"The first survival horror game was called Alone in the dar... *gets shot* "
The first survival horror game was called Alone in the dar... *gets shot*
THE first survival horror game was called Resident Evil, a terrific little title from Capcom. Its base premise is still being cloned even though it was released in 1996, so it must have been good. Resident Evil didn’t just make a genre popular; it altered the course of an entire industry. The critics enjoyed it, the public enjoyed it, several circles awarded it Game of the Year and most importantly for the Cap and the Com, it made money. Lots of money. Capcom figured that if we loved Resident Evil, we’d love Resident Evil with a few bells and whistles. Observe:
Ingredients for more money
One Resident Evil disc
One "Auto Aim" feature
Two new "difficulty levels"
Several altered "camera angles"
There’s no getting around it: Director’s Cut is a shameless effort to get at your wallet. But I like to think logically, so an experienced developer enhancing a downright brilliant game cannot be a bad thing – once you’ve put Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine in The Terminator mode with their pump-action shotguns, you’ll never look back.
Chris and Jill are part of S.T.A.R.S, an elite Raccoon City cop squad. When happy hikers start getting ripped apart in Raccoon Forest, the S.T.A.R.S are called in. While searching for clues, Bravo Team disappear; Alpha Team (Chris, Jill, Barry, Joseph, Brad, Captain Wesker) are airdropped at their vanishing point and the local population subsequently begin drooling. Joseph is dog's dinner moments after spotting a severed hand and Chris calls for the chopper to evacuate, but Brad, the pilot who is known to worry a lot, has worried a lot, and he’s flown off. Not wanting to get chewed all the way to the big S.T.A.R in the sky (sorry), Chris, Jill, Barry and Wesker use their initiative and leg it through the long grass to the nearest building: a gigantic 19th-century mansion.
Director’s Cut takes place entirely in this mansion and the surrounding estate. Although decayed chemical factories, ravaged Antarctic facilities and THE POLICE STATION have followed the mansion, it has yet to be surpassed in terms of sheer terror. Never mind being stared down by a mutated grey man with a hygiene problem; the mansion itself is intimidation.
Capcom have filled their haunted house with all sorts of beastly creatures. The generic baddies are your zombies, which are fond of gnawing away at human tissue and will happily vomit on a potential meal. They’re not afraid of bullets but aren’t going to win any landspeed records either, giving you plenty of time to drop them. The rampaging canines are quick but a single round will stun them and a couple will kill them. There are also cameos from the likes of a Jaws rip-off, an over-sized plant and an enormous snake, although a measured approach can take these out with minimum bother too. Are there any challenging enemies at all, then?
Oh yes. The genetically engineered hunters are skinless behemoths, pounding the S.T.A.R.S into submission when it comes to every attribute – power, dexterity, toughness, intelligence and instinct. It almost feels as if Capcom introduced them half way through deliberately to remind us that Director’s Cut is really, really hard (the instant we thought we were getting used to the game mechanics).
As I’ve stressed, Director’s Cut isn’t packed with special material, but what’s here might as well be discussed. There are three difficulty levels this time round. Standard is Resident Evil all over again – same enemy placements, same ammunition locations, same items, same everything. That is apart from a handy auto-aim on your guns, that targets the nearest piece of undead scum on its own.
Beginner mode is an easier form of Standard that increases the amount of ammo and health for you, while decreasing the strength and vitality of enemies [READ: tailor-made for people who are rubbish at the game].
Advanced mode is the most interesting, as items and monsters are "arranged" round so you’ll find the magnum revolver where you expect to find a key, hunters where you’d expect to find zombies, etc. For those of us that have beaten the game in its regular form, this makes Resident Evil fresh all over again, if only for a while, jumbling up the puzzles you’d learnt off by heart and offering a violent challenge, with a beefed-up opposition and in contrast, very weedy S.T.A.R.S members that bite the dust at the snap of a finger. Plus, a couple of screens have alternate camera angles in Advanced mode, which are ultimately worthless but have a bizarre novelty to them.
Considering the constraints of the infant years of the PlayStation, Director’s Cut (with recycled Resident Evil environments) is visually generous. The mansion hall is striking, and when things get more claustrophobic in the likes of the cellar and basement, the suspense replaces the spectacular. Roaming dimmed corridors is often so bone-chilling it doesn’t feel like a chore, especially when there’s a chance of meeting something nasty around the corner (the whole thing might be empty anyway!)
Director’s Cut indicates that Capcom were not afraid of soaking the walls with gut juice in the nineties, although recent controversy has persuaded paranoid company fat cats to order watering-down of the gore effects. Admire them here at their most pure, with raw hunks of meat zooming across the room and headless corpses crumpled on the carpet.
The bad news with the graphics is that, despite their clear facial expressions and well-defined core shapes, the character models are rough around the edges. When a character is stood still, for example, they will begin to get restless, and the pixels making up their clothes or arms will split and splutter. The bored fidgeting is a realistic touch, but not exactly a handsome one.
The straightforward narrative of Director’s Cut is told through completely appalling cut-scenes, loaded with laughable dialogue and hopeless acting. Notably, Barry’s voice "artiste" is unforgettable, credited with such classics as "a dining room...", "it’s a weapon, it’s really powerful!!" and "I hope this is not Chris’s blood...". In theory those lines are humourless; in practice they’re priceless. You can sense Capcom laughing at YOU if you think these sequences are meant to be serious, so chuckle along with the rest of us at the intentional B-movie ludicrousness of it all. And wear a tight shirt to stop your sides from splitting and fatally wounding you.
That said, the music is genuinely excellent. The main mansion theme has a beautiful emphasis on low string instruments and haunts you through every room, yet a throb of frantic aggression will abruptly change the whole atmosphere and pierce your heart so mercilessly it may stop beating for a second. You’ll drop the controller, sit there in shock, and when you come to Jill or Chris could be lying face down in a pool of blood. Capcom also use cold silence at all the right points to put the fear of God in you, which game developers are usually not good at.
Indeed, developers are unlikely to recapture the petrifying magic of Resident Evil ever again, and seeing as Director’s Cut is all that magic and more, you don’t want to miss it.
Community review by eddy555 (October 06, 2004)
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