By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on December 12, 2014
Don't you just hate it when your staff doesn't seem to listen to a word you say?! If our time travelling crew ever makes it back here alive, I will personally kill them until they die of it! I mean come on, disobeying an order once is bad enough. Doing it twice in 4 weeks is starting to look more like a mutiny. Well, if it's a mutiny they want, a mutiny they will get. A serious ass-whooping will be delivered upon their return, and that's a promise.
I'm sorry ladies and gentlemen, but my staff is driving me insane. As you may or may not remember, two weeks ago they blatantly refused to leave the year 1996 and move on. This being their first offence, I let it slide. But now...NOW...they will not move on a second time in a row! This is getting out of hand. If I let this go, I will be the laughing stock at the next board meeting. I will not have that, Lord Sadhonker will not stand for it! Who do they think they are? NBA superstars?! No no, they're MY staff and they'll have to obey my command. Now they're just hanging out all day like a bunch of time travelling zombies... zombies?... ZOMBIES! That's it, if they want to stay so bad, I've got the perfect game for them to review. If I can't persuade them to leave 1996, I can sure as hell try to scare them into doing just that! Bring on the undead! mwoohaha... mwooohahahaha... MWOOOOOHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!
Originally launched in 1996 by Capcom for the Sony Playstation, Resident Evil (known in Japan as Bio Hazard, the original title of the game) firmly planted the seed for the genre we today know and love as Survival Horror. Hell, it named and defined the entire genre. It's the granddaddy of gore, the senior citizen of scare, the elder of... something horrible beginning with an 'e'...but I digress, you get the point. It was the first real actual scary game out there, and encompassed everything the we learned to fear. It has it all; a deadly toxin released by a biochemical company, a huge creepy mansion, narrow hallways, zombies, giant spiders, the works! For its time it had state of the art 3d graphics, the creepiest atmosphere ever and a soundtrack to match. Back then, Resident Evil was really state of the art gaming!
Immediately upon starting the game you get to choose from two playable characters, both a member the S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Service) Alpha team: Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. Both characters have their strengths and weaknesses, so both characters make you play the game in a slightly different way. Chris is more rugged and can take more damage than Jill, but has less firepower to begin with. Jill, while being the weaker of the two, does have a handgun from the start of the game, and is in possession of a lock pick, which enables you to open small locks you may encounter throughout the mansion.
So what are we looking at here? Oh yes, the story... Alpha team has been sent to investigate the disappearance of Bravo team, who were looking into a series of bizarre murders in the vicinity of Raccoon City. Nothing has been heard from them since, so Alpha team is choppered in to find and bring back Bravo team. While searching the area, Alpha team is viciously attacked by half-decaying dogs that kill one of your teammates instantly. The rest of the team turn tails and run for their lives. After running the quarter mile in world record breaking time, the remaining members of Alpha team take refuge in an old mansion they happen to stumble upon.
After catching their breaths, they realize a member of their team is missing. Now your choice of character comes into play. If you chose to play as Chris, Barry Burton is missing. If you chose to play as Jill, Chris is missing. So of course you're going to investigate the old mansion, so off you go! Or, to put it in the wise words of Barry Burton (when you play the game as Jill): "I'm going with you, Chris is our old partner, you know". Wise words indeed, although I'm pretty sure Jill knew that already, with her being in the same team as the rest of them... Ok, maybe Barry thought she'd recently hit her head really, really, really hard... or something.
Resident Evil stood out at the time of its release because of the (at the time) stunning 3D graphics. 3D polygonal characters and objects were placed on pre-rendered environments. As opposed to modern games, Resident Evil denied the player control over the camera, so instead it let the player move the character through a series of fixed viewpoints throughout each environment. This feature really helped build the suspense a lot, because you couldn't just peek around a corner to see what was there. Sometimes you just saw your character head-on, without being able to see along the corridor you were currently in. The only thing that gave away the presence of a possible enemy were its footsteps or the occasional groan. Not a lot to go on, is it?! Nevertheless, it made the game that bit more suspenseful. Another feature that defines Resident Evil is the ammo or better yet, the lack thereof. Contrary to popular belief at the time, stating that in every game featuring one or more guns, the player should have enough ammo to overthrow a small country, Resident Evil provided you with just enough ammo to take down a large squirrel (albeit a bio-engineered squirrel, standing about 15 feet tall and covered in blood, goo and razor-sharp spiky things...). No, bullets were somewhat of a rare commodity in this monument of survival horror.
Apart from the graphics, the soundtrack did its bit to raise the creepy-gauge a notch or two. Moans, groans and growls were mixed with an ominous soundtrack and eerie sound effects. A fun thing to notice is that the sound of your characters' footsteps changes noticeably, according to the surface you walk on. When you stroll along a carpeted hallway, your footsteps sound muffled. When you walk on a metal grate, they will sound much sharper and louder. Hey, it may not look like much nowadays, but back then it was absolutely awesome. The only slightly less awesome points in the game were the loading times between rooms or areas. Every time you enter a door or walk up a flight of stairs, the screen would go completely black until an image of a door or stairs appeared. Then an animation of a door opening or stairs being ascended / descended from the characters viewpoint would play, the screen would go black again before showing you your character in its new surroundings. Congratulations, you have arrived in the next area of the game. Although the animations looked good and the corresponding sound effects absolutely kicked some serious ass, after a while these sequences became a bit... I think tiresome is the word I'm looking for. Because although they're great to look at the first few times, the sheer amount of backtracking you'll be forced to do during the game means looking at the same animation a couple hundred times.
This is a minor issue, if not the only issue Resident Evil has. That is, of course, unless you count the control scheme as being an issue. Now, this has spawned some debate over the years, with mainly the younger generation of players stating that the control scheme of the early Resident Evil games is about as intuitive as sticking your hand in a meat grinder, douse it in gasoline, set fire to it and then try to force the flames to subside by staring at them very intently. The older generation of players will then say that there was no comparison at the time, so you just took things for granted. If you weren't able to play a game, that was your own fault, and never, ever, ever, ever the games' fault. You just made do with what you had, instead of crying about how much better things could or should be. And that the younger gamers shouldn't behave like spoiled little brats. This in turn usually sparks another kind of discussion which we will not go into here and now... Suffice to say that the control scheme of early Resident Evil games was not, per se, the most elegant, but it got the job done. By pressing forward, your character would move forward. Maybe not quite the forward you had in mind, but from the characters point of view it definitely followed its nose. So if you wanted to make a turn, you would have to press the left or right button on you d-pad. Be careful which button you push when your character is coming at you on the screen. Left will be right and right will be left. This made running away from enemies slightly awkward at times. But hey, we do like a challenge!
This running away will not seem like a necessity at first, but as you progress through the game, the enemies become more agile, and so running isn't a fun pastime anymore, at least not if you want to stay alive. Zombies are joined by a new type of enemy; B.O.W's (Bio Organic Weapons). In this first ever Resident Evil game, you'll encounter B.O.W.'s like: Cerberus, a mutated breed of dog. The Hunter, a green muscular beast that lunges at you, trying to decapitate you in the process with its razor sharp claws. And if these two aren't bad enough the people at Capcom had a little surprise up their proverbial sleeves; The Tyrant. This nearly unstoppable colossus is the final boss you'll have to defeat before you can get out of this nightmare and return safely home.
Luckily, a handgun is not the only weapon available in Resident Evil. During play you'll come across other weapons, such a shotgun, an automatic rifle or a grenade thrower. So the task of eradicating enemies is helped along a bit. Not much, mind you, but some. If you choose to blast your way through the first part of the game, you may come up short on bullets in the second half. And trust me, you don't want to end up like me on my first try; facing the tyrant with one handgun bullet and your survival knife. So conserve ammo whenever you can and don't forget to search each room thouroughly. You never know what you mind find!
So however you look at it, Resident Evil is bad-ass! This is proven time after time by later installments of the series. It's a great series of games, that just keeps on going without feeling outdated. And with new Resident Evil games on the horizon, who knows where it will take us next? I'm especially looking forward to playing the HD remaster of the 2002 GameCube remake of the original Resident Evil game, set to hit our consoles in January 2015. The PS4 and Xbox One versions will feature 1080p graphics, while the PS3 and the Xbox 360 versions will have to make do with 720p. But in comparison to the original, these numbers both seem like an improvement. So turn down the lights, turn up the volume and get ready to enter the mansion yet again...
And now if you'd excuse me, I think I hear a zombie shuffling about around the next corner who is in desperate need of a shotgun haircut!