Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Resident Evil - Director's Cut (PSX)

I was actually thinking about trying out Silent Hill today, but then it occurred to me it would probably be better if I had some perspective first, something to compare it to. So instead I decided to go back a few years further and play the true progenitor of the 3D survival horror genre. The game that started it all.

Alone in the Dark attic Edward Carnby
Alone in the Dark (DOS)
But then I got sick of Alone in the Dark and decided to play Resident Evil 1 instead. Resident Evil - Director's Cut to be precise, because my original Resident Evil disc seems to have gotten scratched to death somehow. Not a good omen.

Man, who would have thought back in 1992 that this dapper gentleman would eventually be played in a movie by Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves star Christian Slater? A really really shitty movie.

Okay first thing I need to do is choose my character. Do I want to play as Jill Valentine - master of unlocking, or a man who will one day jump into a volcano because he felt like punching boulders? It's a tough choice, but I'm going with Chris this time.

The game begins with an endearingly awful live action FMV intro showing the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha team taking a chopper up to a forest near Raccoon City to find out what the hell happened to the S.T.A.R.S Beta team.

S.T.A.R.S. apparently stands for 'Special Tactics and Rescue Service', so I guess they're like a budget S.W.A.T. team, except with more colourful outfits. Not that you can tell as they've turned the footage black and white to obscure the horrific gore as the group discovers Beta team's gruesome fate.

(This is panning shot in the game by the way, I photoshopped them all together to save me from showing five screenshots.)

Biohazard (PSX)
Yes, Beta team have been eaten by zombie dogs! Or something like that, it's really hard to tell with the jerky camera work and quick cuts. It's like all they had was a hand puppet and had to wave it around so people couldn't get a good look at it. This is actually taken from the uncut Japanese version of the intro, as I couldn't even get a shot this clear from the western release.

Interestingly, the entire intro has English voices in the original Japanese version. Which possibly explains why the acting and dialogue is a little... off.

"No, don't go!" yells Chris, as the chopper pilot takes off and abandons the team.

The worst thing about ropey dialogue for me, is when I find that I can't actually think of a better line myself. I mean what do you yell at your cowardly pilot when you're stuck in misty forest in the middle of the night, surrounded by hell hounds and dead teammates?

"Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!" is the best I can come up with.

Fortunately the surviving members of Alpha team spot a pretty miserable looking mansion nearby to hide out in.

And so the intense survival horror experience begins...

... after some flashy character videos to show off the S.T.A.R.S. team members, who are so hardcore that their names are lit up in FIRE. Fuck yeah!

Like fan favourite Barry Burton for instance, who should have totally been the star of the movie series. They could have put a ginger beard on Milla Jovovich or something, she's a good actress, she could've made it work.

And 18 year old Rebecca Chambers, who may look like a skinny young model with a... dog collar on, but is actually a hard as nails tough special forces type. Well she must be, she's in a special forces team.

And of course there's our star Chris Redfield, whose video is immediately obscured by clips of him from the intro (in colour!). What, did the actor forget his pose or something and they could only afford the one take?

Biohazard (PSX)
A look at the uncensored Japanese intro reveals the shocking truth: Chris was lighting up a cigarette, which is apparently one step too far for a violent zombie horror game in the west. Though Metal Gear Solid got away with it somehow.

Alright, so just three of us have made it into the mansion: Jill, Chris, and some other bloke called Albert Wesker. I presume Barry and Rebecca are still alive somewhere though.

Before we can even think about putting our coats up and making a cup of tea there's a gunshot from another room and Chris volunteers to check it out. Alone. Wesker seems to think this is a great idea and says that he and Jill will wait here in the hall "in case of an emergency." And he's not even joking.

I think I like this guy already.

Resident Evil (Game Cube)
Here's a shot of the same scene from the Game Cube remake, just because I was curious to see how it compared. Well it looks a little better I suppose. It still has 3D models walking around over fixed pre-rendered backgrounds, but there's a fair bit of a quality jump in both. Plus reflections!

This time around Wesker says he and Jill will "stay and secure this area" instead, but it's still a shitty excuse to force poor Chris to go off alone.

Well this is annoying: an unskippable 3D animation of the door opening when I go between rooms. I don't know whether it's here for atmosphere, or to distract me while it's loading, but either way I'd be happier without it.

Oh damn, these controls... I thought I was ready for them, but I'm really struggling here. The game predates the DualShock controller, so I'm moving Chris around with the d-pad. But he steers like a tank from an old arcade game: I have left and right rotation controls, up and reverse, and it's hard to judge which way he's facing. I'm trying to fine tune my direction as I walk to get him heading the right way, but it's sending him bouncing across the room like he's drunk instead.

Alright, no sign of any guns, blood or victims in the dining room, so I suppose I should continue my search in the next room. Just as soon as I can get Chris lined up with the door.

Wow, this is the cheapest bloody trick. Who knows what awaits Chris in the next room? Woo, it's scary!!

You know who could tell me what's around that corner? Chris, who's standing there right now looking that way! In fact he's halfway off the bloody screen already.

Oh shit, it turned out the gun was fired by a papier mache zombie! Or more likely, the guy on the floor he's munching on. Annoyingly he's a very greedy and easily distracted zombie, and decides he'd rather chase me than continue his meal.

But the joke's on him, I ran out of there as quick as the sprint button would allow. And after a bit of struggling, I managed to get Chris to back through the door into the dining room. Wow, it's just like those scenes in a horror movie where the victim candidate struggles to get their key into their car door as the monster's approaching!

By the way, if you scroll up you'll notice that Chris was actually standing on that rug earlier. I had to practically walk him onto the corpse before the camera would shift to show me this view.

Alright, where's everyone else gone? I guess there must have been an emergency.

Unfortunately there's no way to check in with them and find out what they're up to, as we don't carry radios... or phones. (Yes there were mobile phones back in 1996, I saw them on the X-Files).

Resident Evil Director's Cut PlayStation inventory screen Chris Beretta
Damn, Jill's dropped her gun! Funny how Chris knew it was hers with just a glance. I guess Wesker must carry a silver Desert Eagle with 'badass motherfucker' etched into the side.

I think I will take the BERETTA as it seems that I have misplaced my own. Though I do have a knife, a F-AID spray, and a wooden emblem I stole from the dining room. You know, just in case it came in handy.

Resident Evil Remake Game Cube inventory screen Chris
Resident Evil (Game Cube)
Here's a shot of the Game Cube version's inventory screen as a comparison. Just because it looks awesome. All this is going on inside Chris's head whenever he thinks about what he has in his pockets.

Annoyingly he can only carry six things at once, so after picking up the gun, PlayStation Chris only has two slots left.

I went into the only other door I could get into on this floor, and found a pile of ink ribbons for a typewriter in the next room along. One slot left now.

Man, I keep thinking that corpse is going to get up and bite my ankle as I walk past. Something needs to be done about this.

There we go. I used the old Alone in the Dark trick of blocking the door with a box. No zombie will ever get that out of the way. Well, not unless they have the strength of a human being anyway!

Hey, there's something up in that green statue. Time to use my pushing skills again to get the step ladder over and investigate. Actually it's my 'lining myself up with an object' skills that are really going to be tested here. Did I mention these controls are really bad?

Right, the object in the statue turned out to be a map of this floor. I'm currently in the statue room marked in red, the dining room is adjacent to the hall on the left, and the papier mache zombie room is north of that.

But everything's locked up, so I guess I'm going upstairs...

... right after I use this handy typewriter to write myself a note. This will of course provide an anchor in space/time, allowing me to rewind reality to this point if I ever get Chris killed. (It's a save point is what I'm saying). Unfortunately each line of text uses up an entire ink ribbon, so I've only got limited saves.

I'm kind of wondering if it was a good idea to use one up so early now, as I wouldn't want to run out when things start getting serious.


BUT THEN, ON THE NEXT FLOOR UP ABOVE THE DINING ROOM.


Uh, why is this zombie dodging my knife? I can't get a hit on him at all. And I can't dodge past him, as it's a narrow walkway and he's got a friend blocking the one on the other side too.

I mean I get that I'm supposed to be crap in a fight, as it wouldn't be scary if I was able to just punch his head off (or so they claim...). But you know, this isn't exactly scary either. It's mostly just frustrating for me as I don't know what I've done wrong.

Whoa, it's like I'm back playing Dark Souls. It's a good thing I saved really.

And then it puts me back to the CAPCOM logo video at the very start of the game, because nothing creates a feeling of claustrophobia and tension like being kicked out of the entire game when you're killed. So now I have to skip the videos, get back to the title screen, and load my game.

Man, now I realise how good I had it in Dark Souls.

Okay, I'm going to leave those zombies for now, and see if there's any doors I missed on the ground floor. Some of them are locked from the other side, but others have been locked with certain keys. Some need a sword key, some need an armor key.

Right, I've found out what I'll need in this hallway, nothing else for me to do here.

Oh come on! I should have totally managed to dodge past this guy. He was shuffling around the left side, so I went through the gap on the right. Damn, this asshole really doesn't want to let go. Am I supposed to be hammering a button to escape now or something?

Well I learned all I wanted to know about this corridor anyway so I'll just reset and load my save. No sense at all continuing on wounded if I don't have to; my healing supplies are too limited.


LATER.


This time I went upstairs again, and managed to dart through the zombies to a safe room where I met up with the very much alive Rebecca Chambers! She sprayed Mace in Chris' face as he came in, thinking he was a zombie, but fortunately he's entirely immune and just laughs it off.

In this room I found a box to dump some of my junk in, a few magazines of Beretta ammo, and a key with a sword on it. Just what I was looking for! I can't carry all this stuff around though, because I'll need some slots free for anything new I find, so I'll put some of the ammo back in the box.

Rebecca offered to come with me, but somehow I don't trust the AI in this to be very competent, so I told her to wait here where it's safe. She seemed happy with that, as she cheerfully explains that the room is full of chemicals. Rebecca likes chemicals.

But then as I opened up a room down the hallway with the sword key, Rebecca turned up anyway and offered to have a go at the piano. Thinking that her awful playing might drive away the zombies, I let her go right ahead.

She's trying to play Moonlight Sonata but she could definitely use some practice, so I left her to carry on with that as I go back to solving the mystery of the missing Jill and Wesker. Annoyingly the map doesn't seem to have the locked doors marked on it, so I can't remember exactly what sword doors I've passed.

Alright, I've had to scribble up my own map, as my memory is terrible. See, I'm honestly trying to make progress here! Okay, I'm at the piano room now on the left and I'm pretty sure there was a sword door leading off the map statue room on the right, so I'm heading there now.

Oh come on! Again?

Man I really wish I could just kill these things, but even when I manage to get my knife to connect enough times to knock them down, they just get back up again! I mean I'm absolutely certain that if I knock them down enough times I will kill them, but I'm just as certain they'll manage to bite me if I try it and Chris can only survive like three hits.


LATER.


Okay I managed to get through the sword door, outran some zombie dogs, slipped through some zombie dudes, found another typewriter room to save in, and now I'm trying to solve a puzzle while these raven art critics glare at me from the sidelines. I mean I call it a puzzle, it's really a test to see if I know what order people age in. Hmm, does 'boy' come before 'man' I wonder?

Choosing the paintings in the right order opened up a safe, with a STAR CREST inside. I was kind of hoping for bullets, a couple of F-AID sprays and maybe a rocket launcher, but I'll take what I can get.

But then as Chris left the gallery, he got attacked by a zombie from around the corner and killed it a single bite! So running around flicking those painting switches was a total waste of my time.

The typewriter room is actually pretty close by, but I really can't be bothered doing all that again. Also taking the ink ribbons out of my inventory and putting them back in the box every single time I reload is kind of getting old now.


FIVE RELOADS LATER.


Yes, I did it, I finally made it into the next room! I'm actually in an intense battle against a zombie dog right now. I fire a bullet, listen for any dog sounds coming from off screen, then if I hear something I fire another bullet. I'm optimistic I can win this though, because I finally gave in and looked up the controls and it turns out I can tap L1 to auto-aim! Which really is the only way I'll be able to kill anything in this.

The funny thing is that I've heard the auto-aim was removed for the original western release of the game because they didn't want players to complete the game in one rental. Which I would have thought would make it basically unwinnable because you can't hit things hiding off-screen or behind blind corners without it, but apparently a lot of gamers are actually awesome at games and managed to finish it just fine anyway.

Anyway it turns out I can't go any further this way just yet so I'll have to backtrack to... I dunno, the stairs I guess? Maybe there's a sword door on the top floor.

Oh for fuck's sake. The zombie suddenly appeared the screen from BEHIND THE CAMERA to attack me with no warning at all. And because of my limited resources (ie. I ran out of ammo and health items ages ago) I'm totally screwed.

Back to the typewriter for you good sir, and don't forget to pack your ink ribbon away before leaving the room to get instantly killed by that asshole shuffling around outside for the sixth time. Actually you know what, I think I'll just quit now.


Alright that was Resident Evil then. I tried it, didn't like it. I understand it's supposed to be about resource conservation and dodging enemies, but for me it mostly turned out to be suicide runs to find out what to expect in the next area and what items I needed to bring out with me on my next trip out. If there's a way to take an enemy down without getting bitten or wasting half my ammo (literally) then I haven't found it yet, and it's bloody demotivating. There's no fear of failure when there was barely any hope of success. I suppose you could say 'don't play it on normal difficulty then, idiot', but that still wouldn't solve the tiny inventory, limited saves, blind corners and terrible controls. Because they're not mistakes, they're deliberate design choices and I guess the fans love the game because of them.

Personally I don't think awkward controls or a limited view are necessary to add some vulnerability and terror to a game at all. Games like Left 4 Dead, Undying and Condemned gave me slick first person aiming and plenty of toys to aim at bad people, and still scared the shit out of me with good sound design and, uh, stuff (sorry, it's been a while since I played them). Not that I'm saying first person is superior to third, I'm just pointing out that you can have fear without frustration.


If you have any thoughts about Resident Evil, the Resident Evil franchise, the survival horror genre, or basically anything relevant then please feel free to leave a comment! Or you can sit in silence if that works better for you, I don't mind.

8 comments:

  1. I played this one on the PC. It was terrible. I don't know how you managed to last so long, at the time I quit in frustration pretty quickly.
    It wasn't fun (or scary) at all.

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    Replies
    1. I use my site as a synthetic substitute for patience. If I don't give a game a fair shot, people will shout at me in the comments!

      It can't be THAT bad of a game though, as I knew a lot of people who were totally addicted to it back in the day. They loved the game, loved the whole franchise in fact. I doubt any of them would touch it these days though to be fair.

      Delete
  2. It was my first game for PSX, and at first time I hated it so much...
    After taking a little confidence with the gameplay and controls, it's possible to fully appreciate the gaming experience and also loving it's story.
    It's a game that can be appreciated only after a good and long play, you have to finish it first for appreciate it in the right way.

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  3. Lmao my favorite quote "but fortunately he's entirely immune and just laughs it off." xD
    This is the third game I've read so far and I like it (Not the game, the site, that looked really annoying and frustrating, having to move drunk Chris around the room.)

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  4. Love when people talk about a game in 2013 and act like it was bad when in fact it was one of the most successful games of its time. A game that only true gamers of that generation could appreciate. Tools. But this article gave me a laugh and brought back some nostalgia. I guess if you were someone nowadays trying to play this game it would seem kind of difficult and the controls are not easy. It takes skill. Something gamers like yourselves have none of.

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    1. Hey, as long as I've given you a laugh and brought back some nostalgia, then I'm calling that a win. Even if you are kinda being an asshole about it.

      It seems to me that if a game can only be appreciated by true gamers of 1996, then it's probably suffering from a few design flaws. The game is a genre pioneer that came out at the dawn of the 3D gaming era, it's okay to admit that they didn't have it all figured out just yet, in the same way that it's okay to argue that the series lost its original appeal when it put more of a focus on action. I'm not trying to retroactively invalidate your enjoyment of the game, I'm not even saying that a fan couldn't go put it on today and enjoy it just as much as they ever did, I'm just showing my experience of playing it fresh in 2013.

      The game takes more than skill, it needs a player to get invested into it to the point where they're driven to struggle through the frustrations until they've burned those corridors and puzzles into their brain. It's an awkward game that requires a level of patience and tolerance that came a lot easier back in the days when the game was novel and cutting edge. The game hasn't aged well man.

      Delete
    2. "[...]a level of patience and tolerance that came a lot easier back in the days when the game was novel and cutting edge."
      I think this is more due to the fact that most of us were kids at that time, so had a lot of free time on our hands. If a game took hours upon hours to simply master the controls, you accepted that because you basically had nothing to do.
      Nowadays, with a job and whatnot, you (I) don't have time for this.

      Besides that, a game's release date doesn't matter. If it's good, it'll remain good, even years from then. Super Mario Bros. is still good, even though it's older than Resident Evil, and you don't hear people commenting on how chess plays horribly now.

      Delete
  5. "Though Metal Gear Solid got away with it somehow."
    Because, cigarettes drain your health in that game, which is a compromise Konami had to make with SCEA, which had a strong anti-smoking policy.

    ReplyDelete

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