Resident Evil (1996)
Capcom first released Resident Evil in 1996 on the crest of a positive wave of reviews. Nearly two decades later there have been numerous sequels and even five outings on the big screen. Though the latest instalments in the series continue to improve, the original Resident Evil remains a proud achievement.
A series of gruesome murders have been committed on the outskirts of Raccoon City close to a bio tech lab. A rescue team – S.T.A.R.S. – is called in to investigate the atrocities. Bravo team is sent first but when they disappear, it is left to Alpha Team to solve the mystery. After locating Bravo Team’s abandoned helicopter, Alpha Team come under attack from a group of vicious dogs and are forced to flee for a nearby and remote mansion after their own helicopter leaves them behind! The remaining members of Alpha Team must not only survive the many threats in the mansion, but must discover the source behind them.
At the start of the game you have the option of playing as either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine. While the main events of the story remain the same for both characters, their individual progress through the mansion is quite different with Jill’s scenario far more straightforward than that of Chris. No sooner have you entered the mansion than Jill/Chris are left alone to search the many rooms with just a Beretta and knife for company. You will face numerous puzzles and have to obtain keys to unlock doors and gain access to further areas of the mansion and obtain better weapons. Along the way you will have the opportunity to read letters, journals and books from the mansion that reveal many of its darkest secrets.
Resident Evil was appropriately dubbed a `survival horror’ when it was first released and this forms one of the main components of the game. As you solve the puzzles and uncover the truth about the mansion, you will be faced with a myriad of malevolent monsters. Zombies and dogs are the earliest threats but the deeper into the mansion you delve the more dangerous your foes become. Gathering First Aid Sprays and medicinal herbs will help reduce your chances of an untimely demise but these items are not in abundance and need to be conserved. You will need a large degree of careful planning as your characters have to continually obtain fresh ammo to keep their guns replenished while the limited amount of items they can carry – 8 for Jill and 6 for Chris – will ensure you need to be selective.
The only flaw with Resident Evil is the short animations as you enter new rooms or ascend/descend stairways. Though the opening of a door or slow climbing of steps can add to the overall tension of the game, they soon become a hindrance rather than a plus point. The voice acting is also weak at times with some unintentionally amusing exchanges between the characters. That could be a plus or minus dependent on your sense of humour.
Resident Evil has stood up well to the test of time. Though visually inferior to the later games in the series, it remains an unnerving experience, even more so than its sequels. With three different endings for each character and some useful bonuses to unlock, Resident Evil will keep you engaged long after you’ve stopped hiding behind the sofa.
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