I’m not even doing CVG and their cadre of hacks the service of linking to last Sunday’s feature on the history of Resident Evil cover artwork. Save to say as a once-dedicated RE fan (let’s face it, the series has gone to the dogs) I feel compelled to counter their piss weak offering with one of my own. Will it be read by as many people? Fun no. But it’ll sure as haitch-ee-double-hockey-sticks make ’em look stupid for not thinking twice about posting such a horribly lightweight piece in the first place. This is journalistic principle, Blastees. We’ll show them how it’s done…
Caveat 1: This is not comprehensive. It’s not even exhaustive. There are too many variations from country to country to provide an entertaining look at every game’s multiple covers, and also I couldn’t remember the rest after I’d exhausted my mind archives in Google Images.
Caveat 2: NO SECOND CAVEAT
So, in the words of that one guy in Akira that gets shot by the cops after he killed those dogs, and also millions of other people in the world ever, what are you waiting for?
RESIDENT EVIL (1996)
Perhaps we’d better start from the beginning. No, you’re not listening to White Zombie’s underwhelming sophomore album Astro-Creep 2000, rather embarking on a visual journey charting the steady decline of the quality of one game series’ design aesthetics as it gets more and more popular. First of all, let’s have a look at 1996’s original Resident Evil:
Years before the internet hijacked it for thousands upon thousands of increasingly baffling memes, Capcom made great use of Impact, the vein claret-red font of the above picture’s title. As strikingly confusome as this artwork is, there’s a few things that need attention drawn to, the first being the bizarre choice of the designer to overlay some genuinely undecipherable visual craziness over the mansion background. Sure, there’s the cheesily flipped-and-repeated spider legs at the bottom there, but whatever on earth is happening at the top is known only to the maniac who knocked this out on his crumbling 1990s software. Secondly:
Who the sweet burping baby JESUS is that? Whichever nightmare version of Chris Redfield this is supposed to represent looks like the lovechild of Robert Davi and THE MOST FRIGHTENING HUMAN EXPERIENCE WITHIN THE REALM OF MENTAL CONCEPTION. Something I used to do for fun was cover one of his eyes with my thumb, one at a time. Try it. It makes his face look either absolutely terrified or bastard-furious. But, yeah, anyway, Chris Redfield looks like this:
Whereas that guy from earlier looks like no-one ever. He also looks like he’s a hundred years old and he’s got, like, an assault rifle which you just DON’T have in the game, and also it’s hard to tell if he’s a photograph or a painting, or, just, it’s, wh…
I do apologise, it’s just that I’ve been dealing with this for 16 years now and that cover and me, we have a volatile relationship. Perhaps it’s better we just move onto the next, hmm?
RESIDENT EVIL (DIRECTOR’S CUT) (1997)
K, what have we got he…
Grrrrrr. Yes, here in the UK, the curiously monikered reissue of Resident Evil was saddled with the same bizarre image of Mr. Redfield with a completely context-free orange and black sort of, like, tearing effect, thing. No indication on the cover about why you should buy it if you already have the game, apart from the Resident Evil 2 demo which is BIG AND RED AND YOU NEED THIS. In the US, though, they got this beauty…
Brrr. That, right there, that’s Origozombie, the first undead cat you ever come across in big ‘ol Spencer Mansion. That picture used to terrify me so much I’d skip the page it was on in the booklet. Now THAT’S a game I’d buy (though, as I’ve mentioned on here before, the US copy is NOT the version you want to plump for), based on cover artwork alone. That’s what cover artwork is for, after all. Not every potential shopper is franchise-savvy enough to buy something because they recognize the name, but we’ll get to that later. Now, there’s another spot of dishonesty at play here too, because Origozombie looks like this in reality:
The very sort of ketchup mouthed dope your granny’d describe as “harmless”, he’s a lot less intimidating than his lipless cousin there, but definitely worth bearing the standard for the reissue of the game as his appearance is undoubtedly iconic. With the first game dealt with, let’s roll on a year…
Resident Evil 2 (1998)
By this time Capcom had obviously ditched their promo boffins in favour of those who could offer an edgier look (look, it was the 1990s: ‘edgy’ was mandatory) and sure enough, on both sides of the pond Resident Evil 2 presented a stronger front for the horror series, with varying degrees of success. While we got this mini-masterpiece:
The poor old yanks got this:
See, the notion of the zombie clawing its way out from behind something is pretty creepy, right, but what exactly is he clawing out of? I think I’ve seen the image independent of the trade dress of the cover somewhere and he may have been inside a body bag, but the way it ended up on the market just makes him look like he’s holding a sort of leather, like, plate up, behind a confusing black montage of some of the other monsters. Whereas we got an understated white mother which, quite simply, just says ‘death’ to me. For those keeping score, that’s UK 1: US 1. Neck and neck. Note that Impact makes a return for us but the Yanks have ditched it in favour of a weird pointy affair that’s just a little…tacky? Tacky. Tackity tackity tack.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999)
Nemmy takes centre stage for his debut outing, which isn’t different enough for PAL and NTSC to merit showing both so here’s ours. I’ll refrain from scoring on this occasion seeing as I’m only showing the one version. I’m not that unfair. I’m not your man Pol Pot. That’s more his scene, dig?:
Um, Eidos? Anyway, Nemesis is a great big bloody badass bastard and definitely the best way to sell the game. He’s a damn sight more impressive than Jill in her prostitute Hallowe’en/ Every Other Day costume. It’s not a great cover, but the best option. Reports that a limited edition Brad Vickers Edition sold out on day of release are entirely fabricated and only a sentence old.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica (2000) and Code Veronica: X (2001)
I hate Code Veronica like it was a person. When it first emerged, on the Dreamcast (which isn’t a good as you remember it), it boasted this weak effort featuring the Redfield siblings looking, I dunno, just at things or whatever. Sucks, certainly:
As you can see, Chris has had another makeover and now looks like he represented Superman in a boyband heavily influenced by the Justice League and kept the look going after the group disbanded due to internal frictions and 100% apathy from the music-consuming public. I can’t exactly make out what that is behind them, but it doesn’t look like anything I remember from the (awful awful) game. When the X reissue popped up a year later they settled for another render (note: I despise character renders on videogame artwork) but the way it’s used is plenty forgivable:
Claire and her big silly lips don’t seem particularly bothered by the zombie that must, if we’re considering basic physical principles like distance, here, be less than a few feet away from here. Either way, I like it, and as the first RE cover in the taller box format it’s a clear success. But for a badawful game of a thing. If I was an elaborately sketched Italian stereotype, I’d spit at its mere mention.
Resident Evil (2002)
Resident Evil’s noughties remake is still, a decade on, the most satisfyingly teeth-chattering, knees-knocking experience I’ve ever had (and that includes the one time Fat Mickey threatened me with a hammering if I didn’t give him my phone – he’s in prison now, by the way). Atmospherically speaking, no television can contain the fog of fear those tiny little Gamecube discs let loose as it seeps ever slowly into your room and brains. It more than made up for the few years of disappointment since Nemesis was released and quickly became one of the few examples of a successful updating, handled with taste and affection and a creepy mutant lady to chase you around caves and a bleeding coffin and its mysterious, I’d-rather-slap-my-father-on-his-birthday-than-confront-what’s-in-that-bleeding-coffin contents. In the UK, we opted for this:
Stylish, elegant, um…it’s…well, it’s just some brown isn’t it? I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now. At all. “How about some brown, guys? Then just stick the name on it and release it to the public, yeah?” Meanwhile, overseas:
Curse you, America. You win THIS round…
Resident Evil 0 (2002)
Another solid Gamecube effort (after an aborted attempt on N64, fact fans), it’s hard to pick a winner on this one as, once again, Capcom UK settled on not trying to get people to actually buy the game while in the US they just stuck the characters in a fancily lit room.
But they’re clearly not IN that room, the angle is just all off…total and complete failure at being good at your job, humans.
Resident Evil 4 (2005)
Sweet, sweet Resident Evil 4. You are, to one as I, a nectar in the desert, a spade at a graveside*, ten thousand spoons when all I need is, indeed, a spoon. I adore thee. Resident Evil 4’s been through three notable editions (with related ports on PC and current-gen machines), each with artwork worth discussing. It was with this that the tally was finally swayed in the PAL regions’ favour, as Capcom US dropped the ball altogether. Here’s the UK versions on Gamecube, PS2 and Wii respectively:
Proper proper spooky, thon. I can’t decide on a favourite, but the settling on old Baghead there on each of the covers in a selection of differently lit and coloured woods is a design triumph. Three goes at it, and three knocks outta the park. Ha, you want to see what the Americans got. I shouldn’t, I’m sorry, no, I shouldn’t laugh, but…
Jesus, that doesn’t even LOOK like Leon! What else have we?:
Typical generic action macho bullpoop, with Leon calmly facing away from a considerable amount of enemies and no sense of what’s actually happening. Now, to be fair, I do quite like the Gamecube version of the game from over there, but that wouldn’t have suited my mock incredulity, now, would it?
Neat sky colour, Baghead, Leon looking like Leon and at least like he’s running away from the village of would-be murderers, not too shabby, US. Not too shabby at allllllllll.
Resident Evil 5 (2009)
Ugh. And so it came to just putting a number on the box. I don’t know if Capcom were simply opting for subtlety or if they just didn’t give half a toss (but I know which I’d tell you if you cornered me after a few Cherry Cokes too many), and though there’s enough room for appreciation of the African continent smuggled in there, the majority of the bandwagon jumpers that helped make this the best-selling game in the series are hardly likely to notice:
The US cover also bravely presents us with that game’s version of Chris Redfield in a strange lighting that very much makes it look like he’s a child in an elaborate Roidhead Dress-Up Suit:
Resident Evil 6 (2012)
And, spinoffs and all that other hot garbage aside, that brings us up to date…with the FUTURE! And as such I can’t really comment because I haven’t yet seen it, nor am I particularly excited about buying it. You could say my affections for the series have dovetailed with the evolution of its artwork, but you shouldn’t as it’s not actually true. I was just trying to give a sense of profundity for half a sentence. Also my blogging wrist is wrecked. I’ll just leave you with an uninspiring selection of some of the less exciting games in the series so-boring-you’ll-forget-about-them-while-you’re-staring-at-them covers. Thank you and good…FRIGHT.
Wait, that’s not applicable any more, not for this franchise. I guess I should say thank you and good BICEPS.
*If I am a professional grave digger