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Resident Evil

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  Reviewed by Erich Becker
June 18, 2002
Game designers have had a past fascination with remaking old games and trying to improve upon them. Asteroids, Tetris, Centipede and more are just some of the games released nearly a decade ago -- some even farther back -- that developers thought they could improve upon with new technology and new designs. Unfortunately, only a handful have been moderately successful when releasing these regurgitated titles to the general public. When Capcom announced they would be re-releasing the original Resident Evil (a game only six years old and still remembered by a great many in the gaming world) ,it was met with silent awe and a big question of, "Why?"

Nintendo signed the Resident Evil series exclusively for an undetermined amount of time. That means only the GameCube and Game Boy Advance will be receiving the highly anticipated Resident Evil 4 next year, but what to do till then? It seems Capcom took the original RE back to the drawing board and recreated the scariest game in recent history to show a new generation of game players what it was like to have dogs jumping at you in a checkered hallway.

Resident Evil follows the exploits of an organization called S.T.A.R.S., a special unit of the police force brought in to deal with hostile situations with a low probability of success and a high percentage of death. The team, divided into Bravo and Alpha units, was called in by the Raccoon City Police Department to investigate a number of brash murders in the outlying rural areas of the city. When the Bravo teamís helicopter goes down in the woods, Alpha team is mobilized to bring back their comrades, but what they find in the downed chopper is more than they bargained for. After a stunningly recreated opening cinematic, you find yourself in the shoes of Chris Redfield (a twentysomething somewhat insubordinate guy), or Jill Valentine (a beautiful heroine with a background in breaking and entering). The entire game is now fully prerendered and animated as opposed to the video cut-scenes from the original, which had some of the worst voice acting in video game history. While the dialog has been cleaned up, so have the graphics.

If anyone remembers (itís only been six years) the original Resident Evil from 1996, you will recall blocky graphics that dominated the scenery. While the prerendered backgrounds were bleached and washed out into whiteness in the 1996 version, the redesigned game features dark, moody environments that do scare you sometimes by how realistic and natural they act. As I stated before, the graphics are improved 100-fold. Gone are the seemingly Lego-created character models; entering are the smooth edges of the charactersí bodies looking almost life-like and motion captured. Only Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within looks better than this beautiful masterpiece. I feel safe to say that no one has seen graphics like this on a home console system being rendered by the hardware. I know for a fact that you can do it in FMV, but FMV isnít rendered by the graphics chip and processor of the system; these models are. When injured, your characters animate properly, although not necessarily grabbing the correct limb.

Sound and music have also been totally redefined. From the ambient thunder and crack of lightning from the world outside, your trip around the mansion will be one of fight or flight. There will be times when you are entering a room you have never seen before that the screen flashes with lightning and you just throw the controller and give up, not to mention change your pants. I find it intriguing, and mandatory, that a game such as this one is so capably of swallowing the player into the world and never letting them go. It makes you feel like you are in that mansion, you are facing these dangers and you are fighting to survive the horrors of the Umbrella Corporation.

One thing that didnít make the new cut, and very well should have, was the player control. Resident Evil has never been known for the most user-friendly controls, but keeping the archaic controls of a 6-year-old game is bound to hurt it somewhere down the line. In fact, that is the only reason it doesnít receive the perfect score it rightfully deserves. Rather than using the control stick to make your character move in the direction that you are pressing, it could make it do the opposite. Pushing up makes your character move forward, no matter what direction he or she is facing. Same goes for down, left, and right. Add this in with the robotic movements of the character animation, and you have the only real downfall to a superior game. Capcom did add in one extra that was originally introduced in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. The 180-degree turn makes an appearance and is very useful. A simple tap of any direction on the C Camera Stick makes your character turn around; this is very usefully when surprised on both sides.

When all is said and done, Resident Evil is a great game, but one you have played before. Capcom did a good thing by mixing up the mansion a bit and giving different routes around to bring in people who had survived through the original on the Playstation and PC. They even added a few extra modes including: Invisible Enemy, where all the enemies in the mansion are unseen and you have to follow sound effects to destroy them. RE also features a Kamikaze Zombie mode which is similar to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis in a way. At certain times during the game a zombie (Forest Speyer, a member of the Bravo Team) will appear laced with grenades. You canít shoot him or the whole place goes up, so you must run away and get away before you can progress, an interesting mode to say the least. Along with those special modes you will eventually gain access to special costumes and special weapons.

So you played through the game on your PSX and own a GameCube is this game worth picking up? Yes, Capcom changed enough of the game, and improved so much on the atmosphere that it feels like a completely original game even when it is a remake. Standing out from the Spy Hunters and Tetris Pluses, Resident Evil stands as a re-invention of an already classic game. While it comes as a disappointment that the rest of the series will not be remade in this way, it seems only right that the game that started the whole survival horror revolution be given another shot to blow gamersí, and zombiesí, minds all over the wall.

(Click to Enlarge)

Minimum Requirements...
Nintendo GameCube; Memory Card 59 or Memory Card 251


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