“Enter the Survival Horror” – a line which is instantly familiar to anybody who’s played this excellent example of true survival horror. To call yourself a ‘Resident Evil’ fan nowadays requires a strenuous amount of explanation, due to the recent games in this iconic series being utterly incomparable to this shining slice of horror.
First released in 1996, Resident Evil did for horror what Metal Gear Solid did for stealth. Essentially reinventing the genre, it was the game that showed millions that a consistent, foreboding atmosphere wasn’t just limited to the cinema; a new era of gaming had begun. Fast-forward 19 years, and we’ve now got yet another re-release of this timeless classic on current-gen consoles.
Telling the familiar story of either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield as they explore the titular Mansion, Resident Evil gradually unravels into a surprisingly intriguing tale of corporate espionage and human testing. I won’t divulge all of the plot because it’s fascinating to watch it unfold before you, but the game begins with our chosen hero taking refuge in a sinister manor house, before realising that ‘refuge’ is probably the furthest thing from what they’ve actually stumbled across.
That’s right, “chosen hero“. In Resident Evil, you’re given the choice of playing the game as either Chris or Jill; both characters possessing their own strengths and respective weaknesses. Chris is generally seen as the more ‘aggressive’ play-style, with your melee and weapon attacks packing considerably more punch than Jill’s. Jill is perceived by many players as the easier choice, as she receives help from the enigmatic Barry Burton throughout the game, with Barry saving your life on more than one occasion. However, regardless of who you pick: this is a difficult game. On the original release, the difficulty was amplified considerably by the nature of the control-scheme. Now referred to as “tank-controls”, you would have to manoeuvre your character as if they lacked any normal, human capabilities, and quite literally move them similar to a tank. In this release, the option for modern-day Resident Evil controls is available, and it is the option I decided to stick with. Moving the left stick in any direction will make you run in that direction, and the need to rotate and then move forwards is obsolete. However, the frankly stunning fixed camera angles of the original release remain, and they’re a nostalgic reminder of a golden age of gaming. Due to the fixing of the camera at certain moments, creator Shinji Mikami manages to create scenes straight from a horror film, which adds immensely to the isolated feel of everything.
But controls and camera angles aren’t the only difficulties you’ll face in the Mansion. Resident Evil is an old game, and so adopts the hardcore difficulty found in many like it. The save system, for instance, requires you to have an ink-ribbon in your small inventory, otherwise the simple task of saving the game becomes impossible. And as for the inventory: it’s a puzzle trying to fit everything in there, even without the fear of impending zombies. Jill has the luxury of having 8 slots instead of Chris’ 6, but this still requires a lot of back-tracking to storage locations in order to complete the game’s many puzzles…and what tricky puzzles they are.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Resident Evil is as much a puzzle game as it is a horror, which is especially apparent the moment you push a statue from a balcony in order to shatter it and claim the jewel which was hidden inside. It’s this kind of lateral thinking required which will have you scratching you head for a large proportion of the game, and is yet another reason why this is completely indistinguishable from Capcom’s current releases within the series. Don’t expect to blaze through on your first run – that’s for sure.
There are many times, however, when the old-school nature of the game may be a little too much. Sure, in order to retain what makes this game so special, Capcom could hardly mess with the basic formula of the experience. In our modern culture of gaming which guides the player to an inane degree however, certain solutions may seem bizarre at best…and tiresome at worst. Especially on higher difficulties which brutally (unfairly?) punish the player for not managing their items efficiently, Resident Evil may antagonise where it intends to test.
If you can make it through the treacherous puzzling and unforgivable enemies though, Resident Evil is a truly brilliant game. The boss-fights are intense and imaginative, the environments are intimidatingly beautiful (albeit terrifying), and the sense of dread which envelops everything is difficult to find elsewhere. Put simply, if you want to know why so many are disappointed with the current Resident Evil titles, look no further than this game. Hell, even if you’re just up for some classic survivalist gameplay, Resi’s got you covered.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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