Resident Evil

Overlook the dreadful acting and there’s hope for this PlayStation port.

Long-running RE character Jill Valentine.

Long-running RE character Jill Valentine.

It’s surprising Resident Evil even exists, as Capcom’s now legendary ultra-gory survival horror felt strangely out of place on a system then primarily marketed towards kids. But then again that’s probably what helped make it such a stand-out product in a sea of politically-correct gaming blandness. This was something new, gory and adult themed, so much so that the initial console version had the violence toned down considerably. Not so for the PC release, which is  full-blown and uncut.

Needs More Brains

But while the game was unanimously hailed on the PlayStation, seasoned PC gamers have seen this sort of product before. Several times, in fact, in the shape of French classic Alone in the Dark and its two sequels. You can spot the similarities a mile away – in both games you’re investigating a spooky mansion filled with monsters, collecting weapons and clues. Alone in the Dark’s groundbreaking graphic approach has been lifted perfectly – Resident Evil’s 3D scenes are viewed from a variety of cinematic camera angles that switch as you move from room to room.

What little story there is in RE is set out in a cheesy and gory FMV intro, which sees a military combat team attacked by werewolves, and the surviving members holing up in a haunted mansion which, you’ll discover, was the site of some ungodly scientific experiments and is now home to hordes of zombies and other flesh-nibbling nasties. Depending on whether you choose to play as Chris Redfield or his female counterpart Jill Valentine, there are some minor gameplay differences (Jill starts out with a 9mm pistol, Chris with a knife, for example) but the overall action/adventure formula is fundamentally the same.


The standard retro RE inventory screen.

The Resident Evil mansion is huge and will take a lot of exploring if you’re to find the clues and objects you’ll need to get out alive. Managing weapons and health is key – medical aid and extra ammo can be found, but they’re rare, so you have to make every shot and  ounce of energy count. That’s not easy when you’re being set upon by zombies, giant spiders, hell-hounds and the like. But don’t think this is a shoot ‘em-up; the action is carefully rationed, providing long stretches of nothing with the occasional ‘monster crashing through the window’ jump scare.

The puzzle element is fairly simplistic, for the most part involving pushing objects around, Tomb Raider-style, or grabbing things from somewhere and depositing them somewhere else. The puzzles are easy, but they are at least fairly logical and the clues are just right, neither too cryptic nor too obvious. Remember this was originally a console game, so those looking for a cerebral workout won’t find one here.

Whether you enjoy the story or no depends on how much of a kick you get out of B-movie horror. The acting is abysmal, but this actually might be a plus if you have a sense of humor. All the text has been translated from Japanese so it has that quirky quasi-English quality to it, while the voice-overs are so unbelievably corny and badly delivered that it’s either intolerable or hilarious, depending on your taste. Other notable issues includes the sloppy porting, which is almost standard for Capcom, and the limited saving capabilities. It’s not quite as scary or clever as Alone in the Dark either, but survival horror enthusiasts or people merely looking into series’ roots should find some enjoyment in the original.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, 4 MB Video, 105 MB HDD, Win95

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