Critical hits, headshots, or critical headshots are a gameplay mechanic used in Resident Evil as well as many other third- and first-person shooters. Throughout the series, the term "critical hit" is used in weapon and item descriptions, though that term is used mainly in role-playing games.
Use in Resident Evil
Critical hits mostly affect zombies, Crimson Heads, Ganado, Majini, and J'avo but in some games, also affect Cerberuses, Hunters, and Chimeras. In addition, some bosses throughout the series have specific weak points that cause greater damage if struck, though these may not necessarily be considered critical hits.
In the older games, handguns are capable of critical hits but it was left simply up to chance. In games such as Resident Evil 0 and Resident Evil 2, adding the Handgun Parts to a handgun gives it a higher chance of landing a critical hit.
Shotguns almost always cause a critical hit in the older games if aimed upward directly in front of a zombie (see above picture). In Resident Evil 2, shooting a critically injured cerberus at point-blank with the shotgun would result in a special critical hit, in which the zombie dog would explode.
Rifles, as in many FPS games, can cause a headshot almost instantly on Ganado and Majini.
More powerful weapons, such as the various Magnums and Rocket Launchers throughout the series, can obliterate regular enemies, destroying not only a zombie's head, but also its arms and torso. The Remington 1100 from Resident Evil 2 has a similar affect.
In the 2002 remake, the defense item Flash Grenade (exclusive to Chris' scenario) can cause an instant critical hit on zombies, Crimson Heads, Hunters, Cerberuses, and Chimeras whenever used. The player can shoot the grenade before it goes off, but either way, it can cause damage to Chris if he's too close.
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D and Resident Evil 6 use a skill upgrade system that influence critical hits. Weapons and melee attacks still have individual critical hit ratios, but these can be increased by up to three levels.
In some fashion, even the player characters are vulnerable to critical hits. Many enemies have powerful, rarely used attacks (such as a Hunter or Licker's lunge) that can put a character in the Danger or Caution status. Chainsaw-wielding enemies in RE4 and RE5 (such as Chainsaw Man/Giant Chainsaw Man, Chainsaw Sisters, and Chainsaw Majini) can instantly decapitate characters if they get too close. Both versions of the Executioner Majini in RE5 can instantly put characters in the Dying status with their primary axe swing. Throughout the series, many bosses have possessed instant-kill moves - Nemesis-T Type, Alexia's first stage, Krauser, and Wesker, to name just a few.
- In Resident Evil Outbreak, Jim Chapman's personal item Coin increases his chances of landing a critical attack anywhere from %15 to %45. In Resident Evil Outbreak File #2, his Lucky Coin can boost it by an additional %5 to anyone who posses it their inventory.
- In Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles, part of the player's score at the end of a chapter is determined by how many critical hits they have landed in that chapter. In those games, critical hits only affect zombies and Crimson Heads. The reticule flashes red when a critical hit is possible in-game.
- In Resident Evil 5, there is an upgrade called Critical % which increases the chance of a critical hit. The M92F, Ithaca M37, and VZ61 feature this. Jill's Px4 pistol, available only in The Mercenaries, has a 14-in-16 chance of decapitating Majini.
- From all the series, Kevin Ryman and Alyssa Ashcroft are the only 2 characters than can almost guarantee Critical shots with any type of handgun or magnum if they use the Pot Shot ability (by holding the R1 button until they adjust their aim).