9 out of 10 zombies agree: Resident Evil is NNhhGgggggooooouudddddd...!!!
Resident Evil stands as an oddity in videogame history, sure now nobody is surprised by it, but before the advent of survival horror games if somebody would have told be that Capcom (whoose entire gaming library is based on Final Fight, Megaman and Street Fighter) would release an amazingly entertaining survival/horror title that would re-define the genre...well, you can imagine what my reaction would have been! Yeah, and then Id software is going to start making actual games instead of engines! Ha! Sucker!!
...Well, the joke is on all of us naysayers, because RE managed to carve it's place into videogame history with full honors, why? Well, let's see shall we?
For those who are already acquainted with the genre there's no need to point out it's strenghts: these games combine a measure of fierce action combat with lots of adventure touches such as puzzles, inventory management, scripted sequences, etc... Furthermore the emphasis on survival means that you don't play these games like regular action games and just breeze by each location clearing rooms filled with enemies. More often than not, you just won't have enough ammo or health to play 3D Doom, so you'll have to rely on escape tactics and keep an eye on your bullets, health items, etc... All these things merged in a game with a horror theme with lots of awkward camera angles and a penchant for jack-in-the-box scares makes for a very, VERY intense gameplay experience and it Rocks!! One of the best things one can say about RE is that it really is a blast to play through, and hardly ever feels frustrating or annoying. Plus it offers two different styles of play (action-oriented for Chris or adventure-oriented with Jill), different endings for each character depending on who you saved, and other bonuses based on your ranking (the now standard alternate costumes, etc..)
The graphics and sound were a must for this game, since one could hardly be scared at a bunch of pixels unless they were properly rendered, right? Well for it's time RE provided some of the most gorgeous graphics to grace the Playstation. The game combined some nicely animated textured models with static, pre-rendered backgrounds, and the detail in both were stunning, particularly in the case of the backgrounds and the tremendous attention paid to the character animations (even if the walking/turning still seemed rather awkward and fake).
Another area that RE is famous for (and also infamous for!) is the sound department, say what you will of the voice acting but the music and sfx are fantastic. The effects are fantastically realized and fit the game perfectly, with perfect renditions of creaking wood, eery howls, mechanical devices and all sorts of other things, but the music is simply amazing! Combining eery instrumental music with ominous piano cues and other gimmicks make for a thrilling and truly spooky soundtrack, so good in fact, that almost every other survival/horror game tried to copy it.
Yep, as you can see the game excels on just about everything, yet what I feel defines RE and made it such a hit was the tremendous style in it's execution. After all, many other games feature the same gimmicks that RE does, but it was the sense of style applied to the game that lifted it up to the stratosphere. Capcom wisely realized that the impact of the game would be totally lost if they went for a serious route (actually this is not really true, but it would have implied major changes to the game), so they maximized each potentially cheezy element as well as it's B-movie angle and coated it all with gloss and production values so as to make the videogame equivalent of a hollywood high budget extravaganza and a low grade B-movie at the same time. And it's fantastic! You have a simple and predictable storyline, super-models that double as spec-ops operatives for the main characters, lots of gore and violence, comic-booky situations, horror setpieces (oh look!, the lights went out!... hmmm somebody should go activate the generator... alone.... But don't worry! I'm sure everything's ok!!), lots of zombies as the main horrors and other biologic nightmares, etc. etc.. In fact I also feel that such things as the horrible voice acting and the cheesy live action fmv sequences only serve to enhance the game. Truly it's one of those cases of "it's so bad it's good" But don't think super-crappy films, think in the way of Evil Dead. Get it?
I respect the checkpoint save system, but I hate having to manage those stupid ink ribbons; the control is very limited and while this actually serves to increase the level of desperation and horror I would have killed for a strafe key and faster response; the puzzles may be interesting for console gamers but they are truly the crappiest thing ever, already infamous are the "push the statues" puzzles and the crest-collecting and there's a reason for that.
One also has to acknowledge that despite the tremendous production values poured in the game the acting sucks in just about every level, but hey... as I said above I think this works for the game. On games like Deus Ex for instance, the crappy voice acting became so bad because of the serious context and material, but not so here! I don't think there's any bad way you can act lines like "What... are these things?? Look out! They are dangerous!" or the other things the poor actors have to say :))
Last but not least, and more of an "ethical" flaw, is the fact that to the educated gamer the game is a total ripoff. I mean, this is just Alone in the Dark for the new millenium, and it's not just that it "took the basic premise and expanded from there", nope sir... Heck, if they hadn't removed the supernatural things about the original owner of the mansion and added more Lovecraft-influenced themes instead of the zombies the games would have been virtually the same! And it doesn't stop there. The plot for the RE movie had to be changed so much to make it more like RE2 because George Romero almost sued Capcom's ass! Seeing as how the basic concept of the game is so much like Night of the Living Dead (people locked on an abandoned mansion overun by zombies, etc...)... Interestingly enough they almost did an adaptation of the original game, but the only way Romero would have gone with that was if he got to write the screenplay, and we all know that unfortunately that wasn't the case :(
The Bottom Line
Don't think about The Shinning! Think Evil Dead!!! That's what this game is, and while plagiarism may come to mind while playing it, Residen Evil provides one of the most intense and entertaining gameplay experiences for the playstation.
This one's a classic, and rightly so, I just wished the zombies would have made a rendition of "Thriller" in the credits (seeing as how you can get some super-funky ones if you finish it right...)... Ah well.. can't have it all I guess!