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Resident Evil: Director's Cut (PlayStation) artwork

Resident Evil: Director's Cut (PlayStation) review

"The game that put Shinji Mikami on the map may owe an obvious debt to the creepy Cthulhu-conjuring madness of Alone in the Dark, but there's a reason that his own franchise went on to become an unstoppable money-making juggernaut while its predecessor slipped away into obscurity."

"Whoa! What is it?!"

"What? Oh! OH NOOO!"

Oh YES, it's nothing less than that timeless tale of itchy carnivorous ghouls with a taste for Chris' blood and giant poisonous snakes who eagerly wolf down delicious Jill sandwiches – that first plunge through the dark door (on the opposite side) of Survival Horror, the original RESIDENT EVIL.

The game that put Shinji Mikami on the map may owe an obvious debt to the creepy Cthulhu-conjuring madness of Alone in the Dark, but there's a reason that his own franchise went on to become an unstoppable money-making juggernaut while its predecessor slipped away into obscurity. Infogrames had already defined the concept of cobbling together inventory puzzles from the graphic adventure genre alongside combat with deformed monstrosities that refused to rest in peace, but now you had to carefully conserve a limited resource of weapons and healing items, nor could you carry more than a few objects at any given time. Was it better to clear out a room that you'd need to access frequently, or risk dashing in and out around them? Take another herb with you just in case or save room for newly discovered keys? Each subsequent sequel greatly expanded upon the formula introduced here, even reinventing it from the ground up with considerable success after the series began to stagnate – and that original formula was rock solid to begin with.

"Wow, what a mansion!"

Over a decade later there's little that feels old when it comes to the intentionally aging halls of the gloomy Spencer estate, and its trademark moaning cadavers are no less appealing as they slowly lurch into view shortly after hearing their squishy footsteps drag across the dusty carpeting. Who can forget that nasty surprise the first time a seemingly dispatched foe suddenly latched onto your leg as you passed by to relish one last bite before being introducing to your boot? Even more surprising were the rotting canines that could crash through nearby windows, or bulbous arachnids spewing corrosive venom from the ceiling, only to plummet to your feet in the blink of an eye to give chase with fangs bared.

And of course, one can't help but recall one of the most hilarious collections of cheesy dialogue in gaming history, although even the most oddly inflected speech is no match for killing a massive boulder with your manly fists. Long before the saga became entangled in convoluted webs of scheming dragonfly ladies and tentacular super villains who despise chaff, there were multiple endings based on your actions thorough the game in order to decide who would survive and what would be left of them – but the series' own survival was guaranteed.

This so-called Director's Cut is really an enhanced adaptation of the 1996 original, released primarily due to its ever increasing popularity (and scarcity) as well as to tide over ravenous veterans who will remember well those seemingly infinite number of delays that eventually resulted in the veritable masterpiece that is Resident Evil 2. While initially marketed as containing all the grisly FMV footage that was excised from RE's domestic release, you'll note that there isn't any mention of this anywhere on the jewel case; that's because Capcom's localization team totally screwed up by using the very same censored cinemas, declining to correct this error even for subsequent printings. You still won't get to see Chris enjoy the rich flavor of fine tobacco products or fleeing in stark terror as his carefully placed bullets splatter through the putrid hides of zombified dogs, nor the partially gnawed skull of Kenneth with its one remaining eyeball blankly staring at you after dropping from a famished fiend's gore-spattered lips. It's a good thing these are but minor details compared to the many features this package does offer.

On the one hand Capcom extended a helpful hand or two to better welcome inexperienced gamers into the still nascent series and thus expand their audience. The difficulty of Resident Evil was once entirely dependant upon your character choice; Chris required quick precision with his pistol or shotgun due to a much greater focus on desperate combat, where Jill's path was made easier (and more interesting) thanks to additional inventory space, lockpicking skills, and the frequent assistance of her old Python-packing partner Barry, to say nothing of that acid-blasting bazooka acquired early on. Now it's not only possible to enjoy the standard game with the Japanese version's automatic aiming function re-enabled, but real sissies can further select a newly added setting for beginners in which the enemies are less deadly and the worth of all ammo magazines doubled.

But the real meat in this expansion is intended strictly for faithful fans: an exhaustively arranged "Advanced Mode" which takes the unexpected ambushes and dwindling supplies that made Survival Horror so captivating in the first place and ramps them up to a horrific new extreme. Not only do many of the environments look dramatically different by way of completely changed camera angles, but all the items and weapons have been shuffled around, often requiring a markedly different route through the game including the exploration of rooms that previously served no legitimate purpose. The placement, nature, and number of your countless adversaries have been vastly altered as well, often with twice as many in each area despite even fewer stocks of ammunition to go around, making it even more important to evade unnecessary battles than ever before. A number of otherwise normal looking zombies also move with frightening speed, so if you're not paying close attention you may find your throat instantly ripped open in a geyser of gore.

This twist on the once familiar is extremely effective, as it's even more unsettling to grab a seemingly innocuous box of shells only to be grabbed yourself by a monster lurking in the shadows that you were never expecting. In order to even the odds a bit, both characters also come equipped with a custom Beretta offering a random chance to blow an enemy's clean head off with each successful shot, in addition to exclusive outfits that look way cooler than their Saturn counterparts, even if our heroine's button top foolishly exposes even more of her smooth flesh for freshly added hordes of naked lab zombies to devour.

With all of this extra content to similarly consume, Resident Evil: Director's Cut is not only the definitive edition of the game that secured Capcom's prominence for years to come, but also worth picking up even for series vets. Well, provided they stick with the original 2-disc release, as the Greatest Hits version adds support for the Dual Shock controller but also casts aside the brooding soundtrack in favor of utterly lame "symphonic" replacements; unfortunately the latter update is the only one currently available on the PlayStation Network in Japan. Whether for the hours of classic chills or previously unseen arrangements secreted within the sealed passages of the Spencer mansion, this is one progenitor that masters of unlocking should definitely take with them.


sho's avatar
Staff review by Sho (October 30, 2009)

Sho enjoys classic video games, black comedy, and poking people until they explode -- figuratively or otherwise. He also writes a bit.

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