Friday, June 2, 2023

Silent Hill 2 vs. Resident Evil 4: A Case Of Benefit Of The Doubt

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Last week saw the horror genre of the video game industry receive a huge hype boon in the form of dueling glimpses at the remakes for Silent Hill 2 and Resident Evil 4. Each of these games were defining entries in their respective series, and widely recognized as the best (or at least most popular) for both. Despite their considerable legacies, the reaction to extended look at Resident Evil 4 was met with universal positivity, while the Silent Hill 2 remake was met with immediate skepticism.

Weird, right? But it’s totally understandable.

Leon from Resident Evil 4

While you would think that the influx of sudden Silent Hill content would have been met with more love by fans, and a remake of its most iconic game especially anticipated, Konami simply does not have that earned benefit of the doubt in the gaming community anymore. Gamers have watched the company abandon a number of iconic gaming franchises, Silent Hill among them, and move away from the industry. None of these series were given a proper sendoff of any kind. Metal Gear Solid V had the conflict between Konami and Hideo Kojima that soured its perception, followed by Metal Gear Survive. Castlevania hasn’t been around since the disappointing Lords of Shadow 2. Does anyone even remember Contra?

Silent Hill’s own relevance vanished after the extremely disappointing cancellation of Silent Hills, the joint project of Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro, who eventually joined back together with planned Silent Hills protagonist Norman Reedus to make Death Stranding. Even before Silent Hills, the series had not been central to the horror genre since Silent Hill 3. Depending on your opinion of Shattered Memories on the Wii, Silent Hill 3 was also the last time we had a truly well-received game in the franchise. We’re talking two decades now.

It’s extremely difficult for fans of the series to be positive about the direction of the series with a track record like this. Konami has been irrelevant to the gaming industry for years, Silent Hill even before that, and on top of everything else they have contracted the controversial Bloober Team to remake Silent Hill 2. That is a lot of baggage to overcome before you can be optimistic about the project.

I, and many like me, are finding it tough to give Konami any optimism. Cynicism is always easier. There are so many ways that a Silent Hill 2 remake can go wrong, and so many ways in which the elements which made it so memorable and remarkable in the Playstation 2 era simply cannot be replicated in the modern gaming landscape.

Does Konami or Bloober truly understand those challenges and how to overcome them? Will prettying up the game ruin the effect? We already saw how the “cleaned up” and re-voiced HD version of Silent Hill 2 sucked. Will the same thing happen again with this remake? Can you blame fans for defaulting to believing it will disappoint?

The Resident Evil 4 remake comes with its own share of skepticism, for sure. The original game is widely recognized as one of the top-tier great games ever made, and easily one of the most influential. The over-the-shoulder third-person camera widely adopted by the entire gaming industry was popularized by Resident Evil 4, while its humor and villains remain beloved to this day. There does remain a bit of skepticism about Capcom’s dedication to replicating everything people loved about the game, and what will or will not make the cut.

So what’s the difference that makes fans give this remake the benefit of the doubt? To put it simply, Capcom’s track record is an exact opposite of Konami’s.

Capcom was not far off from tanking their own franchises much the same way Konami has. Resident Evil was limping along after the lukewarm reception to RE6 and the awful side games of the same era. The Devil May Cry reboot pushed fans away. Street Fighter V caused backlash among fighting game fans for its gameplay changes and lack of content. Things looked dire.

The release of Resident Evil 7 in 2017 seemingly changed everything, or was at least the harbinger of such change. Among the many excellent releases Capcom has published since RE7 is the extremely well-received and long-awaited remake of Resident Evil 2. It immediately shot up near the top of fan lists as possibly the best game in the series. RE2 was a success in every single way and one of the best remakes in gaming history. A Resident Evil 3 remake was not quite as universally praised, but was still a quality game that continued Capcom’s winning streak.

(And of course the remake of the original game long ago established the RE team’s ability to do right by these remakes.)

Why are people more excited for a RE4 remake than a Silent Hill 2 remake? Well, it helps to know Resident Evil is on arguably the hottest streak of its existence, with multiple good remakes under its belt. Capcom has earned the benefit of the doubt.

The short glimpse we received of the RE4 remake’s gameplay only reinforced the faith and good faith Capcom has earned with fans. It looked exactly like what you hope a remake will look like; all the fun, action, humor, and horror of the original RE4 was there, and enhanced by interesting expansions of the opening area and a new gameplay mechanic in the knife parry. A story trailer on the same day alleviated some fears of cut content by showing off many characters and bosses fans worried would not make it into the game.

And I know you can say we have seen more of RE4, so of course it is easier to be excited for that game and not for one trailer of Silent Hill 2, but this excitement for Resident Evil’s latest remake began the second the game was confirmed. There is good reason for that.

As a massive fan of both of these franchise practically since their debuts back in the 90s, I fully understand and agree with the opposing hype levels for these games. I want to believe Silent Hill 2’s remake will be great, but with how poorly the Silent Hill HD remasters went and the many years since I have truly enjoyed a great game in the franchise, it is hard to be optimistic. On the other hand, I have 4 years of Resident Evil games I love that convince me the current team will deliver yet again.

Could all this Silent Hill content create Konami’s own major resurgence back into the gaming world? I sure hope so. I’d like to look back in 5 years and feel the exact same way I feel about Capcom now. Just like Capcom, though, they have a ways to go to earn back that benefit of the doubt.

Images Courtesy of Konami and Capcom

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  • Bo

    Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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