4 out of 5
After some off-the-beaten–path entries, Philip J. Reed returns Boss Fight Books to its more “traditional” format – narrating through a game’s story, commenting on it throughout – in his coverage of Resident Evil. He also shows, very slickly, that you don’t have to approach this series with necessarily mind-blowing revelations, or heretofore unknown developmental secrets; that you can cover a written-about-to-death game like RE and still bring a fresh point of view to it, simply by, like, writing competently and intelligently… not that that’s a simple task, mind you.
The key is balance: Reed goes far and wide with references / interviews related to classic literary horror and movies, and discussions with their creators, and also checks in with psychologists and the like to consider What Scares Us and Why, but he always keeps it tied to a general focus for any given chapter (all appreciably named after or inspired by horror movies titles), avoiding the wandering nature to which a lot of BFB authors have fallen prey. He also wisely doesn’t try to avoid the game’s notable detraction – its voice acting – but also doesn’t lampshade it: he repeats it for us, and lets us chuckle at it, making choice funny comments on it, and then moves on, making a strong case for how the game is incredibly effective despite this. The strength of this structure – that balance – makes the book work equally as a nostalgic playthrough, but also a modern read on its legacy, and what it was tapping in to (purposefully or accidentally) and how that presents in our daily lives, or in current gaming.
It is a quick read, though. While it’s about 170 pages, the chapters are very short, and there are some intriguing conversations on the nature of fear that only feel touched upon; on the one hand, the book’s brevity is probably what helps keep it on target, but it crosses through such fun territory with that brevity, that it ultimately makes the book a one time, somewhat disposable read. Perhaps consolidating chapters and allowing Reed to explore for just a few more pages could’ve landed on some longer lasting ideas.
However, I absolutely enjoyed my time with the book, and never felt like my time was wasted (or my readerly competence tested); it made me wish I could sit down and talk about the game with Reed myself, and has me looking forward to playing RE again.