Following on from the previous RE: Evolution article, which looked back at the games origins and progression, we’re going to take a look at the spin off games and the surprisingly successful film franchise.
The first Resident Evil film was the subject of much speculation and rumour for a good few years before we were presented with what was eventually the Milla Jovovich starring action series. Originally, there was talk of the film being based on the first game, with George A. Romero hottly tipped to be at the helm. How different would that have been? Maybe a little more true to its roots, given that Romero is the obvious inspiration of the original games. But what we were given was the somewhat disappointing Paul WS Anderson film. It had a lot of the right ingredients, with plenty of zombies, some recognisable B.O.W.’s as well some name checks of various characters from the games. What was probably the most disappointing aspect of the film, is that the games we all know and love, were tense, atmospheric, isolated and scary, whereas Resident Evil is loud, explody and only a teensy bit gory. One felt a few too many liberties were taken by going in this direction, but should also remember that this is a videogame adaptation. These rarely go well.
The plot goes as such; Alice, the films protagonist, wakes in the shower, having seemingly slipped and getting knocked unconscious, with no recollection of who she is or what she is doing there. It soon turns out that her house is a front for an entrance to a massive underground facility for super evil company Umbrella, and its not long before several Umbrella mercenaries storm the place, in a bid to get to the lab, taking Alice captive. Once at the lab, it becomes apparent that something is terribly wrong. There are some fun scenes and set pieces, usually culmulating in another character reaching their demise, but it didn’t feel like Resident Evil. So imagine the delight at the teaser at the end of the film, dropping the name ‘Project Nemesis’.
Nemesis was probably the most fearsome, yet most exciting of the enemies faced throughout the Resident Evil games, meaning that the next Resident Evil film could be a great prospect. Resident Evil: Apocalypse, was even more of a disappointment. Yes there were more characters as seen in the games, and it stuck a little more to what was seen in its videogame equivalent, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, introducing Jill Valentine, as well as some familiar locations. The beast itself was also great to see in celluloid form, with it making quite the formidable monster. However, that’s where positives end. The introduction of a ‘comic relief’ was unnecessary, and the amount of zombies was shockingly low, save for a few scenes with some appalling slo-mo. And towards the end, rather than taking it down, the Nemesis monster was reasoned with! It’s by this point that aside from a few references to the games, things were straying even further away from what the fans of the games should have got.
By the time Resident Evil: Extinction rolled up, it was obvious that it was pretty much only going to be Resident Evil in name only, save for a few characters, beasts and subtle references to the games. This was by far the biggest departure of the series, and if you forget its supposed to be a Resident Evil film, it actually isn’t all that bad! It has quite a great opening scene in which Alice is held captive by some red-necks in the middle of nowhere, and after killing one of their own, is left to be fed to the dogs. It really plays on the post apocalyptic waste-land setting, but is by far from original. There are many references/rip-offs from various films of similar setting, be it the desert convoys we’ve seen in the Mad Max films, or the crow attack, which resembles a poorly CGI’d, The Birds, and the zombie ‘domestication’ seen in Day of the Dead, there’s a lot there that feels very familiar. Apart from a couple of set pieces here and there, there’s not much action until the last 20 minutes, when a hoard of genetically altered zombies are set upon Alice and her convoy. As with the others, it sets up the next film, and while the previous ‘cliff-hangers’ just hinted at what was to come, this time, it pretty much told you what was going to happen in the opener of the next one, which leads us onto Resident Evil: Afterlife.
Afterlife was the most recent of the series to be released, this time in 3D. Although it was filmed in 3D, fortunately it didn’t go with the gimmick of things pointing out of the screen etc, but overall was somewhat unnecessary. Afterlife also saw the return of original director Paul WS Anderson, who up until this point had been on writing and producing duties. The previous films were directed by Alexander Witt, who has since worked as DOP for Sir Ridley Scott, and Highlander director, Russell Mulcahy, respectively. Again, aside from some references to the games and its characters and monsters, this goes its own way.
After Alice has destroyed Umbrella’s Japanese facility, using a collective of her clones (and some rather unconvincing wire work), she sets out in search of a safe haven, where the survivors of the previous film were supposed to be. After finding nothing but what seems to be an aeroplane graveyard, and the chopper which the survivors flew in on, it seems all was not what it was promised to be. Soon after, Alice runs into a seemingly brainwashed Claire Redfield, who was one of the survivors in the previous film. It appears the safe haven was nothing more than a ruse to lure those in search of safety, to be held under the control of Umbrella. Claire, under the control of a strange device, is soon relieved of her burden, so her and Alice set off, following a lead, to LA, where the city lies in ruins, save for a maximum security prison. Although the most successful Resident Evil picture (probably down to the excessive cost of seeing a film in 3D), it wasn’t quite as good as the previous instalment. Again it sets up a cliff-hanger, which this time will lead to the currently in post-production, Resident Evil: Retribution.
While not loyal to the source material, the films do provide some entertainment, as well as the fan pleasing monsters and characters, although they do disappoint at times. They are best enjoyed as post apocalyptic action movies, as opposed to expecting the same experience you would get from the games. Fun Friday night beer movies.
Steering away from Anderson’s input, there was a computer animated, straight to DVD film, to precede the release of Resident Evil 5. Resident Evil Degeneration was a sequel of sorts to RE4, teaming up Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, once again. In a separate story from what we’ve seen in the games, Degeneration sees Leon and Claire caught up in a virus outbreak at an airport, which eventually leads them to a pharmaceutical facility and face to face with a new Tyrant. The film plays out in a very similar fashion to what you would expect in the games, but isn’t really anything special. There’s plenty of action but little in the way of horror.
It has been announced that a follow up to Degeneration, currently titled Damnation, has been announced for a 2012 release (in Japan, at least) and will no doubt coincide with the release of the seemingly action packed Resident Evil 6. Which leads us nicely on to the games.
There have been several spin-offs from the Resident Evil series, the latest being Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, which is a squad based action shooter set during RE2, which sees Umbrella’s mercenaries tangle with US Special Forces, in a city over-run with the undead as well as several B.O.W.’s getting in their way. And though it’s not been released at the time of writing, we have had a hands on, and it seems very promising indeed.
Taking a look at where the first spin-off’s, we were given the Survivor series. These are on the rail arcade shooters, similar to House of the Dead. Featuring the usual zombies and monsters seen in the main series, the games received a somewhat negative reception. Possibly due to it being such a deviation from the main games (although we at HCF enjoyed the first one!),and not having that tense atmosphere. The Survivor games started life on PS1 with the sequel, based on Code: Veronica, being released on PS2. Although under a different title, Resident Evil Dead Aim is also of the Survivor series, and was also released on the PS2. This time however, the player was controlled through a third person mode, and switches to the first person view when aiming, and although it received a little more praise this time around, the reception was still rather tepid, which brings us onto Resident Evil Outbreak.
Initially intended to be played as an online game (which was the case in most territories), the PAL version was solely a single player experience. Outbreak was a series of scenarios set throughout Raccoon City, in which the player would choose between one of several characters, and have to help the rest escape from the infected. These were entertaining at first, with each scenario completion being ranked, giving the player something to improve upon, but overall was a shallow experience, with little character involvement, and the gameplay seeming rather fractured. It’s sequel, apparently made up of the scenarios not used in the first game, incorporated online play this time around. However, the game, apart from the locations being different, was pretty much exactly the same as the first, and it wasn’t too long before the servers were closed down. Like the other spin-offs, the Outbreak games only received a (deservedly) mild reception.
Moving on to more recent times, the Wii saw itself getting the Resident Evil spin-off treatment with the Chronicles games. Umbrella Chronicles was another on the rails shooter, this time it followed the story line of Resident Evil 1,3 and 0. The visuals were excellent, really capturing the feel of the Gamecube versions of the games. It was rather difficult however, and much like the original titles, played very much on the survival horror aspect, with minimal ammunition, which is needed to be conserved to survive. It was also great to revisit those locations from a different perspective. Darkside Chronicles was released 2 years later, this time taking in Resident Evil 2 and Code: Veronica, as well as a new scenario. Gameplay was pretty much the same, with the intention of added emphasis on the horror aspect. Much like Umbrella Chronicles, it was quite difficult, but still a great game. The Chronicles games were probably the better received of any of the spin-offs so far, which is probably down to its great visual style and the fact you can have an extra player, shooting along side you.
While no doubt profitable, Resident Evil’s spin-off’s have been rather sub-standard. Although they may deviate from the main series in terms of gameplay, there’s nothing special going for them, either.
In the final part of our Resident Evil: Evolution, we take a look at the new direction with Resident Evil 4 and 5, and the 3DS release, as well as what’s in store with the forthcoming Resident Evil 6.