Thursday, March 13, 2014

Resident Evil Retrospective

I can finally get my DUAL SHOCK on!
I've wanted to do an article about Resident Evil for a while now, since it's easily one of (if not the most) important franchises in horror gaming history. It has been a perennial favorite of mine, and evolved for better or for worse across pretty much every major platform since its North American debut on the Playstation back in 1996. Holy crap, 1996! Resident Evil is 18 years old. It can finally vote and buy scratch off lottery tickets. So how about you, the master of unlocking, use your skills to click the jump and read on about one of the greatest survival horror series of all time!

 Resident Evil

Just seeing this picture puts me on edge
The one that started it all.

Back in the mid 1990's all the cool kids wanted Playstation. In 1996 things were still fresh and new for the PS1 and most of the titles were the standard racers, platformers, and a few fighting games. Nothing could have prepared me and my neighborhood friends for Resident Evil. I still remember borrowing it from my neighbor and being totally blown away by the FMV cut scene in the beginning. Even better than Night Trap! It took all the things I loved about B-horror movies and put them into a game. Plus terrible tank controls! It's easy to look back now and laugh about the hilariously bad dialogue, the frustrating difficulty, and highly trained soldiers who could only spin in circles, but back in the day RE scared the daylights out of me. It was also the first time I can remember being truly terrified by a video game in the same way as a movie. Nothing will ever eclipse those dogs crashing through the hallway windows of Spencer Mansion. I probably jumped five feet across my living room floor. Resident Evil stands as a historical archetype of how to make a player feel helpless and always low on ammunition, and was groundbreaking at the time for having different narrative events depending on whether you chose to play as Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield.

Resident Evil 2

One of the greatest video game sequels of all time.

Resident Evil 2 upped the ante in so many ways. Better visuals and sound, hugely expanded game areas, and a bold move introducing two completely new protagonists. This was our first outing with Claire and Leon, as they unraveled the horrific mystery befalling the now infamous Raccoon City. From the first moments of Leon fighting his way through burning cars in the streets, I knew this was going to be an intense game. Able to see the story from the perspective of either character, RE2 kept you constantly on edge as you worked your way through the city fighting the abominations unleashed by the Umbrella Corp. Wandering around afraid that something could jump out and kill you at any moment is a formula that modern titles like Dark Souls have made a living off of, but Resident Evil 2 was spinning that jam back in 1998. Oh, and don't forget the lickers. How many video games have ripped off that same scene panning up to find a hideous creature ready to pounce?

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Why so many giant spiders in Raccoon City?!?
The third entry in the "original" trilogy was another groundbreaking work that put us back in the shoes of Jill Valentine. As Jill makes her way through the city, she is mercilessly hunted by Nemesis, a Tyrant created and dispatched to destroy all remaining S.T.A.R.S. agents and cover Umbrella's tracks. From the opening scene where poor Brad gets it in the face, you are hunted. Being chased by a nigh invulnerable enemy has become a mainstay of survival horror. Everything from Dead Space to Lone Survivor has scenes where your weapons are useless and the only self defense is to run like hell, but I don't think anything has eclipsed the extended terrifying pursuit from Nemesis. This installment paired down the playable areas, and added a few new mechanics (like dodging and crafting ammo) to mix things up a bit. From a narrative standpoint, Resident Evil 3 was unique since the beginning of the game takes place before the events of RE2, and the latter half takes place after. Its clever use of flashback added an extra twist to the story, and also has one of the most memorable endings of any game in the franchise.  KA-BOOM!

Resident Evil: Code Veronica


This brings us to our first major "spin off" title after the original trilogy ends. Resident Evil:Code Veronica (and later Code Veronica X). Veronica is kind of a sticking point for me. I never owned a Dreamcast and didn't get a chance to play it until it was digitally re-released. I had only watched friends play through large portions of the game up to that point. RE:CV was a turning point and seemed to set the blueprint for all the upcoming numbered entries in the series. Bringing together a massive number of events and story threads across multiple areas, this also took us on vacation to fight monsters in exotic locales that would become a hallmark in what I like to think of as the "post-Raccoon City" years.

Resident Evil (Gamecube remake)

Resident Gamecube

 I'ma let you finish, but Gamecube Resident Evil is the greatest remake of all time!

In 2002 someone at Capcom got the bright idea to re-create the original RE with a magnificent graphical upgrade containing gorgeous pre-rendered backgrounds, and a variety of new gameplay and subplots. This game was a huge achievement for the series and the console. It also introduced Lisa Trevor who was one of the most sympathetic villains in Resident Evil history. I honestly would love to see Capcom do another reboot of this for the 20th anniversary coming up in a few years.

Resident Evil Zero

Nice tats.
A prequel and the first entry to feature "partner zapping", Resident Evil Zero allowed you to control both Rebecca and Billy at the same time. This set the mold for most of the numbered follow ups. REZ is often maligned because of the thin plot, but I personally think it got a raw deal because it was exclusive to a smaller audience on the Gamecube who were still reeling from the amazing remake they'd just received only a few months prior. 

Resident Evil 4

Leon's hip haircut gave him away as an outsider

Resident Evil 4? YES PLEASE!

Easily one of the best entries by a long shot. RE4 breathed new life back into the series after anyone who didn't own a Gamecube felt left out in the cold. I remember being overjoyed to hear it was being released for PS2 when they announced it. No more waiting for my neighbors to get home from work to order pizza and shoot Los Ganados! There are SO many reasons this game was great. It not only innovated the franchise, but 3rd person action titles in general. It pioneered proper use of the "zoom over the shoulder" mechanic, set a new standard in console action games for inventory management with items taking up various slots in a pack, and shifted RE towards much smoother action mechanics. All that and a giant salamander! I'll also argue it has one of THE greatest opening sequences in a video game, ever. Having to hold out against a bunch of Spaniards going totally bonkers was absolutely terrifying. If I have a complaint about Resident Evil 4 it's that Capcom did too many things right in one game, essentially setting the bar too high for future installments.

Resident Evil 5

Don't axe...
 OK, here's the thing about Resident Evil 5. It's like when a band you really love releases their greatest album, and then no matter WHAT they follow it up with, it will never meet the impossibly high standards their fans internally set for it. RE5 is not a bad game. It's flawed for sure, and the AI between Chris and Sheva was total garbage in single player. However, if you can find a friend to play through the entire game with, it's actually quite fun. I do remember quite a controversy as info about the game leaked, calling it "racist" based on the African backdrop for the story. That ended up being much ado about nothing however. So how about we file Resident Evil 5 in the history books as "serviceable"? Protip: If you're looking to play it, the PC version has the tightest visuals by far. 

Resident Evil: Revelations

We're gonna need a bigger boat
Resident Evil: Revelations was pretty rad. It really blew my mind, especially for being on a portable system. It made a solid attempt to turn back the clock to some of the more classic horror elements which I appreciated. The story fills in a lot of plot elements as well, since at this point Capcom has pretty much gone off the rails with world lore between all the games, books, and CGI movies. If you have a 3DS you're doing yourself a disservice by not owning this game. If you're a fan sans handheld, there are some good HD ports on the PS3 and Xbox 360 you can grab on the cheap.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

Yes, please put this game out of its misery
Ugh. Can we not talk about this? Let's not talk about it. This is all you need to know about Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.

Resident Evil 6

When does "cover" become "too much cover"?
Not a huge fan.

We've arrived at the present, and the future isn't looking too bright. Resident Evil 6 is polarizing. On one hand, it's an absolutely massive action game that gives you diverging story arcs featuring multiple characters as the franchise tries to once again re-invent itself. On the other hand, its got clunky controls, varying graphic quality, and they committed one of Terrorphoria's cardinal sins. Zombies that use guns. Guys, I don't care how much you love Day of The Dead, zombies do NOT USE GUNS! RE6 was just a big pile of "meh" for me. Capcom could easily be accused of selling out (I hate using that term, but it's apt) and trying to make Gears of Evil while not having the skill to translate one of their flagships into anything resembling Epic's cover-based juggernaut. I am hoping that the less-than-positive reception and sales will help them right the ship and for the next major installment put out something more like Revelations. If you can get this either for free or damn cheap, give it a shot. There's at least a lot of game for your money on the disc.


That was quite a list. I know you hardcore folks out there are gonna say "Dude, what about Resident Evil:Dead Aim, Resident Evil GAIDEN, and all those totally sweet on-rails shooters like Resident Evil:The Umbrella Chronicles???" To you I say "I've only got two hands!"

But seriously folks, Resident Evil kicks ass. It's the biggest and arguably best survival horror franchise in the world, beloved by tons of horror fans, and it keeps Mila Jovovich from going past third notice on her electric bill each month. If you're just crawling out from the cave you found in 1995, I suggest you make every effort to start catching up now and playing some of these great titles.

Now it's your turn. Which Resident Evil is your favorite? What are some of your favorite moments from the games? Let me know down below in the comments because I'd love to hear what you think about this classic series!





  1. YES! RE4 is on my favorite video game list for so many reasons. I do remember the first time around I got stuck because I didn't have enough bullets for the infrared riffle and I was unable to shoot all the parasites within a zombie and literally threw my gamecube controller, haha. But, man, what a rush that game was!

  2. Great write-up!

    As an avid Sony hater during the PS1/PS2 days, my experience with Resident Evil started on the Gamecube. REmake was amazing and those dogs still scared the crap out of me. Didn't finish 0. RE4 is one of my all-time favourite games.

    Then I stopped for a really long time. However, I do have Revelations on Wii U and I got Resident Evil 6: Archives, which includes digital downloads for RE4 HD, RE5 and Code Veronica.

  3. I should probably pick up Archives. I missed my chance to snag 6:Anthology for the PS3, and now the price has skyrocketed to almost $135 everywhere I look.

  4. Totally! I have yet to play one of the RE4 remakes in HD. I need to get on that sometime soon.