After defined series high points, both Resident Evil and Silent Hill ended up dropping the ball, which led to a bit of a rough patch. With the convoluted expansion of the series/world story and a heavier focus on action in Resident Evil and recycled monsters coupled with not understanding how the horror works in Silent Hill after Team Silent was disbanded, they did lose sight over why they worked in the first place. So, how did Resident Evil start working their way back to high quality games? Since Konami has announced interest in bringing back Silent Hill, what do they need to do to regain quality and what can they learn from Resident Evil?
In terms of when the quality started dropping it was about the same time for both series, after the fourth game of each series. For Silent Hill, Silent Hill 4: The Room was the last game of Team Silent, who understood their own creation. It was also the strangest and most inventive in the series to date. Even though it was more of a side story, loosely linked to the titular town, it’s also the game with the strongest ties to the atmosphere that Team Silent set down in the first three games. However, after flipping the script in a lot of ways, after Konami disbanded Team Silent, they started licensing out the series to western developers who knew what they liked but mostly didn’t understand how the franchise worked. This led to the franchise becoming retreads of Silent Hill 2 and 3 in ways that didn’t necessarily work because revisited content was being used without a matching context.
For Resident Evil, the team started focusing more and more on the action and expanding the story in ways that didn’t entirely work. Aside from the story issues, the heavy shift in focus toward action made it stumble as a horror game. Coupled with that, the escalation of action in the core games just made it feel progressively more unrealistic and convoluted. Then there were the new mechanics, like having the AI partners in Resident Evil 5 and 6, though the AI partners were better in 6. Sometimes the game just ended up getting in the way of the player, and it wasn’t even due to difficulty. It was a bit of a long trip from the fall to the revival, but it’s something that ended up working out for Capcom.
So, how was Resident Evil fixed? It started off with the Revelation games. Sure, there were still the escalation issues. However, there were some things that were fixed. When there were AI partners, they didn’t get in the way of gameplay. Coupled with that, they focused a lot more on the character touchstones, which shaped their sense of duty and their relationships. They also had a clearer view of how to build the conflict in a more compelling way. For Resident Evil 5 and 6, things were just to busy. Revelation, there was Veltro as the red herring and the head of the FBC trying to direct the events in the game. Resident Evil Revelation 2 just had Alex Wesker, one of the children from Project Wesker now doing her own experiments, shaping the events. Through starting to draw the conflict down and focusing on the character touchstones again, we got Resident Evil VII, which actually revitalized the series in a way that made people interested in seeing what’s next, rather than filling in the gaps between existing games. That allowed for better defined characters needing to deal with a horrible situation. Aside from that, the new technology allowed for remaking of Resident Evil 2 and 3 with more atmosphere and a more cohesive story for each.
Since Konami has voiced an interest in rebooting Silent Hill, there’s some things that they can do to truly revitalize the series. The biggest thing is simple enough. They need to make sure that they’re licensing the brand out to teams that understand why and how Silent Hill works. If they do that, they can create more relevant creatures and scares to the individual installments. Without needing to rehash monsters and some scares also means that they wouldn’t essentially be trying to redo Silent Hill 2 or 3. For this, they need to focus more of the character relationships and their touchstones. What is bringing the character(s) to Silent Hill? What guilt and fears are torturing them, which will affect how they see the town and its inhabitants? Aside from the guilt and fears, what convictions do they have that they might need to follow or break to learn what lesson they need to learn. One thing that Konami could do, to revitalize interest, is allow Hideo Kojima the license to make the Silent Hills game that he was advertising with P.T. With the more supernatural and psychological bosses since Metal Gear Solid and the work he did on P.T. and Death Stranding, it appears that he knows at least some of the mechanics on how Silent Hill could work. P.T. was also one of the biggest things inspiring the public’s desire to return to Silent Hill.