Like many others this week I spent time with the Maiden demo for Resident Evil 8, released on January 21st. The photorealistic assets, characters, and environments make for a truly terrifying atmosphere, even if the experience is mostly puzzle based and any conflict is scripted. Maiden, like most Capcom outputs since 2017, is built using the RE Engine which allows Capcom to use 3D photography to scan items in addition to traditional modeling. Considering a game engine solely as “…the fundamental software components of a computer game”(Lowood 203) the RE Engine is just a new engine for a new generation of consoles. When considering technical and business context of how the engine has been used partially as a way to launch new technologies ahead of others and gain competence with it earlier and to focus on minor asset flips between titles focusing on using the more expensive 3D photography rendering on important assets unique to specific titles with significant screen time. The engine also packs games into .PAK archives making modification difficult but as scores of Resident Evil 2 mods would prove not impossible.
The engine has proven to be flexible for Capcom, having used it to make Resident Evil 7&8 as First Person shooters, Resident Evil 2&3 as third person shooters, and Devil May Cry 5 as a third person hack and slash. As a proprietary in house engine details on specifics details are scant but the engine is focused on versatility of game type, given the games slated to be released using it, but also on the photorealistic assets and game performance. As stated earlier, given the expense of the 3D photography, games built using the engine often reuse assets from past titles. For example Resident Evil 2 uses the same taped up box puzzle as Resident Evil 7 and even Maiden uses the same bolt cutter model, buckets, gurneys, etc.. as Resident Evil 7 this allows the modeling team to focus on new assets that are important to the new titles as well as free labor and capital for 3D photography. But ultimately it renders worlds similarly to other engines, effectively as a 3D maze of walls typically without large free traveling areas.
Lowood, Henry. Debugging Game History: a Critical Lexicon. The MIT Press, 2016.