There’s a love-hate relationship among fans with Capcom’s poster boy/hunk of the Resident Evil series, Chris Redfield. Having populated the most entries in the series more than any other protagonist, Redfield brought little in the way of brains over his decisively muscular appeal. Nonetheless, he also came to define the spirit of Resident Evil’s characters, in all their cartoonish, intentionally over-the-top glory following the more bombastic outings like Resident Evil 5 and 6. Yet what makes Chris Redfield an elite among the video game icons? Let’s dive into one of gaming’s most recognizable airheads this side of Duke Nukem.
Chris Redfield, like most staple Resident Evil characters, began his modest journey as a simple STARS member from the original 1996 groundbreaking release. A former military pilot, Redfield’s ability to control an aircraft but seemingly have trouble with lock-picks made him the zombie-sponge of the franchise, and as the games progressed, also a change in physical appearance to one more appealing to the female demographic. Where Leon S. Kennedy brought the professionalism, wit, and fabulous Japanese hairstyles, Redfield was the opposite. He certainly knew his way around weapons, but that came as a bit of a challenge when Resident Evil 5 revealed his ineptitude for aiming while moving in a logical manner.
A big part of what made Chris Redfield one of the more go-to characters of the Resident Evil universe was his indifference to the usual, bumbling action hero who solves all his problems by pumping more bullets into them. There’s a masochistic kind of charm to the way Redfield tackled all his issues, most evident in the first game in which players, if they did not already pick the more logical choice of Jill Valentine, were severely limited to puzzle-solving and basic necessities as Redfield preferred to take less damage and carry more items because he pumped a bit more iron at the gym. In essence, he was a mostly simple-minded glutton for punishment, but that brought with it the core of the survival horror experience that RE is now famous for.
Chris Redfield’s appearance changed, or the more fitting word would be evolved, over the course of the series to better suite his reckless tendencies, where the only way forward would be through violence and sheer determination (often by way of his massive biceps punching the occasional boulder). As the levels of insanity rose in the action elements of the series, so did Chris’ testosterone levels before becoming the muscle-bound, no-shit-taken soldier seen in Resident Evil 6 – ultimately making his long-awaited confrontation with Leon all the more baffling. It’s like David versus Goliath if David was the vastly intellectually superior soldier and Goliath was, well, the thing from The Goonies.
Resident Evil fans gravitate towards Chris for a number of reasons, some more intentionally shallow than others. He represented what the franchise needed most; an airhead with an astounding resistance to the heavy-hitter horrors in Raccoon City. In fact, each protagonist of the series has in some way snuggled into a stereotype that can only be relevant within the RE universe alone, given the direction Resident Evil 6 intentionally took to line itself up with a Hollywood blockbuster – and what better way to celebrate all the shortcomings of a generic action movie by having Chris Redfield as a STAR (no pun intended) main character?
Chris Redfield may not have the same intelligence quota to be on par with the likes of Jill “Sandwich” Valentine or Ada Wong, or have the professional persona and charismatic pull of Leon “Korean Boyband Hairstyle” Kennedy, but he delivers on the more action-heavy side of the Resident Evil games that is frankly a much-needed element when overwhelmed with zombies and the countless nightmares in Capcom’s arsenal of horror. Redfield breaks into iconic territory as perhaps the most easily identifiable, if not physically persistent, protagonist in all of survival horror; a true character to get behind when things take a turn for the worst… because he’s a brick wall on the level of a Super Saiyan God by now, I’m sure.