Written by J.T. Johnson
In 1996, Capcom started its hugely successful survival horror series with the release of “Resident Evil”. It was a history making game that propelled the survival horror genre into the mainstream. By 2002, though, the game had not aged well as it was an early PlayStation One title with outdated full-motion video segments, dated graphics overall and some of the most atrocious voice acting to ever be featured in a game.
The Nintendo GameCube had come out at the end of 2001 and Capcom announced a surprising exclusivity deal in relation to the Resident Evil series. They would port previous games over to the system while developing three new titles. “Resident Evil 2”, “Resident Evil 3: Nemesis” and “Resident Evil Code: Veronica” were simply ported over from their previous incarnations.
Meanwhile, for the three original titles, Capcom switched the development of the already in production prequel “Resident Evil Zero” from the N64 to the Nintendo GameCube. They also announced that the system would get “Resident Evil 4” in the near future (it was released in 2005). For the first game, though, they decided to do a complete overhaul of the entire game.
It featured the same story and roughly the same layout as the first game, but the visuals, the story, and the performances were all updated to meet the standards of the day. There were also remixed puzzles, new story content that was cut from the original game, and moments to tie the game in to the rest of the series. When it was finally released in March 2002, the game received critical acclaim and is considered one of the best entries in the series.
This is understandable as the game pretty much built upon what had already worked in the classic original while updating it for modern audiences. The puzzles were great and there were some genuinely scary moments when zombies would come after you or they would reanimate after you had already taken them down. It also contained all the unique monsters that the series had become known for and it still contained both Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield as the game’s two playable characters with their own unique experiences.
Recently, I replayed the game after I played the stellar “Resident Evil 2” remake. I’m glad to say that the game holds up surprisingly well despite now being a 17 year old game. All of the survival horror elements that I loved are still there, but I must admit that the game’s blemishes are still there as well.
The first are the controls. Now, I never minded the “tank controls”, which is where the cameras are fixed and no matter where your facing, pressing up on the joystick moves your character forward. Despite this, I must admit that they are outdated and they do take some getting used to if you’re either visiting or revisiting this game for the first time in a few years.
Secondly, and this was a problem even back in the day, there is a lot of backtracking in this game. You’ll have to go back and forth several times between rooms as you solve puzzles and get items that you need to progress with the story. Also, you only have eight slots in your inventory, so you have to use item boxes in special save rooms and you also find yourself revisiting these rooms multiple times as you manage your inventory.
In spite of these flaws, though, the chilling atmosphere and the overall good gameplay keep you invested in what’s going on. The game does have a higher difficulty than most because you have to manage your items exceedingly well. There is only a limited amount of ammo, so you have to strategize about whether or not you want to blow a monster away or simply try to avoid them if you can.
The game also features a unique story where the game is actually about discovering why the zombie outbreak has occurred. This is the game that introduced us to the series’ two most prominent enemies. There’s the shadowy Umbrella Corporation that seems to be behind everything and Albert Wesker, the mysterious traitor who may also have his own plans.
Ultimately, I played through the game again as Jill Valentine and had a blast revisiting the puzzle-filled and chilling mansion that kickstarted one of the best franchises ever made. Granted, it has aged to a certain degree but that’s understandable. If you’re looking for something more than just the latest shooter or platformer, though, I definitely recommend this bonafide classic.
WHERE TO FIND: Currently, an HD version of the game is available on Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One and it is expected to hit the Nintendo Switch in the near future. Also, you can get the game by itself digitally or you can get the game in a bundle deal with “Resident Evil Zero”.
IF YOU’RE CURIOUS: If you want to check out the original version of “Resident Evil”, then you’ll need to get a PSOne and a used copy of the game. However, the slightly updated version, “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut”, is available on the PlayStation Classic that was recently released. Be warned, though, it is the European version of the game and I have heard that there are frame-rate issues though I didn’t seem to encounter any of these when I checked it out.