Video Game Review: Resident Evil (PS1)

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The Resident Evil series is one of my great passions.  Until I played the first Resident Evil game, I had no idea how obsessed with zombies I could become.  I remember having no interest in owning a Playstation until I witnessed my cousin and his friends playing Resident Evil way back in 1996.  It wasn't until the Christmas season of 1998 that I finally obtained a Playstation, along with the "Director's Cut" version of R.E.  I played the game nonstop for months on end.  I searched every nook and cranny, trying to discover every single one of this game's secrets.  Since I first got the game, there hasn't been a year that hasn't gone buy that I haven't busted the game out.  It haunts me.  It...plagues me, almost like a...virus.  All I know is that since I started playing this game fourteen years ago, I've had this constant itch all over my body...

For those of you whom have never experienced this game first-hand, turn off your computer, turn on your PS3, and purchase it from their online store.  Now.  Resident Evil is a landmark video game and there is no point in reading about it if you haven't played it.  Now that the unpleasantries are out of the way, I will continue my verbal blo...I of this game.  From the very beginning of the game, we are greeted with the very essence of a B horror movie.  Like Cheetos, the live action intro is "dangerously cheesy."  I chalk this up as a positive for the game, because let's face it, the horror movies we love are either filled with great acting, or terrible acting.  After "the S.T.A.R.S. gang" safely holes up inside the mansion, a long, talkative cutscene ensues.  This is important to note because of the infamously bad voice acting in the game.  "Don' door!"  From here, whether with Chris or Jill, you go through the dining room and out the door on the opposite end of the room.  You then enter a hall way and once you turn the corner...ZOMBIE!!!  A zombie is found feasting on the corpse of a fellow S.T.A.R.S. member.  Naturally, it prefers fresh meat, so it turns its attention upon you!  Run away!

There you have it.  Less than five minutes into the game, your field of vision is filled with beautiful gore as you get chased around by the undead.  I like games that don't waste time plunging you into some serious turd-water and this is certainly one of those games.  And as you play the game, you find that the tension only builds and builds until your stomach is tied into a square knot.  You don't believe me?  Did anyone reading this *not* shit their pants when the dogs made their way inside the mansion via window-crash?  I know that when I first experienced this part fourteen years ago, I just freaked and turned the Playstation off, like a pussy.  But, I digress...The Spencer Mansion in Resident Evil houses some of the most hellish creatures ever created by the hand of man.  Not only are zombies after your fresh flesh, but mutated dogs, spiders, sharks, plants, and reptiles as well.  And what self respecting horror game would be without a gigantic final boss?  If you manage to survive all of those other creatures in your wake, then the Tyrant will surely slice you to pieces.  Think you can survive?!?!?  In all seriousness, Resident Evil is a milestone in gaming and I intend to help shed a little light on why so many people believe this.

When breaking a modern game down, there are really only five categories that are worth mentioning.  Let us get to those now, shall we?

Story:  At first glance, Resident Evil does not seem to have much in the way of story.  Some bizarre murders occur on the outskirts of a moderately-sized mountain town that houses facilities of a pharmaceutical giant named Umbrella.  A special task force of super-cops is sent to have a look around near the site of the murders.  A second task force is sent in after the first once contact is lost.  While team Bravo looks for Team Alpha, they are attacked by mutant dogs and forced into what seems to be an abandoned mansion.  Once inside, they split apart to locate as many team members as possible so that they may escape back into the city.  Sounds cut and dry, right?  Well, of course, there are a few twists and turns.  It turns out that this particular mansion is home to all sorts of horrific genetic research, all conducted and funded by the Umbrella Corporation.  The creation and outbreak of the "T Virus" caused the death of hundreds of employees inside the mansion.  Some of their more feral "experiments" also escaped their secured locations and now roam free about the estate.  Naturally, this makes escape a wee bit more difficult.  From there, the story branches out based on whom you picked to control; Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield.  This is one of the game's biggest pluses.  You get two full length stories to play through in R.E.  Each with their own twists, turns, betrayals and triumphs.  As far as the story is concerned, the first R.E. game is definitely not the greatest of the series, however it does provide a solid base from which the series has built...well..."a mansion of a story."

Graphics:  This is one area where the game hasn't aged too well.  However, at the time the "pre-rendered backgrounds" added to the beauty of the game.  There's so much about that mansion that leads you to believe that the owner was some sort of demented madman.  The pre-rendered backgrounds not only allowed for more "decoration," but it also freed up some loading time within the game.  Because of the limitations of the original Playstation, this game ends up quite pixelated.  It may not be pretty to look at anymore, but I think that only lends more to the "B Horror Movie" feel.

Controls:  This is the part of the game that ruffles everyone's feathers.  The dreaded "tank controls."  In order to turn your character around, you either have to run a circle or slowly turn around in place.  This means that your character will get blindsided quite often.  I do believe that when looking back now, the "tank controls" are rather irritating.  However, I think the "lameness" in this facet of the game gets blown out of proportion, especially when compared to newer Resident Evil control schemes.  Folks...I mastered these controls when I was 14, so I don't see why everyone today seems to have so much trouble with them.  I know they seem archaic by today's standards, but that is no reason to discard the game.  People that fly planes still drive cars.  Am I making sense to anybody?  Anyway, not to sound like a broken record, I think the crap controls lend to the feel of the game.  If you are being chased by a horde of undead, its safe to say that you are going to clumsily run into things and misfire like Dick Chaney.

Sound:  Aside from "scares," this is the one area where Resident Evil excels the most.  The soundtrack is beautifully composed and is often more haunting than the creatures that lurk about.  Aside from the superb score, another reason exists for playing this game with the volume up.  The creatures and beasts that roam around give out audible clues to their whereabouts, such as footsteps, growls, hisses, and moans.  It is very important to listen to your surroundings before running into the next camera angle.  Lastly, no talk about Resident Evil's sound would be complete without the mention of the dialog.  The voice acting is terrible and is so bad that it has become legendary for its hilarity (i.e. Barry informing Jill that she is *indeed* "the master of unlocking," "Jill Sandwich").  I am convinced that either morons with a reading problem or exceptionally skilled, Shakespearean actors performed these bits of voice acting.  It is inspired, tension-cutting genius, whether intentional, or not.

Fun Factor:  If you have ever wanted to experience the horrors of a zombie outbreak movie, then this game is for you.  Despite all of the back-tracking in the game, Resident Evil can even be fun to watch as well.  The game takes quite a while to complete, so make sure to use those ink ribbons wisely!

The Verdict:  What else can I say?  This game is a classic.  If it weren't for Resident Evil, "survival horror" might not even be a genre in gaming.  Time has diminished some of this game's sparkling qualities, but I believe it still holds up well.  In the "PS1 Era Standard of Gaming," I give this game an 8 out of 10.  I could probably go on and on about this game, but my entire body feels burning and itchy.  When I was scratching the swelling on my arms, a lump of rotten flesh dropped off.  What the hell is happening to me??

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