When Resident Evil debuted on the Sony PlayStation, gamers were treated to a gaming experience that was delightfully frightening like no other title before it. Single handedly creating the genre of survival horror, Capcom’s game scared the hell out of millions of gamers and went down in the PlayStation’s history as one of the most recognizable games for the system. Now, many years later, Capcom is giving GameCube owners a wonderful treat: a complete remake of this classic survival horror game. Does this updated version fare well in the next-generation of videogaming? The answer is a definite YES.
The most noticeable change to the game over the original is the serious face-lift. The original PlayStation version did a wonderful job of using pre-rendered backdrops combined with polygonal objects and characters to give the game an extremely realistic and spooky atmosphere. Despite the amazing graphical quality of the original, the GameCube version, to put it simply, completely blows it away. You will never believe that the Cube could create such stunning visuals, even if they are pre-rendered. The new pre-rendered environments make the original’s static backdrops look ancient in comparison. Now the backgrounds all have realistic movement and lighting effects, such as leaves and grass rustling in the wind and flickering candles casting bouncing, real time shadows on the walls and floor. In fact, most of those who have played through the original Resident Evil will find the rooms and environments in the GameCube version nearly unrecognizable. The bottom line is, in terms of visual presentation, Resident Evil is peerless among GameCube games in its graphical quality. All developers should take notes from Capcom on how to do gorgeous pre-rendered graphics that effectively draw the player into the game. Also quite impressive is the redone opening cinema that includes beautiful CG of the gruesome attack on the S.T.A.R.S. team by mutant dogs. Watch in horror as the dogs tear viciously into the flesh of poor, poor Joseph; this is certainly not your father’s Resident Evil!
Effective use of music and sound has always been important in Resident Evil games, and the GameCube remake features no drop-off in quality from previous incarnations of the series. If anything, this game raises the bar a few more notches above what was set by previous Resident Evil titles. The music sets the dark mood of the game perfectly. One of the most effective and memorable songs in all of videogaming (in my opinion) is the simple track that plays when in a room with an item box and typewriter. Those rooms are few and far between in Resident Evil and are the only places that are truly safe in the game. The song that plays perfectly captures the feeling of relief and security that is associated with the item box/typewriter rooms.
All zombie groans, gunshots, mutant dog yelps and door hinge creaks are handled in typical Resident Evil fashion, which is to say flawlessly. The voice acting is greatly improved over the PlayStation original, so horrible lines like Barry’s infamous ”master of unlocking” no longer plague the game (though I must admit they were quite funny at the time). Capcom went the extra mile to make sure every last detail was covered and the player gets the feeling that the developers responsible for the game’s aural ambiance truly cared about their work.
The gameplay of Resident Evil has changed little since the original’s release on the PlayStation and there seems to be many people who are upset over this. There are quite a few complaints about the ”push up to walk forward” control scheme and lack of analog support. While these gripes are certainly legitimate, I personally do not have a problem with the controls. Resident Evil is not a platformer that needs analog control and turn-on-a-dime responsiveness. In fact, the controls supplement the same quite well by making the player feel more vulnerable when walking through the game’s narrow hallways and other environments. So, yes, analog support would have been nice, but the lack of it does not detract from the game in any significant way. The most notable new addition to the gameplay is the inclusion of defense weapons (either knives or tasers) that can be used automatically to stop a zombie from munching on you. These weapons, which can be found scattered about the mansion and its surroundings, can be used one time each when a zombie grabs hold of you. I’ve heard people complain that it is unrealistic that you can’t just pull the used knife out of the zombie after it is killed, but Resident Evil is all about managing your ammo/items, not about simulating reality. Of course gameplay still consists of backtracking and plenty of treks to the item box, but it never becomes excessive to the point of frustration. Besides, that item box is a Resident Evil tradition! If the player really wants to be challenged there is a mode that can be unlocked that disallows all item boxes to share a universal contents. Now that is hard!
Replay value is always a concern with one-player games, but Resident Evil does a good job of giving the player incentive to play through the game more than once. To start with, the game features two main playable characters, Jill and Chris, which offer differing gameplay experiences. Playing with Jill is slightly easier (her story is easier and she can hold more items in her inventory) so it’s probably best to start with her before moving on to Chris. Even after you beat the game with both characters there are harder difficulty levels, new modes, secret weapons and new outfits to be found for skillful (and speedy) players. It’s too bad all single-player adventure games don’t have the replay value that Resident Evil has. Once again, all other developers should be taking notes.
Resident Evil remake is a delightfully creepy game that ranks as one of the best and most polished GameCube games available. It is a given that if you are a fan of the series you will have a blast with this game. Those who have played the original Resident Evil on the PlayStation will be in for a treat as many of the game’s puzzles and events are completely changed. The developers over at Capcom even put in quite a few surprises that only veterans of the original will truly appreciate. If you are new to the Resident Evil series then there is no better place to start then with this game. I challenge everyone who plays this game to do so only at night with the lights off and the shades drawn. Even those with the steadiest nerves will find their imaginations running away with them. Was that shadow moving outside the window a branch blowing in the wind? Or something else entirely…