When Resident Evil first hit the PlayStation in the spring of 1996, it caused quite the uproar. Gamers and critics alike raved about its tense atmosphere, its amazing cinematic feel and its edge-of-your-seat survival horror gameplay. Sure, games like Alone in the Dark came before but it was Resident Evil that really caused the boom of the survival horror genre from where I sit. There were really only two games I was genuinely scared of before I first played Resident Evil back in the summer of ’96. Those two being NES Godzilla with its creepy music (hey, I was five years old) and Doom, the first person shooter that saw imps and demons stalking you through the tight corridors and haunted halls of Hell. Then along came Resident Evil. It reminded me of what it felt like to actually have a sense of dread as I navigated my way through the game. With this being October and all, it’s a great time to look back on this epic horror game and remember what made it such a classic. Capcom is no stranger to the survival horror genre. They released Sweet Home exclusively to the Famicom (Japanese Nintendo) in 1989. Resident Evil, in fact, was heavily inspired by the firm’s previous survival horror effort seven years prior. It’s safe to say time and technology allowed Capcom to take the genre to the next level. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane…
IT ALL STARTED WHEN…
Remember where you were the first time you played Resident Evil? I bet you do. Whether it was a stormy night in Sacramento or a darkening late afternoon in Detroit, everyone remembers the very first time they played and laid eyes on this. It’s just one of those games. Back in the day I was lucky enough to have a tight-knit gaming group. Those guys were a big part of my childhood. Sure, I had my best buddy Nelson, but there’s something special about 18 kids coming together and having legendary sleepovers where we would stay up til 2 in the morning gaming the night away. And it was these damn bastards that introduced me to the EVIL. It was the summer of 1996. By then I had largely slipped out of the gaming scene. At least in the sense that I was no longer reading game magazines and following up on it like I had in the earlier part of the ’90s. So it was on a faithful hot summer evening that my friends, knowing what a horror freak I was, took me upstairs to show me this new “badass” game. I watched the B-Movie-like intro and was sold immediately. I had never seen or heard of this game before. I had no idea what to expect, except I knew this was a moment not only in my gaming fandom but my childhood that would come to stand the test of time.
The classic newspaper headline added perfectly to the B-Movie feel. I remember thinking “Who killed the people?” My friend then passed the controller to me. I looked at him bewildered, as if I had just seen a ghost. They told me they already played it and that it was my turn. And so, it began…
After the cheesy yet tense intro, you find your three characters escaping into the safety of a secluded mansion, or so they think. A bit of corny dialogue ensues as they decide to sweep the mansion for their missing team members.
This was the first time a console video game ever made me jump out of my chair. Needless to say, my friends enjoyed a hearty laugh at my expense. I’m pretty sure it all happened to them the first time too, but of course, they denied such a thing happening. What a bunch of great friends, huh?
Chris Redfield’s old friend and partner, Barry is a former SWAT team member. He maintains and supplies weapons for all S.T.A.R.S. members. With over 16 years of experience, Barry has led many successful projects. Barry is a trusted ally but has had some trouble with his wife and two daughters as of late. He may look or sound depressing at times due to his current issues at home.
Previous member of S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team and already stationed in Raccoon City, Joseph was recently promoted to serve as vehicle specialist for Alpha Team. Many Bravo Team members are jealous of his promotion but he was anointed by Wesker himself. Joseph is young, enthusiastic and has an inquisitive nature.
After being kicked out of the Air Force, Chris became a drifter until he met Barry Burton. Barry recruited him for the newly formed S.T.A.R.S. squad. Now Chris has been reassigned to a smaller unit at Raccoon City headquarters in order to prove himself.
An intelligent soldier that has rescued many S.T.A.R.S. members from danger in the past, Jill has been reassigned to Raccoon City just like Chris. She is excellent with mechanical devices such as lock-picks. Jill has strong moral convictions and fights for what she believes in.
Brad is a computer expert and is great at gathering information. His fear of dying draws much heat from his fellow soldiers. His lack of enthusiasm for rushing into danger has earned him the nickname “Chickenheart.”
Wesker has risen quickly inside the S.T.A.R.S. organization and currently leads the Alpha Team. Wesker was recruited by a headhunter for his sharp insight and eventually founded the S.T.A.R.S. unit in Raccoon City.
A very important member of the unit, he is the communication expert for Bravo Team. The only link back to headquarters for teams out in the field, Richard pulls double duty as radioman for both units since Alpha Team really has no trained operator except for Jill (who has a knack for technology).
The youngest member of the group, Rebecca was recruited for her knowledge of field medicine and First Aid. She is nervous around other team members due to her age and her lack of experience. Rebecca is eager to please.
Bravo Team’s leader and Wesker’s second in command for the S.T.A.R.S. unit, Enrico feels threatened by the arrival of the Alpha Team. He has an inkling that Chris or Barry may end up replacing him as Wesker’s right hand man. Nonetheless, Enrico is a dedicated S.T.A.R.S. operative and is always proud to lead the unit whenever Wesker gives him the nod.
Forest is a great sniper as well as Bravo’s vehicle specialist. He is a consummate professional and his work earns him great respect from his colleagues. He shares a very natural connection with Chris Redfield.
A quiet but very talented field scouting officer, Kenneth also has spent time as a chemist. His chemical knowledge will come in handy for Raccoon City’s zombie siege…
There’s also a flamethrower and rocket launcher to be found within the hallowed halls…
SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE SPECIAL
Sega Saturn Magazine (the best gaming publication EVER for my money) championed Resident Evil to the moon. They sold the game so wonderfully well that I’m including excerpts of their various Resident Evil previews, showcases and review below. Enjoy!
RESIDENT EVIL CONFIRMED!
Those who haven’t seen Resident Evil will no doubt be wondering what all the fuss is about. It caused a huge stir last year when it was released on the PlayStation and was a massive commercial success. This survival horror video game follows the exploits of Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield who are both members of the S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Service) Alpha team. They have been called to investigate a series of grisly murders at a place known as Raccoon City.
EVIL HAS A NEW ADDRESS
Resident Evil is an incredible and terrifying gaming experience. For Capcom’s first foray into the realms of 3D, Resident Evil is an awesome achievement which upon the time of its release received rave reviews and critical acclaim. The game uses a mixture of horror and puzzle elements to dramatic effect, creating an atmosphere unparalleled in any other video game ever. As a result it proved to be immensely successful, surpassing SEGA Rally Championship as the fastest selling CD game of all time.
Capcom of Japan are renowned for being perfectionists with a meticulous attention to every conceivable detail as is evident from their 2D beat ‘em up classics. So despite the high praise heaped upon Capcom, they weren’t entirely satisfied with the finished PlayStation version of Resident Evil. Several ideas that the programmers had in mind for the game failed to come to fruition, so upon completion of the original game the programmers set to work on an enhanced version. The new version would allow the programmers the opportunity to iron out the gameplay irritations of the original and incorporate those various elements that were absent. The new Resident Evil Dash as it became known was intended for release on the PlayStation some time ago, but failed to arise as it was canned not long into its development cycle. Luckily for Saturn owners, this is the version they’re getting.
THE PLOT THICKENS
Like every B-movie horror flick, Resident Evil Dash has a terrifying plot which unfolds and develops as you play. The horror story centers around two main characters Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, two members of the S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Service) Alpha team. They are called to a remote town, Raccoon City, to investigate the grisly murders and the disappearance of the S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team, with whom all communication has been lost. After a brief encounter in the woods with a pack of savage canines, Alpha Team seek refuge in a secluded mansion which, unknown to them, is full of frights.
Further investigation leads to the recovery of reconnaissance notes which reveal sketchy details of a company known as Umbrella. They have been conducting genetic mutation research commissioned by the government. The aim of this research is shrouded in secrecy, with a cover-up under way to prevent details of horrific events leaking out. Alpha Team’s mission is to explore the mansion and eliminate everything within, locate the whereabouts of Bravo Team and find out exactly what the hell is going on…
THE EVIL WITHIN
Put simply, RED (Resident Evil Dash) is a disturbing and harrowing experience players are proud to say they have endured and survived. Guide Chris or Jill around the dingy, claustrophobic and blood-splattered rooms of the mansion uncovering clues to the plot which remains shrouded in secrecy until the very end. All the while players are stalked by a bizarre series of genetic mutations, evidence if ever it were needed of a scientific experiment gone horribly wrong. From the flesh-eating zombies to the giant tarantulas, ravenous Dobermans and lizard creatures, danger is lurking around every corner and behind every door.
It quickly becomes clear that our brave investigators are ill-equipped to deal with the situation at hand, so survival becomes the primary goal. This makes locating the secret ammo stashes even more essential, whilst getting acquainted with the capabilities of different weapons.
But that’s all by the by, the main interest of RED is clearly the gratuitous violence. To my mind there’s no other video game as blatantly gruesome, gory and stomach-churning as RED. Frantically reaching for a shotgun and blowing the head clean off a zombie as a fountain of blood erupts from between its shoulders is one of the most satisfying moments in video game history.
However, there’s so much more to RED than the infamous blood-spilling sequences. There’s a strong puzzle element to the game requiring much lateral thinking and forward planning. Some of the puzzles are self-explanatory switches or locating certain items. But as players gain access to more areas of the grounds and the plot steadily unfolds, the puzzles become more complex requiring a much greater deal of head-scratching. But that’s not to say that RED is a rock hard mammoth gaming chore reminiscent of Core’s Tomb Raider. Capcom appears to have set the difficulty level just right, allowing novices to progress through the game with competence as Jill, whereas more seasoned players are able to take their gaming skills to the limits as Chris (who carries less items than Jill).
Graphically, RED is in a class of its own with the pre-rendered backgrounds looking absolutely stunning and exhibiting more detail than even the original PlayStation version. From the blood-stained corridors to the dark laboratories, the level of detail and depth to each of the scenarios is incredible. The real stars of the show however are the hideous monsters which are superbly animated and chillingly realistic.
But what makes RED so undoubtedly great is the tense atmosphere upon which it thrives, keeping players engrossed in a masochistic kind of way. The feeling of your imminent demise is intense throughout the game, heightened by the chilling Hitchcock-style tunes, not to mention the accompanying moans and groans from the undead. Add to this the dramatic fixed camera positions (reminiscent of Alone in the Dark) which lends the game a cinematic feel. Factor all these aspects and the scene is set for one of the most horrific games of all time.
HEAR NO EVIL SPEAK NO EVIL
Capcom’s Saturn development is arguably the best of any third party developer. Over the last couple years Capcom have supplied Saturn owners with a wealth of arcade beat ‘em ups, such as the awesome Street Fighter Alpha 2 and X-Men: Children of the Atom, a trend which appears set to continue. Why, just flick through the glossy pages of this esteemed magazine and you’ll discover the very latest earth-shattering pictures of Saturn Marvel Super Heroes and Street Fighter Collection. However, Capcom’s latest and possibly greatest Saturn development is not another 2D arcade beat ‘em up but rather the multi-genre gore-fest of Resident Evil.
BE AFRAID… BE VERY AFRAID
Playing Resident Evil is like nothing gamers will have experienced before. Though comparisons will undoubtedly be drawn with Core Design’s Tomb Raider, essentially the two games play very differently. For the most part, the gameplay of Resident Evil is of the killed or be killed variety with players being stalked throughout the mansion and its grounds by hordes of bizarre genetic mutations. The range of monsters is astonishing, from the giant spiders to the huge Tyrant boss, all thirsting for the taste of your blood. Survival soon becomes the main priority as operatives struggle to escape the confines of the mansion. To make matters worse, ammo is scarce, so it’s not simply a case of running around in a mad blasting frenzy. Some monsters are best avoided altogether as they’re either too tough or too difficult to hit. Conserving ammo is the key to success as players soon learn how to side step the hordes of genetic mutations in order to amass enough ammo to destroy the final boss.
All the while players struggle to overcome a wealth of diverse puzzles featured throughout. Most require you to locate a certain object before using it to unlock a door mechanism, or finding a hidden switch somewhere. But later on the puzzles become more complex, with chemical formulas being mixed and even a piano to play! On the whole, the difficulty level of the puzzles appear to be pitched just right, presenting a deep challenge to even experienced gamers.
However, what really sets Resident Evil apart from Tomb Raider is the tense atmosphere. Terror lurks around every corner with some genuine shocks in store for first time players. Savage dogs leaping through windows, seemingly dead zombies chomping at your ankles and giant snakes bursting through walls are just a taste of the shocks in store. Add to this the macabre music, eerie silences and accompanying moans from the horde of the undead, and Resident Evil works better than a strong laxative.
The problem that has beset so many other adventure games in the past is that their linear structure means that once the game has been completed there’s little to entice players back. Therefore it’s to Capcom’s credit that such pitfalls have been avoided with Resident Evil. The gameplay is surprisingly nonlinear, with players being required to make decisions at several key points during the game. Depending on which choices have been made greatly affects the unfolding plot and eventually the game’s ending. However, the main source of variety in Resident Evil stems from which of the two S.T.A.R.S.’ operatives that players select at the beginning. Choosing either Chris or Jill affects which weapons players are able to discover, the amount of monsters and ultimately the outcome of the plot (just to name a few key differences).
Though Chris handles himself considerably well when separated from his fellow S.T.A.R.S. crew members, players choosing to take on his mantle are essentially opting to travel the most difficult route through the game. That said, players who wish to explore every nook and cranny of the mansion and solve every last puzzle in order to appreciate the full splendor of Resident Evil are best off choosing Chris. To begin with our hero is ill-prepared for the horrors which await him, being devoid of all firearms and armed only with his trusty combat knife. Obviously this causes a few problems when encountering flesh-eating zombies hell-bent on sinking their teeth into your flesh and draining it of blood. So Chris’ first priority is to seek out a more powerful weapon. Once the Beretta has been located, Chris’ superior shooting skills become evident, as he is able to fire with greater accuracy than Jill, requiring less bullets to take down the mutated monsters. It’s a good thing too, as the plentiful ammo supply enjoyed by Jill is not available to Chris, with extra ammo being scarce throughout his campaign. By way of compensation, Chris’ bulky frame is better able to take more damage than Jill before death comes knocking.
To make things more difficult, Chris left his backpack at the drop zone and his action slacks are only able to carry up to six items at a time. This means playing as Chris requires a great deal of forward planning and effective resource management. Much of the time players find themselves legging it back and forth between storage rooms and depositing unwanted objects in favor of more useful items.
Despite his shortcomings, Chris Redfield is a skilled member of the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team whose superior shooting skills, strength and resilience make him a worthy (if challenging) character to play as.
Jill Valentine is a relatively new member of the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team whose mission is considerably simpler and shorter than that of her colleague for a number of reasons. Firstly, Jill begins her adventure armed with a Beretta pistol, having a clear advantage over Chris who spends much of the early part of the game foraging for weapons and ammo. In addition, Jill is given a lock-pick early on by fellow S.T.A.R.S. teammate Barry Burton, enabling Jill to enter certain rooms and storage areas not accessible to Chris without the corresponding key. Jill is also able to carry up to eight items in her navy blue action slacks. Her larger inventory means that managing resources is a tad simpler than playing as Chris. Jill’s game is also considerably easier in that fewer monsters patrol the corridors of the mansion, so players needn’t worry too much about being overrun by hordes of the undead. Besides, even if Jill were to find herself in a spot of bother, secret admirer Barry Burton is on hand to make sure she comes to no harm.
However, in some respects Jill is worse off than Chris. Being of a slight build, her body is less resilient to enemy attack, taking less chomps from a marauding zombie to kill her. In addition, Jill’s aim isn’t up to the same standard as that of her teammate, requiring her to take more time when aiming and with less accuracy than sharpshooter Chris. Despite her shortcomings, Jill’s superior intelligence and lock-picking abilities make her mission a more straight-forward affair and rather less challenging.
THE EVIL HAS LANDED
As we exclusively revealed in last month’s SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE, the long-awaited Saturn version of Resident Evil will be quite different to its PlayStation brethren.
Possibly the most exciting addition to the Saturn rendition is the planned inclusion of an Arena Battle/Survival Mode. This is a special mini-game which becomes available once the regular game has been completed. Controlling either Chris or Jill, players progress through 15 stages fending off a continuous onslaught of 11 different types of genetically mutated monsters which advance with relentless speed. Only one weapon of choice is available to begin with, though more are collected as players use all their skills to battle through the stages. Players are then ranked upon completion or demise according to items used, the time taken and lives remaining.
At long last Capcom have also confirmed Saturn Resident Evil will DEFINITELY feature new monsters… and we’ve seen ‘em! The new (as yet unnamed) monster in the 80% version we have is a redesigned version of a Hunter and lurks in the sewers beneath the mansion. It acts similarly but looks quite different. In addition, survivors of the PlayStation version may recall the huge Tyrant boss at the end of the game. A genetically engineered super-creature, the Tyrant was very agile and extremely difficult to kill. Well, depending on your point of view and game playing skills, the good or bad news is that for the Saturn version of Resident Evil there are now two Tyrants to destroy!
And now, let’s meet the monsters…
A lethal experimental virus was accidentally released among the Laboratory technicians. After the initial itchy sores had subsided, the laboratory technicians began to lose their minds and their bodies slowly began decaying. Their stinking rotting corpses now stagger around the mansion, arms outstretched in the hopes of snaring their prey and feasting on its blood. Their lack of agility and intelligence makes them easy to run around. Also be weary of downed zombies as they tend to play dead, pardon the pun, awakening only to chomp at your ankles.
Genetically engineered to be devastating fighting machines, the Hunters are extremely difficult to avoid and even more difficult to kill. When attacking their enemy, the Hunters leap about into the air, making targeting at times a virtual impossibility. Their sharp claws prove deadly and are often used for severing heads from shoulders.
After being infected with the same lethal strain of virus which drove the lab technicians insane, the one-time guard dogs of the mansion are similarly affected. The hungry Dobermans retain their in-bred instinct to protect the mansion and its grounds from intruders, and that means you!
A lethal and deadly opponent, the Chimeras not only patrol the floors of the tight corridors but also the ceilings, occasionally swinging down to attack their prey with their vicious claws. Naturally this makes targeting the genetically mutated monsters very difficult indeed, which invariably leads to heavy ammo loss. So you’re best advised to avoid them with some nifty foot work.
The giant snake is encountered twice throughout the game and is the largest genetic mutation roaming the mansion. Those bitten by the snake will find their bloodstream infected with a deadly poison unless treated immediately with an anti-poison vaccine.
Much of the time they remain passive but make a mistake and the aggravated flock will swoop down with great haste to peck their prey to death. Just ask poor Forest…
The grand finale to Capcom’s awesome horror-fest sees the unleashing of not one but two Tyrants. A genetically engineered killing machine, the Tyrant was created to be the ultimate life force. It’s extremely fast, attacking opponents with a devastating series of claw swipes before finishing things off with an uppercut which skewers the victim. Players are confronted by a Tyrant on a number of occasions and are best advised to run away from this super creature, stopping occasionally to launch an attack. Good luck!
SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE’S REVIEW
Taking a break from the 2D beat ‘em ups for which they have become synonymous, Capcom’s latest Saturn development is the critically acclaimed RESIDENT EVIL. Originally titled Biohazard for its earlier Japanese release, the game offers a scenario whereby players are called to investigate a series of grisly murders around a secluded mansion at a place known as Raccoon City. As one of its two members of the elite S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team, it becomes evident that the mansion has played host to a series of bizarre scientific experiments which early reconnaissance notes suggest have gone terribly wrong. Alpha Team’s mission is to explore the mansion and eliminate everything within, find the missing Bravo Team and find out what the hell is going on.
The game is similar to last year’s massive hit Tomb Raider and the rather dated Alone in the Dark games, but is arguably superior to both. Basically, players find themselves trapped inside a vast mansion crawling with all manner of strange genetic mutations with an unquenchable thirst for blood. Protocol is quickly discarded as players struggle to survive and escape the confines of the mansion. However, blocking the route to safety through the dark and dingy blood-splattered corridors are locked doors, the keys to which are usually hidden at the opposite end of the mansion. Expect plenty of diverse puzzles, too. These usually involve locating certain objects and exchanging them with others, or triggering a hidden switch to reveal a secret passageway. Some of these puzzles are huge, requiring a great deal of lateral thinking and forward planning, considering you’re only able to carry a certain number of items at any given time.
Of course, this could have the makings of a pretty boring game were it not for the vast amount of action in Resident Evil, something which clearly distinguishes the game from the likes of Tomb Raider. For the most part, the gameplay is of the killed or be killed variety as players are stalked throughout the mansion and its grounds by a continuous onslaught of genetically mutated monsters. So locating the more powerful weapons and replenishing the limited supply of ammunition quickly becomes a priority for operatives wishing to stay alive. This gives way to some of the most gruesome and shocking scenes ever witnessed in a video game, with gallons of bloodshed featured throughout.
Clearly these elements contribute to a fantastic game, but it’s the intense feeling of terror heightened by the chilling music and eerie silences which sets Resident Evil apart from any other adventure game you may care to mention. The shit-scary feeling of your imminent demise as players are faced with a room full of zombies and rapidly deteriorating health is quite unlike anything players will have experienced before in a video game, being more akin to a Wes Craven horror flick. Indeed the game has a very cinematic quality to it, with the ensuing action being viewed from the dramatic fixed camera positions pioneered by Infogrames’ Alone in the Dark series. Some camera angles can lead to some rather interesting visuals…
In fact, aside from the terrible voice-overs and over-emphasized hand gesticulations which provide the game with some unintentional light relief, there’s very little to moan about.
BTW, EGM scored it 6.5, 8.0, 8.5 and 9.0.
SOME OF MY FAVORITE MOMENTS
You get this cool cutscene if you pick Jill. My jaw dropped the first time I saw this. I couldn’t believe the amount of gore or how raw it felt. I remember thinking to myself on that summer night of 1996 that video games have come such a long way from when I first played the 8-bit Nintendo some 10 years prior!
I’ll never forget that sweltering summer night back in 1996 when I first faced the horrors within the hallowed halls of Resident Evil. It was like no other console gaming experience I ever had. Players were literally dumped into a horror movie from hell, submerged in a twisted world of monsters and mayhem. The game has an atmosphere like no other. There was always this impending sense of doom in the pit of your stomach as you dashed through the dark corridors of the mutant-infested mansion, searching desperately for an ink ribbon, healing herb or new clue. Ammo was limited so you had to rely on your brains and not so much your brawn. It was a harrowing experience the likes of which I had personally never seen before, and I’ll always fondly remember it for that.
Those entering the world of the original Resident Evil, be it on PlayStation or Saturn, for the first time today may not quite appreciate it the way we did over 20 years ago back in 1996. I liken it to playing 1993’s DOOM for the first time today. You kind of had to be there when it first came out to get the full impact. Although the controls were a bit clunky; there was no 180° degree turn back then and the graphics had its limits (though I’ll admit to enjoying the jagged less-than-perfect 3D polygons of the 32-bit generation), there’s no denying Resident Evil was a shit-scary experience. It left an indelible mark on an entire generation of gamers, as evident by the swarming legion of fans still to this day. This led to numerous sequels and had other companies scrambling to create their own survival horror game as seen with Konami and Silent Hill. Capcom, like they did five years earlier in 1991 with Street Fighter II, once again struck gold!
Earlier this month I fired up Resident Evil for the 50th time. It’s a true classic and a title I love revisiting every October. The eerie music and creepy silences add tremendous atmosphere to the game. Not to mention around every corner and behind every door there lurks a bloodthirsty zombie or two just waiting to feast on your flesh. The plot is simple and effective, it features a memorable cast of characters and monsters, and it brought home an authentic B-Movie feel in raw 3D. Good times indeed. Another notch on Capcom’s belt, Resident Evil is a classic adventure from the 32-bit era.