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Resident Evil 6: Bring back the scares, or don't bother

Opinion: Capcom needs to return to its horror roots, argues James Jenkins

There was a day when the term 'survival horror' meant something. It wasn't just a tagline for a new Capcom shooter, it was a warning - a statement to prepare yourself for a real heart-pumping scare-fest.

There used to be a master of such a genre, a series that wrote the manual for survival horror and made sure that when it came to scares, there was only one name whispered on everyone's lips; Resident Evil.

So what's happened to the former genre king? Well, it's surviving, but ironically that's not good enough for the series that used to thrive on its controller-chilling formula.

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Back in the golden age of Capcom, before the madcap action of Dead Rising, there was an unassuming little game that could have been mistaken for a shooter, if you could find enough ammo. In 1996 Resident Evil pioneered a new genre with its tense atmosphere, scarce weaponry and genuinely scary moments. Oh, and it had some zombies in it, too.

It was something that had never truly been seen before in gaming, and one of the first games that promised a genuine horror experience; like the first time the Tyrant smashed through the wall and you almost dropped your controller, when the hideous Licker dropped down from the ceiling, tongue lashing, and THAT dog-through-the-window scene.

Plenty of games have delivered a more unsettling experience since, but it's difficult to remember many genuinely spooky moments from recent Resident Evils. The series seems to have left its roots behind for action thrills.

So given the extent of hints and rumours over Resident Evil 6 over the past few days, I'm hoping Capcom has the same idea as me.

I'm certainly not alone in my distaste for the last proper series offering, Resident Evil 5, which while on paper was a very solid game, diluted the concept of what a 'horror' title should be with waves of enemies, abundance of ammo, and a gimmicky partner mechanic.

Even Resident Evil 4, as brilliant as it is, felt more 'intense' than 'scary'.

In recent Resi instalments, where were the drop-your-controller shocks like the first Crimson Head zombie encounter in the GameCube remake of RE1? Every time I see a new enemy, I don't want to find myself admiring how pretty its infected tentacles look, but sweating with suspense because there's something moving in the shadows and I've only got two pistol rounds left.

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The classic Resi formula was a mix of tense atmosphere, demanding gameplay and classic shock-scares, backed up by a truly unsettling soundtrack. And I loved it. But in its attempts to avoid becoming stale, the series has ended up losing one of the biggest things that made the originals such a scare-inducing success.

Capcom; bring back the horror. It's about time Resident Evil returned to its roots.

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