In honor of Resident Evil’s 25th anniversary next week, and to further increase the hype of the upcoming Resident Evil Village, I will be reviewing the seventh main installment of the series, Resident Evil: Biohazard. But before I do, I will discuss the history of the series as a whole and how it’s managed to remain relevant as long as it has.
Resident Evil is a franchise that needs no introduction, but I will give it one anyway. It is one of the most influential video game franchises of all time, and as of 2020, has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. The first entry in the series, simply titled Resident Evil, was released in Japan on March 22nd, 1996 and in the U.S. on the 30th. Known as Biohazard in Japan, the first game was originally supposed to be a remake of the 1989 horror video game Sweet Home. until developer Capcom lost the rights to the game, forcing the development team to start from scratch. Despite being two different games, the original Resident Evil retained Sweet Home’s setting of a spooky, abandoned mansion, and other elements. Basically, if Sweet Home had never existed, neither would Resident Evil. Without Resident Evil, the video game world wouldn’t be the same, as one of Resident Evil 4’s earlier iterations became the first entry to another Capcom favorite, Devil May Cry. Furthermore, Resident Evil has influenced other video game franchises, most notably the Bioshock and Dead Space series.
Since its release nearly twenty-five years ago, the first Resident Evil has been notorious for its awful voice acting and poorly aged game mechanics. Despite this, the game was an unexpected success, birthing a multimedia franchise that consists of comic books, merchandise, CGI movies, an American film franchise, and yes, games. Its game catalog includes seven (soon to be eight) main entries and even more spinoff titles and remakes. Resident Evil games have been on just about every console imaginable: Playstation, Xbox, Wii, even the iPhone at one point. While originally a horror-orientated video game series, the overwhelming success of 2005’s Resident Evil 4 caused the series to become more action-based, which many longtime fans did not approve of. However, the release of Resident Evil: Biohazard (2017) saw the series return to its horror roots, pleasing many longtime fans and drawing in newcomers. Many fans wish to forget the more action-focused entries never existed. However, it’s possible that the series would’ve died out years ago if they hadn’t switched things up. The video game industry is constantly changing, and for your series to survive as long as Resident Evil has, you have to be willing to take risks. Even when the series tried to please all kinds of fans with Resident Evil 6 (2012), it was met with mixed receptions. Even so, the series has remained relevant for as long as it has because it has constantly been evolving over the years and introducing new characters and settings.
While I did not grow up with the series like most fans, it is nonetheless my favorite video game series. Its charm could also be why it’s been around this long. From having protagonist Chris Redfield punch a boulder in Resident Evil 5 to the antagonist of 0 controlling leeches by singing opera, the series is insanely over the top and almost anime-like, which is part of what makes the series such a fun one to play and watch. The plot of most Resident Evil games is straightforward, with characters trying to escape from a zombie-infested location and hunt down the people responsible for unleashing the virus. The series has several of the most recognizable characters in gaming, such as Jill Valentine and Leon S. Kennedy. In addition, Resident Evil has tremendously influenced the Internet community, as it has spawned various memes. The most recent being the “tall vampire lady” from the upcoming eighth installment Village, whose reveal broke the Internet. The series has had a lasting impact on pop culture as well, so much so that even those who have never played a Resident Evil game will recognize the words “Umbrella Corporation” or “Raccoon City.”
The series’ seventh main installment, Resident Evil: Biohazard (known as Biohazard 7 in Japan), was released in 2017 to critical acclaim. Despite being a breath of fresh air for longtime fans of the series, it also angered some, as they felt it wasn’t a Resident Evil game. Turns out, making a Resident Evil game that didn’t feel like one was the developers’ intention. The game runs on the RE Engine, a gaming engine that was initially developed for Biohazard but has since been used in other recent Capcom titles. For the first time in the series, Biohazard swapped the third-person perspective of other entries for a highly immersive and polarizing first-person perspective. This sudden perspective swap was due to the development team wanting the game to return to the series’ survival horror origins, and what better way to scare players than have them feel as if they’re the protagonist? Biohazard features entirely new characters, with sole returning character Chris Redfield appearing at the very end of the game with a drastically different appearance. So drastically, in fact, that despite Village being a direct sequel to Biohazard, Chris looks different than he did in the previous game. Much like how the series has constantly been evolving, so has Chris’s design.
Anyway, in Biohazard, players take control of protagonist Ethan Winters. Not much is known about him except that he is an ordinary guy from Texas. For the first time in the series, players aren’t controlling characters who specialize in killing zombies and other monsters. I won’t discuss too much of the story, simply because I believe this is a game worth experiencing firsthand. But for context, the story concerns Ethan, who drives to rural Louisiana to search for his wife, Mia, who has been presumed dead for three years. While there, he meets the Bakers, an ordinary family that became cannibalistic creatures after being exposed to a virus known as Mold. The Baker family consists of Jack, a former U.S. Marine and the family’s provider, housewife Marguerite, and their adult children Lucas, a genius who was murderous long before becoming infected, and Zoe, the only non-infected member of the family. She helps the player throughout the first half of the game. The player encounters other enemies affected by the Mold, namely the Molded, which are tall, humanoid creatures composed of black fungus. The Molded come in two other equally terrifying forms: a four-legged, weaker form and a much heavier, stronger form. In the game, the player explores various locations such as several Baker houses, a “testing area” rigged with Saw-esque booby traps, a swamp, salt mine, and even an abandoned ship. The player can defend themselves with an arsenal of weapons ranging from a measly knife to a mighty magnum. Players often have to create their own ammunition and healing items, both of which are scarce. There are also several puzzles players have to solve to gain access to a new area or obtain a weapon. After completing the game, you unlock the hardest difficulty setting: “Madhouse,” this mode is unique in that it doesn’t just increase the health of enemies and decrease that of Ethan’s: it completely changes the locations of enemies and certain objects found in the game. Additionally, ammo and health items are even scarcer, and players are forced to manually save their game as autosave is disabled. Not that you can’t manually save on easier difficulties–whereas in earlier Resident Evil entries, players saved their game by having the character use a typewriter, in Biohazard, players can save their progress by having Ethan use a cassette player. However, it looks like the iconic typewriter will make a reappearance in Village.
Resident Evil is a series known for its stalker-like enemies, and Biohazard is no exception. At various parts of the game, the player is pursued by Jack and Marguerite Baker. While the game employs several effective jumpscares, it also uses more subtle ways of scaring players. The game’s sound design, which is nothing short of spectacular, plays a huge part in this, as well as its immersive atmosphere. If I could describe Biohazard in one sentence, I’d say it’s the type of game that makes you want to take a shower immediately after playing. The game is disgusting, and not just in terms of gore. This game is not for those with weak stomachs. Several particularly gruesome moments are censored in the Japanese version of Biohazard, odd considering the Japanese are the ones who made this game. The game isn’t overly gory, however, as it emphasizes atmospheric horror over blood and guts.
While the Resident Evil series has constantly been memed on for the god-awful voice acting of earlier games, the acting has improved over time, and Biohazard is proof of this. The performances sound and feel genuine, further immersing players into the game. The writing, too, is strangely phenomenal. Resident Evil entries tend to have cheesy, unbelievable plots. While the plot of Biohazard is unbelievable (aside from the whole virus thing), it is written in such a way that the player can empathize with the characters. While I have enjoyed most of the Resident Evil entries, Biohazard is the only title that made me truly invested in the story and characters. A particular scene that comes to mind occurs towards the end of the game when Jack Baker implores an unconscious Ethan to free his family. I get chills just thinking about this scene because the developers achieved the impossible by making players empathize with a character who had tried to kill them with a chainsaw just a few hours ago. Jack Baker feels more human than any of Resident Evil’s human characters in this scene despite being a monster. While this could very well all be in Ethan’s imagination, this suggests that Jack still has a shred of humanity left in him, which makes what happened to the Bakers even sadder. The music used in this scene amplifies the emotions even further. I enjoy the music of the Resident Evil series and listen to it often when I am writing or studying, including that of Biohazard. Composer Akiyuki Morimoto does an excellent job with its soundtrack, making players feel terrified or serene at exactly the moment they’re supposed to.
Biohazard is available to play on the Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, and Playstation VR, which I wouldn’t even let my worst enemy play on. The game comes with an ample amount of downloadable content, the most fun of which is The End of Zoe because you get to punch Molded and feel like a badass and also fight Jack with a Thanos-like gauntlet towards the end. Both the main game and DLCs contain plenty of unlockables players can obtain by meeting certain requirements, giving the game and its add ons near-endless replayability. Despite having been released four years ago, Biohazard is still frequently streamed by gamers and discussed by fans. The only complaints people seem to have with the game is the “blandness” of Ethan and the similarities it shares between the classic horror title Silent Hill 2 (2001) and the more recent Outlast (2013). Another aspect fans dislike is the Molded’s designs, which are similar to those of other enemies in the Resident Evil series. While I admit that Ethan is a bit one-dimensional as far as protagonists go, Resident Evil isn’t exactly a series known for its complexity. It’s just fun, and isn’t that why we play video games in the first place?
If you’re interested in learning about Biohazard’s rocky but ultimately worthwhile production history, viewing concept art, and reading insightful interviews from its developing team, I’d suggest reading Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Document File. Reading this made me appreciate the game even more, as well as the team of hard-working individuals that helped bring it to life. Their goal was to make the best Resident Evil game, and I’d say they succeeded. Apparently, Village won’t just be the best Resident Evil game but the best survival horror game to date, and I believe it because any game that features a 9’6” female vampire is bound to be a masterpiece. Seriously though, I am beyond excited for Resident Evil Village and will be reviewing it after its release on May 7th.
— Brittany Crosse, Blogger.
Brittany Crosse’s Bio:
Brittany Crosse is a senior at Lewis University who has previously attended Moraine Valley Community College. She is majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and hopes to one day make a career out of writing short stories, which has been a goal of hers ever since she was little. In addition to writing, she also plans to teach fiction writing at the university level. Her interests outside of writing include TV shows, anime, music, video games, and books, her favorite authors being Neal Shusterman, Stephen King, and Haruki Murakami. Brittany spends most of her time with her dog Cordelia, a.k.a. “Cordy.”