Thursday, 1 October 2015

[PS1 Game Review] Resident Evil: Director's Cut

Platform: PlayStation
Released: December 10th 1997
Genre: Action/Adventure / Survival Horror
Developer/Publisher: Capcom

Let's get this straight, I'm not a fan of horror games so I never went into Resident Evil because I wanted a scary experience. And let's face it, while the game does have a creepy atmosphere, to me it's all done in a very cheesy b-movie fashion like a cheap grindhouse horror flick. That was pretty much what drew me to the game. The voice acting is pretty much the definition of "so bad it's good" and the intro live action movie sets the tone perfectly. Even the end credits with its cheesy 90's rock music felt like I was watching the end credits to a cheap horror flick so I enjoyed the game probably for entirely different reasons than people of a certain age did who played it before they had any kind of relationship to b-movies and found it genuinely scary.

The story is pretty simple and taken straight out of a b-movie horror flick. An elite police squad known as S.T.A.R.S. (no idea what it stands for but the acronym looks cool, lol) are sent to investigate a mansion in the outskirts of Raccoon City (a fictional US city). On the way there they are attacked by what seems to be rabid dogs and take shelter in the mansion's main hall. From there they slowly discover they are not alone in the mansion as the place is filled with zombies, more rabid dogs and other mutated creatures due to the spread of a bio-weapon known as the T-virus, developed by the Umbrella Corporation. The game is about their survival, and whether or not they will make it out of there alive to spread the truth.

Resident Evil is probably the first game to outright state itself as "survival horror", which is something I consider more an offshoot of the action/adventure genre since it still relies heavily on inventory management and puzzle solving with some combat thrown in for good measure. The focus is put more on limited resources, forcing you to think tactically about ammo and item usage, and this is pretty much the defining key gameplay mechanic of the game. Though usually it boils down to using specific weapons for specific enemies. The pistol is alright as a starting weapon but the shotgun is probably my favouite weapon. For bigger enemies I'd pick up a Bazooka or even the magnum. Most of the puzzles in the game are environment related, finding the right key for the right door etc. Often they rely on you checking the items in your inventory which often lead to me getting stuck since I wasn't that good at checking items. :P
Even saves are limited, as you are forced to collect "ink ribbons" to use on typewriters in certain rooms throughout the game. To me, this doesn't really add any horror aspect to the game as it feels like a very cheap and manipulative way of adding tension. I mean yes, I understand the intention but I don't think it would matter if the game had unlimited saves personally. Playing the game on the Easy difficulty gave me plenty of ink ribbons though so in my opinion, it removed the main problem I had with the game.

A lot of people have criticized the controls, which are often called "tank controls" due to being a bit stiff. There's no way to strafe so you tend to turn and walk forward or backwards a lot. It feels a bit awkward, sure, but I got used to it very quickly and it soon became second nature to me. There aren't a lot of open spaces anyway and strafing would probably end up feeling weird with the fixed camera angles. Sometimes the fixed camera angles can be a bit disorienting, but again, something I got used to quickly, probably from playing a ton of Grim Fandango which had similar controls and camera angles.

The fixed camera angles are obviously there for a reason though as the game used pre-rendered graphics for the environments, in the sense that everything on the screen that doesn't move is just a static image. For the time this gave the game really realistic graphics and it's one of the aspects of the game that has made it hold up much better over time than some of its contemporary titles. All the characters, enemies and interactable objects are rendered in real time though so they still look pretty chunky, but it's nothing that bothered me too much.

The music is one of the main contributors to the game's atmosphere, and it's often one of the more creepy aspects of the game. For the time the music is exceptionally well done and a lot of times I would feel tense just walking into a room from the music alone. I also loved the cheesy end theme. Felt like a bit of a "reward" after playing the game to the end. The sounds are also pretty well done, and the voice acting is and always will be gloriously cheesy. I loved every second of it as it really felt like I was watching a bad movie.

So all in all, Resident Evil hasn't aged that well in some ways. The controls and camera angles might be a turnoff to some people, and a lot of the puzzles are way too obscure to figure out easily (it seriously took me a WHOLE YEAR to finish the game as I started playing it in 2014...). But the voice acting, prerendered scenery and music is all there and still creepy enough.


STORY: 7/10
It's definitely nothing special and wasn't anything special at the time. However it's presented very well and definitely has a charm to it. The twists aren't that shocking either, but add a nice flair to it.

A lot of the puzzles were pretty obsucre and took a long time to figure out, stalling the game for me. Otherwise an enjoyable experience though only on Easy mode. I might be seen as a pussy for saying it but... the Normal mode is just too difficult for my taste.

The prerendered scenery has held up fine and makes the game seem less dated than some of its counterparts. Granted the models look pretty dated, but that's to be expected.

SOUND: 8/10
The music is pretty good and the voice acting is extremely cheesy to the point where it ruins any attempts at taking the game seriously. It's still so bad it's good though.