Thanks to his standout debut, Resident Evil 6’s Jake Muller deserves to make a comeback to the long-running survival horror series — and there are ways to do it amidst the franchise’s grounded resurgence.
While zombies remain a constant in the Resident Evil franchise, the horror franchise has had numerous protagonists taking on the undead menace.
But since its birth in 1996, it has become clear that Resident Evil protagonists fall into two categories. There are the leads with good intentions who usually occupy the right side of the law, neutral if not necessarily lawful. The dependable Leon S. Kennedy, the hard-headed Chris Redfield, and most recently, the vulnerable but strong-willed Ethan Winters.
Then there are ones whose alignment falls on the neutral side of the ledger, the ones that occupy the grey areas. They aren’t necessarily evil, but no one would call them upstanding citizens in the world of RE. Examples of this include the elusive Ada Wong, the stoic HUNK, and of course, the abrasive Jake Muller.
Debuting in 2012’s Resident Evil 6, Jake Muller’s first two minutes tell players almost everything they need to know about his character: a calm, often nonchalant character who hides an unequivocally badass nature behind a laid-back demeanour. It tells players his strength in his superior hand-to-hand combat prowess, demonstrated with his well-shot, well-choreographed fight sequence against a zombified mercenary.
And to the game’s advantage, the foundation laid in the cutscene translates almost perfectly into Jake’s campaign, both in his attitude and his gameplay.
When facing the many dangers of his adventure, Jake always keeps a cool and composed nature. Every encounter with a life-threatening situation is met with either a witty quip or a snarky joke. It’s not that he never raises his voice, it’s more that Jake approaches the unpredictable dangers of RE6 in a detached and easy-going manner, more so than his counterparts Leon and Chris. Combined with Troy Baker’s excellent performance, Jake’s campaign felt like a breath of fresh air in the overall RE6 experience.
But once players get to experience Jake in combat, it’s clear that his is a unique gameplay experience thanks to his hand-to-hand oriented melee system. Unlike other characters that use knives (or a shock baton in Sherry Birkin’s case) when putting away their guns, Jake simply uses his hands. Stylish but deadly, Jake’s open palm strikes and whirlwind kicks are capable of taking out weaker enemies in just a few hits, playing like a fighting game character with his own combo system. Players who are willing to embrace his gameplay are rewarded with some of the best close-quarter combat tools in the game, further adding value to his campaign.
That’s not to say that his story side of things lacks substance, however. This is where his campaign partner Sherry Birkin comes in. Thanks to his chemistry with Birkin throughout the campaign, Jake is given a unique character development arc. It’s one that does not compromise his mellow personality but rather angles it towards a more positive light.
At the start of the campaign, Jake is portrayed as a selfish individual, only loyal to his own monetary gain. While not necessarily evil, Jake is apathetic and generally unpleasant to almost everyone he encounters, even to his closest ally in Birkin.
But as the story progresses, Jake developed as a character. His numerous hardships and conversations with Birkin, alongside revelations about him being the son of Resident Evil big bad Albert Wesker, all contributed to him becoming less self-centred and more considerate to the world around him. The culmination of this can be seen during his late-game confrontation with Chris Redfield, who killed Wesker in the previous game, where Jake showed a surprising amount of maturity. At the conclusion of the campaign, Jake still retains his affinity for personal gain, just to a lesser degree as he had become more selfless as a person.
Jake’s theme of carrying the legacy of one of the evilest characters in the RE universe also played well into forming his motivation as a protagonist. Rather than being driven by a good conscience like Leon or Chris, Jake was driven by his motivation to dissociate himself from Wesker, who abandoned him in his childhood. In other words, Jake does good not because he is inherently a good person, but because of his hatred of a bad one.
This is what makes Jake so exciting; even after showing significant character growth, there is still room for him to develop even further. There are interesting paths Jake can take from this point. Does this path lead him to more internal conflict when others start prodding into this principle? Or will he decide to lean into a sense of morality and turn into a character similar to Leon or Chris?
Unfortunately, RE6 remained Jake’s first and only appearance in a mainline game, even less than RE0’s Billy Coen. However, his absence in the later games can be easily justified: his personality and profile fit action-oriented gameplay, unsuitable for the direction the franchise is currently taking.
The solution? In the same way the Resident Evil: Revelations games serve as horror-centric spinoffs during the mainline series’ explosive action days, an action-oriented entry starring Jake can serve as a spinoff to the current direction of the mainline series back towards survival horror. Alternatively, Jake could be included in the CG Resident Evil movies, which has always been known to lean towards action rather than horror (even Infinite Darkness).
It’s unfortunate Jake Muller only appeared in one main RE game, despite his interesting backstory, gameplay, personality, and character development. Not all hope is lost though; with RE’s ongoing return to survival horror form, he can appear in the more action-oriented spinoff games or CG movies. But will he?
On an interesting side note, Jake’s mocap stunt double was Dan Southworth, who recently voiced the most motivated man in the Devil May Cry series, Vergil. I personally would like Jake’s next return (if he does return) to feature Dan Southworth if Troy Baker is unavailable. Imagine playing as Jake only to hear Vergil’s signature voice. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
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