(picture from Resident Evil Wiki)
When you say Resident Evil, a lot of people immediately think of Resident Evil 4 or the Post-RE4 games as they are most readily apparent, and also the ones that have sold the most out of any other Resident Evil game, Resident Evil 5 being the top selling game in the franchise. Higher numbers solely mean higher contact rates with people that might not have been familiar with the franchise when it started back in 1996. This article is not to suggest that those that have never played earlier games in the series are somehow undeserving of their love of the series itself, far from it. Enjoyment of a series starting later than the original game is just as valid, but sometimes, some characters get lost in the mix as new, bolder characters and scenarios are introduced.
Everyone knows Leon S. Kennedy and Chris Redfield. Most know Jill Valentine and Sheva Alomar, while Piers Nivans and Jake Mueller have cemented themselves in many fandom discussions. Those of us that remember playing Resident Evil 2 when it first arrived on the Playstation 1 will remember bemoaning the announcement that Sherry Birkin would be returning for Resident Evil 6 (I did not moan…I actually liked Sherry Birkin in her original debut, but I know many people hated her). All of this is to say, that some characters, even from old, are given a great deal more respect than others.
While Claire is getting involved in a new game with newbie Moira Burton, and the reprise of a really old face, Barry Burton who hasn’t shown up since his cameo in Resident Evil 3, there are still two characters that a lot of people have been craving to see, despite them getting little attention from many fans and creators alike.
The heroes of Resident Evil 0 certainly deserve a little more respect than they are given. While Billy has been M.I.A. since Resident Evil 0, (something actually fitting given the way his storyline played out), Rebecca Chambers has only been featured in Mercenary gameplay since her leading role in RE0, which, to this writer, is a dirty shame.
Sure, Rebecca was the youngest member of the Resident Evil cast when it came out in 1996. Barely out of college, she became the newest member of S.T.A.R.S. and one of six survivors of the Mansion Incident all together. You’ve got to give her a little props for living through that, even if she wasn’t heard from again until 2003’s Resident Evil 0 (a remake of an unreleased N64 Resident Evil exclusive). It didn’t take long for a lot of fans, even some of her more vocal fans, including the video game press who named her one of the better characters of her generation, to sort of forget about her for a minute. Some reviewers recently have started up their call to arms in her favor, with IGN naming her one of the characters they wanted to return in Resident Evil 6, but no such love came to Rebecca. Then another nail slammed into her proverbial coffin.
In 2014, Shinji Mikami, creator of Resident Evil had this to say about Rebecca Chambers:
“If I had to name the woman character I most disliked in my games it would be Rebecca Chambers. She’s submissive, she’s not independent. I didn’t want to include her but the staff wanted that kind of character in the game, for whatever reason. I’m sure it made sense to them. And in Japan, that character is pretty popular.”
Not a particularly stunning review from the guy that helped create her character, but it isn’t exactly an unpopular opinion. Even within fandom a lot of people see her as a weaker version of Jill Valentine or Claire Redfield, having to depend on Chris in a lot of situations in the original game. Well, I kind of wanted to talk about that for a minute and demonstrate why I thought Rebecca Chambers deserved a little more respect, and another shot at a leading role in a Resident Evil game.
Let’s start at the beginning of her story, mostly the fact that she was 18 when she finished college with a focus in biochemistry. Yes, canonically, Rebecca Chambers is 18 at the start of Resident Evil and she’s already part of an elite operation in the Raccoon City Police Department. If that isn’t already an interesting juxtaposition to characters like Jill Valentine who started as a member of the Army’s Delta Force training program, or Ada Wong who has been a sneaky double agent the entirety of the game’s storyline, the fact that the Arklay Incident was one of her first missions is even more impressive.
During her time in the mountains, she watched nearly every member of her squad be systematically killed off, one after the other by zombies, zombie dogs, crows, or even the leader of her own group. Joining forces with a known convict, she is attacked by a giant centipede that tries to eat her, she is attacked by a monkey and dangles from a ledge for up to 10 minutes until Billy can rescue her, then she’s flooded out, and comes to Billy’s rescue by the end of the game, and together, they face down a man made of leeches.
That’s a lot to take in, but it doesn’t stop Rebecca. The moment it’s all over, she gives Billy a second chance at life, promising to lie in a report so that he can go free and live. So ultimately, she risks her life, her job, and her life again for her job all in the span of two days. Her plotline is not romantic with Billy either, at the end, they part as comrades, helping and trusting each other till the very end when Rebecca chooses to rendezvous with Bravo Team in the Spencer Mansion. This is a refreshing element of their characterization as a lot of characters in games, especially of the opposite gender, end up getting together by the end of the game. Thankfully, Resident Evil isn’t USUALLY known for this (I’m looking at you Clair/Steve…), but the fact that their survival depended upon each other and they parted as friends solidifies her story as her own, and not one in which she parted attached at the hip to some guy she met in the woods the night before.
And with that, here is perhaps one of the most important points that someone can make about Rebecca. By the start of the first game, she is actually the MOST experienced member of the team in handling B.O.Ws. How’s that to add to the fact that she can mix chemicals at the speed of light and heal wounds? And this isn’t refutable. Resident Evil 0 is a canon game in the series, thus making Rebecca Chambers one of the first people to come into contact with a zombie in the Resident Evil Universe. That’s a pretty big deal, so why isn’t she helping the B.S.A.A. figure out fancy vaccines and stuff? That’s my question.
On top of that, she then enters another nightmare when she helps Chris Redfield rescue Jill Valentine and fight of zombies in the Spencer Mansion. It’s no secret that she plays a far more supportive, medic role in Resident Evil, and that Chris has to save her life on a few accounts, but lets not forget that it is Rebecca Chambers that risks her life to go and get Chris Serum if he is bitten by Yawn (making her the only other playable character in Resident Evil besides Chris and Jill), and she’s the one that devises V-JOLT to kill the Plant-42 for Chris during his side of the campaign, AND she takes a god damn bullet to the chest when Wesker shoots her, and she doesn’t die because of her bullet proof vest. Oh, and let’s not forget that she is also the only person in Chris’s side of the story that knows how to play the piano, and thus allows him access to a particular puzzle that he would have been unable to complete without her (hilariously bad) musical skills.
Character-wise, Rebecca Chambers is quieter than nearly all of the other women in Resident Evil, but she isn’t without her action chops or medical know how to make her one of the most well-rounded women in Resident Evil. She’s also one of the few women in the main series of the games that doesn’t withhold information from you (Helena Harper), or betray you (Jill through force, and Ada because she’s Ada).
Her health may be low, and she might not be able to push the same amount of weight that Billy can, but that doesn’t stop Rebecca from being a different kind of badass woman much like nearly every other woman in the Resident Evil franchise. This isn’t to say that, like almost all of the women in the series, she hasn’t been the target of revealing/annoying costumes, but I still suggest that given her history in just two games, against some characterization that other characters in the series have had spanning across 3+ games, Rebecca is an admirable addition to the series, one that is certainly independent, trustworthy, and a damn mature 18 year-old.
She’s the biochemist of the Resident Evil characters, but that won’t stop her from kicking your ass, and then helping you up when she’s finished teaching you the lesson.