Resident Evil was not a wholly original game. It borrowed elements from other games, mostly PC, that had gone under the ambient horror genre. Games like The 7th Guest and I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream pioneered the idea of horror as a gaming experience. The problem with these games is that they [...]
Resident Evil was not a wholly original game. It borrowed elements from other games, mostly PC, that had gone under the ambient horror genre. Games like The 7th Guest and I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream pioneered the idea of horror as a gaming experience. The problem with these games is that they were so detached from being interactive, they essentially became just one long cutscene. There was nothing that allowed you to get involved. Resident Evil changed that. And terrified an entire generation of gamers in doing so. Created in 1996, the graphics were amazing for its time. As with all PlayStation 2 games, it hasn’t aged well. That said, it’s not to diminish from its playability. In fact, were you to take this up and play it again, the now-shoddy graphics would be off your mind within a few minutes. The game’s charm and success lies in its ability to create an atmosphere. Up to this point, no game had accurately captured the feeling of being overwhelmed and being frightened by it. While fans of Doom will claim that it had this, it always felt like you could shoot your way out of it – if you had a trigger finger quick enough. For this game, you needed brains. You needed a plan. And if you messed up, you were dead. Or rather, slowly eaten alive. By zombies.
In terms of design, Resident Evil was ground-breaking. A game like this hadn’t been attempted before. Initially, the idea of a camera-view that changed with each different area meant for some frustrating moments, but it didn’t take long to get used to. And, as players will know, it was integral in solving some of the puzzles. While gruesome and gory, even by today’s standards, Resident Evil also took heavily from J-Horror films. In fact, the idea of a haunted mansion-setting came directly from a little-known film called Sweet Home. The film’s available on YouTube, if you’re interested. The storylines are different, but the setting is similar. The graphic elements are also similar, i.e. extreme close-ups on mutilation. The game’s story has now become something of a cliche. Creepy mansion? Check. Brought together on a cold and pissy night? Check. Limited amount of ammo? Check. Hopeless odds? Check. Evil corporation behind it all? Check. At the time, this was new territory. There hadn’t been such an in-depth story for a game on consoles in a long time. The closest thing to it, in terms of plot, was Broken Sword. And that, of course, was a PC remake.
Of course, these elements are all superficial. What made Resident Evil stand out was the jumps. I knew someone who physically couldn’t play it because he couldn’t take the first level where (SPOILER!) the dog dives through the window to come at you. For me, what got me was meeting the zombie for the first time. The cutscene with the half-eaten head and that look. Frantically pushing every button to get the zombie away, panicking that I had no shotgun, pistol or missile launcher to finish him off. So I ran. And thus, that tat-tat-tat-tat noise rang in my ears constantly. I’ve never heard footsteps sound so fake. In fact, the in-game dialogue between characters was laughable, even for the time. Nevertheless, the game did manage to creep a lot of people out. It was an unbridled success. A sequel was rushed out quickly – this time, instead of the creepy mansion, it was the creepy empty city. But, by that stage, the initial shock had worn off. When you bought a Resident Evil game after that, you knew what you were in for. That eerie feeling that something could come crawling out of the background and eat you. You couldn’t run. There was nowhere to hide. You had little or nothing to attack them with.
The game spawned a total of TWENTY-SIX games and four live-action films, each more awful than the last. I can’t say I played any of them. The inherent problem with horror-themed games is that there’s very little action to them. It’s all a case of building atmosphere and tension for the player, and allowing them to make their own choices in the game. For horror fans, interaction doesn’t have drawing power. That said, other games in the genre such as Silent Hill and FEAR have been successful, but nowhere close to Resident Evil.