Resident Evil: A Retrospective

Nearly two decades ago a title was released that would not only create an entirely new genre of video games, but spawn a juggernaut franchise that would encompass books, movies, comics and other media. 16 years ago “Resident Evil” single-handedly defined what survival horror was all about: claustrophobic hallways, zombie dogs jumping through windows and a scarcity of essential supplies. Since then, the games have gone through several sequels and iterations that will culminate this fall in the release of the highly anticipated “Resident Evil 6.” But how has the “Resident Evil” franchise survived and maintained popularity in the many years between these two releases? It’s time to take a look back at the games that have been frightening fans for years.

The first game was released in 1996 in Japan as “Biohazard.” Rebranded in America as “Resident Evil,” the game followed a special task force as it explored a mysterious mansion on the outskirts of the now-legendary Raccoon City. The player controls Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine as they uncover the horrors unleashed by the evil Umbrella Corporation and its mysterious T-Virus. The game focused on careful inventory management, light puzzle elements and, of course, battling the undead.

“Resident Evil 2” and “Resident Evil 3” took place two months after the original and had players leave the mansion to explore the nightmare that is Raccoon City. These games also introduced another character that would become a franchise icon: Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie cop who had the worst first day on the police force ever. “Resident Evil 3” in particular is memorable for featuring the famous bio-organic antagonist called Nemesis. Nemesis’ relentless pursuit of the game’s protagonists results in some truly terrifying moments that are among the most memorable in the franchise.

When “Resident Evil 4” was released, the game redefined the genre yet again. With a more focused and adventurous experience and improved combat mechanics, “Resident Evil 4” was a critical and commercial success, so much so that it would be ported from the GameCube to other systems. It featured Leon S. Kennedy once again, but this time it had him roaming the Spanish countryside in search of the President’s daughter, while fighting a new kind of biological weapon called the Las Plagas.

“Resident Evil 5” was the series’ most controversial entry — it starred Chris Redfield and his new partner Sheva Alomar fighting enemies in Africa. This was the first title in the franchise to feature cooperative gameplay — and thus the controversy begins. Some argued that the cooperative nature inherently made the game less scary than others in the franchise. And yet, the game still had fantastic sales, with reviewers citing its phenomenal action and tight gameplay.

As “Resident Evil 6”’s release date approaches, initial previews suggest that the installment will tout a mix of gameplay elements from throughout the franchise and several fan favorite characters like Chris and Leon. Players everywhere can find “Resident Evil 6” in stores now.

Darrel Gordon

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