How Capcom REanimated Itself

Image Credit: Emma Lambkin

Sandie Ellis examines Capcom’s recent renaissance

Capcom has had a thrilling renaissance that intrigued, charmed, and terrified its fans. Life was pumped back into the company with the Resident Evil 7 thanks to their new RE engine. Before the game, the series had been on a downward slope since Resident Evil 4, trying new directions with their games and unfortunately missing the mark. Fresh meat was put back on the table with the RE 7 and quite horrifically so. The RE engine that brought us the ferocious and cannibalistic Baker family worked so well that Capcom decided to continue with it, using it on the development of games such as Devil May Cry 5 and Monster World going forward. So, what revived Capcom? And how did they creep back to the top? From meeting the new era of protagonists like Ethan Winters to seeing old favourites, Capcom’s revival has us dying to see what comes next.

Towards the late 2000s, the games got less scary and more combat oriented, mostly feeling like shooters

The Reach for the Moon engine was created for Resident Evil’s 7th game as Capcom knew the series needed something to revamp it. Towards the late 2000s, the games got less scary and more combat oriented, mostly feeling like shooters more than survival horror. Often lacking that spark that fans seen with the original games. Of course, they remade the original game in 2002 which is agreeably outdated again. Fans are begging for the earlier games, especially this one to be remade with the RE engine like the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes. Considering how terrifying the remakes were, seeing the Spencer mansion in RE engine’s quality and depth would be entirely worth the wait.

One of the reasons for the resurgence in the franchise is the hyper-real visuals. Everything looks more sinister only furthering the world building. With the RE engine, the models for characters are scanned rather than previous methods. For specific characters like Claire Redfield in the remake, the engine allowed her character and costume to look incredibly authentic. It’s the minor details like costumes and scenery that add to the depth, always leaving fans looking for the hidden details in Racoon City.

This technique was also used for Mia Winter’s lustrous hair in the 7th game. Something not done before in other Capcom games, usually characters sported very fixed hairstyles in past games. However, Mia’s hair is erratic much like herself when we first find her lurking under the Baker’s home. Capcom also discussed some of the modifications for these design choices months to perfect, years even when it came to the logo on the van in Devil May Cry 5.

Resident Evil 7 being the game that kicked it all off was grisly, gruesome, and horrifying – everything a survivor horror based in Louisiana should be. It’s a love child of all of horror’s best and brightest, Silent Hill meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and so much more. From the questionable protagonist, Ethan Winters, to the cultist family, the bugs, and manic jump scares, it was a horrifying fever dream that left players with nightmares. One can imagine how surreal those nightmares seem in VR! Love it or hate it, it proved difficult to put the controller down. It was a huge success, selling over ten million copies worldwide and continuing to do so. Even now, nearly five years later – the game is still a hit. 

Selling 5.7 million copies and bagging a game of the year award truly solidified Capcom’s hold on society

Following in its success came Village, Capcom’s latest release in the Resident Evil series. The gothic, unhinged fairy-tale followed the events of RE 7 a few years after. Selling 5.7 million copies and bagging a game of the year award truly solidified Capcom’s hold on society. Ethan Winter’s returning as the primary antagonist. Its next-generation console graphics only added to the horror – within the first fifteen minutes of gameplay, the true glory of the RE engine was captured. Although more campy than scary, it’s still the perfect sequel. Crawling your way through the folkish, grisly forest set in Romania until you see the initial shot of the wonderful Castle Dimitrescu – Capcom and the RE engine overdid themselves. Both RE 7 and Village have been incredibly refreshing in the world of Resident Evil, so we are dying to see what Rose Winters has in store for us in the next segment of the new era.

Of course, we cannot talk about Capcom’s renaissance without their iconic remakes of Re 2 and 3. The Resident Evil 2 remake was the first instalment in the remakes and came out in 2019. Capcom was praised for the remake as while keeping all the loved traits of the original and the storyline, they turned it on its head, making it an entirely different playing experience. It provided players with the ultimate fight for the survivor while also being hyper-realistic. Its grim and dark depiction of the Racoon City police department leaves the player relying on stealth and limited ammo to survive Mr. X, lickers, and the lurking dead that give the most terrifying, subtle frights. With both Claire and Leon’s stories playable and countless achievements waiting to be unlocked, it was immediately successful. Resident Evil 3 followed suit, however, its reception was more torn. Critics viewed it as short and thrilling but lacking in the same wow factor its predecessor had. It did not focus on puzzles and did have that alluring depth to it, regardless it was still a great remake.

When horror fans hear Capcom – they think, Resident Evil! But alas, the company flourishes in other game series too, with Monster Hunter being adored worldwide. More for the faint-hearted, it is an open-world RPG and was a hit throughout Japan and Asia. However, with Capcom’s release of Monster Hunter World, the game took Western players by storm. It became a sensation. Capcom even went on to release a Nintendo Switch console exclusive game, Monster Hunter Rise, using the RE engine. Like the Monster Hunter series, Capcom fans treasure the Devil May Cry series. The fifth game in the main series released in 2019 followed the success of the RE engine after RE7 and marvelled in doing so. The game was received well, with IGN, in particular, praising it for its narrative and character development! Though both franchises are popular within their niche fandoms – they are often overshadowed by the Resident Evil series and the impact it had on the western world from the 90s until now.

Capcom has proven themselves with their comeback. While keeping their nostalgic hits, they’ve paved new ways for their golden oldies. With this deep dive into the resurgence of Capcom, it’s obvious with their engine change came a new era of immersive stories that fans love. The company successfully turned the Resident Evil franchise into a once again thriving saga, leaving the gaming world only thrilled to see what comes next, whether it be a remake, the next instalment in the Winter’s family story, or even their perfected version of RE: VERSE which has been teased for a while now! Capcom is always bettering themselves and within the last several years have yet to disappoint whether it is the next Monster Hunter, Devil May Cry or whether we get that remake of Resident Evil 2002, we’re seated, waiting, and ready for what Capcom throws at us.