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by Capcom

sshot10-01.jpg (6288 bytes)You can actually feel your heart thumping in your chest. Your hands are sweaty, and they glide nervously back and forth across the controller. You can see the map, the path, in your head--forward thirty steps, through the door, turn left, sprint twenty steps, in the door: safety. There are five zombies between you and the safe room. You have three shells in the shotgun. You haven’t saved in twenty minutes. The lightning flashes and the momentary flash of light silhouettes a zombie staring mindlessly at the wall, not too far in front of you. You hadn’t seen him standing in the shadows--make that six zombies. What do you do? You wipe off your hands, you kiss your Buddha, and you run like hell.

sshot7-01.jpg (6329 bytes)This is the scariest Resident Evil, hands down. The zombies look impressive. As good as the rotting flesh of brain eating monsters can look. Bloody, dripping mouths, tattered clothes and that familiar zombie shamble are all convincing. It’s the presentation that really sells the zombies though. The ambience of the horror filled mansion is brilliant. The lightning flashes, followed soon by a clap of thunder, the distant mindless moans are brilliant. Everything looks good. The candles flicker and the shadows dance, divine.

sshot4-01.jpg (6347 bytes)Resident Evil veterans will soon discover that the zombies are a lot tougher than the last trek through the mansion. They go down hard this time around, and they don’t like to stay down. If you kill a zombie, it’ll be back soon enough--and stronger. The only way to put the walking dead down for good is decapitation or consumption by fire, so you’ll get used to carrying around fuel and a lighter when you’re zombie hunting or, more likely, running from them. The ever beautiful shotgun is a joy—a well placed shot will pop a zombie cranium and leave a rewarding fountain of blood where the neck was. Enjoy it while you can-- you’ll be wishing for more shotgun ammo soon enough

sshot1-01.jpg (6388 bytes)Of course, it gets scarier than zombies. Rabid zombie dogs, which still like to crash through windows, sharks, huge spiders that drop from ceilings and spit acid, god how I hate spiders, mutant monsters-- an enormous snake that rocks, the list is long and cool.

sshot9-01.jpg (6773 bytes)Veterans will find ample variety here; there is no need to fear boredom because you played the original title. Puzzles have been changed, new areas added, new items, new weapons, and so on. This is a really good game, primarily because it is a scary game that is successful in creating the aesthetic it sets out to create. This is the best title on the Gamecube, without question.

sshot3-01.jpg (6927 bytes)It’s not a perfect game though. The storytelling is pretty contrived. It always has been, but come on. At some point, somewhere along the way, game makers got the idea that more is better. This not entirely recent phenomenon demonstrates that developers would have us believe, perhaps they are convinced themselves, that convoluted storylines are synonymous with complex, sophisticated ones. Let me clarify to anyone currently writing a videogame story: Do not presume that if you throw every piece of thread you find into a blender, a beautiful quilt will emerge after a thorough jumbling. Beyond the failure on a story level, some of the dialogue is abysmal: "Find a mask that can see no evil, one that can hear no evil, one that can smell no evil, and one that can neither hear, see, nor smell evil". Ok there’s good dialogue, then there’s bad dialogue, then there’s dialogue that’s so bad it’s good("You, Jill, the master of unlocking things . . ."), then there’s dialogue that’s so god awful crap bad that laughing is not only impossible but morally reprehensible.

sshot6-01.jpg (7186 bytes)My biggest problem is on a conceptual level, however. While the graphical update is quite an accomplishment, this classic title has aged in more ways than just graphics; the years since this title defined a generation on the PlayStation have seen games evolve in other areas. There are two basic paths that games can take. One way seeks to create gamer immersion by blurring the boundaries of the game. Sure there’s a controller in your hand, but the experience itself tries to camouflage the game as much as possible. Halo does this well; Grand Theft Auto 3 does it even better; Black and White, Deus Ex, most flight simulators, and Shenmue go for a similar effect through different means, to name only a few highlight titles. The game itself wants to be subtle in its direction and the illusion of freedom is paramount. The art here is the mask itself. Another path games can choose to take is one in which the game constructs strict and obvious parameters. The fun in these games is in the manipulation of the system—beating the system, so to speak. Tekken, virtually any 2D side-scroller, Tetris, and most RPG’s fall into this category, for example (and certainly most games use a combination of these)

sshot5-01.jpg (7440 bytes)Action games have tried both approaches. The Resident Evil franchise epitomizes the second approach. Virtually everything about the game is intrusive. Resident Evil does not want to create a mask nor hide the game. The entire conception relies on the fact that you remember it, in fact. This is how the game is constructed. The fixed camera angles, for example, are successful because they heighten the fear by concealing enemies, sometimes ones that are right in front of your character but are concealed from you, and this is how it amplifies tension. Ammo is finite—there is not enough to kill all enemies on any but the easiest setting, thus forcing you to run from enemies, clearly a design goal. Complexity in RE is generated in large part by the management of inventory slots. Want to pick up that grenade launcher? Better take some of those keys out of your pocket first cause you only have enough room to carry eight things . . . The parameters of the game must be successfully negotiated; subtly is not an advantage here—it’s not even possible.

sshot8-01.jpg (7608 bytes)I don’t want to come down too hard on intrusive game design. It’s a stylistic device that continues to generate outstanding games, but we have begun to enter a time when we are seeing genre evolutions where the masking approach is showing itself to be deeper and more sophisticated; there’s just a lot more room to grow. This is the primary reason I believe GTA 3 represents a paradigm shift in videogame conception—for action adventure games in particular. RE, as I said, epitomizes intrusive game design and it is so successful because it is virtually the pinnacle of the concept. Nevertheless, it seems clear that we, the gaming public, have chosen to pursue another direction that has significantly more room to grow. Thus RE feels increasingly dated and confining.

That said, Resident Evil is far and away the best title the GameCube has to offer. It’s a joy to play; it creates legitimate fear, surprise, and shock. It’s a pleasure to look at and I recommend the experience. The GameCube, having endured an absolutely disgraceful launch, really needed a game like this. Actually, it needs several more, but this is a good start. There’s a decent amount of replay value here as well. Several different difficulty levels demand different strategies. There are a lot of secrets to unlock, new costumes and such. And let us not forget the game involves two different characters to play with, and each one is independently satisfying. This two-disc set is a great game. Go play it. Be scared. Get a shotgun. Smile.

Jeff Luther   (05/13/2002)


Ups: Beautiful graphics; excellent revamp provides new experience for RE fans; really scary; lots of zombies (and they're tougher this time).

Downs: Find-a-key, use-a-key style of gameplay feels dated.

Platform: Gamecube