Opinion: Dishonored Vs Resident Evil 6 – A Story Of Innovation Vs Imitation
We’ve reached the business end of 2012’s release schedule – and things are getting interesting to say the least.
Resident Evil 6 has landed to a thoroughly mixed-reception, garnering some extraordinarily hostile reviews and a fair old whack of fan backlash. Meanwhile, just a few days on, eagerly-awaited adventure game Dishonored is about to arrive, with a huge amount of positive buzz already building around this intriguing, exciting new IP.
Last week I wrote a scathing article about Resident Evil 6, decrying what I consider to be the series’ tragic descent into bizarre mediocrity. I’m not impressed by its unimaginative use of tried-and-tested action tropes, its attempts to present itself as a thunderous, blockbuster epic, or the way in which it is dominated by attention-seeking scripted occurrences – the frequent quick-time events and bloated cut-scenes only adding to the sense that you are a passenger on a theme park ride, rather than an active participant in an interactive experience.
My initial impressions of Dishonored, however, couldn’t be more contrastingly enthusiastic. You’ll have to wait for my review to hear my in-depth thoughts on the game, but it seems to me that Dishonored represents the very noblest possibilities of what big-budget gaming can achieve, while Resident Evil 6 represents the most underwhelming. And I think I know why.
Dishonored is an experience derived from the desire to create something surprising, interesting and distinct. Resident Evil 6, meanwhile, is an experience derived from the desire to create something familiar, recognisable and mundane.
Arkane Studios have taken considerable risks with Dishonored. They have set it in a murkily eccentric, steampunk world that fuses high-fantasy with an industrialised, Victorian aesthetic. They have combined elements of stealth, action, RPGs and sandbox within a complex gameplay framework. They have offered the player a huge variety of ways to interact with the gameworld and progress – be they looking to eviscerate every single guard they come across, or go through the entire game without harming a single hair on anybody’s head. It may draw inspiration from the likes of Deus Ex, BioShock and Thief, but in feel and approach it is very much its own beast.
Capcom, by contrast, have taken absolutely no risks with Resident Evil 6. Instead, in their desire to win the widest possible gaming audience – and, most notably, the Call Of Duty fanbase – the whole development process has been geared up to simply regurgitate elements from other successful Triple A series, in order to actively court the console-shooter crowd by giving them everything they already know and love.
Resident Evil 6 has co-op and cover-based shooting, because popular third-person shooters like Gears Of War have co-op and cover-based shooting. It has endless quick-time events, outrageous scripted set-pieces and non-stop gung-ho combat, because popular first-person shooters like CoD have them.
The same thing goes for the features that aren’t included (much to the dismay of series veterans).
Why doesn’t it allow the player to explore large, complex locations? Because CoD doesn’t.
Why doesn’t it actively try and scare the player? Because CoD doesn’t.
With the early Resident Evil games, Capcom established ‘survival horror’ as an entirely new genre and inspired other developers to take up the cause, most notably with Konami’s fantastic Silent Hill. Then, with Resident Evil 4, Capcom established a whole new set of rules for third-person action games – acting as an influential trailblazer once again.
With Resident Evil 6, however, it has become obvious that Capcom no longer wish to lead. Instead, they wish to slavishly follow. They want to simply ape the epic spectacle and OTT action of other, better shooters in order to boost the franchise’s commercial potential, and hopefully win over an audience that can offer them even bigger sales.
Whereas Dishonored’s creators seek to be successful due to the novelty, innovation and excitement of their new IP – openly emphasising its unusual features and outlandish spin on stealth-action – the team behind Resident Evil 6 have been on a mission to procure success by simply lifting pre-existing conventions from already-cliched popular game series, before piecing their creation together like some sort of cash-hungry, inspiration-free Frankenstein’s Monster (not forgetting, of course, to throw in the odd dark environment and bring back actual zombies for some of it, just so they can pretend that they’re still staying true to their increasingly-infuriated horror-loving fans).
Ultimately, this key difference between Dishonored and Resident Evil 6 reflects two very different philosophies in mainstream game development. One seeks to boost sales potential and impact through its ingenuity and freshness; the other seeks to maximise profits by pandering to pre-established tastes, deliberately shying away from offering anything different and merely copying the wearily-familiar template laid down by successful titles before it.
Resident Evil 6 is like the nerdy, insecure kid at school who tries to dress and behave like the popular crowd in order to soak up some of their kudos by association. Dishonored, however, is more like the cool kid in class – driven by the desire to be spontaneous and interesting not because it desperately craves adulation, but because it hates the idea of sheepishly following what everybody else does.
Tell me: who would you rather hang out with?