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SummaryChillingly atmospheric, this should have been Resident Evil 4.
The GoodI own every single Resident Evil game ever made, so to say I'm a bit of a fan of the series is an understatement. My first exposure to the series was back in 1998 when I played a demo for Resident Evil 2 at a friends house. I was pretty affected by it and not just because it was full of gore and body parts flying all over the place. I had never experienced a Survival Horror game before and these alien mechanics the game relied on baffled my developing 8 year old mind.
Years later when I began to collect video games one of the first things I resolved to do was amass an enormous collection of Resident Evil merchandise. So, suffice to say I know the entire series back to front.
The remake of Resident Evil caught my attention when I picked up a Nintendo Gamecube product catalogue back in 2001. It showcased the photo realistic graphics of the game and made a pretty big deal about the Resident Evil series making its way to the Gamecube. I didn't actually get to play it until last year, for a few reasons which aren't particularly pertinent right now, and I wish I hadn't waited so long.
A familiar setting
The remake of Resident Evil takes place in identical circumstances to the original released in 1996. The Arklay Mountains surrounding Raccoon City have become a dangerous place full of sightings of feral animals and packs of men attacking Hikers. A special police taskforce named S.T.A.R.S Alpha Team is dispatched to investigate and when they go missing Bravo team is dispatched to find them. The team is abandoned and seek refuge in a seemingly derelict mansion. From here, the horror ensues and the main protagonists Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine must battle the monsters that stalk the halls and find a way to escape the hellish mansion before they succumb to the resident evil (see what I did there?) inside.
Tried and true Resident Evil gameplay
The Resident Evil series has been both a staple source of praise and derision in the 14 years it has been circulating. In the time it had been bubbling away in Shinji Mikami's mind the series had gradually evolved up until 2001, when Resident Evil was released. Every single refinement that had been instituted in the series until then made its way into Resident Evil (and if you haven't already figured it out when I say Resident Evil I'm talking about the subject of this review and not the original.) The tank controls have been discarded for a more fluent 3D control scheme that incorporates the life saving 180 degree turn from previous games. Your character controls so smoothly, any criticism from the past concerning the controls are quickly forgotten.
In addition to the sharp control scheme you also have recourse when grabbed by an opponent from the front. Your character can utilize defense weapons like stun guns and phosphorous grenades that do very cool things when an enemy grabs them. It saves health and adds a degree of strategy into how you approach encounters.
In addition to this a new form of Zombie has been introduced named the Crimson Head which is a regular Zombie that hasn't been beheaded or burned. You can carry around a flask of oil which you need to pour on the corpses of Zombies and set them alight to kill them properly, or as I mentioned before you can seperate their head from their shoulders. The tension involved in whether or not a Zombie will rise up again as a Crimson Head adds a new degree of horror to the game.
All of the refinements, additions to the roster of enemies and options for defending yourself add this contemporary edge to Resident Evil that games like Code Veronica seemed to lack. While Code Veronica was a great game, it lacked any nuance or subtle refinements. The transition to 3D environments was wonderful but it added little to the game itself. Resident Evil feels like a meaningful evolution of the series, one that was due.
It looks like it plays
Resident Evil is a beautiful game, a stunning game. I can't really emphasize how amazing it looks. It's the dictionary definition of photo realistic. Environments look amazing and flickering lights, shifting shadows and tree branches add a layer of atmosphere to the game. Character models display a similar level of polish and animate superbly. They are textured immaculately with realistic facial animation and emotive expressions. The environments are smack of grunge and funk, they almost emit a musty smell as you wander through the decaying hallways. It's superb artistic direction.
The BadResident Evil plays well but lacks any sort of contemporary checkpoint system. You still rely on ink ribbons and although this may not mean much to you, it's still a system the game relies on.
There are very little unlockables other than some modes that just make the game a little harder.
The Bottom LineResident Evil is a beautiful, photo realistic game with gameplay that is ultra refined and the most satisfying of the classic series to play. There is little about the gameplay I can fault.
It's a classic love letter to Resident Evil fans, something you should really experience if you even have a passing fancy for Survival Horror.