There are Resident Evil fans, and then there's TheBatMan.
That's the name perhaps the biggest Resident Evil fan in the world goes by online.
I've spent the last few weeks lurking in a Discord called The Resident Evil Podcast, a channel dedicated to discussion of Resident Evil lore. It is a vibrant community, packed with debate about Capcom's sprawling horror series. The people in it really, really care about Resident Evil, and co-founder TheBatMan is revered. Every now and then you see posts from people debating some contentious issue in the lore, and someone steps in to say, well, let's wait and see what TheBatMan has to say about that.
And so they should, because TheBatMan has created perhaps the most complete and in-depth fan project ever conceived: a 2700-page long document, a decade in the making, that details the entire mythology of the Resident Evil series.
The timeline you can read now is actually the fourth iteration of a document that began life on popular fansite Biohaze back in 2006. Updates came in 2008 and then 2009, before the project was put on ice following the release of Resident Evil 5. It remained dormant until TheBatMan, a UK resident who has been a fan of Resident Evil since 1997 ("when a trip to my local Blockbuster video to rent out Ace Combat 2 on the PS1 resulted in me coming home with Resident Evil instead"), restarted the project, working to piece together Capcom's spiralling storyline over the course of over 10 years.
It is comprehensive. Totally, utterly comprehensive. It starts millions of years ago, with the genesis of the Plagas from Resident Evil 4, then moves all the way up to the events of Resident Evil 7. This is a canonical summary - as canonical as an unauthorised timeline can be, anyway - of the entire video game series. So, it does not reference the Paul W.S. Anderson movieverse, for example. It focuses squarely on the games made by Capcom Japan.
As a Resident Evil fan I found this timeline fascinating. But what about TheBatMan? What would motivate a person to create such a thing, to work on it for so long, to devote so much energy to a video game mythology? And, I wondered, has Capcom messed its own timeline up in any way? Has TheBatMan unearthed some glaring inconsistency in the Resident Evil mythology fans don't know about? And don't the remakes throw a spanner in the works? Let's wait and see what TheBatMan has to say about that, I thought, and I set up an interview...
What motivated you to write this enormous timeline?
TheBatMan: Well, aside from an obvious passion for the storyline, one unjust criticism I often read is people dismissing the larger Resident Evil mythos as being one dimensional and lacking any real substance, therefore a key motivation was to try and prove that assumption wrong. The series' reputation for cheesy dialogue and questionable voice acting, particularly in some of the earlier titles, has largely overshadowed what is a very deep and engaging narrative and I wanted to show that it does all fit together well. The series is so large now with over 20 games and when you factor in things like the CG movies and the canon manga stories, anyone could be forgiven for getting completely confused with it all. Hopefully, this document will help.
How long have you spent on it?
TheBatMan: Over 10 years believe it or not. Throughout the early 2000s I'd done several previous versions for Resident Evil fan site Biohaze, but in 2009 I decided to start completely from scratch having discovered a plethora of official story content that didn't feature in the games sourced from Japanese supplemental texts relating to the Biohazard side of the franchise. But the real genesis was the original Resident Evil 3 on the PlayStation being set 24 hours before and after the events of Resident Evil 2. This was my pre-internet days and when the game was first released I transcribed all the files from both games into their correct chronological order to help piece together the background events better and this seemed to add so many layers of depth to the story and really expanded the universe. Looking back now had I known how long it would take to complete it all I probably would not have bothered!
What were some of the key challenges you faced?
TheBatMan: Keeping up with Capcom's pace was hard. Up until RE5, the games had been coming out at a fairly steady rate, but then in 2012 we had Revelations, Operation Raccoon City, RE6, the Damnation movie, and the beginning of the Marhawa Desire manga spin-off in the space of nine months. That was a lot of new material in the space of nine months and I have been playing catch up ever since. I originally wanted to release this about six years back but there was always some new title on the horizon and I didn't want to release it in such an incomplete state. The other problem was motivation. This was a lot of writing and the larger it got the more stressful it became to try and get it finished, especially as the years went by and the written word was falling aside to the rise of YouTube lore videos and Twitch and streaming. I'm sure these days people would prefer this presented in a video format, but that cannot be helped now. This project was originally envisaged so people could print and bind it as a book, but I just had no idea how large it would ultimately become.
What are the most glaring inconsistencies you've found in the timeline?
TheBatMan: There are several small discrepancies with dates, which is understandable given how many canonical games there are, but overall, the series is remarkably consistent given how large it is now and how many different writing teams have been involved. Minor examples include some sources having the discovery of the Progenitor Virus as 1967 instead of 1966, Alexander Ashford's disappearance in 1982 instead of 1983, and Raccoon's destruction date as 2nd October instead of 1st October.
Some inconsistencies have also become apparent due to translation and localisation issues. Perhaps the most infamous example is a file in Resident Evil: Gun Survivor where the English version alluded to Nicholai's survival post Resident Evil 3, but the Japanese original did not. I recall a date issue in the NTSC version of Resident Evil Zero about precisely when James Marcus disappeared that caused a huge headache, but this was actually corrected in the subsequent PAL release. Unfortunately, the new HD remastering of Zero was based on the NTSC version so the error has now been put back! The series is full of small frustrations like this but there is nothing that completely breaks canon.
What's your favourite obscure note in the timeline?
TheBatMan: There are so many, but my favourite notes and sub-plot has to be the demise of George Trevor and his family in 1967. It represents some of the darkest writing across the entire series. The moment George comes across his own gravestone having realised his escape attempt from the mansion was orchestrated and planned by Spencer from the beginning is really quite chilling.
You've gone to incredible lengths to make this comprehensive in terms of source material. How did you go about obtaining it all?
TheBatMan: Many years ago, I flirted with being a collector of some rare Resident Evil materials related to the Japanese side of things. This resulted in me purchasing dozens of Biohazard guidebooks from a friend. Although there was an obvious language barrier with the text, primitive translation software at the time revealed glimpses of a treasure trove of official story materials direct from Capcom that was just completely missing from the games.
Up until a few years ago I regularly collected these books and I do not believe it is an exaggeration to say that around 50 per cent of the larger storyline is completely missing from the games. Over the last decade many fan sites and individuals have made it their mission to make this material more available to the masses. Aside from the two Resident Evil Archives sourcebooks, many Resident Evil fans outside of Japan have not had much extra material to go through. Ebay has been my friend in terms of obtaining a majority of it.
I understand translation work has gone into this. Can you give me some examples?
TheBatMan: As the series originates from Japan there is so much extra story material in various guidebooks such as the Kaitai shinsho books covering the numbered series by Studio Bentstuff and other works by Capcom's original writers, including their original story notes and descriptions. Tokyo Marui have also worked in collaboration with Capcom to produce detailed replicas on various firearms used throughout the series. Many of these contained booklets that held extra story information related to them.
For example, I was able to track down a buyer of the Albert-02 'Thor's Hammer' shotgun and he kindly provided me with a copy of the manual which revealed detailed story information on the reformed 'Blue Umbrella' from Resident Evil 7, including details about their history, their corporate location, and their working partnership with the BSAA, - cool in-depth story details that are only either hinted at or either missing completely from the Resident Evil 7 game. So, the only way to know this information previously was to shell out £600 for a shotgun replica!
Most fans will be familiar with the Wesker Reports that add much needed backstory, but other characters have done similar accounts. Biohazard Revelations came with a DVD of 'Jessica's Report' featuring story narration from Jessica Sherawat that was never made available outside Japan. This contained many useful story nuggets - including a connection to Excella Gionne and Tricell from Resident Evil 5 - something not explained in the Revelations game itself.
Fan translations have also been extremely helpful, and the series has a very dedicated fanbase with many individuals and fansites doing their part to make Capcom's official content more widely available. The second canonical manga series Biohazard: Heavenly Island, still does not have an official English release, but several fan translations now exist, meaning an easily overlooked yet important canonical storyline with ties to several of the games, is now available to the masses.
Now the timeline is complete, how do you feel Capcom has done keeping everything consistent?
TheBatMan: I think overall Capcom has done a remarkable job. There are no major game-breaking errors but really the story is so convoluted now I feel that is the main reason why each new title is largely independent with only a few superficial ties to previous games. Capcom know it can avoid making errors with the plot if they focus largely on new elements with only faint ties to what came before. Many fans have lamented the storyline has dropped in quality since Resident Evil 5, which closed off several storylines including Oswell Spencer, the old Umbrella, and Albert Wesker. Since then Capcom has arguably failed to create compelling successors with new villains and corporations being introduced and killed off in the same game. However, it felt like they hit the reset button in some respects with Resident Evil 7 and now finally with the upcoming Resident Evil: Village we appear to be getting our first direct sequel in years. With the return of Ethan, Mia and Chris, hopefully we will learn more of The Connections and of course Blue Umbrella PMC.
What's your favourite part of the timeline?
TheBatMan: I still like the year 1998. It is the period most fans are familiar with and contains the most famous incidents across the series such as the mansion incident and the Raccoon City disaster. There is now so much extra material connected to these events that we almost have a day by day diary account of the entire year - thus making the whole thing feel that little bit more real.
I think a natural follow-up is to ask how you've factored the remakes into all this, and what challenges they present to the timeline?
TheBatMan: The simple answer is I haven't as yet. The remakes were always going to be contentious when it comes to a project like this, especially when it became apparent they were going to be much more of a re-imagining than a straight up remake like the first Resident Evil. It's difficult because a majority of the fanbase have craved these remakes for 20 odd years, whereas others will forever defend the originals and liken the remakes to the video game equivalent of remaking Aliens or Die Hard. I can't please everyone and because some of the re-imagined events are so different from the originals, it is impossible to present them all as one coherent narrative.
Capcom's official position seems to be that both the originals and the remakes are canon and this is logical because all the major story beats - the canonical consequences that lead into later games, are all intact, but when writing a timeline that includes all the minor details as well as the major, that is when the remakes present a problem. For example, does Brad Vickers die via Nemesis like in the original, or by zombies in the remake? Does Marvin Branagh get bitten by Brad, or does he get bitten by a regular zombie during the siege in Desperate Times? Canonically it shouldn't matter because both outcomes are ultimately the same, and this is what Capcom are trying to get across - but for a project like this where I need to incorporate every finite detail, I can't share that view because it doesn't all fit together, I cannot have both outcomes. So in conclusion, this iteration of the timeline focuses solely on the original Resident Evil 2 and 3 and no elements of the remakes are included. But for a future revision, I plan to include a new section covering all the remakes in detail, thus allowing the reader to decide which they prefer.