Resident Evil review
Redefines the idea of survival horror for those who have forgotten
While I consider the Resident Evil series to be a complete joke and to be about as scary as a sheet with eye holes, there's something alluring about the first Resident Evil game - particularly its remake on the Gamecube. Unlike later instalments which honestly just feel like shitty action games, this is a legitimate attempt at horror where you really have to be careful around every corner as one zombie can mean the difference between life and death. Now, given that this is a remake, you'd expect a game that's simply the original with better graphics. Actually, you'd be wrong as this game expands on things that the original wasn't able to either due to the PS1's limitations or due to it simply being an oversight on Capcom's part way back in the day. With all of this in consideration, this is the best that the series has ever been as it fully embodies everything that Resident Evil wanted to be – atmospheric; immersing; actually somewhat scary!
After a series of incidents that occurred in Raccoon City, STARS Bravo Team enter a mansion owned by the Umbrella Corporation (who they believe to be the ones behind said incidents). However, after some time of not hearing from Bravo Team, the Alpha Team is sent in to find them and perhaps continue the investigation. Once they enter the mansion, they realize that there is more to this mansion than meets the eye as they learn more about the Umbrella Corporation, the incident in Raccoon City and the mansion itself. Plot twists can and will occur, and although you could see most if not all of them from miles away, it still makes for some intriguing storytelling. Most of its highlights are due to the rewritten script and reworked atmosphere - the original, while feeling like a horror game, had very corny writing and even cornier voice acting that eliminated all semblances of drama and darkness. Here, the writing is more straight laced and as a result, dramatic moments make more of an impact on you, especially any that could potentially creep you out.
With advanced technology comes advanced graphics, and the Gamecube remake of Resident Evil showcases the potential for the system to produce excellent graphics. While it still uses 3D models on top of pre-rendered backgrounds, I wouldn't have imagined that said backgrounds were 2D as they looked fantastic. Plenty of detail has gone into this game's graphics not just in terms of textures and little details, but also atmosphere. The colors are dark and dreary, even if there are lights in the area. Speaking of lights, the lighting is actually pretty good as the lights brighten up areas around them in a logical manner and shadows darken the right areas. Both light and darkness culminate in a way that makes the mansion spookier, further enticing the player to explore the mansion. It does get some variation as you progress, but that's for me to know and you to figure out – nevertheless, it still manages to give me the creeps. To top it off are the zombies, which look as decomposed and yet imposing as they're going to get in video gaming. It makes the iconic scene where the zombie turns its head slowly to get a glimpse at you that much creepier...
To further show off more advanced hardware, the sound has been completely redone. Gone are the cheesy synthesizers of old; now, you'll hear low tempo ambient bass-y notes that will keep you on the tip of your toes. That, or no music will be played, leaving you with your footsteps. Either way, it leaves you unsuspecting of anything happening, so anything from moaning zombies suddenly popping up at the change of a camera angle, to zombie dogs smashing their way through windows will leave more of a lasting impression on you – moreso here because they don't have like 10 zombies dogpiling on top of you unlike every other Resident Evil game. The voice acting has also been rerecorded, so instead of hilariously atrocious voice acting, you're given voice acting that's competent enough, but nothing special. At least the direction is something other than “hey guys, let's make the campiest horror movie ever” as moments where they convey emotion doesn't fall flat on its face.
I have to warn you that horror games aren't exactly bound by the same rules that action games are. What would be considered god awful in an action game can actually work for a horror game if it's implemented well enough. Tank controls and preset camera angles... just become something that you get used to in the right environment. However, it's harder to get used to it here than it was on the PS1, mainly because the Gamecube's d-pad is about the size of the end of a pin. That means you'll be forced to use the analog stick, which could be fine if the mansion didn't consist mostly of narrow hallways that'd give tapeworms claustrophobia.
Conversely, the puzzles and combat in Resident Evil wouldn't have worked without some careful planning, because technically speaking, they range from mediocre to crap. The puzzles, for instance, mostly consist of running around the mansion to find keys and key items to fit into slots, sometimes involving the need to push an object aside. Outside of survival horror and Zelda, this would be considered bad – puzzles should be brain busters, not feel like Metroid where you're exploring every room you can to find a means of getting inside rooms you cannot enter. But Resident Evil makes it an artform, especially in the original. How? It's called good level design. The mansion is designed in a way that's surprisingly easy to navigate through as it is mostly a series of hallways, leading to rooms that just have the singular door necessary to enter. Part of that is thanks to the maps that you'll find on each floor and significant section of the mansion – it's easy to read and does well to aid you in finding your way around the mansion. But most of it, really, is thanks to the aesthetic design of the mansion, which I had already mentioned was done in a way that makes you want to explore just to see how creepy it can get and how the rest of the story will unfold. This makes those kinds of puzzles much more bearable, though that's not to say that they're completely brainless. For a fair few of them, you may need to place them in a specific sequence which you'll find in files that are found throughout the mansion, and that's not to mention the handful of other puzzles that require you to do other things. Simply put, the puzzles themselves aren't anything fantastic, but their implementation is.
Combat is... reasonably well implemented, despite it feeling screwy at first. What it entails is that when you pull out your gun, you're stood completely still. The only movements you can perform are spinning around and aiming higher or lower. That's it. Now, if this was Resident Evil 2, I would blast this because it feels like a bullshit handicap, but here, it makes sense. Zombies move slowly around the mansion, often walking into walls in an effort to grab a bite of the Jill Sandwich. However, other enemies are smarter and thus require more strategic positioning. Even then, you'll inevitably be grabbed by the ghoulies, so Capcom added the ability to use defensive attacks. If you press the right button at the right time, you can ward enemies off of you, buying some time to get out the shotgun and blow them to kingdom come... that is, if you have any ammo for it.
Resident Evil clearly isn't focused on combat as you aren't fighting groups of zombies, nor are the controls tailor made for it. The idea is to fight to survive if you have no other options. Fighting itself isn't that fun as you're limited in your movement and ammo, but the feeling of desperation is what gives the combat significance. If you can, you run from combat. If you can't, get out a gun and blow their heads off! This is especially encouraged when you deal – or rather, if you don't want to deal with Crimson Head zombies. Essentially, you take a zombie that you've shot onto the ground and reanimate it into the sprinting dead! They are relentless and will teach you the true meaning of horror, stopping at nothing to eat your brains... even going as far as to eat other zombies! Only flammable rounds and high power guns will kill them, but to hell with that – just make sure, if you're going to kill a zombie, you really kill it. Blow its head off or set it on fire – or you could risk your life even further by letting one spawn.
Survival isn't just about knowing when to fight – it's also about keeping a steady eye on your supplies. You're not only given a limited amount of resources like ammo and health restoration items (herbs and first aid sprays) throughout the mansion, but you're also given a limited amount of space in your inventory. This means that you'll be required to choose your items carefully. Should you carry a lot of guns and ammo? Not necessarily a good idea because you may want to heal. Worse off, you may need a key item and your nearest storage chest is miles away. But if you fit in too many key items, you won't have enough room for anything else. It becomes a matter of juggling your items around – especially if you choose Chris, who can only carry 6 items while Jill can carry 8 plus a lockpick. After a while, you'll get into the groove of it all and see the genius of this system.
Remakes are generally looked at as complete bastardizations or just useless. However, there are times when the remake is genuinely superior to the original and I'd say this is one of them. Resident Evil on the Gamecube takes the dusty old corpse and reanimates it into a Crimzon Head zombie, complete with retooled graphics, rerecorded sound and an expansion of the story. Deliberation is the name of the game here, meaning if you cannot keep up with its deliberate pacing and style, you may find yourself wondering how Resident Evil ever found itself relevant in the first place. Once you get immersed into it, you'll find yourself having a hard time tearing away from it because you'll want to find out more about the mansion while taking scenic routes to marvel at the impressive graphics and creepy atmosphere. In short... I love this game.
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