There are not many long-running franchises that are as full of nonsense as Resident Evil. It’s the only series, to my knowledge, that can pull off werewolves, dragons, and Magneto without anyone batting an eye. Full of characters that all sport a too-cool-for-school attitude and stories that are about as easy to decode as trying to get gum out of your hair.
And I cannot help but love it.
While the recent remakes left me cold, thanks to their lack of a certain panache, the series usually interjects into every fibre of its being. In my humble opinion, it’s the tone that makes Resident Evil what it is. And I’m not talking about the horror in survival horror here. It’s the delicate melody that makes Capcom’s handsome people shooting at ugly monsters with decreasing ammo counts tick. The moments of levity sprinkled in, and the way these games just roll with whatever video game-ass scenario they throw you in. This bizarre fiction, in which nothing can ever feel out of place.
It’s because Resident Evil is to horror games what Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead is to horror movies. I’m not sure if it wants to be laughed at or screamed at, and maybe it doesn’t care either way. This might sound like an insult to RE now, but I swear it’s a feature. When playing these games, have you ever stopped and thought about what it is you’re doing at any given moment? Like trying to solve elaborate puzzles by moving items from one end of the police station to the other? Or just the banality of fighting a cult of villagers that have been infected by ancient parasites?
No Resident Evil game will ever play it straight with you. It’s always some wild scheme involving evil twins, one of which has infected themselves with a virus that turns them into a zombie queen ant to control all the other zombies. And then you play cool-girl McCool, make a stylish entrance, and fight off biohazardous horrors like a pro before making off just before the explosions go off.
I believe that’s worth celebrating.
There are not many games or pieces of media out there that are as shameless as your average Resident Evil game. And it is also why I think the “bad ones” don’t deserve the hate they’re usually subject to. Because the entertainment I get out of watching the insanity of your average RE title still easily beats out most games that actively try to make me chuckle.
Take my beloved Resident Evil 6. Its focus on being unapologetically Resident Evil ended up birthing the pinnacle of what the formula can produce. An international spy thriller that starts off with shooting the zombified president of the United States to set the tone. Then the game just keeps building and building until a bombastic finale pits you against a US official who mutates into a dinosaur.
The entirety of Jake and Sherry’s campaign challenges the children of two of the major villains of the entire franchise to overcome their cursed legacy. And how do they beat it? With the power of love and a well aimed shot through the heart of a monster. It’s like poetry, it rhymes.
Then you have Chris’ campaign which somehow ends up being the most emotionally charged one of them all. And it also happens to include such set pieces as shooting down virus-laden rockets with a jet fighter, and having an epic two-on-one with some eldritch horror on the bottom of the ocean floor.
Once you get over the fact that Resident Evil 6 isn’t a horror game, you can sit back and enjoy the spectacle of ridiculousness that it was always destined to be. And I believe that is a healthy way to approach all these games. Cherish them for what they are instead of bemoaning what they aren’t.
When we’re talking about remaking the rest of the series, it feels like people are always trying to downplay the more ridiculous aspects of these games. The zany plots, impossible monsters, and handsome protagonists are as much part of the Resident Evil DNA as the t-Virus. And I want others who love the franchise as much as I do to embrace these quirks as features instead of faults that need to be ironed out. Because the last thing I’d want is for Resident Evil to become The Last of Us.
So if you take anything from this, the next time you see Resident Evil 6 on sale, don’t roll your eyes and tell everyone what a misstep for the series it was. Instead, con one of your friends to sit through its many campaigns and have a laugh at what is still one of the coolest video games ever made.