A LOOK BACK AT A GAME THAT HAS TAKEN UP RESIDENCE IN OUR HEARTS
Resident Evil, Capcom’s 1996 mega-hit, was the first title to label itself a survival horror game.
The game has been updated and re-released for several different systems and will be getting an HD release next year. Not many games can weather the test of time that well. Resident Evil is a must play for everyone, not just survival horror fans.
The story takes place in a mansion just outside Raccoon City. You play as either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, officers of S. T. A. R. S. (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) who have been called in to investigate after a series of strange attacks. The game will play differently depending on who you choose, and will also change depending on the choices you make during the game. The web of choices is fairly convoluted and if you want to see all the different endings I would suggest using a guide. I enjoyed the story, even though the original voice acting was so bad it’s cringe-worthy. The voice work was redone for the GameCube/Wii remake along with the visuals and some parts of the game itself, so if that might bother you the Wii/GameCube version is going to be the best choice for you.
This game did some amazing things graphically when it came out. It was able to achieve a high level of complexity by using some revolutionary camera and perspective tricks. Sadly the original graphics do not hold up very well. When playing on PlayStation 3 there is an option to turn on smoothing (anti-aliasing) which cleans things up considerably. This is another case where if you might want to seek out the GameCube/Wii version if the dated looks bother you and remember, the HD version is on the horizon.
The minute-to-minute gameplay of Resident Evil is both its strongest and weakest point. Many of the scares hold up to this day and the resource management that defines the entire genre is as strongly represented here as it is in modern series like Dead Space. Because you never face huge hordes of enemies, every combat encounter has the same level of intensity. There is nothing quite like being down to your last couple bullets, knowing that if you miss all you have is your knife and your brain. The old-school save system also makes things tense as your saves are limited on normal difficulty. You actually have to think hard about using them up and if you choose wrong, tough luck.
The tradeoff here is the game handles like absolute garbage. I have seen beached whales that moved more fluidly than than Resident Evil characters, and aiming is just guessing with style. There is also a lot of running back and forth across the same areas over and over again. Realistic, but not very fun. There are some really great puzzles in here but most of them are: search every room, find thing, use thing to unlock door, go to next locked door, repeat forever. I could have done with a lot less of that.
The Verdict: 8.1 out of 10
Resident Evil’s status as a classic is undisputed, and while there are earlier games that could be considered survival horror, this is where the genre really began. Terrible controls and incredibly bad voice acting aside, this still stands as one of the best survival horror games ever and the start of one of the most iconic franchises of any generation. I can only hope the coming HD remaster has smooth controls and even more difficulty options and endings. Buy it, play it, and love it.
Mike Bertrand is MONG’s foremost expert on survival horror games and will be happily dropping knowledge bombs on your faces all month. Tweets.