After underwhelming sales as well as negative response from critics and fans alike for Resident Evil 6, the Resident Evil series could (once again) be returning to its survival horror roots. In an effort to build on the success of Resident Evil 5, which was a commercial hit even though it prioritized action over scares, Capcom decided that bigger, louder, and more explosions would help them expand Resident Evil 6 into untapped demographics of the gaming community - most notably the twitch shooter audience that rocketed Gears of War, Call of Duty, and Uncharted, among others, to unprecedented sales.
Unfortunately, the strategy backfired and RE 6's jumbled storyline and over-the-top action gameplay failed to connect with new gamers (read our Resident Evil 6 review) and outright alienated many established series players. The title went on to sell over 5.2 million copies over two years, earning it a spot among Capcom's "best selling" games, but the publisher had much higher ambitions for the sixth installment - expecting Resident Evil 6 would move 7 million copies in its first year alone. Now, Capcom may finally be ready to admit that survival horror is a key component of the RE brand - if a new leak is to be believed.
Earlier today, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (Resident Evil is titled Biohazard in Japan) box art along with a single image appeared over at an official Xbox.com domain. Since that time, the Resident Evil/Biohazard artwork and screenshot have been removed but French gaming site, Gamer in a Box, snagged a copy of the original art and image (which you can view below):
For years, Capcom had been working under the assumption that Resident Evil was too big for the survival horror genre but, in an attempt to put their RE6 mistakes behind them, the publisher may be opting to place the core Resident Evil game series to the side in order to produce a sequel to their well-received Resident Evil: Revelations spin-off. Unlike RE6, Revelations featured more traditional survival horror gameplay (limited ammunition, spooky environments, and puzzles, along with a host of nerve-racking creature encounters) and, as a result, became a go-to game for RE players who were letdown by Capcom's sixth installment. Revelations (read our review) started out as a Nintendo 3DS exclusive but was quickly ported to PC, PS3, Wii U, and Xbox 360 in HD but, since the artwork leak features Xbox 360 labeling and appeared on Microsoft's site, it's safe to assume that Capcom is positioning Revelations 2 as a current (and possibly next-gen) offering out the gate.
The publisher has yet to offer official comment but it makes perfect sense for Capcom to develop a Revelations sequel - and the project could actually still be a product of the developer's hopes to get more milage out of the brand overall. Since Revelations was embraced by fans (and contains direct storyline ties to Resident Evil 5 and 6), a sequel could help get franchise supporters back on board while Capcom plots the next chapter in the numbered Resident Evil series.
After all, it's too early to assume that the publisher has given up on wooing action gamers with Resident Evil 7 and Revelations 2 could actually be indicative of an attempt to get more frequent Resident Evil releases out the door - similar to how Call of Duty alternates between sub-series within the main franchise for annual installments. If that is the case, it's possible that Capcom is position the Revelations series to offer a more traditional and scary gaming experience while the Resident Evil # titles will continue to aim for a wider action-oriented audience (though they'll still need to deliver a much better overall product whenever Resident Evil 7 hits).
The publisher has already experimented with varied gameplay experiences within the Resident Evil universe - Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (an on rails shooter) and Resident Evil: Dead Aim (a light gun shooter), among others - so it's not a complete stretch to think that the answer to Capcom's goal of expanding the brand might be to offer more games that target different audiences. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, a third-person multiplayer shooter, received negative reviews but sales for the title indicated that players are open to a variety of gameplay experiences set in the Resident Evil world.
The key to expanding outside of survival horror may be to ensure that the publisher also offers a traditional RE experience - which, as indicated, could be where a new Revelations game fits into the picture. If new Revelations titles came out every few years, and satisfied core survival horror aficionados, RE fans might be more accepting of the core series' move toward blockbuster action-adventure. Of course, Capcom still needs to raise the bar overall - given that both Resident Evil 6 and Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City were both problematic efforts (regardless of how much they strayed from survival horror).
That all said, the publisher might not even have a multi-tiered plan for the Resident Evil series and Revelations may simply be a sequel to a well-received game.
Either way, we'll keep you up to date when/if Capcom officially announces the game. Given the artwork leak, it's safe to assume that fans shouldn't have to wait long.
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