Summer Of The Dead: Resident Evil

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Resident Evil was an obvious choice for the first Summer of the Dead article, given my love of the series. I won’t ramble on so lets get straight to it. Resident Evil (Biohazard in Japan) was released in 1996, just when 3D gaming was really beginning to kick off. The story was simple enough and really felt like a B horror movie, which added a lot to the charm of the game. It’s July 17th 1998 and S.T.A.R.S Alpha team are flying around Raccoon Forest when they come across the wreckage of a helicopter, with the pilot of S.T.A.R.S Bravo team in the inside.

You see Bravo team went to investigate in Raccoon Forest after dead bodies were being found there and Alpha team has now been sent in after contact with Bravo team was lost. Their mission is to rescue Bravo team, but that will be the least of their worries. Quicker than you say brains, the team is attacked by what they assume are wild animals and they quickly run to an abandoned mansion for cover as their wimpy pilot, Brad, flies off. Joseph dies but the remaining 4 members (Wesker, Chris, Jill and Barry) make it to the mansion. Que a large, bold Resident Evil font and the introduction to what would become a big franchise for Capcom.

Now let’s get one thing out of the way now, the FMVs. It’s always what people bring up and criticise whenever you talk about the original version of Resident Evil. Yes they are very bad and cheesy, but for one it adds to the B-movie atmosphere of the game and after all, it was the early days of 3D gaming. In the mid 90s, FMVs were all the rage and Resident Evil wasn’t the only game to suffer from them. I mean half of the Sega CD library suffered from them and there were also PC point and click adventures games that had. I’d bring up the Command and Conquer series, but they’ve delightfully stuck to FMVs throughout the years for humourous effect. I mean if it weren’t for FMVs, we wouldn’t have had Tim Curry as the Soviet Premier in Red Alert 3.

So after choosing to play as Jill (normal) or Chris (hard), you would start off in the mansion and end up exploring it and it’s courtyard as well as a resthouse, underground cave and finally the secret facility under the mansion. Now there was a genuine reason behind the difficulty change for each character. This is because Jill generally had the easier options where as Chris had the harder ones. For example Jill starts off with her Beretta where as Chris only starts off with a combat knife. (he’s an elite unit and he didn’t bring a gun?) Jill also has a lockpick and so doesn’t need a key for some doors where as Chris does. It’s differences like these that set the two apart in terms of difficulty.The other difference was that they both had two different stories, which would lead them through slightly different paths. This encouraged replayability, which is good, especially considering that a good player can finish the game in under 3 hours (me) and a really good player can finish it in half that time (speed runners).

Eventually, whether you are Jill or Chris, you’ll come across your first zombie and in my opinion, one of the most iconic scenes in video games. While it looks pretty bad now, it’s still a memorable scene and it’s one scene that still gives me chills to this day. Of course, once you encounter this zombie you can just run away from it and conserve your ammo. You’ll need to conserve it because the game is not happy to give it to you unlike in later games, so you’ve really got to make good use of what you have.

As for the gameplay itself, it was the evolution of what would become known as “tank controls”. This would usually be a game that used different camera angles in different areas, often to increase tension. It would also have restricting controls (hence the term tank). It originated in Alone In The Dark but Resident Evil is usually what most people when they think tank controls. It would later be used in other games, most notably Konami’s Silent Hill. People like to criticise the controls these days and while they are archaic now, they don’t take that long to get used to and you forgive it in a game from 1996. The next paragraph will include game spoilers, so skip the next paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers for a 13 year old game.

So after finally reaching the underground facility and finding out that all of the monsters were created by the outbreak of a T-Virus developed by the pharmaceutical company Umbrella, Chris and Jill eventually find out that Wesker is a traitor and after manipulating Barry to do his bidding by threatening Barry’s family, he unleashed the Tyrant on them. Wesker is killed by the Tyrant, at least that’s what we thought back then.

After seemingly killing the Tyrant, the 3 of them and the only survivor of Bravo team Rebecca Chambers escape to the roof for rescue as the whole place is about to blow up. As a signal is launched, the Tyrant returns and you have to battle it one last time. After a certain amount of damage, Brad drops a rocket launcher and you give that Tyrant a missile to the face, finally killing it. The rocket launcher kill would become a staple of the Resident Evil series, silly or not.

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Resident Evil would later be remade on the Nintendo Gamecube in 2002. Aside from obvious graphical improvements, the game also boasted a lot of little fixes to the story as well as some expansions to the story such as Lisa Trevor. Zombies could also come back as deadly Crimson Heads if you didn’t burn or decapitate them and it’s arguably one of the hardest RE games.

So that’s Resident Evil. I’ll admit that I’m pretty biased with the game let alone the series so I know it won’t appeal to everyone, but if you’re looking for your first Resident Evil game and don’t know where to start, the original game is a pretty good choice to begin with.

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