Why Resident Evil Still Matters

Resident Evil HD Remaster. Capcom

Let’s be honest—video games don’t age well. We can watch films that are 10, 20, 50 years old and still see most of the intrinsic power that audiences saw on their initial release. Because technology moves so quickly, video games often look dated by the time their sequel hits the market, much less over a decade or almost two later. A solid case can be made that NO game that’s two decades old or more (except with the possible exception of a few icon-generating Nintendo titles) has had the same lasting influence as “Resident Evil,” recently released in an HD Remaster edition for the PS4.

A spin-off game is being released episodically starting next month (“Resident Evil Revelations 2”) and this franchise shows no signs of slowing down. Why? What is it about “Resident Evil” that has made it so timeless?

The main reason is that people are still copying it. Playing the HD Remaster, even just for a bit, one marvels at how much influence this franchise still holds on the gaming world. Games released as recently as last quarter (“The Evil Within,” for example) wear their connection to “RE” on their sleeve. The genre of “Survival Horror” was defined by “Resident Evil”—limited ammo, unpredictable villains, low light, and lots of gore. I’ll never forget playing the PlayStation version of “RE” and being attacked by a zombie dog for the first time. It was absolutely terrifying. That sense that you were playing a game that would alter the very medium was there back in 1996. In 2015, we can look in the other direction and see the dozens of games that sprouted up in the wake of “Resident Evil.” In that sense, it will always matter, in the same way that influential films like “Psycho” and “Jaws” will always matter.

It’s also still remarkably playable. Try and find another game from the mid-‘90s that would work as well in an HD Remaster as “Resident Evil.” Yes, the fact that you can’t move and shoot will always shock younger gamers. And some of the camera angles look remarkably dated. We’ve become a bit spoiled by the fact that we can now run and shoot and adjust camera angles to our will.

This wasn’t always the case. And so playing “Resident Evil” requires one to remember what tools were available to game developers in the ‘90s, not unlike watching older movies and not complaining about inferior CGI to what we’re used to today. If one looks at this game through the right lens of history, it still really works. The tension, the storytelling, the freedom of movement, and the setting of that damned mansion still resonate. It’s still a great game, better than most titles developed and released exclusively for the PSN in the last year.

Finally, there’s the amazing longevity of a franchise that has old over 61 million units worldwide. “Revelations” next month will mark the 25th game in this series. 2005’s “Resident Evil 4” is widely considered to be one of the best games of all time. While the series has disappointed somewhat in recent installments (“Resident Evil 6” was pretty disappointing), there’s every reason to believe that it will creatively bounce back. If, or more like when, “Resident Evil 7” is finally announced, the pre-orders will be through the roof. People still love a franchise that arguably hasn’t produced a must-play game in a decade. And they’ll line up for “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” a 2016 film, the 6th in the franchise from Paul W.

S. Anderson. There are novels, comic books, and even toys related to this world, and sold around the world. Much of that is because of the strength of that first game. It laid the foundation for what was to come not just in this series but video games as a whole. You can’t really understand where we are in the world of video games until you look at how we got here, and we didn’t get here without “Resident Evil.”