Resident Evil is arguably one of the most successful and popular survival horror games out there, and even though later games in the series have been of arguable scariness, the first few did an amazing job. The original game for PlayStation 1 came out in 1996, making the series officially 20 years old. The Resident Evil Origins Collection contains HD remakes of Resident Evil (the first game, since it comes without a number), and the prequel, titled Resident Evil Zero. I get my S.T.A.R.S. gear ready, grab my zombie killing gear, and head for Raccoon City to kill some evil (un)dead.
How Resident is Resident Evil?
The first Resident Evil game follows the adventures of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, two S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Services) members of the Raccoon City Police as they investigate odd happenings at a very creepy mansion. They get way more than they bargained for when they discover the place is infested with undead. Resident Evil Zero is a direct prequel to Resident Evil, and follows S.T.A.R.S. officer Rebecca Chambers and convict Billy Coen doing much of the same thing in the events leading up to what transpires in Resident Evil.
For those of you who are wondering: yes, these two games are precisely the same ones that are available on the PSN/Live Marketplace, just packaged as a disc. If you have either of these games already, you know how good they are and can move onto one of my other, excellent reviews. (Ed: May I suggest Gravity Rush?)
Do the Raccoon City Shuffle
I never did get a chance to review either of these games when they first came out, and to my shame this was my first time playing the first Resident Evil. The HD remakes allow for a number of control schemes, and in the case of the first Resident Evil, the option to recreate the screen size of the original game if you’re feeling that nostalgic. Initially I felt that that the static, pre-rendered screens felt a little date, but I soon realized that it does one thing really well to heighten the tension and eeriness of the game: it controls what you can and can’t see. As any horror student will know, what you can’t see is far creepier than what you can.
HIGH DEFINITION BRAAINS…
As far as horror games are concerned, I’m personally less perturbed by zombies than other, more original monsters. Zombies are overdone and they’ve lost the magic that they used to have. And the fact that your characters possess guns, however limited the ammo is, still gives you an edge over the undead, making them less scary. Resident Evil skirts the genre of “survival horror” the same way that Bubsy 2 skirted the genre of “platformer”. Frankly, Silent Hill did survival horror way better, but that doesn’t mean Resident Evil and Resident Evil Zero aren’t fun to play. (If you’re interested in the psychological aspects of both Resident Evil and Silent Hill, I highly recommend reading this analysis). What actually kept me going through these games are the puzzle aspects, and just trying to solve the maddening clues without resorting to GameFAQs was worth the play a dozen time through. It’s not so much a spoiler by now that the games have multiple endings, but playing through the games with the object of seeing the endings gave the games a good deal of replayability.
One of the worst aspects of these remakes is that, despite the new control schemes, the games’ static cameras sometimes work against you, especially when transitioning from a screen facing in one direction to one facing the opposite way. Your character ends up going back through a door you had already entered. And then there’s the dated gameplay mechanisms. Much of the way it plays has been left as it was back then, most likely because the old guard fans would start frothing at the mouth if the mechanics were updated. Nostalgia glasses are a thing. Another old mechanic I could have done without is the outdated saving mechanism. I’m older and busier. I don’t have hours to devote to a single play session anymore, and the fact that both games require that you use up valuable inventory space for typing ribbon just so you can save makes the games a far more frustrating experience to play. Thank the video game gods for the PS4’s ability to suspend and resume!
Nevertheless, I enjoyed both HD remakes of Resident Evil and Resident Evil Zero. As groundbreaking survival horror games, they’re an absolute must for players wanting to enjoy how the series started without resorting to the chunky graphics of the PlayStation 1, or the terrible voice acting of the originals. And yes…the original voice acting is cringe-worthy. To get a feel for just how much of an upgrade these games received, check the video below for a comparison.
The end of Raccoon City as we know it
Should you play it? This is a wide question. Obviously, survival horror is not everyone’s barrel of cranky ships (Ed: err…what?). Nor are puzzle games. Nor are HD remasters of really old games. However, they’re still great games to play, with plenty of atmosphere, terrible save mechanic notwithstanding. The disc version offers you two games at a slightly more reasonable price than purchasing them individually in digital format, so there’s another good reason to head for the physical medium. And if you’re invaded by real zombies, you could also make like Shaun of the Dead and use the discs as weapons.