Resident Evil (GameCube) review
"Welcome to the world of survival horror "
Welcome to the world of survival horror
That is how Resident Evil taunts you upon starting the adventure within. Admittedly though, RE wasnít the first game of its kind Ė Alone in the Dark takes the honours there. RE however made the genre popular, very popular in fact. As one of the earlier titles on the Playstation, it shocked in a similar way as Mortal Kombat and such games did, as well as giving us a taste of the future. No one had seen anything like this before; most of us had just been through the Sonic versus Mario era. Suddenly we were plunged into a dark world where the purpose was survival, from flesh eating zombies and grotesque dogs. A world of virus and death Ė and how we loved it!
So a gaming era later Resident Evil is returned to us in its pure unspoilt original form. Beatified by the power of the Gamecube, Capcom have given newcomers to the game the creativity and freshness of the original, and added a few extras for those who encountered it first time round.
And so it begins
After reports of several murders and mutilations on the outskirts of Raccoon City, a special forces unit known as S.T.A.R.S bravo team have been sent in to investigate the area. After all communications with the team are lost, a decision is made to send in their elite unit, the S.T.A.R.S alpha team. Upon searching the area Ė a dense forest, they soon discover the wreckage of the bravo team helicopter, empty save the pilot, who has seemingly been attacked. Alpha team, including Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine begin to cover the area with the rest of the team. Suddenly one of the team is attacked by something resembling dogs. Flesh hangs from their body and muscle tissue is clearly visible, their hostility is immense. Chris and Jill turn to run, followed by the team - the dogs in hot pursuit, hungry for more blood. Stumbling on a vast mansion they decide to seek refuge and scramble through the doors.
This is where the game begins, in the vast entrance hall Ė quietly waiting to immerse you in the chilling, twisting story that uncovers the truth behind the mansion and the fate of the S.T.A.R.S team.
You can choose between Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine with both undertaking what is essentially the same adventure. Only slight differences separate the characters, such as the order you can progress or the weapons they can use. The story also changes slightly as it is seen from the current characters viewpoint.
The story still amazes you today in the same way it did the first time round. As you progress through the mansion and into the areas beyond, the game opens up to reveal a storyline beset with horror, treachery, disgust and desperation, which will interest you as much as it will entertain you. To this day, I still do not understand why the film of the same name didnít follow this game, instead of alienating the fans with an altered location, story and character set-up.
Obviously, the Resident Evil virgins, so to speak, will have never had it better. The exact genius of the original title tweaked and toned to perfection - what more could you ask for? But what about those who know the game well? Well, you see, itís not exactly the same Ė things have been added, and a few taken away. I wonít say what, that would be spoiling some great surprises. But the beauty with this is that sometimes you expect something to happen, and it doesnít Ė and then it takes you by surprise by springing the trap slightly after. Imagine a room with windows along the side. You know that the mutant dog bursts through the first window as you walk past, but not this time, you must be ok. No, itís the second window this time, but now you donít expect it, and the game surprises you once more.
Sometimes they come back
No horror story would go complete without its fair share of monsters, and Resident Evil has them in abundance. Enter the zombie, the slowest and least intelligent of them all. Once employees working in the mansion, now flesh hungry victims of the T-Virus, aimlessly wandering in search of their next feed. Dogs, Doberman looking in appearance - but now reduced to a hostile snarling beast, dripping with torn flesh.
The game offers bigger and tougher monsters later on too, with a few new additions and some great improvements to old favourites.
Blasting zombies a few times may have put them to rest permanently in previous incarnations, but they wonít stay down forever here. Thereís only two ways to keep them down this time, burning and decapitation. RE fans will know that there is usually a lighter to be had amidst the adventure, combine this with randomly placed kerosene and you can have toasted zombies in no time. Decapitation however requires a little more skill Ė and quite often a powerful gun. Aim high and that grotesque head will be spread over walls and floors alike, leaving the rest of its body dead forever.
Enemy alone does not hinder advancement through the game however; the mansion and its surroundings hold puzzles of which you must solve too. The completion of the majority of these puzzles will be essential to your progress through the game, luckily they are a fairly easy to solve (even obvious at times). Some posers will grant you access to a new weapons or objects that will help you too, not essential to the game but sometimes worth the time to do so. The nature of the game does mean that you spend a lot of time running between areas fetching objects to use in various places, the individuality and splendour of the rooms stop his becoming a chore thankfully.
I remember being in awe not just at the sheer vastness and concept of the original, but also at the graphics. The mansion looked stunning at first, a huge room ornately decorated with paintings on every wall. Centrepiece is a grand staircase leading to the first floor where many doors take us further into the house. You could stand looking for a moment, just to take it all in. This time around the clarity and definition is astounding, it looks amazing. The entrance hall is virtually the same with only a few extra doors put in which vary the adventure a little, venture a little further however and the graphical detail begins to show. The Gamecube allows shadows to look and work realistically and mirrors actually reflect you as you pass them. Camera angles also help to create different moods depending on the situation. A camera set back so you can see the whole room creates the feeling of safety, usually used in larger rooms where there may be puzzles or many doors. Narrow corridors with corners tend to have cameras where it wonít switch till you move around the corner, creating tension about what may be there. When roaming around outside, the mood is generally darker too. Trees create a real dark atmosphere where you wonder what is about to jump out at you, even though often there is nothing there Ė the sounds donít help either. You actually get the feeling that there is worse things roaming around outside and you are far safer indoors, relief sets in when you do find a building again. But we all know that being indoors is just as bad as being outside in this game.
Chris and Jill look good too, as they should being the stars. (ha ha) Jill reminded me of a certain Lara Croft in terms of build and movement, and also the way she handles her weapons. Chris looks like your average tough guy cop and it works pretty well in the midst of the mansion, like the kind of man you would want in that situation Ė a fitting pair overall.
Things that go bump
Itís not just what you see (or cant see) which makes this game so intimidating though, the music and sound effects intensify each situation remarkably. From the eerie drops of water in the dark and ominous caves, to the loud crashing tunes as you fight significant enemies in different areas of the mansion. The best parts are saved for exploration though, where the music will slowly build up while walking down a corridor towards a corner, or past a window say. Suddenly the camera will switch and the music will reach its crescendo, making you jump and reminding you of all those great horror films this game imitates. Although sometimes there may be something there, quite often there is nothing, yet once again the game has done its job in keeping the intensity alive.
Character and monster effects are as good as ever, also adding to the tension and atmosphere. In the most silent of rooms, where Chris or Jillís footsteps are the only sound to be heard, anticipation grows over what could be to come. A zombie lies in wait, but its groans are subdued for now, until our character is a little closer. Suddenly its alive, the music crashes out of nowhere alerting the urgency of the situation. BLAM! Both barrels empty into its head, spreading it over the walls and floor. Then, the tiny clink of the spent cartridges hitting the floor need not go unnoticed while the looming danger crumples heavily back to the floor.
The only real thing that lets this part of the game down is the voice acting. Even with the amount of Resident Evil games Capcom has under its belt, it has never overcome this problem. The voices of each character sound forced and over dramatic, lacking fluidity and timing. Grand Theft Auto and more recently, The Getaway, are great examples of how it should be done. Within a game as serious as this, the script becomes laughable at times Ė not ideal Iím sure you will agree.
Fear cannot kill alone
Heed my advice, and you should make the most out of this game - play alone in a darkened room with the sound up. No other game even comes close to the effect this experience gives your senses. I would not be surprised if this gets thought of as a little cheap and just a chance to cash in, but please play the game first. The reason being is that this is the best way to experience the phenomenon that is Resident Evil.
Community review by djy8c (December 23, 2003)
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