Review by Darchaen

Reviewed: 05/12/06

Fear can't kill you, but...

Introduction

I am a huge Resident Evil fan, and played the original three games for PSX about the time when they came out. Of course, I went wild and quickly started investing myself as deeply as I could in the story that was somehow so much more different than the other zombie franchises. Like many people, I loved the originality of the very first survival horror series. After the completion of Resident Evil One, Two and Three, in addition to some side-story games such as Survivor and Code Veronica that chronicles the happenings of Claire from Resident Evil 2, Capcom gave Nintendo the series as they were supposed to when Resident Evil 2 came out (Resident Evil 2 was supposed to be an N64 game when it launched). When I bought Resident Evil for the GameCube, years after having played a single RE title, it all came back to me...

Graphics/Visual

The Resident Evil games have always been nice to look at because of the camera setup that focuses on one spot until the player moves out of view, and then focuses on another pre-set angle. This gives you the feeling that you're playing a horror movie, and sometimes the camera angles are cleverly thought out to make you feel as if you're being watched (A good example of this is in Resident Evil 2 and 3 in which the camera would sometimes be shot through a window while you're in an alleyway). Just as important, this allows very advanced pre-rendered backgrounds and foregrounds to add to the realism of the experience.

The models are excellent, Capcom did a great job with the 3-D character meshes, and the environment around you almost seems to be alive- candlelight flickers and sways back and forth, trees and grass blow in the wind, and things in the background like the grandfather clock innately function.
The people and creatures that make up the game are just as alive. Your character will limp if they are wounded, and if you leave them idle they will just sort of hang out with their hands on their hips, chilling out for a while until you come back to play again. The monsters are grotesquely real, the zombies in particular, with chunks of rotting flesh hanging off their scalps, and their hip-hop kind of walk, combined with the fact that you can see them as they're on fire, decapitated, acid-burned, electrocuted and with knives sticking out of their heads depending on how you deal with them makes them a scare to look at. Capcom also replaced the black and white opening video with a new, great looking FMV.

The lighting is another thing I should mention. Of course there isn't much 3-D lighting as the camera doesn't move, but it is still nice to watch the path of light change when you see a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, or a loose chandelier swinging back and forth, and as it moves over your character.

Of course there are minor engine problems that can never be fully avoided in any game such as a zombie's arm disappearing into your head, or dogs jumping through the wall instead of a window, but even these small flaws are numbered, and you almost have to ask for them or be looking for some of them to point them out.

Altogether, the in-game visuals are as big a spectacle to look at as they are in the FMV sequences, which is no small feat. This game looks, and atmospherically feels -great-.

Sound

The audio in this Resident Evil remake is well done. The background music, I think, is one of the best parts. Most, if not all of time, all you will hear is a quiet ambient, hair-raising song playing in the backdrop, adding as much creep-show intensity to the game as the visuals do. Sometimes, you wont even hear that, and that's even more frightening than the music, because anybody who's ever watched a horror movie or played a survival horror game knows that when you walk into a room and all you hear is nothing, something bad is going to happen. I also liked the use of Moonlight Sonata in a particular scene in which it is played on piano. If you are Chris, your partner will need to practice it while you do some other stuff before it can be played correctly, so you can hear it from down the hall and even a few rooms over, echoing throughout the old mansion. Creepy.

The sound effects mainly consist of your gunshots, background stuff breaking, and monsters, but it still carries the audio across nicely because it sounds so good. The zombie moans are just as well recorded and voiced as ever, if not better than in previous games, and sound haunting and sad. I hope that people action take the time to listen to the way their weapons sound when they're fired, especially the Shotgun.

Dialogue is for the most part well written, and the voice acting is good, but way better in some parts than in others. I guess the director cut the incredibly corny line in the beginning in which Barry gives Jill the lock-pick and makes a comment on how she's "the master of unlocking things", but this wasn't completely averted, as three minutes later, Jill has an even worse line- "Barry! it's a monster!"

Story

It's the Resident Evil story all over again. Mysterious murders begin occurring in the Arklay Mountains around Raccoon City where the victims appear to be bitten. S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tasks and Rescue Squad) sends in Alpha team to investigate it and lose contact with them. The game begins with S.T.A.R.S. sending in Bravo team to look for the lost Alpha team, getting attacked by unusually viscous canines and discovering an unnerving mansion as they attempt to escape from them. You play as either Jill Valentine, pretty, young S.T.A.R.S. member who specialises in bomb defusing and mechanical-technical stuff, or Chris Redfield, a slightly older guy (For romantic purposes? :P), who is good at survival and hand to hand combat, and starts out with only his knife. Depending on who you choose to play as, the story will be pretty much the same, but with the characters switched. Also, they both have "secondary characters". With Jill, she uses Barry's help. Chris receives aid from a Rebecca Chambers who is a surviving Alpha team member. By the end of the game, there will be some plot twists that vary by character, and you will find out what happened to the mansion before you showed up on the scene to turn everyone into zombies while also finding some of the surviving (And some of the undead) Alpha team members. Chris's story is more involving and exciting as a reward because his scenario is harder, but there aren't any major differences.

Gameplay

This is the kind of game that will take you a long time to play unless you use walkthroughs. You have to accept that you're going to get stuck on at least two of these puzzles in the game. The gameplay is good. The controls might be awkward for first time Resident Evil players at the beginning, but they aren't really that hard to learn, other than how some people have trouble with running in the right direction when the camera is facing them (Your other right, stupid!).

Combat is a little more difficult, as sometimes you can hold the aim button and not see what Jill or Chris are aiming at because it's off screen, but it doesn't really matter because the auto-aim is utilised in this new version where it wasn't in the original. There are some other new additions here that I rather like. The most important one is the defence items. Both characters have unique defense items that are automatically used to counter-attack when you are grabbed by a zombie or other monster (Not mentioning what other monsters can grab hold of you because there are some surprising ones that appear for the first time part way through the game, and I don't want to spoil it). Also, a big change- the monsters are a lot more intelligent, even though the zombies still walk into walls sometimes when they are trying to turn and walk toward you at the same time, but they are supposed to be husks anyway, right?

Gameplay mostly involves you trying to find keys and important items that help you progress. You will do a lot of back-tracking to get these items and to solve the game's easy to very difficult puzzles. The main tactic is to avoid fighting as much as you can, and to conserve ammo and health items. In order to save the game, you must find ink-ribbons and go to a safe room, which is usually something like a supply closet or small room. There are about eight safe rooms throughout the game that you can keep going back to, and each room contains a typewriter and an item box, which are huge gameplay elements. The typewriter allows you to save your game, but you need ink-ribbons to do so, so you can't save to often. The item box is a big old-fashioned chest that lets you store more items inside than you will ever have room for, and all the item boxes in all the safe rooms are connected, so you can put a key in the box in the west side of the second floor, and retrieve it later from the other side of the mansion. Another big part of the game is permanently disposing of the zombies so that they don't come back later like they otherwise would, by taking gasoline and burning them, or decapitating them.

One of the great things about gameplay in Resident Evil is that it can be as hard as you want it to be, but never too easy. Veterans will appreciate that the game can be beaten entirely with the knife. There are some gameplay differences between Jill and Chris too- with Jill, the puzzles are easier, sometimes even completed for you. She also has two more inventory spaces (Which is very important, trust me) than Chris and starts out with a loaded gun and a surplus ammunition clip, while Chris only starts out with the knife. Jill doesn't have to find the "old keys" that unlock many of the doors at the beginning of the game either, because she comes with a lockpick in a special item slot in the inventory that allows her to pick the simpler locks on the old doors. In place of this with Chris, he gets... a lighter. The lighter isn't all bad though. For veterans who know how important it is to burn corpses, it is just as useful as Jill's lockpick, because you only need to carry a fuel canteen to light zombies on fire. Chris is also much better with the knife, another reason that seasoned players would prefer him over Jill. Don't let Jills' easier gameplay fool you though- beating Resident Evil in any mode is still a challenge.

Replay Value

I'm sure most people who enjoy the game will want to play this one over again at least once, and die hard Res' fans will surely want to beat it many times, unlocking all the special costumes (Including Jill's outfit from Resident Evil 3), gameplay modes and options this game has to offer. And with three difficulty levels, and one character being harder than the other, it can be suicidally challenging if you want it to be. There's even an unlockable gameplay mode where item boxes arent connected, one with invisible enemies, and one where a single zombie who you can't kill follows you throughout the whole game. Unfortunately, Capcom didn't add a mini-game like I (And I'm sure many other people) was hoping they would. An added game that you can play for ten minutes to an hour, like Resident Evil 3's "Mercenaries", or Resident Evil 2's "Hunk" and "Tofu" games to take off the tension would of certainly made this game a dime, as it can at times be a very pressing game.

Final Thoughts

This is a great game and I definitely recommend whoever reads this, if you don't already own it, buy it! Or if you aren't a hardcore Resident Evil fan, at least rent it. All of the elements used in the visual and audio departments really makes it a treat for horror fans and just plain video gamers alike. No little kids though. All in all, the Resident Evil remake for GameCube is a game that will leave you full and wanting more.

Features
+ Cutting edge graphics bring Spencer Mansion to life
+ Great sound effects and haunting music that adds to the atmosphere
+ The game has an overall uneasy feeling that Horror fans will enjoy
+ Loads of unlockable costumes, modes and alternate endings
- Nothing all that new added to the remake

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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