Student Presentation: The Devolution of Resident Evil

| | Comments (5)

While the Silent Hill series has devolved in its progression from the "survival horror" game genre, the Resident Evil series has abandoned the genre all together in favor of "action horror." 

  Game Aspects.jpg

This presentation will only address Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4 in the Resident Evil series and Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 in the Silent Hill series.


Resident Evil Games.jpg

The classic Resident Evil story begins in Raccoon City, a location overrun by zombies.  Members of the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha team enter to help find members of their disappeared Bravo team and to continue the investigation.  Their exploration of a seemingly abandoned mansion turns into a fight for survival against the Umbrella Corporation's experiments. 


Six years after the original zombie infestation in Raccoon City, the U.S. government officially shut down the Umbrella Corporation and recruits Leon S. Kennedy, a former Raccoon City cop, to rescue the President's kidnapped daughter, Ashley Graham, from a remote village in Spain.  In Resident Evil 4 Leon does battle against the Los Illuminados cult and their parasite-infected villagers. 

Silent Hill Games.jpg

Silent Hill 2, the hallmark game of the series, documents James Sunderland's journey through Silent Hill to find out the truth about his wife Mary's death.  The town and its inhabitants are manifestations of James' mind, and in the end James faces the truth. 


Silent Hill 3 takes place 17 years after Harry Mason's nightmare in the original Silent Hill game, and his adopted daughter Heather meets Claudia Wolf in the mall.  After fighting her way back home, Heather finds her father dead and heads to Silent Hill to kill Claudia.  Heather faces Claudia in a church and ingests a capsule of red liquid.  She then vomits the bloody fetus of a god worshiped by the town's cult.  Claudia thwarts Heather's attempt to kill the god and ingests the fetus herself, giving birth.  Heather kills the resurrected god and survives.

Storline Cartoon.jpg

Resident Evil 4 abandons the previous games' focus on zombies in favor of parasitic attackers.  An action fight against a global spread of deadly viruses replaces the immediate and personal struggle for survival.  The Silent Hill series might not encompass many of the same characters and stories or offer a continuous timeline, but each game is a psychological fight for one's survival against dark secrets.



The survival horror perspective is third-person, intensifying the sensations of vulnerability, isolation, and shock (McRoy).  Resident Evil 4 was the first in the series to have an over-the-shoulder view of the fully three-dimensional world instead of the typical third-person perspective.


Survivor horror throws players into scenarios that induce fear; limited ammunition and health exacerbates these situations.  Items in Resident Evil 4 are more plentiful, and the game introduces "the merchant," allowing the player to carry more items at once, thus ditching the survival aspect.  Limited supplies encouraged the player to run from enemies and conserve supplies.  This aspect weakened in the Resident Evil series but not in the Silent Hill series.


RE Characters.jpg

In Resident Evil, surviving the zombie infestation requires endurance and cunning from the characters; however, physical ability dominates in Resident Evil 4.

SH Characters.jpg

Silent Hill games have always focused on the characters' ordinariness.  Heather Mason from Silent Hill 3 offers an androgynous appearance and narrative centrality (as does James), successfully combining the imperiled and masculine femininity of the survival horror genre (Kirkland).

RE Enemies.jpg

Zombies are frightening.  They will eat you if given the chance, but they move slowly enough to either avoid or destroy with relative ease dependent on their numbers and cramped spaces.  In Resident Evil 4, smart and agile opponents are the norm.

SH Enemies.jpg

In contrast, the enemies in Silent Hill 2 are manifestations of the James Sunderland's real fears, for surviving your own nightmares is real survival horror.


The Resident Evil series no longer incorporates creepy music to such a high degree.  In contrast, the Silent Hill games continue to offer sinister soundtracks for an expressionistic audio experience (Kirkland).



Sound & Environment.jpg

Low-key lighting not only plays up shadows, but it perpetuates a progressively disturbing tone of gloom (McRoy).  While the Silent Hill series remains a dimly lit town, Resident Evil 4 lights up the scenery with the wide open spaces and rural town environments. (Picture: RE-left/SH-right)


Japanese survival horror relies heavily on ghost, rituals, and the unseen.  Western survival horror is more visceral and action-oriented.  As the Western design becomes the dominant paradigm, action and gore will continue to supersede psychological dread (Alexander).


Gamers want the sense of being truly alone in the dark with just their thoughts and fear.  Hopefully, the Resident Evil series will reach that point again and return to the roots that defined the genre.



A comical video on Resident Evil 4 for your enjoyment

Works Cited


Alexander, Leigh. "Does Survival Horror Really Still Exist?" Kotaku. n.p. n.d.  Web. 14 Jan. 2010.


Capcom Production Studio 4. "Resident Evil 4." PlayStation 2. Capcom. 25 Oct. 2005. Video Game.


Capcom Production Studio 4. "Resident Evil." PlayStation. Capcom. 30 Mar. 1996. Video Game.


Kirkland, Ewan. "Restless Dreams in Silent Hill: Approaches to Videogame Analysis." Journal of Media Practice 6:3 (2005): 167-178. EBSCOhost  Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Jan. 2010.


Konami and Team Silent. "Silent Hill 2." PlayStation 2. Konami. 24 Sept. 2001. Video Game.


Konami and Team Silent. "Silent Hill 3." PlayStation 2. Konami. 6 Aug. 2003. Video Game.


McRoy, Jay. "'The Horror is Alive': Immersion, Spectatorship, and the Cinematics of Fear in the Survival Horror Genre." Reconstruction. n.p. 6:1 (2006): n. pag. Web. 14 Jan. 2010.


"Resident Evil 4 Cutscene 2-2." YouTube. 1 Nov. 2008. Web. 19 Jan. 2010.


"Resident Evil 4 Parody." YouTube. 22 Apr. 2009. Web. 20 Jan. 2010.


"Silent Hill 3 Cutscenes 08, Hellish Elevator Decent." YouTube. 11 Sept. 2006. Web. 19 Jan. 2010.


"Ten Years of Resident Evil: The Official Soundtrack." Sunthing Else. 27 Mar. 2007. Audio. 19 Jan. 2010.

Yamaoka, Akira. "Silent Hill, Vol. 3." Sony/Columbia. 28 July 2003. Audio. 19 Jan. 2010.

Here is the above information in a PowerPoint presentation, complete with sound.Class Presentation Show.ppsx


Jeremy Barrick said:

I have always liked Resident Evil games over Silent Hill any day, but I liked them for the zombie action. Now they focus more on a global virus type infection? Things have reall changed in the series since I last played. The last one I owned in the series was the Umbrella Chronicles. Your presentation made sense and devulged a lot of information about the game to me. The fact that you added photos and defined each aspect of the game was really great.

Jeremy's project included a brief reference to Alexander Leigh, by the way.

The visuals really do help you make a different set of points, emphasizing a slightly different way of approaching the subject. Your analytical and visual approach works very well on a web page, where long blocks of prose would put people to sleep.

I wonder whether the shift to a bigger-picture threat is a response to the sprawling and busy maps that people are used to in FPS titles. Being cooped up in a haunted house is certainly creepy, but it limits the actions you can require the character to do.

It does seem to me, from the artwork, that James looked as androgynous as Kirkland says Heather is.

Jessie Krehlik said:

I've noticed a major change in the recent Resident Evil games as well. Like Jeremy, the last one I played was Umbrella Chronicles, which definitely doesn't focus on survival like the others. Umbrella Chronicles has more arcade-style game play, which REALLY limits game play for gamers. I actually liked the Umbrella Chronicles, because it eliminated the survival aspect of the game completely. You didn't have to worry about zombies creeping up behind you, because the camera automatically switched to show you where your targets lay in wait. If I wasn't such a chicken, I'd enjoy the traditional survival-type of game play.

Beth Anne Swartzwelder said:

I really liked your presentation. All the visuals definitely added support to what you were trying to say, and I can tell that you genuinely enjoyed working on this project. Your depth and attention to detail shows your interest.

Matt Takacs said:

I haven't played Silent Hill, but from what you described, it seems pretty strange. Perhaps the switch to more action oriented RE games is because everyone got fed up with the limited controls of the Playstation era games.

Leave a comment

Type the characters you see in the picture above.