Video Game Overload: Resident Evil Retrospective
- Published on Saturday, 29 October 2011 00:09
- Written by Andrenn
- Hits: 1236
Survival Horror is one of the most important sub-genres in video games. Hundreds of games over the years have been scaring people on all kinds of consoles. Today we're here to pay tribute to the one that started it all: Resident Evil. The father of Survival Horror turned 15 years old this year. We're going to celebrate its anniversary by loading our guns with what ammo we can find, stocking up on herbs and returning to the house that Umbrella built with a look at the Resident Evil series.
Resident Evil – Playstation
The one that started it all, Shinji Mikami's survival horror classic. The First Resident Evil is always going to be heralded for what it did. No matter what is said about it nowadays, praise or hate, the game has made its mark. It deserves all the credit in the world for starting the survival horror genre of games and it's definitely one of Capcom's biggest franchises.
The real question though: does this game still hold up? In just 2 gaming generations, games like the first Resident Evil which for a time were stunning and huge graphical leaps now look utterly terrible. So let's avoid the obvious stuff like graphics, or the horrendous voice acting and cheesy storytelling. That's all been picked at to death and any joke or comment I could make is nothing new.
Overall I feel the first Resident Evil still holds up, even with some of its bigger weaknesses. There's still plenty of chills and creepy moments that make it work. Scares both memorable and not as often brought up really work well in the first game. While the lighting takes away somewhat from the atmosphere its hard not to get a little jumpy when you're low on ammo and you hear that familiar moan of the walking dead.
The one place where the first Resident Evil game really scored big points is the variety of monsters. When you think of Resident Evil you probably think Zombies. Well that and Jill Sandwiches but mostly the zombies. However the enemy list is pretty big and full with all kinds of great monsters for scaring you. Lord knows the Hunters have made me miss a good old fashioned zombie from time to time.
This helps keep the game interesting and scary. This is also something not a lot of zombie games really do and I don't understand why. At least Left 4 Dead has varying kinds of zombies but other than that most games just stick to zombies in general. Maybe a zombie dog if you're lucky. I love how the game that really started survival horror zombie games has more variety than the typical zombie game nowadays.
I am not a fan of the puzzles in the game. Some of them are all right but overall I either didn't find them challenging enough or a little too cryptic. Never did I feel there was a good balance for how challenging or strange the puzzles got. I know some of the puzzles are very defining moments of the series but they never won me over in the first one.
The tank controls are a weird thing for me to talk about. Now these controls are in the first 3 games so while I could mention it again when talking about 2 and 3, let's just get it all out here. This game is hard to control for the first half an hour or so. Even when using the D-pad, which makes it far easier, the stiff tank like movements are really hard to adjust to early on.
I'm so used to the quick and easy controls of Resident Evils 4 and 5 that having to move around so slowly and carefully really threw me off. In this and in the 2nd game I ended up running into zombies often and a lot of stupid, easy to avoid deaths happened because I just was not able to contorl my character easily. Now by the first hour or so I got used to it but if you hate tank control game play from the PS1 generation than it definitely may hinder any enjoyment you could get out of Resident Evil's early days.
Overall I think the First is a flawed but still good start for the series. What problems there are never weigh the game down enough that I can't replay it when I'm in the mood for a creepy fun play through. If you've never experienced the first Resident Evil but are a fan of the series you owe it to yourself to see where it all started.
Resident Evil 2 – Playstation
As I think about what to say for Resident Evil 2 it just hit me, Capcom has some good history with the number 2. Megaman 2, Street Fighter 2 and Resident Evil 2 are often regarded as superior to the original games. I'd have to agree with that sentiment. While the first Resident Evil is a good debut for the series, like Megaman and Street Fighter 2, Resident Evil 2 improves it in every way possible.
The best example of how Resident Evil 2 improves on the first game is the change in setting. Going from a big mansion to an entire city. While you don't go in every house and alley of Raccoon City already the setting feels bigger and better. A house full of the undead and monsters is scary. But an entire city over run with those things is far scarier.
While I didn't touch on the first game's story I should mention I do like the 2nd one's a lot more. The voice acting isn't a huge step up or anything but it is above the hilarity that is Barry Burton. Also there's a lot more plot threads that weave through different ways to play the game with the 2 main characters, Leon and Claire. Compared to Chris and Jill who's play throughs, while different in some ways, never really felt like one was different enough from the other to deserve multiple replays.
Resident Evil 2 has it's moments from early on to all through the game that are genuine good story moments. The story overall still isn't perfect but it's another example of doing more and being a more interesting experience than the first game.
The look of the game is also much better. For one the same 2 kinds of zombies don't appear. The zombies are usually varied nicely and even their gender is distinguishable now. There's more monsters and a lot of them scarier than the first game. Even the scares are better. The first game had plenty of memorable moments but when I think back to when I first played these games, 2 always scared me more than Resident Evil 1.
The puzzles are improved as well though I'm still not a big fan of them. Some of them are just as annoyingly cryptic as before. Though overall they're not as bad or too simple. There is a better balance for the challenge.
Everything good about Resident Evil is made better in Resident Evil 2. Story, scares, enemies, the setting, everything. While the first game is a classic that should definitely be played by all fans of the series and the survival horror genre, I highly recommend you play the 2nd one right after. Or if you had to make the choice to buy 1 of the 2 on PSN or XBOX live definitely buy this one and if you love it check out the first.
Overall I really do love this game. Whatever complaints I could have about it, like the tank controls or some of the less than great puzzles, really don't bother me. In the first game I can get annoyed by a bad puzzle or annoying area. But in Resident Evil 2 it really doesn't hurt the experience much. It's a game that's fun to play through again and again and I definitely think its one of the highlights of the entire long running series.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis – Playstation
Following the great sequel that is Resident Evil 2 comes the less than great but still pretty good Resident Evil 3. Resident Evil 3 is probably my least favorite of the original trilogy even if it still outdoes the original in overall design. I still prefer the original for some great creepy moments and for being the start of the series.
The best way I can sum up my thoughts on Resident Evil 3 is that it's the less exciting version of Resident Evil 2. Only one main character (though you do get to play as another at least later on) and really it feels like a less interesting version. Its the decent follow up at best. That's not really bad, there's nothing bad about this game. But its just not the best way to follow up a great game like Resident Evil 2.
The story takes a bit of a dip in quality. While its kind of interesting getting to focus more on Jill, the story feels a lt more straight forward. There are sub-plots here and there and a twist you'd see a mile away but its not a bad story to follow. I do appreciate how this game develops Jill far more as a characters than the original did at least. That's probably the saving grace of the story.
I will compliment the ending of the game though. Without spoiling it, it's probably the most memorable ending the entire series has had. It also closes out the trilogy nicely with a bang and really completes the story of Umbrella's mistake in Raccoon City.
The most memorable thing about the 3rd Resident Evil is the titular villain: Nemesis. Staking you all through the game and always a nightmare to deal with, Nemesis is the best thing this game has going for it. It's the one part that really feels fresh and exciting. Sure a similar character was in the previous game with Mr. X, but Mr. X cannot compare to Nemesis when it comes to memorable and scary video game villains.
He really does add a whole other layer of scares to the game. Resident Evil has had its menacing monsters. Hunters, Lickers and the Executioner just being a few good examples. But all of them pale in comparison to Nemesis. When I play Resident Evil 3 it's usually just so Nemesis can scare me all over again.
Overall Resident Evil 3 is another good entry in the series. With the help of a great main villain and some good moments here and there I recommend it. Only if you have played the first 2 games though. You'll really appreciate the ending to Nemesis a lot more and it will feel like a complete trilogy after beating it. Despite its faults it still ends the Playstation trilogy right and even as the weakest of that trilogy its a good game.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica – Dreamcast
After a successful trilogy on the Playstation, Capcom brought the Evil to Sega's last and some may say greatest console. Code Veronica came to Deamcast and it definitely was going for a bigger and better feel than the first game. Now sadly I have only played a little of Code Veronica so other than the story I can't comment on much. Still its an important entry in the series that needs some addressing.
While the original 3 games are a good trilogy, I look at Code Veronica as the big follow up epilogue. It wraps up some plot points like what happened to Chris and Claire Redfield and it also brought back the big bad from the first game. But while it works as a solid epilogue to the Playstation Trilogy Code Veronica is also the start of a new saga.
With Code Veronica begins the rise of the main villain for the next few games. While he's always behind the scenes as he was in the first game, this is the first time we start seeing hints of what's going on. This is a saga that would span from Code Veronica, be added to in the remake and prequel game and hinted at a little in 4 then finally coming to fruition in the 5th game.
I like the story of Code Veronica. I damn near love it at times. This really laid the foundation for a much bigger and more interesting world for Resident Evil and it did a great job at doing so. Introducing the Ashfords and showing the disturbing legacy that ties into Umbrealla and still furthering the story of the Redfield family was really well done.
The game does control differently and its better for it. Now I haven't actually played it in a couple of years but I do remember liking the change to controls. I don't remember much else about the game since I played about an hour at the most but I remember enjoying that hour.
Overall Code Veronica is a very important series in the game. While it is without a number and it may not seem like a spin off it really is a must play. If you're interested to see the roots of where Capcom was taking Resident Evil post-Playstation it all started here. Its a great middle piece, connecting the first 3 games to everything that came after them nicely, so don't miss out on it.
Resident Evil Remake – Gamecube
For as important as the first Resident Evil was, any of its flaws you could over look are only made more apparent after playing the far superior remake. When Capcom brought Resident Evil to previous generation of consoles with the remake they didn't just improve the original game. They totally outdid it in every way. Making a good game into spectacular gaming experience.
Where the original failed and the remake vastly improved was atmosphere. Sure the original is creepy and it has some great scares from time to time but its like entering another world in this version. The lighting, the structure of each room, the placement of the enemies all feels like entering a nightmare world. Rarely do you feel you're in any kind of safe room or haven when you know another horrifying area is just around the corner you have to explore.
There's also great additions like Lisa Trevor. I could go on about what a brilliant addition she was but honestly I don't want to even hint at spoilers. If you've never played the game and don't feel terror when you hear that name then I won't ruin the experience for you.
There's far more legitimate scares here and great tension all through the game. The story is still basically the same but its been touched up to work a lot better. It also fits and feels more in touch with the saga that started being revealed in Code Veronica.
I know there was a Wii re-release of the game from a couple years back. I have yet to play this version. They did the same with the next game we're going to talk about. If anyone has played these games and know if the Wii controls work well I'd appreciate the heads up so I can check them out.
This is a better game in every way. Its the perfect example of how to remake a game. Take everything good and what the fans loved, give it to them in a prettier and better made package. If you can't stand the original for its blocky look and other aspects that make it feel dated than definitely pick up the remake as its a very similar but far better game.
Resident Evil Zero – Game Cube
Confession, I haven't actually played this game. I know about the story and I've seen Let's Plays so I know the gist of what it looks like. But I haven't actually played it myself and I've had very little interest to do so. It doesn't look like a bad game, just not one I think I'd be as engrossed in as I was the original Trilogy, the Remake or the later games.
I do love what the story does as far as setting up more of the back story. The continuing dark history of Umbrella is developed nicely here. You also get a nice peak into Wesker and Burkin's history at Umbrella. It's overall a well told story and another important chapter in the big saga. But other than that I can't say anything else.
Resident Evil 4 – Game Cube and Wii Edition
I can't dance around this or avoid saying it right away: I love Resident Evil 4. So much that not only is it my favorite game in the series but it's one of my all time favorite video games. I have a top 10 list in my head and though that list has changed from time to time one constant is that Resident Evil 4 is on that list. I will never not love this game and gush about it when I get the chance.
Though I'm not talking about the game in general. The version I love most is the Wii Edition. I have played through and love the Game Cube version back when it came out. Great stuff of course. But the Wii port of the game outdoes any version. It's got all the great bonuses added for the PS2 port and it's got the single best controls a Resident Evil game has ever had.
If you can play Resident Evil 4 sometime soon, play it on the Wii. The Wii motion controls are so smooth and work spot on perfectly. It adds a new layer to the game that no other version has. While the waggle quick time events are pretty much a piece of cake the controls make it worth while. Capcom improved an already near perfect game with the Wii Edition.
Resident Evil 4 is a very important game in the series as the one that changed everything. Up to this point Resident Evil was pure survival horror. You controlled like a tank and you had to use each shot of ammo or herb to heal yourself carefully. The 4th game focuses more on action over scares and also makes ammo and health a less terrifying risk.
There's also the huge change to the zombies. Yes I called them zombies. Yes I know that it's technically a parasite controlling them and that they're not dead. I don't care. They attack in groups, they look daed half the time and even if they run they always slow down when they're near you. They're zombies. You shoot them in the head and they go dead. Zombies.
Also of course the perspective is changed. Rather than a fixed camera like in previous games the entire game is spent in third person for Leon. It works much better than the previous controls and much smoother especially on the Wii. Controlling a character in Resident Evil has never been easier than when in the 4th game.
The story also gets a massive over haul. There are still bits and pieces that tie into the big saga but really this game is its own beast. There's mild mention of Umbrella but really this is all about Leon Kennedy saving the President's Daughter from an insane cult trying to take over the world. Anything more is only hinted at or briefly mentioned. Which I like.
With the rest of the series kind of floating in the distance, 4's story really feels more interesting on its own. You don't really need to know what happened in the previous games since it has nothing to do with this game. This is just Leon being a bad ass and with lots of memorable characters and moments along for the ride.
While there's definitely a bigger focus on action I think a lot of people unfairly act as if the game ditches its horror roots. That's far from the case. The opening is a continuing dread filled start for the game that's incredibly effective. From there I was often on edge and scared through the entire game. Though I admit its not as scary as the Remake, its still got good scares.
Anyone who says this game is not scary has not seen the Regenerator. I still have nightmares and feel uneasy when I hear that soft cackle. Even on new Game Plus replays where I've got an infinite rocket launcher-an INFINITE ROCKET LAUNCHER I still get scared by them. That's how effective the scares in this game can be.
There's also some fantastic boss battles. Some of the best in the series I think. While none of them defeat the awesome that is Nemesis I think Resident Evil 4's bosses showed how much great work went into this game. Each big boss encounter feels different and more exciting than the last.
There's so much more I could say about this game. Its easily won a permanent spot in my top 10 favorite list. It's THE best of the series and the one Resident Evil game I think every gamer should play. Even if you hate survival horror you should at least try Resident Evil 4. Its a near perfect experience and one of the best of the best.
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles – Wii
Umbrella Chronicles is the first on rails shooter in the Resident Evil series. The instant comparison for this would be House of the Dead but that would get me talking about an actually good game. Its a cool idea. Go first person on rails through memorable moments of the series. It has some moments early on that are kind of cool. That's about it.
I've only played about an hour of this game. When it came out a friend of mine got it on Wii and one night we played an hour, got bored and then went and played a better game. Umbrella Chronicles is one of those games that isn't really bad, its just not very good. Everything works as far as the controls and the level design but there's not much fun in playing it even with a friend.
If you're a huge Resident Evil fan I guess you'll enjoy the gimmick of replaying moments from other games. But honestly that's it and that's not enough for me to really enjoy it. I like On Rails shooters. House of the Dead was one of my fondest arcade memories as a kid. But Umbrella Chronicles is a very mediocre outing.
I have heard much better things about the other On Rails Resident Evil, Dark Side Chronicles. But I've never even touched that game. Maybe one day I'll get a chance to talk about it but for now its not on my radar really.
Resident Evil 5 – Playstation 3 and XBOX 360
The big sequel to what I consider to be the best game in the entire series. There was a ton of hype around Resident Evil 5. In development for years and under going long amount of build up and anticipation this was the big one. Everything the series had been hinting at and building towards with Code Veronica all came to this.
Let's take a look back to Halloween 2009. My first Halloween with the Revolution. I reviewed Resident Evil 5 (and the CG film Degeneration) and gave it an 8 out of 10. That's a score of great. But we're 2 years later and has the game held up to that standard of an 8?
Sadly no, but I don't think poorly of the game. Its just not as good as when I first played it. I have replayed Resident Evil 5 a couple of times over the last 2 years and each time I enjoy it a little less. When I re-play Resident Evils 1 and 2 and especially 4 I can do so many times and have a blast. With 4 the game even gets better. Sadly 5's flaws really start to show with later play throughs.
The story is still pretty good. But it definitely suffers from all the hype of being the big finale to this long building storyline. It just doesn't quite live up to all that build up. The story acts like something huge is happening but the way the story is told doesn't really give you that feeling. We're told this is end of the world stuff but it never feels that heavy or important even at the end.
Though it does give some nice closure at least for some of the characters. What it really needed was an epilogue. The game just kind of ends after you beat the final boss. Its not a terrible ending but with all that's come before us it really needed one last send off for this story with an epilogue. Just a couple of minutes of showing where the characters go next is all I ask.
The big hook for the game was the co-op and here lies some of Resident Evil 5's strenghts and most of its weaknesses. The strength in the co-op play is when you've got a friend. If they're right beside you or online, Resident Evil 5 is a great co-op experience. I've had a lot of fun playing this game with a real life person. Far more fun than with the mediocre Sheva AI.
The AI is about 60% helpful and 40% useless. Overall that's more helpful but that's still nearly half useless. Sheva can't do a damn helpful thing with healing items. But the real problem with the AI is with ammo. I kid you not when I say every time I've re played this game Sheva does this one stupid as all hell thing.
When she has a hand gun, the regular pistol, she does rapid fire. She burns through ammo like nothing. So I gave her a machine gun expecting it to be perfect for her. What does she do? Fire small careful shots like with a hand gun. Maddening.
She's also screwed me over a few times. When an enemy attacks you, your partner can help. Now you can help Sheva right away. But she will very rarely help you. Or at least in all my experiences she doesn't usually do anything. I've literally had moments where I'm being attacked and she's just standing there. Right next to me as the zombie attempts to rip my face open and she's just staring into space expecting a cookie to appear.
I have other horror stories about the problems with Sheva, like her being responsible for an entire pack of Lickers chasing me down when we could have easily snuck our way around them. Or how useless she is during boss fights and irritating whenever you really need the back up. But I'd be here all day just bitching about Sheva.
The game is definitely high on action and there's a lot of fun moments for that. But its also low on scares. Now early on for about the first hour I'd say there's some great atmosphere. Also in certain areas like the marsh lands, early in the Tricell building and the Mines there's good tension and atmosphere. But for the most part the scares are far and few between. Not enough to make up for what is a heavier action game than any of the previous titles.
The controls are great. Pretty much the same as Resident Evil 4. Its tight and fun to play thanks to smooth and easy to use controls.
One huge pain is items and inventory. Now in Resident Evil you had the very unrealistic attache case. I loved that case. Was it insane that I was carrying 20 health power ups, 30 boxes of ammo, 5 guns and a rocket launcher? YES! And it was awesome! SO much better than the tight and frustrating inventory of the previous games. So of course Capcom ditched that great convenience for tighter more “realistic” spaces.
I don't hate this change. Its kind of nice that its in real time at least. But the fact that an egg or herb takes up as much space as a gun or box of ammo is annoying. Resident Evil 4's inventory system was perfect. There's also crap like if you get armor it somehow takes up a space in the inventory. Whatever idiot thought that up needs to be fired.
My absolute favorite thing about Resident Evil 5 isn't the story, game play, bosses, areas, etc. It's the chapter select. I love that you can replay any chapter any time right away. That is incredibly cool. Why don't more games have this? More games should have this! I love that if I want to play an area I really liked (example, the crocodile infested area) I don't have to replay the entire game just to go there.
So yeah there's lots of different pieces of Resident Evil 5 that build it up and knock it down. I still overall enjoyed the game and even if its not up to the same level as Resident Evil 4 or 2 its far from the weaker entries in the series. Though if I were to give it a score now it would be a 6 out of 10. Still a good game but with a lot of flaws that hurt the overall experience and definitely not up to part with the 4th game.
You can also check out my review of the Lost in Nightmares DLC pack HERE.
Resident Evil 6 – Speculation
I was originally going to write up my thoughts after seeing the now confirmed to be fake teaser trailer that was supposedly from Tokyo Game Show. But with that now debunked there's no official Resident Evil 6 in the works that I can talk about. Still we all know there will eventually be a 6th Resident Evil. Its just a matter of time like Megaman 9 and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 were.
So let me ponder some thoughts about what I would like to see in the next Resident Evil. Shortly before Resident Evil 5 came out the game director said they were hoping to start fresh with the series. Makes sense when you think about it. Resident Evil 5 was the big finale to everything you'd been building up. You have to start with something new after that or you're just dragging out what you already finished.
My hope is that if we do get a clean start that we get some new characters. Ever since the 2nd game the majority of Resident Evil games have been re-using the same characters. Sure they'll add someone else along side the main characters like Sheva but for the most part the games have focused around the core characters of Chris, Jill, Leon and Claire.
With a new start I think totally new characters are needed. If you want you can have Leon show up and fist bump the new lead character but it's time to tell new stories with new people. Send someone else into the horror zone.
Speaking of horror I definitely want a big return to survival horror. Resident Evil 4 had a good balance of action and horror. While the game play was still very action oriented it never lost the scares or atmosphere like 5 would. I think a new game with 4's style of control and that strong balance of horror can still work. Maybe even sacrifice some big cool action moments for quieter, darker and creepier horror moments.
Overall whatever Capcom does next for Resident Evil chances are pretty high I'll be checking it out. I have no interest in Operation Raccoon City or Revelations but when the 6th game is on the way I'll be there. Resident Evil is one of my all time favorite video game franchises and even with its ups and downs I keep coming back for more horror.
So there are my thoughts on Resident Evil. I know I skipped over the majority of the spin off games. I've never once played the FPS games though I've heard mixed opinions on them. There are a few of the series I really need to replay as well. But overall I think the series is a tremendous success and I had a fun time sneaking around then putting holes in zombies for you all as we looked a a truly memorable and great series.