Resident Evil 4 Remake leaves the series at a crossroads, but which path should it choose?
Resident Evil 4 is back. Leon S. Kennedy is back. The game that redefined survival horror 18 years ago is back – with all the gore and guts and B-movie cheese that we all so fondly remember. To quote our Resident Evil 4 remake review: "Capcom has delivered a great remake of a classic game, one which captures everything that made it so special to begin with". And you really can't argue with that.
What is less certain is where Resident Evil as a series goes next. Capcom's stellar work in reimagining Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 for modern hardware heaped a degree of pressure on the devs ahead of RE4's return, but the standards set there also acted as a baseline moving forward. The 2019 Resident Evil 2 remake is surely one of the best video game remakes of all time, and while the reimagining of Jill Valentine and Nemesis' blockbuster tale didn't quite hit the same heights the following year, that's perhaps reflective of its weaker source material, not the quality of the game itself.
So, now that the Resident Evil 4 remake is out in the wild, where does Capcom's 27-year-old horror dynasty go next? GamesRadar+'s Josh West and Joe Donnelly have mixed opinions.
It's time for an all-new third-person Resident Evil
It's time for Resident Evil to undergo its next evolution. The iconic horror franchise has survived for 27 years, combating shifting industry trends and expanding expectations every step of the way – Capcom has harnessed first-person action, co-operative scenarios, multiplayer misadventures, and genre-defining remakes to ensure that Resident Evil has retained its relevance. But with Resident Evil Village wrapping the Ethan Winters storyline and Resident Evil 4 Remake successfully reviving a masterpiece, it's difficult to see where the series should (or even could) go next. That's why I want Capcom to go back to basics with whatever comes next – less of an evolution, then, and more of a mutation.
Resident Evil has reached a branching path. One path leads away from the messy Resident Evil timeline, furthering the series' experimentation in the first-person space and continues to establish a universe free of the shadow cast by former S.T.A.R.S. operatives and the Umbrella organization. The other celebrates the success Capcom has seen in reinvesting in third-person survival horror, pulling a cast of outrageous heroes and villains back into another contained adventure – a new contained, labyrinthian location to explore, new creatures to outrun, absurd puzzles to solve, and combat mechanics which highlight the body-horror at the series' heart.
"At this point, Capcom's Yasuhiro Ampo and Kazunori Kadoi deserve a shot at a mainline title."
At this point, Capcom's Yasuhiro Ampo and Kazunori Kadoi deserve a shot at a mainline title. The pair have been with Resident Evil since the beginning in various capacities, but you'll recognize their work in more recent titles: Kadoi leading development of Resident Evil 2 Remake alongside Ampo; with Resident Evil 4 Remake directed by Ampo, with Kadoi assisting him in the development journey. This directorial duo, and the team which they have assembled at Capcom for these projects, understand Resident Evil inherently – how to modernize its more antiquated aspects without undermining the spirit which made it so beloved to begin with. If any team within Capcom is capable of making an all-new, mainline third-person Resident Evil game, I suspect it would be this one.
I want to see what the body deformation systems introduced to RE2 look like when pushed a little further, because being able to shoot slugs into a zombie's elbow and see the flesh slowly slip away from the bone is disgustingly gratifying. The relentless artificial intelligence seen through RE4 highlights how claustrophobic the series can be when the camera is properly locked behind a shoulder, and how fun the franchise is when it leans into schlocky humor and oversized scenario design. If the two Remakes have shown me anything it's that, as good as the Biohazard and Village were, Resident Evil can still feel revolutionary when it goes back to its roots.
Now, whether a brand new third-person Resident Evil game can succeed without an existing framework to follow – the excesses of game design in the late '90s and early '00s is really a sight to behold – remains to be seen, but if anybody can do it, I'd wager that the Remake teams will need to have a say in it.
Resident Evil should continue in first-person
It's been just over six years since Resident Evil made its dramatic pivot to first-person, but I still can't get enough of it. Don't get me wrong, I love what the remakes have done for the older, classic games, but I see Resi's first-person affairs and its realigned third-person throwbacks as two very separate things.
The Resident Evil 7: Biohazard base game of 2017 was incredible, followed by its criminally underrated Banned Footage DLC. Likewise, Resident Evil Village (2021) took us to a setting not too dissimilar to that of number 4's, with even grander supernatural-leaning themes; and its Shadows of Rose expansion is up there with some of the best, most chilling survival horror fare I've ever played. I'm such a fan of these games' expansions, in fact, that I'd even argue they're better explorations of their base games' best ideas – and the fact that Village was primarily a first-person game, that was later complemented by a third-person DLC, and an optional third-person mode, to me underlines the value of a hybrid approach.
"The fact that Village was primarily a first-person game, that was later complemented by a third-person DLC, and an optional third-person mode, to me underlines the value of a hybrid approach."
Ethan Winters' tale may now have reached its conclusion, but I foresee Resident Evil from here taking on a new tale in the same first-person format of its immediate forerunners in RE7 and RE8. That's not to say Capcom's remake masterminds, Yasuhiro Ampo and Kazunori Kadoi, aren't deserving of a crack at a mainline title as Josh suggests above, but I nevertheless would love to see them continue bringing the past in-line with the present instead.
A Resident Evil 5 remake would be complicated for a number of reasons, and RE6 is my least favorite of the enduring series. A cursory glance at the likes of Reddit and Twitter highlights the desire for a Code Veronica reimagining among longstanding players, but I'd bite your hand off for another OG Resident Evil remake in the Spencer Mansion – the last being the 2015 HD Remaster of the original Gamecube version of 2002 – or another crack at the oft-overlooked prequel Resident Evil 0.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying: more first-person Resident Evil, please. I'm fine with Resi continuing on the path it's on. To keep everyone sweet, throwing in an optional third-person mode is a decent compromise. And let's continue re-upping the past to modern standards as well as, but not instead of, new first-person timeline adventures.
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