Revisiting ‘Resident Evil’

I take a look back at Capcom's horrifying video game series!

Written by J.T. Johnson

The year is 1997 and I’m still very much a Nintendo kid. I own a Nintendo 64 and I love it thanks to classic games such as “GoldenEye”, “Super Mario 64” and “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”. I am only barely aware of the Sony PlayStation’s existence due to a demo of the machine that my brother and I had seen in a Sears of all places.

That all changes when my dad and I go to a mall in Little Rock, Arkansas. In the mall is a store named EB Games and in their windows, they have a couple of televisions set up that play various demos and trailers for upcoming games. I quickly become sucked into a trailer that is showing a police officer walking down a dark and gloomy sewer.

Out of nowhere, a horrible and mutated alligator attacks and then the rest of the trailer plays itself out. The police officer is trying to make his way through an abandoned and gothic looking police station. The entire world is overrun with zombies before a huge menacing eye opens and “RESIDENT EVIL 2” slams onto the screen.

This was my first encounter with a series that would go down as one of my favorite video game franchises. I want to take a moment and look back at each of my personal experiences with the main series games all the up to the recently released “Resident Evil 2” remake. I must admit that I’m focusing on the main series games because I’ve never really played any of the spin-off titles. There’s nothing against them, I was just never really interested in those experiences.

Now, let us go and take a look at one of the greatest horror games to ever grace a video game console!

RESIDENT EVIL (1996) AND RESIDENT EVIL (2002)

When my dad got me my PlayStation on Christmas in ‘97, “Resident Evil 2” had been delayed but he promised he would get the game that following January when the game was set to be released. In the meantime, he got me “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut” and I got to experience the first game in all its glory… and all it’s bad voice acting!

The first game contained all the right elements that the series became known for. There were the zombies, a moody atmosphere, typewriters to save your game, unique twists for its monster-filled story, limited ammunition and some herbs and first aid sprays to help you. This means that you couldn’t just shoot your way through the game and you had to strategize how to get to another area of the mansion you were stuck in.

The first game was fun as hell, but it definitely has its flaws. It came out early in the PlayStation’s life cycle, so the visuals are far from polished. There was also no dual shock support with the original release though the “Director’s Cut” later corrected this issue.

Finally, while the story was intriguing, the voice acting has become noted for how notoriously bad it is along with the few live-action FMV sequences that features nothing but bad acting. Capcom saw how aged the game was in the early 2000s and thankfully, they released a remake with the same name in 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube.

The remake is a fantastic experience that essentially delivers the same thrills but with updated visuals, way better voice acting and an atmosphere that matched with the updated tone that the series had at that point. This is one of those rare moments where I would say only visit the original if you’re just interested in seeing where the series truly began. Other than that, though, the remake is definitely the route to go if you want the ultimate experience with the original game!

As of the writing of this article, the “Director’s Cut” version of the game is available on the PlayStation Classic while the remake is currently available PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 (1998)

My dad made good on his promise in January 1998 when he picked me up a copy of “Resident Evil 2”. I had been waiting for this game for almost a whole year and so my own hype for it was already sky high. Thankfully, the game not only met but it also exceeded my expectations.

That cop from the trailer turned out to be Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie heading into Raccoon City to start his new job. On the way there, he discovers that the city is infested with zombies and he also meets Claire Redfield, the sister of Chris Redfield, one of the main protagonists from the original game. Together, they head to the police station only to discover that there are several monsters there waiting for them before uncovering more hideous truths about the Umbrella Corporation, the place behind all of the madness.

The game refined just about everything from gameplay to the story for the second game. Despite having played the first game, I can also say that it wasn’t until “Resident Evil 2” that I was truly scared out of my mind by a video game. It also featured a new element that Capcom referred to as the “Zapping System”.

In the first game, you either chose to play as Chris or his partner, Jill Valentine. No matter who you chose, though, only minor differences existed and essentially the same story was told with the same outcome but they were considered two different and separate experiences. In this game, you chose who to play as one character first and after you completed their game, you could reload the same game file and experience the same story from the other character’s different perspective.

Considering that you could choose either Leon or Claire first, that meant that four different scenarios exists for both characters. No matter who you chose, though, you needed to play through with the other character in order to get the full story and eventually unlock special items depending upon how well you did.

“Resident Evil 2” still stands as one of the most impressive games I’ve ever played and it’s my personal favorite in the series. Yes, there is a stellar remake out there now (more on that later), but if you ever get the chance to play the original classic, I highly recommend it.

So far, Capcom has not released the original version of this game on any modern platforms. The latest physical release is the port that was released on the Nintendo GameCube in the early 2000s. Also, you can buy it in the PlayStation Store if you have a PlayStation 3.

RESIDENT EVIL 3: NEMESIS (1999)

After experiencing “Resident Evil 2”, I couldn’t wait to see where Capcom would take the series next. They eventually announced “Resident Evil 3: Nemesis” and revealed that Jill Valentine would return as the sole main character of the game. This meant that there would be no zapping system and the game has what feels like a more linear progression to it.

In this game, Jill is preparing to get out of Raccoon City, which has been overrun with zombies. Before she can go, though, she gets trapped in the police station from “RE2”. She also encounters the Nemesis monster, a force of nature that terrorizes Jill throughout the game because it is sent by Umbrella to kill S.T.A.R.S. members such as Jill.

The first part of the game actually takes place shortly before the events of “RE2” before an event causes the story to jump to immediately after the second game. By the end, though, the story of Raccoon City is definitively over as the series moved on to new settings and experiences.

I really enjoyed the third game, but I must admit that I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as the second game. Perhaps my love for that second game would have doomed any other title that immediately followed it, but the game was just a little too linear and too short in my opinion. Despite this, though, I really wish that Capcom would release the game onto the PlayStation Store for the PS4 because it is still a fine addition to the series overall and I have been itching to revisit the title recently.

The latest physical port of this game can be found on the Nintendo GameCube. For some reason, Capcom likes to act like this game doesn’t exist. However, you can also find the game in the PlayStation Store if you own a PlayStation 3.

RESIDENT EVIL CODE: VERONICA (2000)

The very next year after “Nemesis”, I was able to afford my first video game console. I ended up buying the Sega Dreamcast and one of the first (and only) games that I ever bought for the system was “Resident Evil Code: Veronica”. A variation of the game “Code: Veronica X” has existed on just about every platform since, but it may surprise some to know that this game started off as a Dreamcast exclusive.

The visuals were updated and the setting was a fully rendered 3D world instead of the pre-rendered backgrounds used in the original PlayStation titles. The game’s story is quite unique as it explores the origins of Umbrella with Claire being sent to a prison complex owned by the evil corporation.

The first half of the game has you taking control of Claire, but the second part of the game has you taking control of Chris Redfield once again. Unlike “RE3”, this game felt more like the true sequel to “RE2” and there is actually a reason for that. Originally, “Nemesis” was to be considered a simple spin-off of the PlayStation titles with “Code: Veronica” being the true “RE3”.

The problem arose when Sony asked Capcom to keep the “Resident Evil 3” name on their console. So, “Nemesis” was retooled as the true sequel while “Code: Veronica” was considered the spin-off, though much of the final game is still intact and there is more forward progression in the game’s story.

I really loved this game, but if you ever play it, be warned! This is one tough son of a bitch. The game leans heavily on limited supplies and ultimate survival strategies in order to make it through to the end. Even when I revisited the game recently and remembered certain things, I was still having a hard time getting through. Despite the difficulty, though, “Code: Veronica” is still a classic entry for fans of the survival horror genre!

“Code: Veronica X” is currently available on the PlayStation 4 in the PlayStation Store.

RESIDENT EVIL ZERO (2002)

In the same year that the Nintendo GameCube received the remake of “Resident Evil”, Capcom also released “Resident Evil Zero”, a prequel to the original game starring Rebecca Chambers, a supporting character in the first game. The story pretty much establishes what happened to S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team before Chris, Jill and the others came searching for them.

At first, Rebecca tries to find refuge in an abandoned train, but is soon forced to leave when the monsters onboard become too much to handle. She also meets a convict named Billy Coen and the two must work together to survive.

The game is the last “traditional” game in the series. This means that it is the last game to use the series’ notorious tank controls that had divided players since the first game’s release. It is also the last game to throw a significant focus on puzzles. This game is unique in that regard as you can eventually switch back and forth between Rebecca and Billy and sometimes this is needed in order to get through certain parts of the game.

I remember loving this game from a gameplay standpoint, but the story was a bit weird even by “Resident Evil” standards. More notoriously, it was also pretty forgettable. Despite the weaker story, this was still a fun game and the last traditional game in the series before Capcom decided to completely redefine the series from here on out.

Currently, “Resident Evil Zero” is available on the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. It is also available in a bundle package along with the “Resident Evil” remake.

RESIDENT EVIL 4 (2005)

When Capcom announced what “Resident Evil 4” would be, I was initially very skeptical. Instead of the traditional controls and zombies, the game would feature a completely new story with an entirely different biological outbreak. The only returning element (at first) is Leon S. Kennedy as a secret service agent that is on a mission to rescue the daughter of the president of the United States.

I was initially skeptical at the overhaul but the final result is still one of the best games in the series. The new controls appeased those that didn’t like the old tank controls and being that it was closely over Leon’s shoulder, there were still plenty of terrifying moments to jump out and scare the shit out of you. After looking at the surface and diving deeper into the game, you find that the overhaul still retains plenty of key elements from its predecessors such as herbs and limited amount of space for supplies that can be expanded over time.

The story was surprisingly engaging as well as you actually cheered Leon on, but I will admit that the president’s daughter Ashley Graham is quite annoying at times. Thankfully, from a gameplay standpoint, she is mostly out of the way and doesn’t interfere with the game’s frantic action.

This game was definitely more action packed than previous titles and this new emphasis on action would become a weakness for future entries. In the case of this game, though, Capcom hit all the right notes for a game that is still considered one of the best titles in the franchise.

“Resident Evil 4” is currently available on modern platforms including PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

RESIDENT EVIL 5 (2009)

I’ll be honest, I started falling out of love with the series for a time when “Resident Evil 5” was released. It now focused mostly on action and it was also a game that catered more to co-operative play over a stellar single-player experience. In fact, I found the game to be completely unplayable when trying to play it alone because the A.I. controlled Sheva Alomar would keep getting in the way and getting killed every five seconds.

I revisited the game later and I don’t know if there had been a patch or something, but Sheva did a much better job staying out of my way as I progressed through the game. I commended the game for trying to end some of the loose ends that the now convoluted story contained, but I found this game to be ultimately forgettable. Beyond fighting series villain Albert Wesker in a ludicrous volcano battle, I don’t really remember much else about it, if I’m being honest.

Thankfully, though, I can at least say that I was able to get through “Resident Evil 5” but the next entry is still unfinished business for me…

“Resident Evil 5” is currently available on modern platforms including the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

RESIDENT EVIL 6 (2012)

When I first heard of “Resident Evil 6”, it appeared to have a chilling tone that I had been missing since the earlier games in the series. The demo featured Leon Kennedy in a zombie infested world, just the way I like it. Unfortunately, the final game had four ridiculously complex and interwoven campaigns and the game also revealed itself to be just a simple shooter.

I’ll be honest, this game is unfinished business for me because I actually have never completed it. I want to correct that at some point in the future, but my first impression was so abysmal that I haven’t exactly sought it out since. For me, “Resident Evil 6” showed that the series was merely a shell of its former self at that point in time.

I would say more, but like I’ve already said, I never even finished the game. If you would like to check it out for yourself, though, it is currently available on modern platforms such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

RESIDENT EVIL 7: BIOHAZARD (2017)

I remember when Capcom released the now famous “KI7CHEN” demo, but the modified “T” in the name went largely unnoticed. At E3 2016, though, Capcom revealed a trailer and it turned out that the horrific demo was actually a prototype for “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard”. The game was to tell a new story in the universe and return to the game’s survival horror roots.

When the game did finally come out, I felt that it was a return to form for the series. Despite the new first-person viewpoint, the RE Engine created fantastic and creepy visuals as players took control of Ethan Winters, an average man trying desperately to find his missing wife. Set mostly in a creepy looking house, the game stayed true to the series and the story grew deeper as it progressed.

I remember that when the game was done, I was completely satisfied with the experience. I can honestly say that this is probably my favorite game in the series since “Resident Evil 2” was released in 1998. It’s a modern release, so it’s very easy to get a hold of and if you can, get the “Gold Edition” so that you can have all the additional content that was released for the game after its initial release.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 (2019)

It feels like it’s been forever since Capcom announced the remake of “Resident Evil 2”, but now it’s finally here and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. The game succeeds by combining several different elements that have worked for the series over the years.

The game stays true to the original by retaining the complex story and the intriguing puzzles. Meanwhile, it has been completely redone using the RE Engine and it has the same creepy vibe from “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard”. Control wise, it has a similar setup to that found in “Resident Evil 4”, so the DNA of the entire series is included in this game’s makeup.

I have a full review for the game, which can be found by clicking HERE, so I’ll just leave you guys today by saying that the series seems to be back on its more horrific track and that is most definitely a good thing. If Capcom keeps up the quality that it has exhibited with both “Biohazard” and this remake, then the series will remain as resilient as the undead monsters contained within its titles.

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