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Resident Evil (PlayStation) artwork

Resident Evil (PlayStation) review

"Resident Evil deserves its recognition for what it accomplishes and what it brought to the table, but that doesnít mean what it does wrong should get a get-out-of-jail-free card."

There was a time when Resident Evil was scary. I remember it; I remember when a zombie mutt jumping through a window was original, not obligatory. I remember when campy voice acting, dodgy tank controls and B-movie kitsch were minor annoyances easily overwritten by the core game itself. That of a group of highly-armed enforcers being stuck in a desolate mansion cut off from the rest of the world having to survive increasingly hostile waves of undead.

Because of what it was, Resident Evil became a massive hit. While there had been horror games in the past (such as Alone in the Dark whose experience on the Playstation is best left forgotten) nothing had yet come along on a similar scale. It was instantly accessible, and, within minutes, gave you the gory deaths of the vast majority of your team. Its artwork and direction was flawless; the camera angles taken for the exploration of the macabre mansion perfect almost every single time. These fixed camera angles could come from anywhere: the corner of a corridor, the far end of a hallway or a top-down view from above. They all had one thing in common -- to make the trek to the next camera angle as tense as possible. It was the first time such liberal direction had been lifted from the big screen and pasted directly into gaming.

They led you into a dining room mere seconds after you took control, and teased you through a narrow hallway where you find your first zombie snacking on the brains of a fallen comrade. The first meeting was exceptional; it told you from the word go that anyone was fallible and, while that was sinking in, it had a rotting corpse clock you over his shoulder, gore still dripping from its mouth, then lumber after you. You ran away, or you died.

That encounter ended with cheesy B-flick voice acting and cringeworthy lines of dialogue that would forever be the most remembered aspect of Resident Evil, not unfairly, despite the fantastic work taken by the gameís director. But it came at a time when competent voice acting was an exclusive trait to PC adventure games, so the player chuckled under their breath and moved on. They armed themselves as best they could, and moved on. They failed to guess that a corpse beneath their feet would spring to life and tear off their ankles so they panicked and flailed. Then they stomped on its head, and moved on.

Then, it was genre defining, but, now, a nostalgic glance back will cause cracks in even the most hardy of rose-tinted glasses.

Now, when obtuse tank controls are unacceptable, and voice acting is rightfully taken seriously by the industry, overlookable flaws are cast in a whole new light. Itís obvious, that, for all the good work it did back in the day, Resident Evil only lives up to one half of its survival horror moniker. Itís simply not scary in any sense other than cheap. It wants to make you jump as another carnivorous dog leaps through another window or when crows dive bomb you out of nowhere, and, several Resident Evil games later, these things are more expected than shocking.

Which leaves it with survival -- which the game does very well indeed.

Itís become obvious that, the more they ply their brand of survival horror to the world, the further away Capcom steer away from the genre. Resident Evil did survival so well, that it dragged its dismembered torso, bleeding and oozing, into the world of horror through the back door. Even if they didnít inspire a huge amount of fear, enemies still needed to be, ideally, eliminated so they didnít come back to chew on your skull later. However, even though the range of firearms, starting at pistols and weaving up to bazookas, was respectable, ammunition was not. The terror, then, is in fretting over if you had enough firepower to make it through the next frenzied assault. Itís that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you might well be doomed after using that last shotgun shell on a group of zombies when a murky green hunter could be waiting around the next corner, ready to decapitate you in one swing of its claws.

Resident Evil deserves its recognition for what it accomplishes and what it brought to the table, but that doesnít mean what it does wrong should get a get-out-of-jail-free card. It has its own sense of horror, but itís marred in mistakes no longer excusable. A remake offered almost a decade later does its best to fix the majority of issues and makes the original offering -- one already updated with a DirectorĎs Cut a scant handful of years later -- forced further into obsoleteness. This leaves the majority with fond memories in an odd situation: those memories can only be preserved by shunning the game that made them. The undead isnít Resident EvilĎs biggest enemy; itís time. Like the rotting, sagging flesh on the bloodthirsty corpses made prevalent within, Capcomís opening attempt at horror has not aged well.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (September 25, 2010)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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zippdementia posted September 25, 2010:

Wait a minute. I've seen this review before. Where have I seen it before?
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bloomer posted September 26, 2010:

Here's my further comment on this review.

I think there are spots in this review where you (EmP) haven't proofread the logic of your thought while in search of strong presentation.

For instance - 'Then, it was an unforgettable experience, but, now, a nostalgic glance back will cause cracks in even the most hardy of rose-tinted glasses.'

An unforgettable experience never ceases to be an unforgettable experience, until it's forgotten. Its nature can be reevaluated later, but obviously not its quality of not-being-able-to-be-forgotten. And the other thing is, the worst time to assess whether an experience is going to be unforgettable is at the time at which you are having the experience. The above line is vulnerable to both of these conundrums.

But that's just a line. Coming up is my musing about the broader logic of the review.

The use of the term 'mistakes' in this review got me thinking. It is true that 'mistake' can be used with prejudice, as it is here, to attribute poor judgement to someone, rather than to describe the making of an empirically verifiable error. If a reader sympathises with this review's arguments, they might say to themselves 'Capcom made mistakes a,b and c as they created the original Resident Evil.'

Viewed the other way, it's difficult to say Capcom made any mistakes. They made a million selling game which worked as intended. There are no bugs in it, and the argument of this review is that the game seems poorer today because of changes in gaming styles, preferences and technology over time. In a sense, if mistakes had been made in creating the game, it would have scored sixes when it came out. I'm not sure you can occupy all these grounds at once (it was broke when they made it, but it was unforgettable, but now time has passed and it's really broke?)

I get that you have your own ideas about hardcoded elements of the game, and then relative ideas about how the game stands up over time. But your perspectives on the two got tangled up for me the way this review was written.
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joseph_valencia posted September 26, 2010:

Then, it was an unforgettable experience, but, now, a nostalgic glance back will cause cracks in even the most hardy of rose-tinted glasses.

Now? The cracks were showing as far back as 1997. After seeing a friend play RE2, I was kind of surprised at how hokey the original game was. (Those Hunter monsters are always scary, though.)
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CoarseDragon posted September 27, 2010:

I think the word you are looking for is "accomplishes".

"Resident Evil deserves its recognition for what it accomplices and what it brought to the table, but that doesnít mean what it does wrong should get a get-out-of-jail-free card."

Also you probably do not need "its" in that sentence.
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EmP posted September 29, 2010:

I meant to reply to this sooner, but things kind of stacked up on me.

Bloomer: I'd actually wanted to sub this on your RotW slot as I assumed you'd react strongest to it, one way or the other. I'm going to have to disagree with you take on the experience being unforgettable. Until I replayed it, the original Res was placed on such a pedestal that the description fit it -- now it's entirely forgettable outside of the obvious negatives like the kooky dialogue and the tank controls. What I hoped to stress with this line is how unkind time has been to the title. Until my replay of Res, I would always say that Res 2 was my favourite of the series, but now I'm almost afraid to revisit it. It's not the kind of horror I would expect from the series.

EDIT: On refelection, there's almost certainly a better word choice I could employ to make the point I wanted to make. I'll give the review a complete going over once I've finished the other review I'm working on now.

As for the mistakes, I would certainly label the idea to use the very worst voice actors available as such. Other than that, I agree with your points. I was never a fan of the cumbersome tank controls or some of the cheaper scare tactic, but I adored this game like millions of others back when, so it's probably the wrong word choice there. I'll give some thought to an appropriate edit.

SECOND EDIT: I've gone back and put placeholder edits in place. I don't think they fix these issues, but they help make the points I wanted to make well enough until I can plough more time into an ultimate fix.

Joesph: Now as in "Now was the time I decided to replay the game" more than anything else.

CD: Thanks for that!

Zipp: You be crazy.
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bloomer posted September 29, 2010:

Hey Emp,

have to disagree with you take on the experience being unforgettable.

Actually I don't think I would say PS1 RE is unforgettable, even in my world, but what I think isn't relevant for this particular point anyway. It's purely about the use of the word 'unforgettable' in the review. (I know it's not there anymore, which is good :) )

A writer cannot say that something used to be unforgettable. It falls into the area of phrases like 'pretty unique'. By definition, if you are talking about a thing now, it has not been forgotten. Trying to assess if the thing previously had the state of being impossible to forget, and then was forgotten (invalidating that status) and has since been remembered but has also acquired a new status where it's possible to forget about it... it just becomes an impossible idea when presented this way.

Of course if you were writing humourous Hitchhiker's Guide style fiction, 'previously unforgettable' is potentially a good phrase, but not for a serious critical review.

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