Resident Evil

Resident Evil
Resident Evil Cover
Platforms GameCube
Genre Original Survival Horror Remake
MtAMinutes to Action 6
Keep Playing? Probably
Buy from Amazon

Resident Evil is the original survival horror game.  It didn't invent horror, but it definitely laid some groundwork as far as the genre went in video games.  It was originally released in 1996 for the Sony PlayStation.  In 2002, it was released as a remake for the GameCube in a surprising deal that had the series on Nintendo's system and eventually led to the stellar Resident Evil 4.

So what I want to know is this:  Is this game good, and is this game scary? I've played Resident Evil 4, and had a few good jumps, but overall it was just a moody action game (arguably becoming the basis of the modern third-person shooter).  The original (and remake) had a lot more focus on puzzle solving and exploring, and less on fighting.

I'm going all out with this one.  I'm playing at night, while everyone else is sleeping, with the lights off.  Let's see if we can get a good scare out of this.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)

00 - I select New Game, and the first hour of Resident Evil begins.  I have to choose an option: whether I think video games are like hiking or mountain climbing.  I think this is the difficulty level, and I choose hiking because I don't want this to be too hard.  Now I can pick my character, Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine.  Note that this is pre-steriods Chris, with biceps only the size of a normal (well-built) human being.

01 - I end up going with Jill because I always think of her when I think of Resident Evil, plus she must be related to Vincent, right?

02 - Our team is sent to investigate a series of murders in which the victims were eaten.  If I didn't know what Resident Evil was about, this might be creepy, but I know it's zombies.

03 - Here's a character I've never seen before, he must die soon.  Yep, he's being eaten by zombie dogs right now.  Chris saves Jill by shooting a dog just in time, and they run off.

04 - Now Weskar saves Chris by shooting another dog.  They decide to resolve this situation by running toward a nearby mansion.  Good job guys, you're in a dark forest being chased by zombie dogs and you run to a creepy-looking mansion.  What could possibly go wrong?

05 - Chris got seperated from the team while they were running, so it's just Jill, Barry and Captain Weskar.  Funny, Barry wasn't in the opening cutscene at all.  Anyway, they hear a gunshot from within the mansion and decide to investigate.  Jill and Barry decide to go look for Chris in the mansion (why would he be in the mansion?  Wouldn't he more likely have been eaten by the dogs outside?) and Weskar stays behind to "secure the area."  There's something fishy about that guy.  I think it's the sunglasses.

06 - Ok, I have control. The game has tank controls, which means right makes her turn clockwise, left turns counter-clockwise, forward moves in the direction she's currently facing and back makes her walk backward.  Back and B makes her turn around, which is handy.  I've played a game or two with these controls, but I take some time to familiarize myself with the movement.  I find an ink ribbon right away, and right next to it, a typewriter, which allows me to save by using the ink ribbon.  Having learned from my experience with Infinite Space, I go ahead and do so.

Resident Evil Jill and Barry

07 - This game (like the original) uses pre-rendered backgrounds and polygonal character models.  What that means is, the backgrounds are perfect, because they were rendered ahead of time and are just images.  Because of that, all the polygons that would normally go into a scene are used in the character models, so they look great.   It seems like the characters would just be walking over static images, but it really looks like they are within the scene.  It's quite good.

09 - The original game was infamous for its badly-acted live-action cutscenes.  The cutscenes in this game are in-engine, but the awkward translation seems to remain.

10 - I check a grandfather clock.  There's no action icon or anything, you just have to press A if you see something in the pre-rendered background that looks interesting.  Speaking of which, there's no HUD at all: all you see on screen is your character in a mansion.  This helps a lot with immersion and mood, but it means you have to go into the status screen to see how much health and ammo you have.  Your in-game avatar will physically reflect how much damage they've taken by limping, clutching their side, etc.

11 - Back to the grandfather clock, when I check it , I get a message that reads "When the two have run each other through, the path to your destiny will open."  Sounds ominous.  Right next to that is a painting of two soldiers with their swords stuck through each other.  That's quite unsettling.

Resident Evil Jill and a Zombie
12 - The tank controls are awkward, she keeps walking into the wall or table because it's tough to make her go where I want her to.

13 - I go through a door and am in a dark, narrow hallway.  Dang, this is creepy. I step into a room and see a person crouched down and hear chewing noises.  It turns out it's a zombie of course, and now it's after me.  What do I do, what do I do?  He grabs Jill and bites her, but she pushes him off onto the ground.

14 - I don't know what to do, he's eating me!  I back into a corner a bring up my gun, but I can't see him because he's offscreen and there's no camera control (due to the pre-rendered backgrounds).  Jill is wounded, and I take a couple of shots but he grabs me again and kills me.

15 - Lucky I saved, I get dumped straight to the title screen.  So far the scariest part of the game have been the lack of control I have over my character.  I felt helpless in that situation, which might not be far from the developer's intentions.

16 - I head back into the zombie room and try backing away from him and shooting him, but I can't hit him enough times before he grabs me.  You can't aim your shots, you just bring up your gun (with R) and fire (with A) and she kind of auto-targets the enemy, if you're pointing near the zombie.  I do finally down the monster, but I only have five bullets left.

17 - I do have a survival knife I could equip, but... he's getting back up!!  I put three more shots into him and he falls again.  For those of you who aren't Rain Man, I only have two bullets left.

18 - I find a video tape on the dead, partially-eaten body of Kenneth, a former member of our team.  Video tape?  What is this, 1996?  I go back through the door into the dining room, and a cutscene shows the zombie follow me and Barry shoots it down.  We head into the hall to report to Weskar.

Resident Evil Jill in the Kitchen

19 - When I go to open the door I hear a scary sound, but we go through anyway.  When we get into the hall, surprise of surprises, Weskar is not there.  I'm tasked with searching the hall (it's like a great hall, not a hallway).

20 - Some pre-rendered candles flicker in front of the camera with pre-rendered flames, and it looks great.

21 - Jill and Barry decide to split up to look for Weskar and Chris.  Genius idea, guys!  He hands me a lockpick, thinking I can make better use of it.

22 - There are a lot of doors in this mansion.  The description of the pictures on a wall tells me that it looks like the people in them could come to life at any moment, and the picture on the opposite wall looks like it's watching me.

23 - The tank controls actually allows the animation to be really smooth; it looks great.

Resident Evil Zombie Grabbing Chris24 - I find a door that is locked with a sword-inscribed lock, whatever that means.  Why can't I lockpick it?  Instead I push a dresser away from another door and go through.


25 - Now I'm in a room occupied by furniture covered in dust cloths.  Talk about creepy.  I make my way into a corner closet and find a dagger, which I can equip as a defensive item.  Jill can use the dagger when she's grabbed by a zombie, yay!  The default controls have the defensive items used automatically; I set it to manual.

26 - Oh no, here comes a zombie!  I try to use my survival knife, because I only have two bullets.  I hit him once, but he grabs her, and after a struggle she sticks the dagger in his face.  He still manages to grab Jill and kill her.  The not-so-subtle game-over screen says "you are dead."

27 - I hadn't saved since the first time, so back to the same place.  Fortunately I know where to go and cutscenes are skippable.  Also, I think I figured out I was playing it wrong.  It's not a shooter, I'm not supposed to kill every zombie I see

28 - This time I just turn and run away from the first zombie, which actually makes more sense in the following cutscene of Jill bursting through the door with the zombie on her heels.

32 - Ok, back to the zombie encounter that killed me.  This time I stab it in the face with a dagger and just run.  Not sure what I got out of that, since all I found was a dagger and I left it in that zombie's face.

Resident Evil Chris Shooting Zombie

33 - I head to the dining room where Barry is, it makes me safer to be with someone else.  Although... he's not there.  Dun dun dun.

35 - I hear a zombie moaning, and it makes me really nervous.

36 - Every turn I take is creepier than the last.  I find a magazine of ammo, 15 more bullets.  I pass by a body lying on the floor, I think I'll just leave it alone, thank you very much.  Oh man, this is creepy.

37 - I hear moaning.  I see a zombie!  I shoot him till he falls and then run past.  I find a golden arrow and another ammo magazine, but I have to move quickly because that zombie is still after me.  He's not exactly fast, but he's still coming.

38 - I found another dagger.  It's face-stabbing time!

39 - There's a weird painting in the great hall that turns out to be a door.  And it leads, oh of course, to a graveyard.  There doesn't seem to be anything I can do out here right now, so I head back in.  Even a creepy mansion is better than a dark graveyard.

Resident Evil Plant Monster

40 - You have to manually load your weapon from the status screen.  Although that would actually save time in combat....

41 - While fiddling around with my items, I remove the arrowhead from the arrow.  There was a missing arowhead in the graveyard!

42 - This is starting to remind me of a point and click adventure.  I put the arrowhead in a slot and it opens a grave, which leads down, down, down.  Good idea, go into an open grave at night behind a mansion that has zombies in it.  Under the grave is a pit with furnaces raging, and some statues missing facial features.

43 - There is a coffin suspended by chains from the ceiling, and under it rests a pedestal.  On top of the pedestal is a book.  Do you want to pick up the Book of Curse?  Um, do I?  I take a chance and.... nothing seems to happen.

44 - I inspect the book and find a Mansion Key on the back.  Inside it tells me that if I replace all the missing statue features, then evil will awaken.  Well, guess I know what I won't be doing.  You know what they say, let sleeping evil lie.

45 - Maybe this key will come in handy.

Resident Evil Jill With a Shotgun46 - I hear a zombie moaning.  Wait for it, wait for it....

47 - Aha, he's trapped behind a dresser.  I slip past him and use my newfound key to unlock a door.

48 - I was walking down a hallway and a window shattered, made me jump.  A little farther down I moved a china cabinet and found another ammo clip.

49 - This key unlocks some doors but not others.  Jill automatically uses the lockpick to get this door open, and I'm out in the garden now; I find a bag of something called "chemical."  I hear and even catch a glimpse of a zombie dog pacing around on the other side of the fence.  There's also a can of kerosene, but it doesn't seem to be something I can pick up.

50 - I pick up a red herb, and there's some green herbs as well but I can't carry any more items.  The limit is 8 different item types, and that includes my gun, my knife, my ammo, my typewriter ribbons, and the key I'm using to unlock these doors.  At least the daggers don't take up space.  All I'm going to do is stick them in a zombie's face, anyway.

52 - I find a bathroom, so far no zombies have jumped out!  I was sure there would be one on the toilet.  The bathtub is full of dirty water, and I have the option to pull the plug.  Of course, a zombie stumbles out and grabs Jill's leg, but she stomps its head in.  Good job Jill!  Oh wait, now she's running to the toilet to throw up.

Resident Evil Bathtub Zombie

53 - I found another dagger, now I can stab two zombie faces!

54 - This place has some weird rooms.  This one has etchings all over the walls, and a design on the floor.  It's also really small and well lit.

55 - Another dagger.  Oh, and a shotgun, but I can't carry any more items!  I can't even discard any.  I have to leave the shotgun there.

56 - I hear growling.  That can't be a good sign.

57 - There's the zombie, but why is he growling instead of moaning?  I run past and find a room full of herbs, but guess what; I can't hold any more items!

58 - Apparently I need to find different keys to open other doors. Although she was able to pick a couple of the locks, so it's kind of weird.

59 - A zombie just jumped out and startled me.  I run past and through a double door: safe.  Then I jump again as something slams against the door.  I run, and not a moment too soon.  I hear a crash and the music gets frantic.  I don't hesitate in making the descision to not stick around and find out what's going on.

60 - In fact, I run all the way to the main hall, and then down into the dining room to save right at the end of the first hour.

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 6

Favorite Thing: The graphics are beyond belief and create a great atmosphere.  Great, that is, if you like ceepy mansions full of zombies.

Least Favorite Thing:  Limited item carrying ability.  It felt like a very artificial handicap.

Design:  Graphics are superb.  It's unbelievable how well the polygonal models fit with the pre-rendered backgrounds.  The atmosphere in this game is amazing, with the camera angles and music creating tension, and hearing a zombie moan really makes your skin crawl.  The script and voice acting are sub-par.

Fun: The controls are awkward, but it does add to the atmosphere, so it's forgivable.  The game plays like a point and click adventure, in that you are exploring an area looking for items, solving puzzles, etc.

Would I keep playing?  Hmmm, hard to say.  If I say no you'll think I chickened out!  No actually, I was a little disappointed in how scary it wasn't, and the limited items and awkward controls might be enough to keep me from playing.  However, it would be a shame to not see more of that wonderfully rendered mansion, not to mention skip out on a remake of such a classic game.

Other Thoughts: So was this game scary?  The atmosphere was unnerving, and I jumped a couple of times, but the scariest thing about this game is the difficulty in controlling the character.  I could tell a lot of it was supposed to be scary (like the zombie coming out of the bathtub and grabbing Jill's leg) but it just wasn't.  If I had been playing in the middle of the day, I don't think it would have gotten the little bit out of me that it did.

What the game does achieve is making every zombie encounter a thing of terror.  Because of the awkward combat system and limited save capability, avoiding zombies is a must.  Hearing one moaning (or growling?) really makes the nerves tingle; due to the static camera angles, it's impossible to see what's around the next corner, so you never know where the zombie is.  Unfortunately these limited systems make the game less fun to play, but as I always say, a game doesn't have to be fun to be good.

About halfway through this session, my son started screaming.  I went into his room and he had fallen out of his bed.  When I picked him up he was really hot, and he wouldn't calm down.  We finally calmed him down, took his temperature and found out he had a fever, gave him some children's Tylenol and got him back to bed.  But let me tell you, that was much scarier than the game I was playing.