Resident Evil (GameCube) review
"Before the release of the original Resident Evil in the mid1990s, the Survival Horror genre was an obscure, struggling subset of the Action genre. With sub par, little known games like Alone in the Dark and Clock Tower, Survival Horror was barely staying afloat. All that changed when Capcom, already a well established company with the legendary Megaman series under its banner, released a little game called Biohazard. It was an unexpected hit in Japan, and it was quickly released in the States, i..."
Before the release of the original Resident Evil in the mid1990s, the Survival Horror genre was an obscure, struggling subset of the Action genre. With sub par, little known games like Alone in the Dark and Clock Tower, Survival Horror was barely staying afloat. All that changed when Capcom, already a well established company with the legendary Megaman series under its banner, released a little game called Biohazard. It was an unexpected hit in Japan, and it was quickly released in the States, its title changed to Resident Evil (a small hard rock band already had the Biohazard name trademarked in the States).
By today's standards the original Resident Evil is quite tame, with uninteresting (even dull) environments and really awful character models. But in its time it was revolutionary in almost every way: graphics, sound, gameplay. Its prologue and epilogue were even performed by real actors in front of a camera (with hilarious results). Some people were confused by the game, since its serious subject matter was undercut by B-movie acting. Was the game supposed to be a true horror story, a commentary on corporate superpowers, or a cheap shot at the B-Horror Movie industry? Whatever the game was supposed to be, Resident Evil pushed the Survival Horror genre into the eye of mainstream gaming, opening the door for other Survival Horror games like Dino Crisis, Silent Hill and Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem.
In case you don't know, here's the game's premise: You take control of either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, two S.T.A.R.S. team members. Both are trapped inside a mansion which is filled with dozens of zombies. Each team member has only one pistol with one ammunition clip. Each zombie takes approximately half a clip to kill. The object of the game is to escape from the mansion with as many of your teammates alive as possible, using objects and weapons you find along the way to keep you alive. Sound like fun?
The REmake keeps the core gameplay in tact. You are immediately given a sense of isolation and weakness when the game begins. Even with allies at your side (Barry and Wesker, or just Wesker depending on which S.T.A.R.S. member you chose to play as), you feel very alone. The game is extremely claustrophobic, and made even more so by the fixed camera angles which populate the game. It is here that Resident Evil makes its true mark on the gaming world: there is no free motion camera, a rarity in the realm of 3-Dimensional gaming. Every angle is permanently fixed, which can make getting around and firing your weapon disorienting at first, but once you get the hang of the game it only lends to its brilliance. A zombie can be standing right in front of you, but you won't know it because it's standing just outside the camera angle. All you can hear is the moans it makes, and maybe the occasional crunch as it eats its latest victim (which hopefully isn't you, but hey - it happens). Sure, it isn't terribly realistic. But once you experience it for the first time, you wouldn't have it any other way.
Though each character begins the game with a single pistol with a single clip, they slowly accumulate a small stockpile of weaponry. Shotguns, grenade launchers, flamethrowers and magnums make up the majority of the game's weapons, with a few others thrown in for fun. The more powerful the weapon is, the less ammo you will ultimately find for it, encouraging players to be conservative in their use of their most powerful weapons. Sure, you can use that Magnum to take out any zombie that gets in your way in one shot, but that wasted ammo could prove fatal in a later encounter with a tougher enemy. The REmake also introduces new weapons: Self-defense items. In the original, when a zombie grabbed our hero or heroine they would have to struggle to break free. In the REmake, having a self-defense item handy lets the player break free from a zombie and cause a little damage while taking none themselves. Self defense items include Daggers for both characters, Tasers for Jill (with shockingly hilarious results) and Flash Grenades for Chris (with explosive results). In true Survival Horror fashion, you can either have the game use self defense items automatically, or manually so you can stockpile them for use later in the game. Unlike ammunition, however, saving the self defense items is rarely necessary.
In past Resident Evil games, killing your enemies has been discouraged by limiting ammunition. And though REmake stays true to this concept, Capcom has added a new layer to discourage players from mowing down every zombie that gets in their way: The Crimson Heads. Before, killing zombies left a lovely corpse lying on the ground. Now, leaving the corpse of a zombie lying about for too long will result in said zombie returning to life as a Crimson Head. They can run as fast as you can. Sometimes faster. They hit harder then the average zombie, too. And they're creepy as hell. The only way to prevent a zombie from resurrecting as a Crimson Head is to either burn their corpse or blow their head off. Kerosene is available in limited quantities, and your flask can only be refilled at certain locations in the mansion.
If you look hard enough, you can see the mansion from the original game in the REmake. But you do have to look hard. The entire mansion has been recreated. Rooms have been moved around, some have been placed in different locations, others have been updated, and still more have been removed entirely. New rooms and puzzles have been added almost all over the place, and all of it has been beautifully recreated. Not just cut and pasted from the original game - even rooms that are exactly the same as the original Resident Evil have still been recreated from scratch. Capcom wasn't sitting on their laurels when they (re)made this game.
Collectively, the Resident Evil franchise has one of the best and longest-running continuous stories in the history of gaming. And even though Resident Evil is just a jumping off point for the sequels (and prequels), it still manages to have one of the best stories in the series.
The year is 1997, in a small American town known as Raccoon City. The entire city is supported by Umbrella, Inc. Everyone in town works for Umbrella; the entire economy of the area relies entirely on the corporation. One day, a string of gruesome murders began. The victims were apparently eaten alive. S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team, one of the local crack anti-terrorist squads in the Raccoon Police Department, was sent to investigate these disturbances. Contact was lost with Bravo Team somewhere in the Raccoon Forest. S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team was dispatched to investigate the disappearance of Bravo Team. Discovering the crashed helicopter of Bravo Team in the forest, the Alpha Team is immediately attacked by a pack of vicious dogs. One team member is eaten alive, Jill Valentine watching it happen. The team retreats to an old mansion in the area, and lock themselves inside. They are trapped, the pack of dogs patiently patrolling the entire area.
The story is essentially the same no matter who you play as, but the cast of characters changes slightly depending on who you pick. Jill teams up with Barry, while Chris eventually meets up with Rebecca, the last surviving member of Bravo Team. Both have occasional encounters with Wesker, the Alpha Team leader. As Jill or Chris explore the mansion, it becomes increasingly clear that the monsters in this mansion are responsible for the murders in town, and that Umbrella is responsible for their creation. The story unfolds slowly, with a wealthy backstory coming into light as the player comes across journal entries and mail lying about the mansion. The story of a young girl named Lisa and of a conspiracy inside the S.T.A.R.S. team is also slowly unveiled.
The controls feel a bit strange at first, but they are necessitated by the game's unique camera angles. Pressing forward on the control stick will move your character in the direction he is facing, not necessarily forward in relation to the camera. Moving it backwards causes the character to slowly move backwards, while pressing left and right will pivot the character. It's almost exactly like driving a tank. Holding down the R Button and pressing the A button will fire, while holding the B button makes the character run. The character is unable to move and fire at the same time. The best word I can think of to describe the controls is 'Wonky,' but you get the hang of them with time and they feel very natural after a few hours.
Resident Evil games have always been on the cutting edge of graphics, and the REmake is no exception. When it was originally released on the Gamecube, it had the best graphics yet seen on the system and they still remain among its best today. All of the backgrounds in the game are prerendered, hand painted by an artist. Even the most minute corner or insignificant broom cupboard is masterfully created. The characters themselves are excellent as well, producing some of the most Human-like CG characters seen until Resident Evil 4 was released. The models on the zombies are many and varied, so you rarely see twins unless you're really looking for them, and though most of the other monsters use the same model for each individual (Hunters, Cerberuses, Crimson Heads, etc.) they are detailed enough for the player to not care.
The music is more ambient then actual music, but what music does exist is well played and orchestrated. The voice acting is acceptable (certainly a step above from the original game), and the grunts and groans of the game's various beasties are all immediately recognizable. The clink and shuddering sounds of Lisa Trevor (the REmake's new 'bad guy) shuffling towards you is scarier then any sight you see in the game. The sound is very minimalist, which is a commonly used trick in many scary movies and works very well in this medium as well.
REmake is chock full of extras. One mode is just the basic game, while another unlocked later makes all Zombies invisible, a third removes the game's auto aim feature and unlinks the Item Boxes (forcing the player to plan ahead and place certain items in certain item boxes for later use). Lastly, One Dangerous Zombie mode is unlocked by beating the game with both characters on normal. Once unlocked, a Zombie loaded with explosives appears in the mansion. Hitting him with even the slighest cut from a knife causes him to explode, taking you and the rest of the immediate area with him. Two unlockable weapons and several alternate costumes for each character round out the game's extras.
The game only has a modest length, easily beatable in under four hours if you really know what you're doing. The game is just a pure joy to play, however. REmake boasts three different difficulty levels, Easy mode obviously included in the game for players new to the series (people who have played a previous title can safely skip this level). Normal and Hard Mode both offer fun challenges for experienced players. The extra modes and timed challenges unlocking secret weapons and costumes makes replaying the game always fun. Though you may eventually despair at playing it over one more time, chances are many months later you will feel the urge to play it once more.
Gameplay: 9 out of 10
Story: 5 out of 5
Controls: 7 out of 10
Graphics: 5 out of 5
Sound and Music: 5 out of 5
Extras: 4 out of 5
Game Length, Difficulty and Replay Value: 9 out of 10
Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10
The Good: Excellent prerendered graphics, great moody sound and music and wonderful character design really help you believe you are trapped in a mansion. Resident Evil launches one of the best storylines in gaming, accompanied by one of the most original gameplay designs in gaming. Instead of merely updating the game, Capcom recreated it and added more to it, including extra areas and a new subplot/monster in the form of Lisa Trevor.
The Bad: The controls remain as strange as ever, making the game seem much more difficult then it really is to players new to the series. Many of the scares rely on shock value - i.e. having something crash through a window at you accompanied by a musical sting. This is fine for your first run through the game, but once you learn what happens and where, the shock value disappears considerably. The script, while nowhere near as bad as the original, can still be somewhat hammy.
The Ugly: Players who played the original will be familiar with the story and have no problem completing the game, since even though the Mansion has been largely redesigned most of the puzzles are similar, if not identical.
Capcom took a big risk when they remade this game for the Gamecube. It was already one of the most cherished games for Playstation, indeed one of the most popular games of all time (Resident Evil 2 absolutely shattered the record for Most Preorders). Capcom didn't necessarily need to remake the game, but nobody is in any denial that it's a good thing they did. Classics for the Playstation like Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil are showing their age today, and a simple port simply wouldn't do the game justice. REmake rekindles the flame that burned brightly when the original was released, and heralds great things in the series to come.
Community review by mrshotgun (March 15, 2007)
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