Student Presentation: The Devolution of Resident Evil
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."
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.
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 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.
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.
In Resident Evil, surviving the zombie infestation requires endurance and cunning from the characters; however, physical ability dominates in Resident Evil 4.
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).
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.
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).
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.
RESIDENT EVIL 4 PARODY
A comical video on Resident Evil 4 for your enjoyment
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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.
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