“Resident Evil is a Sexless Porn Parody,” by Ed Smith

3

Chris Redfield is the grunting muscular guy with tribal tattoos and a big dick. Rebecca Chambers is the nubile, faux-virginal lollipop girl he picks up over-the-threshold-style then deposits lithotomical on a white leather couch. Barry Burton is the bear, Jill Valentine the predatory nympho. And Albert Wesker you can’t possibly describe in just one stereotype. From his thick blonde hair to Tom Cruise in Top Gun sunglasses, Wesker personifies all kinds of cheap sex. His cocky, effete voice makes lines like “sorry for my lack of manners, but I’m not used to escorting men” somehow drip even more double-entendre. He asks Chris “do you want to see it?” then gets out his secret, veiny monster.

At the start of Resident Evil, like they’re in some catalogue of by-the-hour escorts, or PornHub’s performer database, these characters’ physical statistics—weight, height, and age—appear alongside their moodily—lit glamour headshots. Chris Redfield is 25, 181cm, and 80.4kg, the game tells you; he lives in Venice Beach, works out six times a week, and his favourite position is The G-Whiz, you almost reflexively add.

Resident Evil is generally, pruriently fascinated by bodies. Go into the pause menu and see your characters’ heart-rates rising and fluttering on an EPG. Collect one of the many in-game diaries, and you’ll find people undergoing drastic, like pseudo-pubescent changes (bad skin, increased musculature, various,newly engorged parts) until they’re overcome with hunger for others’ flesh. And look at the bosses. Yawn, the giant snake, has a gaping, deep throat it uses for swallowing men. Plant 42 attacks with oozing, penile tentacles. Tyrant is a montage of steroidal abs, pecs, and buttocks, topped with a throbbing red organ—it’s like Frankenstein could only sneak into one graveyard, and it was reserved for the winners of Mr. Universe. Porn stars screech with affected euphoria, and shoot their loads in theatrical arcs. The cast of Resident Evil, penetrated by teeth, claws, and botanic pseudo members, release guttural screams and gush fluid. One thrashes and wails through little death. The other through death actually. They both react extremely to bodily onrush, for the benefit of the camera.

Those marble pillars and gold-handled doors, and that plush, patterned carpet, lower the starting area of Resident Evil to practically Guccionian levels of sleaze. Between its ornate fireplaces, monogrammed furniture that opens, closes, and revolves by remote control, and taxidermised eagles, the mansion is filled with the kinds of things a porn producer would buy in order to pass himself off as classy.

On the contrary, backgrounds can look bare and undecorated. The secret Umbrella lab is small, simple and distinctly unequipped for anything scientific. The library where you defeat Yawn is just a flat, empty square; when the giant snake knocks a hole through the floor, it seems to confirm that the entire Spencer Estate is in fact made of weak, film studio plywood. It’s a passable facsimile of a nice house. But to its owners, Umbrella, the illicit, biological, and for-profit things that really go on there are much more important. Like a classroom with a cougarish teacher wielding a cane, or a stable, handed by some shirtless, tumescent beefcake, so long as it’s more-or-less plausible, who really cares how the background looks?

And the music sounds like it was made on the same, free-to-download software. And the script reads like an afterthought. And the performances sound like they come from actors who typically don’t have to rely on their voices.

Resident Evil’s pornographic aspect, the smutty comportment—it has something to do with horror movies. When you picture the horror movie audience—the one sitting in the dark, in the cinema—it’s all straight couples. They’re there to be scared, because being scared gives them an excuse to touch one another. The guy gets to play all manly and tough; the girl gets to act vulnerable, and say she needs holding. Horror movies are to sex what alcohol is to talking too much. If Resident Evil is riffing on horror films—Night of the Living Dead, The Shining, The Haunting—it’s riffing also on their implicit, vicarious sex appeal.

Then again, nobody in Resident Evil ever gets it on. In the helicopter at the end of the first game, Jill and Chris certainly look good together, but it goes no further than her resting her head on his shoulder. Leon and Claire never so much as kiss in Resident Evil 2; nor do Leon and Ada. Jill and Carlos don’t hook up in 3, Leon and Ashley are chaste throughout 4. Billy and Rebecca don’t do it in 0 and Chris and Sheva never hook up in 5. In fact, almost every Resident Evil game—even 7, when the characters are marriedfeatures exorbitantly good-looking people also, inexplicably, not into one another.

Resident Evil looks almost exactly like a porn movie, except the stars are oblivious, like haphephobic virgins. The result is a comedy of the elephant in the room—kitsch, camp, and trash aesthetics, but all played totally dramatically straight. In videogames we play as testosteronal men and women whose breasts commove like water balloons. At the same time, games are infantile and toyish. They pride themselves on escapism, and encouraging and satiating our most childish whims. Resident Evil, a porno where no-one seems even aware of sex, encapsulates and brings to colourful, funny, and exaggerated life this arrested development. Its heroes are all poised to do the grown-up thing, but don’t, and apparently never will.

***

Ed Smith contributes to Edge, Rolling Stone, Paste, GamesTM, and PCGamesN.