Resident Evil (PlayStation) review
"A timeless blood-stained classic. "
Survival horror was created by the 'Alone in the Dark' series, but Resident Evil is what defined the genre. And a fine definer it is too. A game whose puzzles could be described as dumbed down shadowgate teasers, Resident Evil was designed to deliver scares a plenty. And it succeeds whole-heartedly. Choose to play as either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, trapped in a mansion filled with zombies, among other things.
The story sets up the fantastic B-movie atmosphere for the game. After some mysterious deaths in Raccoon Forest, a B.R.A.V.O team is sent to investigate. Inevitably they don't return, and so another team with a crappy acronym (S.T.A.R.S. That's you) is sent to investigate. Once there one of your team is devoured by an unseen creature immediately, forcing the rest of the team to seek safety in a nearby mansion. The opening sequence is, hilariously, acted out by real people. Decent actors they are not, so it makes for an unintentionally amusing set-up. Although I must admit the death of the first member of your team is surprisingly exciting and well handled. The story has plenty of twists and revelations, each new surprise seeming to reveal a new acronym or enemy. There's far too many turns in the story for me to explain and I won't spoil it anyway, since the story is a brilliant part of the game.
The game starts in the lobby, where you can get to grips wit the abysmal controls, and they really are terrible. They are quite precise I'll give them that, but otherwise they are infuriatingly inconvenient and wholly loathsome. You must use the D-pad to rotate your character on the spot, and then press up to move forward in the direction you are facing. Aside from the upsetting movement mechanics, everything else is easily accessible, and I got to grips very quickly with all the buttons without the use of an instruction manual.
The game is a simple and effective mix of shoot the enemies, and 'place this object in that bowl' type puzzles. Although the puzzles aren't exactly mind-stretching they are often far from obvious, and provide a subtle layer of small rewards for solving them. Which is mixed in with the thrills and spills of the zombie sections. And the zombie sections are definitely the best ones. When crowded by them, play can become especially intense and frantic, I found myself swerving away from the zombies when they attacked by my computer characters. And games that build up so much tension as to induce body movements are more than welcome with me.
It's not just zombies you'll encounter though, expect to meet dogs, snake (Well, one snake, but a bloody huge and immortal one at that) and, er, birds and plants. Seeing the crows flock up and attack you is strangely reminiscent of the Hitchcock film 'The Birds' and I died purposely a couple of times just to see it. Indeed, it is morbid curiosity of the player that will extract the most wonder out of this game. Seeing the way different enemies kill you is a joy, and hitting a zombie in the head? The explosion of blood and torturous moaning says it all.
It's not just gore either, there are a lot of bits to make you jump. The bit where the dogs jumped at me through the windows was especially shocking, in fact I dropped my controller (Er, don't tell anyone that). And the next time I played that section I was even more nervous with anticipation, it's simply very well done. But cheap thrills and shock tactics do not a scary game make. And that's the point, this game isn't actually scary. It makes you jump a lot, and some of the enemy characters are fairly daunting (The final boss character especially) but it never frightens you as much as it would have you think. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's actually very fun, but if you are expecting to be losing sleep at night, I'd look elsewhere.
A solid feeling of progression is also splendidly apparent. The game is (mostly) set all in one mansion, but the puzzles and enemies deliver enough variety to make for constant interest. Resident Evil is one of those games you can play for hours, and only stop because you have to (sleep, food, prior engagements etc). The brilliant storyline and sweat-worthy shooting action make for one of the most compelling games I've ever played.
Resident Evil is also one of those games that benefits from being played with friends. No, it isn't a multiplayer title, but the on-screen action is so mesmerising that it can keep even the most impatient of onlookers enraptured for ages. Also enemy slaying bits are usually accompanied by an encouraging mass of shouting and advice, and there's always someone who can figure out the puzzles. This certainly isn't a necessity, and it won't affect what you get out of the game significantly, but it is fun. Out of all the one player games I've owned on any system, I found this the best to have/be an audience for.
Although Resident Evil has an often sinister atmosphere it is, at times extremely amusing (Hilarious if you've got some friends around you). It takes itself amazingly seriously and the voice acting is terrible. The dialogue, in both what it is and how it's said, just screams B-movie, and I love it. There's plenty of 'Aggrrrrh! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!' here, and it's all said very unenthusiastically. Also Jill Valentine has an 'interesting' eye for detail. Her descriptions of carpets and suits of armour are particularly redundant, and go along the lines of 'This tartan carpet is extremely green'. Fascinating Jill. Chris Redfield (Although I failed to complete his side of the game before my disc was fatally scratched. That's one downside to having friends around this game) seems less eager to offer his opinions though.
It's not an amazingly long game, but it's definitely long enough, and doesn't get old. Although I didn't get all the way through Chris' version of the game, I noted that it wasn't significantly different from Jill's (Save a few story alterations) but it was quite a bit harder. So for those wanting extra out of the game, that should do nicely. It's often very hard as well, I HATE that snake and I'm not too fond of crows anymore either. Instances like this help to flesh out the game considerably.
Considering this appeared as early in the Playstation's life as it did, Resident Evil looks very convincing. The character models themselves seem just a little blocky these days but are still impressive, and the zombies look disgusting enough to raise a few eyebrows, buckets of blood too. The best thing though, are the pre-rendered environments (Similar to those used in the PS Final Fantasy games). It can sometimes feel like your character isn't actually walking on the floor you see, but it drips atmosphere. The mansion looks absolutely stunning, and some of the more lavish set pieces often cause distraction they are so amazing.
Soundwise this game is a mixed bag. There is no constant music, instead some ominous and intimidating tunes play in the more suspenseful bits. The sound effects are fine, but often slightly too cheesy. The sound of a zombie eating your flesh is unintentionally comical. And aside from the gun sounds and crow sounds, a lot of the other effects are disappointingly under-played. The voice acting can be seen as either bad or good. It's bad, but it's so funny it can be considered good.
Aside from controls, the only thing that lets the game down is how less appealing it is than it's amazing sequel. It's still atmospheric, well crafted and so compelling it almost hurts, but it's just not as good as RE 2. Still, don't let that discourage you from buy what is a long lasting and immensely fun piece of software. A timeless blood-stained classic.
Chris and Jill went up the Hill to kill a load of zombies......
+ The game that defined survival horror
+ As compelling as compelling gets
+ Plenty of shocks
+ Perfect balance of puzzles and blasting
+ Suitably atmospheric
+ Engrossing storyline
+ Two different games to play through
+ An exciting concept, realised well
+ Often hilarious
+ A lasting challenged
+ Entertaining to watch too, it's like an interactive horror movie
+ The fixed camera angles help with the suspense
Chris lost his head, on which the zombies fed, and he was buried in pieces next morning
- Intensely irritating control system
- Takes itself far too seriously
- Those annoying loading times with the doors *YAAAAAAWN*
- Bad voice acting
- Not as good as it's sequel
If you like this....
Resident Evil 2 - Playstation/N64: The best survival horror game ever. You must own it
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis - Playstation/Dreamcast: Solid as ever, but now with an annoying gimmick
Silent Hill - Playstation: Survival horror based more on scares than gore.
Dino Crisis - Playstation: Decent and very difficult take on the genre, featuring dinosaurs.
Community review by maxh (Date unavailable)
A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.
If you enjoyed this Resident Evil review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!