Long-story-short, we were given the dismal Dead Aim, another rail-shooter, and the criminally underrated Resident Evil Outbreak games in order to quench our first for zombie shooting fun.
When Resident Evil 4 eventually emerged, it was worth the wait, it boasted seismic change to the gameplay, and in this instance, change was good. And well-needed. The game has achieved Skyrim status, in the sense that it has been released on pretty much every console since the PS2. Like the Undertaker in WWE the longevity of the game has seen it make an appearance in each generation of the PlayStation thus far (Except PS5, more on that later).
What was the legacy of Resident Evil 4? Despite the cult-classic status of the game itself, it has garnered quite the criticism for setting the precedent for its sequels, with the change of emphasis seeing the game evolve into a Hollywood action thriller instead of atmospheric horror. If Resident Evil 5 can be seen as dipping its toe in the new genre then 6 will be justifiably accused of jumping in with concrete shoes. Now it’s not to say these games were bad, I for one quite enjoyed them. But with change comes disdain.
What didn’t make the situation any easier for Capcom, was the release of games like Operation Raccoon City, a lacklustre and uninspired third-person shooter with the branding slapped on it to drive sales. The general consensus among fans was that the franchise was dying. The only time Resident Evil games seemed to be good, was when they were the old ones being re-released in HD, except of course for the chronicles games, Capcom’s final attempt at trying to tap into the rail shooter market.
The Revelations games were good enough to show that Resident Evil wasn’t completely dead in the water, but fans clamoured for a return to the horror that endeared them to the franchise.
HD remasters of the six mainline games and Resident Evil Zero on the PS4 saw the franchise retain relevancy, we shall ignore Umbrella Corps, before the release of the seventh entry in 2017. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard reignited the fire of support for the franchise with the Beginning Hour Teaser (A bit like PT) providing fans with the first taste of true RE survival horror in years. The hype for the game among horror and RE fans alike was palpable as the game promised, much like RE4 before, to overhaul the gameplay and give us a blend of fresh and familiar. The game’s change in style saw a foray into the possibility of Resident Evil with PSVR, and much like the Beginning Hour, the Kitchen demo gave birth to hype for the prospect.
After Biohazard defibrillated and resuscitated the interest in the series, Capcom’s next move was paramount to the future. It was just a case of waiting for the 8th entry surely.
Attention in the fandom for this time was diverted to rumours and hear say, and fans began to give an in-depth look for clues with regards to the next steps. One significant point was the prior statement from Capcom about the status of a potential Resident Evil 2 Remake. In 2015, Capcom had made a statement on the project stating that the development was green lit. To fuel the fire, an independent team who were developing a fan project named Resident Evil 2: Reborn (A from the ground up remake) were called in by Capcom and asked to detach all links to their IP (The project eventually released as Daymare 1998). Despite this, the fact that the game was originally meant to be remade in 2002 but never was due to the intention to keep the spotlight and attention on Resident Evil 4, meant that the rumours were always going to be met with “I’ll believe it when I see it” mentality.
The patience of fans was rewarded in 2019 with the release of Resident Evil 2 Remake. Making use of the RE Engine of Resident Evil 7 the remake was a completely fresh experience made from the bones of the original. If Biohazard was the defibrillator to the IP then Remake was the adrenalin shot to propel it forward, it was a commercial and critical success and acted as the ultimate fan service for those who had patiently waited and anticipated its release. Almost immediately after the release, the hungry fans anticipated what was next, and they demanded it. Attention shifted to the idea of Resident Evil 3 Remake and what it could bring to the table, and Capcom sat atop the list of developers who had the world at their feet.
An announcement came, and the fans were given Resident Evil: Resistance. The game promised to be a standalone multiplayer project, and although this was a deflating announcement to be made, it gained traction, because it had the Resident Evil name on it and recent success had replaced the bad memories. As gameplay and details were revealed more and more for Resistance, the disappointment increased. Until fan demands were answered. R3MAKE had been announced, and Resident Evil: Resistance was confirmed to be added to the game as the multiplayer mode. Resident Evil 3 Remake was released in 2020 to more commercial success, even despite the ongoing pandemic. Although the game didn’t quite reach the lofty heights of RE-Make 2, the game was still a step in the right direction.
Resident Evil 8: Village was the next game to be announced and with different trailers and gameplay features being released slowly but surely not only is the hype train for the 2021 PS5 release well and truly up and running, but now the rumour mill has started to turn for what the game means for the future of the franchise.
So far we know Netflix is giving us an animated Resident Evil feature, as well as a live-action series and we have a reboot to the Resident Evil movie franchise coming next year. But not much is known of what’s coming for the video game series.
So what of the future? Whilst it remains bright and Capcom has all the power in their hands, there isn’t much to go on about what’s next for the franchise in the long run.
Resident Evil 4: Remake
Rumours of a remake of the 4th entry have circulated for a while now, the most prominent of which after the release of R3MAKE earlier this year, where it was speculated via development sources that Capcom had greenlit the project. We know that Capcom have stumbled onto a proverbial goldmine with their remakes, with a back catalogue as expansive as theirs you will find gamers in the Resident Evil fandom each with their own opinion as to which entry they favour for the brush of modernism.
Due to the significance that Resident Evil 4 holds to the history of the franchise, and the fact that the game at present has started to suffer the effects of old age, it remains only a matter of time before the game’s remake gets churned out surely. The idea persists that we could possibly see it’s release in 2022, that would make it the first Resident Remake to make its way onto the PlayStation 5. Of course, this remains a rumour at present time, with no official word from Capcom as of yet. All the same, we can see parallels between the upcoming Resident Evil 8 and the locales of Resident Evil 4, and we are aware that the studio loves to recycle their assets (RE7 and RE3 both involve the same mechanic of car and antagonist for example), therefore it isn’t completely beyond the realms of doubt that we could see a lot of the Village assets from the 2021 release reused in RE4.
Resident Evil Code Veronica: Remake
When the rumours of the RE4 being remade began to circulate, the Resident Evil community divided into separate groups. Some were all for the idea, some were very against the idea and then the rest wanted the game to come out, but only once we had seen Code Veronica get put through the RE Engine.
Physical collectors have harped on for years as to why there has never been a hint at the idea of getting CV for their physical PS4 collection (despite the game’s release on the digital marketplace); so much have the complaints been made that independent traders have been making money selling digital codes of the game with homemade physical boxes, of course, these aren’t official, but desperate times, hey.
When it comes down to it, the game definitely needs the remake treatment as well, it still suffers from the same old age that the original trilogy has suffered, to a worse extent than RE4. The issue with this is, where would this release fit? The concept of Code Veronica remade is a PS4 concept, and as we face the dawn of the PS5 and the dusk of the PS4, would Capcom consider this a business decision worth making.
Now, although the general idea is that Capcom may not deem the idea of a Code Veronica Remake feasible on the PlayStation 4, there are rumours surrounding the possibility of the project on the PlayStation 5. After the combined success of their previous remakes and the demand from fans for more it makes sense that there would be more to come in the next generation. If rumours are to be believed and all goes well, then the plan for Capcom would be to release Resident Evil: Village in 2021, The RE4 remake in 2022 and Code Veronica’s remake would be given a 2022 window.
Resident Evil 3.5
I know what you’re thinking, what is Resident Evil 3.5? It is the name given to the prior builds to the Resident Evil 4 that was released, in the build between the 2001 announcement and the 2005 release the 4th entry had gone through quite the metamorphosis. Multiple builds of the game littered development before we got the final version of the game.
Originally there was a game in development in 2000 but that game was cancelled, eventually developing into Devil May Cry. Then announced at the TGS 2002 Spring Expo, we got our first announcement, this version was named Castle. The game promised the return of Leon Kennedy as the main lead, revolving around the origin of the Progenitor Virus, Oswell Spencer’s castle (hence the build name) and more. This build was being developed by Production Studio 4 alongside the Resident Evil Remake. It can be otherwise known as the Fog or Mist version.
The principle was to feature Leon infiltrating a European Castle belonging to Oswell E. Spencer part of a larger US-STRATCOM assault. Coinciding with this assault is an attack by the H.C.F on the estate, unleashing a new bacteria sized virus into the fight, with both forces destroyed in the attack. Leon escapes death, but he finds himself infected with the virus. Over time Leon was to discover the origins of the Progenitor Virus. The backstory saw the virus discovered in the corpse of an ancient human by archaeologists exploring the castle. This gave Spencer the ambition to begin his virus research. It has also been said that there would be a side plot involving a female partner character waking up from her sleep in the castle and exploring it with her BOW dog. One of the notable areas that were shown in the version was a flying airship.
The gameplay saw Castle using 3D settings instead of the pre-rendered backgrounds which were made use of in previous games. Castle was first unveiled at the Tokyo Game Show 2002 Spring Expo, with Hiroshi Shibata attached as the director. The story was to be written by Noboru Sugimura and the writer of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Yasuhisa Kawamura.
Castle was scrapped after running into a series of development issues. An example of this was that a proposed “Black Fog” enemy was proving too difficult to animate on the GameCube. This same problem was also encountered with the Uroboros enemies in the later Resident Evil 5, but was resolved by developing a new animation technique. Following all the issues they scrapped this scenario and restarted development. Sugimura handed the scenario draft off to Production Studio 3, and they changed the focus to the unnamed girl and her dog. The resulting game, named Haunting Ground was released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2.
During the development of Castle, a second build called Hallucination spawned. Capcom showed this version at E3 in 2003. This build featured dolls coming to life in Leon’s hallucinations and were enemies to fight. The version relied on assets used from the Castle version. This version was also known as Hookman, named after another proposed enemy, shown in the E3 demo.
Hookman was described later as an experiment and there was no back story to the enemy, with the developers looking to make Resident Evil 4 scarier and drawing inspiration from the Lost Souls movie. There was a second concept where Leon was hit with an unknown disease and started to experience hallucinations of monsters that weren’t actually there, where he could attack them, but do no damage.
Aside from these details, there isn’t much known about the plot of Hallucination as the version was scrapped before the script could be completed. Its believed that it would have included plot elements originally intended for the Castle version, with developers using the existing assets. Leon is infected in both builds, although the hallucinations is a concept new to this version. The concept behind the enemies was that they were to have a pseudo-paranormal origin, with them only being monsters in through Leon’s minds-eye. The E3 demo showed off ideas such as living dolls and a hook-armed ghost coming out of a portrait, these were potentially conceptual only to demonstrate the idea of hallucinations.
The gameplay footage of Hallucination found itself comparable to Castle, with the camera operating in the same way as Code Veronica and Outbreak. Leon’s handgun features a red laser sight (also used in the final product) and he carries a flashlight. A dodge mechanic also appears in the game, similar to the one used in the release version, but where Hallucination differs is with a parry mechanic where button prompts allow the player to parry an enemy’s attack. No HUD or inventory menu was displayed in the Hallucination demo. When Leon’s health is damaged, the word caution flashes on the bottom right corner of the screen to highlight Leon’s situation. It would also appear that throwables would have had their own dedicated button, as we see incendiary grenades thrown at the living dolls without requiring menu selection. The locations revealed included a Doll Room, Armour Room, Bathroom, Taxidermy Hall, Storage Room and Dining Room.
The final proposed version before the Resident Evil 4 we got reportedly featured zombies as enemies once again, following the cancellation of the Hallucination build. Not much is known for this build as it was never shown publicly, though we were given a release date for quarter 4 of 2004. Zombie was seen by staff members as a return to the franchise’s standard formula; Shinji Mikami had become highly critical of this build for boring fans with repetition. There was set to be a new type of human enemy, being referred to as Dabamen. Soon after the project began, Mikami took over the project and began working on the release version. It is believed that the Dabamen were recycled to the Ganados. Fun fact: Daba can be defined in Japanese as pack-horse, whereas ganados is Spanish for livestock.
Similar to Resident Evil 2 Reborn, an independent developer named ShiguWorks attempted to create a remaster of these builds named Project Madman. A demo for the game was released but they have recently announced they will not pursue the development of a full game due to the risk of using a Capcom IP, with the proposed idea going back into development hell. The Resident Evil community actually backed the idea of these builds eventually being developed into a new game as they liked the idea of a Resident Evil title with more of a supernatural theme. Remakes have gained more traction in recent years as we have seen more and more introduced the world of gaming, and this is another example of the route that Capcom can take when they are producing the next steps to their franchise. Looking at the wider landscape of entertainment in general, we have seen an influx of the idea that enough fan support and demand can force the hand of studios into realising the original vision of the creator, seen with the released movie Deadpool and the upcoming Justice League: Snyder’s Cut out next year. So could we see Resident Evil 3.5 emerge as an official release in the coming future? Only time will tell.
Resident Evil Outbreak Sequel/Remake
A leak earlier this year from a reliable insider saw rumours of a Resident Evil release to precede Resident Evil 8, this was due to the supposed idea that the 8th game had been through some development turmoil that saw the game internally rebooted. It was stated by this same insider that the company at the time had no plans for any remakes, but there was an unannounced title on course to be released next year. Now, we know that RE8 has a 2021 release date and this could be the game that the insider was referring to. That being said, if we are going to be getting a different RE title next year as per the claims of the insider, then it could be easy to speculate that this title would be a spinoff in the vein of Resident Evil Outbreak. There is presently a massive cult following for the game from fans of the series and there has been a demand for a continuation for over a decade.
Before the confirmation of Project Resistance’s nature as Resident Evil 3 remake’s multiplayer mode, fans had hoped that the game would be just that. The disappointed reaction to Resistance and the demand for Outbreak could be enough for the game to see the light of day once again, whether that be through a reboot, remake or sequel. There were rumours prior to the announcement of RE3 Remake that the game would be more open world and incorporate some of Outbreak to it, including the Raccoon City Zoo from File #2, as a nod in a similar way to the added “STARSSSS” in RE2 Remake, but alas, we saw no such features. It is possible that to close the chapter on Raccoon City Remakes Capcom could release Outbreak, appeasing fans and completing their cluster of games set at the same time. This would also allow them to bridge RE2 and RE3 remakes over to PS5 in boxset form with Outbreak (Raccoon City Boxset anyone?). The likelihood of this one is low due to the fact that it is probably considered that the franchise has some bigger fish to fry, for now, we can only wait and see.
Resident Evil Revelations 3
Earlier this year, it was believed that we were getting Revelations 3, with the game being tested. Then, we heard that the title had changed from Revelations 3 to RE8. This further cements the aforementioned whisper that Resident Evil 8 was suffering development problems, and that it will be a while before we see the game make its debut. The belief is that Capcom has decided to convert Revelations 3 into Village since they didn’t want a huge gap between the release of Biohazard and their next mainline entry.
Revelations 3 was said to be well received by game testers, bettering Capcom’s expectations, and the publisher made the decision to turn the game into Resident Evil 8. This reinforces the belief that Revelations is an aspect of their series that they want to keep running, and this can’t be blamed, as said before Revelations were the games that kept the flame burning for the IP.
It would make sense then that if the project formerly known as RE8 could be reversed and developed into the next Revelations game, nothing more has been said on the matter, all we know is Capcom were developing the next Revelations game and made the change to suit their desired release slate.
Resident Evil Remake
With the Resident Evil movie franchise getting a more faithful to the source reboot, it’s not completely beyond the realms of doubt that we could see a remake in the same vein as 2 and 3 using the RE Engine. The game has technically already been remade twice, with the first remake hitting the GameCube in 2002 and an HD remaster of the remake hitting last-gen consoles and then the current-gen consoles.
It remains at present time the only game from the original trilogy not to be remade using the RE Engine and using the over-the-shoulder camera angle which RE fans have come to love. It would make sense that to help boost the hype and marketing for the movie reboot that Capcom could release a remake of the game on PS5. There is, of course, the focus on Resident Evil 8 but if we get a release of 8 early in the year we could see a release later in the year. This is pure speculation with no rumours, leaks or announcements to back it up so again this falls into the very unlikely category, but it remains an option for Capcom.
Capcom Data Leak
This has been kept separate due to the nature of the information procured and how it was found. The following details emerged when Capcom fell prey to a ransomware attack earlier in November. It is worth noting that this information has not been acknowledged by Capcom. According to the data leak, Resident Evil 8 could emerge early next year, with a late April release date supposed. If this information proves true then Capcom could be able to make their next announcement for E3 in the Summer. It has also been suggested that following on from the previous 3 Resident Evil titles, we will see a playable demo for Village prior to release, and thanks for an agreement between Capcom and Sony, the PS5 will get the demo first. Information also suggests that there will be an online component similar to Resistance, codenamed Dominion.
There is no mention of the rumoured Resident Evil 4 Remake, but there is a mention of Resident Evil 4 VR, with the suggestion of it being an Oculus exclusive and no mention of PSVR availability.
Whatever the route Capcom decide to take, as a Resident Evil fan you can’t help but look at the possibilities and get excited.