When analyzing screenshots from video games, I generally ignore “camera” positioning because its purpose is usually meant to be functional rather than stylistic. There are exceptions, however, particularly when the camera is fixed or on rails. As far as a fixed camera is concerned, it is by far most strongly associated with the earlier games in the Resident Evil series. So, I thought it would be interesting to turn my sights on the cinematography of the 2002 remake of the original Resident Evil.
In this screen, we have a very high-angle shot of a small room with a staircase that goes around the outer wall to a balcony. A lamp hangs from the ceiling in the foreground. On the stairs is the player character Jill Valentine, who is pointing her gun at a zombie that is presumably moving towards the stairs. Despite the brightness of the lamp, the lighting is a little dim. Patterns can be made out on the floor and walls. There is a hallway on the lower right, and a door in the corner.
In a game that consists entirely of fixed camera angles, there’s more of an emphasis on cinematic style, but it must still be functional to allow the player a good view of the action. In this case, such a high camera angle could be considered more traditional for a video game. However, the viewpoint is at an unusual angle, as it is not oriented at either a direct side or diagonal position. Furthermore, the viewpoint is not simulating looking over the banister, but rather it is hovering in midair.
Usually, an overhead perspective would give the player a good view of the action, but here, it is slightly obstructed by the hanging lamp. This, perhaps, raises the tension, as it can be distracting when trying to fight enemies. But given that the viewpoint seems to be almost centered on the lamp, this angle could be considered the lamp’s point of view.
Contrasting it with film, such a high-angle shot is a bit more unusual. Seeing this screenshot, I was reminded of the scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film Psycho in which Detective Arbogast is attacked. In both cases, the high angle seems to emphasize the characters’ positions and movement, but also conceals their details.
Although the Resident Evil games pay homage to classic horror films, I doubt that this particular room was intended to be a direct reference to Psycho, as their layouts are not entirely similar. It does seem consistent with horror movie techniques, however.
In the end, the angle and positioning of the viewpoint, as well as the action that seems to be going on, provides an accurate sense of the style and atmosphere that the game provides.