Resident Evil – Capcom – 1996 – PS1/Saturn/PC/DS
Over the next few months, Horror Cult Films is celebrating 15 years of Resident Evil, and there’s no better place to start than where it all began. Resident Evil (known as Biohazard in Japan) was released to rave reviews back 1996. It amassed a huge following and changed the face of horror games forever. There had been a few horror titles released prior to this, such as the Alone in the Dark games, but Resident Evil raised the bar.
Set in the outskirts of fictional Raccoon City in 1998, Raccoon PD’s S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics and Rescue Squad) Alpha team are called to action as Bravo team have gone missing while investigating some gruesome murders near the Arklay Mountains, just outside of the city. The game picks up with a live action opening movie of with Alpha team finding the smouldering wreckage of a helicopter, which is most likely Bravo teams. It’s not long before a pack of savage dogs show up, forcing the team retreat to a nearby mansion. The teams numbers are soon reduced as they get separated, which is where the game play starts. Taking on the character of either Chris Redfield (hard difficulty) or Jill Valentine (normal), you have to navigate your way through a terrifying, zombie infested mansion.
Taking control of Jill is the better option for beginners. Jill has a larger inventory, a lock pick and occasional assistance from fellow team member, the legendary Barry Burton. As Jill has more capacity for items, there is less back tracking. The game requires the use of keys, ammunition, health and other items which require carrying at the same time. Items can be stored in various chests found throughout the game. The great thing about them is that you can store your things in one chest and they will appear in every other one. Some people complained about this inter-dimensional storage system, but I would rather that than constant to-ing and fro-ing. Jill’s weapons range from a standard issue hand gun, a shotgun, bazooka and a magnum. The latter of which is the most powerful and accurate.
Playing as Chris will prove a challenge. As well as only starting out with just a knife, you are only assigned six inventory slots, and given that you usually need to carry several items at once, can sometimes prove a pain as you need to keep using the chests. As well that, Chris is entirely solo. He has no assistance from an unplayable character so any freebies you get as Jill from other characters, you will need to find on your own as Chris, as well as not having a lock pick, which means any draws or cabinets containing precious items will be much more difficult to access. Also, Chris is stuck using just a few basic weapons, although a flame thrower is available in one section of the game.
There are several puzzles and secrets in the mansion which you have to solve in order to progress through the game. Most of these are basic logic puzzles, but are what make up a lot of the game. The atmosphere is tense, with some very creepy music, and with the fixed camera angles, anything could be round the next corner, making it very unnerving not knowing what you could encounter when the camera changes. This made for a very exciting and scary game experience as you went from one point to the next, knowing that the further you progress and the closer to unravelling the mystery of your situation, the more deadly the enemies you encounter. The enemies range from the standard shuffling zombie to the amphibious looking Hunter (who can take your head off in one swipe of their claws), as well as the zombified Doberman, Cerberus, a genetically altered shark and giant tarantulas.
Throughout the game you will collect case files. These will be in the guise of a memo, a journal entry or documents left lying around, which fill in on the story of what has been going on, as well as hints towards how to solve some of the puzzles, as well as certain enemies’ weaknesses. Some of the documents and journals you find, really add to the game, giving it more a sense of dread, finding out little hints of the abominations that you may be coming up against and what had gone on before your arrival.
The control system does take a little getting used to as it can be a little slow and clunky. Once you have got used to them, it doesn’t prove a problem, but can be an inconvenience in the beginning if for example you have some undead shambling towards you in a tight corridor, manoeuvring can be quite awkward and slow. Again, this is something that you get used to and soon becomes second nature.
These days the graphics are very dated, with this title being a mid 90’s release. While the pre-rendered surroundings look fine, the character models don’t look as good as they once did. 10 years after initial release, Resident Evil was re-released on the Nintendo DS with subtitle Deadly Silence (I see what they did there!). This was the original game, intact, with the added feature of Rebirth mode. This mode added extra puzzles and a different perspective to the action. Instead of the fixed cameras, you could now unload a clip into a zombie in first person mode, making it more of an action orientated affair than before. And although the screen size may have shrunk, the game is still as unsettling and terrifying as it always has been. A directors cut was also released just before the sequel, Resident Evil 2, in 1998 which had different camera angles, different puzzles and although the setting was the same, it did feel like a new game. Also, a remake was made for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2002, which I will cover at a later date.
Resident Evil will always be held dear to me, with it being the first gory survival horror game I played and it is responsible for my love of that great zombie horror film genre. To this day I love to play the game and get lost in the mansion once more. You could say it’s a home away from home, only with the rotting corpses of the undead.
I give Resident Evil 9 out of 10.