Review by YahtzeeLeon

Reviewed: 01/02/07

It had lots of potential - but not giving the player a clue what to do, as well as pacing, backtracking, and control problems, hurts the game a lot.

I admit, my expectations for this game were a little high. The Resident Evil series is quite celebrated, so I figured that I had reason to expect a good game. However, not only did this game fail to meet my expectations, it failed to be enjoyable or even playable at all. In fact, several severe flaws prevented me from being able to do almost anything at all.

The game opens on the evening of July 24, 1998, in the fictional Raccoon City, where a number of grisly murders have taken place on the outskirts of town. Local law enforcement sends in the S.T.A.R.S. Bravo team to investigate, but after a while, contact is lost. The Alpha team is sent out to rescue Bravo team, and to continue the investigation. Alpha team locates the downed Bravo chopper, but there are no signs of survivors. Alpha team is suddenly attacked by ferocious dogs, and flees to nearby Spencer Mansion, believed to be abandoned.

Trapped inside the mansion, the four remaining Alpha team members (Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, Barry Burton, and Albert Wesker) split up, and search the mansion for a way out, and clues to explain the murders. At this point, the player takes control of either Chris or Jill.

In the first view minutes of the game, you are given several simple directions: Go investigate a sound, check what’s behind a door, search for Wesker – but after that, you’re completely without any direction at all. You’re just told to explore on your own and look for clues and your missing comrades, and then plopped down in a mansion with dozens of different doors, halls, and rooms, and no indication whatsoever as to where you should go or what you should do first. You have no choice but to systematically explore each and every room, hitting dozens of dead-ends before you finally find an item by sheer luck, then continue searching each room until you finally find a place to use that item. Then, once you FINALLY find a new key item that opens more paths...congratulations! You get to do it all over again!

Now, for the most part, what items are to be used where is pretty straightforward. But finding those items is a different story. Most items are ‘hidden’ out in the open, but others are so out-of-the-way or simply hard-to-see that anyone could spend hours trying to figure out where they are.

That is, quite simply, not the way a video game should work. Instead of putting you somewhere, giving you no directions, and expecting you to spend hours running around dozens of rooms trying to spot tiny hidden items when you have absolutely no idea where you should be looking, you should at least get some form of clue or direction from another character so you don’t spend huge chunks of time turning rooms inside out when the item you need is on the other side of the mansion.

Not only this, but you must also obtain items in a proper order. The number of items you can carry is VERY limited – 6 or 8 slots, depending on the character you’re controlling – so even if you do manage to find an item and pick it up, it may not be the item you need, so when you find another item, your inventory is full, and you have to backtrack and find a place to store the unneeded item, then backtrack to the new item and collect it (and even then, this new item may also be one that you don’t need).

The trademark gimmick of the Resident Evil game series is that many areas will initially be closed off to you, but the acquisition of a new key will open up a few areas, eventually leading to more keys which open up more areas, etc. As you may have guessed, there is only one room you actually need to go to, and all other rooms just lead you to a dead ends all over the mansion, meaning you have to turn back, try a new door, turn back, try a new door, over and over – sometimes missing the item you needed to pick up or room you needed to go into because it was hard to spot. A more fitting title for the back would have been “Backtrack in a Mansion”.

Going on a wild goose chase and basically playing Russian Roulette with your own time on a hit-and-miss mission to go through the same hallways more times than you can count, check in every corner, and turn the whole world upside down to find the next available path until you FINALLY find the right one is, quite frankly, not everyone's idea of fun. If you desire a pace of action that isn’t slower than paint drying on grass growing on a snail’s back in molasses, then you're going to be bored out of your mind with this game.

After considering all of the above, I cannot help but find this game to be seriously flawed as it is - however, there’s still one more thing I haven’t mentioned. Cheap, overpowered enemies will be killing you during the entire time.

By the strength of the enemies in the game, it is pretty apparent that Capcom tried to make a game that was "challenging". However, I'm just not sure if they quite know the difference between 'challenge' and 'pointlessly difficult'. The average enemy that you'll find in the game takes more than half a clip of ammunition to kill, and ammunition is extremely rare. It is also nearly impossible to dodge the enemies' attacks. Most of the time, while engaged in combat with the enemies in this game, I wonder if the enemy is invincible and not meant to be defeated yet. While just a few minutes into the game, I was encountering enemies whom I felt were as strong as weak bosses.

Since the average enemy is going to take you quite a bit of time and effort kill, and will probably have one or two buddies backing him up, you're in for a long and boring ride, especially if you like to clean a room of enemies before advancing - that is, if you'll even have enough ammunition to kill them at all.

I strongly disapprove of the extremely limited ammunition system. It is not a feature that belongs in a survival horror game. Because of the high health values of the enemy, it is extremely easy to come to rely on the advantage that the handgun gives you, and then you end up using up your ammunition, thus depriving yourself of the advantage completely.

At least there are health items to restore the enormous quantities of health that you are going to be losing over the course of the game - but the health items are as scare as ammo. Health is restored by using first-aid sprays or healing herbs. Of the two, healing herbs are more common and restored a portion of your health, while first-aid sprays are more scarce, but will health completely. There are three types of healing herbs available: green herbs (for restoring health), blue herbs (which cures poisonous bites) and red herbs (which can't be used by itself, but will triple the healing powers of a green herb when mixed with one). You can mix herbs up to five possible combinations.

The game also sorely disappoints in the story department. Most of the 'plot' development comes from the discovery of textual logs. You find papers scattered abundantly throughout the mansion. They pretty much provide a back-story to the game, but the information is not exactly valuable. Some of them can actually be pretty fun to read, but you won't be jumping for joy whenever you find one. Finding cryptic logs does not constitute as storytelling.

Another thing that disappointed me was that, even though you've got all of these different people – Wesker, Barry, Chris, Jill – you actually barely ever interact with anybody in the whole game. I guess that this is to create the feeling of solitude, but, of course, if you're a fan of more traditional games, you'll probably find yourself thinking that it would have been nicer to have more interaction.

The player can only save their progress by going to a typewriter and using ink ribbons to save their game. However, the amount of times that you can save your game is finite; ink ribbons are available in limited quantities, forcing you to think carefully on whether or not you’ve made enough progress to justify saving the game, meaning that you play as long as the game wants you to play, not at your leisure.

The gameplay environment consist of polygonal 3D characters placed over pre-rendered 2D backgrounds. As such, the game relies on pre-determined camera angles for view of the action instead of a real-time camera like most games. As a result, the game uses a "tank-like" control scheme where the character controls in a first person manner. Instead of moving the character in the direction you push the stick, the character moves forward by pressing up and backwards by pressing down, etc. This control scheme is highly unsuitable for a survival horror game, unless Capcom’s aim was to make it difficult to survive by implementing an awful control scheme, and horrifyingly difficult to move around.

You against enemies by arming your character with a weapon. Initially, the only weapons available are an M9 Bayonet and a Beretta M92F, but later in the game, more weapons become accessible, such as a Remington M870 and a Colt Python. The player draws their weapon by holding down the "Weapon Draw" button (usually a shoulder button) and pressing "Fire." In the attack stance, the player character remains static in one place and can turn their character and/or tilt their weapon up or down. This is yet another control scheme that is highly unsuitable for a third-person survival horror game.

The exploration elements could have been implemented into this game in a good way, but, instead, they were slow-paced and meticulous. Unless you’re a big fan of spending hours backtracking through halls, squinting for hard-to-see items, and getting sizzy from awful camera angles and controls, you're better off not even thinking of playing Resident Evil.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

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