Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Resident Evil: REvisited

The story of my relationship with the Resident Evil series is a long and complicated one that goes back two years. Back when I got my PlayStation, I bought four games for it. Vigilante 8, Chrono Cross, Metal Gear Solid, and Resident Evil. Back then, I had the original PlayStation model and a pair of digital controllers for it, and as such I didn't find gaming on it very fun. Chrono Cross was the only game I stuck with for very long, since the others all read funny on the dying PSX laser, and controlled like crap with the PlayStation D-pad.
I died pretty quickly in Metal Gear Solid since I wasn't used to the controls, or stealth gameplay. Vigilante 8 was fun, but mediocre since despite the decent selection of cars, they're all pretty much the same, as are all the levels and combat. As I didn't have any friends on the same continent or in the same state as me at the time, and my parents weren't very enthusiastic about playing videogames with me, because they've both got their own things they like to to, and my dad stopped playing games years ago.
I remember reacting HORRIBLY to Resident Evil. I had no idea how the controls for it were supposed to work. It used a frankly bizarre tank control-scheme that went against what my entire lifetime of gaming had instilled into me.
So I dismissed it as an overrated piece of crap that had gotten popular for absolutely no reason.
Later on, I got a PlayStation 2 and a psOne from Craigslist, with a Dualshock and a DS2. The psOne had a much better laser in it, so I was able to play Metal Gear Solid without the audio messing up, and Vigilante 8 without my thumbs cramping up.
Needless to say considering how much time I poured into Metal Gear Solid and its first two sequels, I had a blast. Honestly, the only reason I stayed with it was because I'd beaten all of my other games and had reached an impasse in Chrono Cross.
Later on, I got Devil May Cry 2 for PlayStation 2. While it's not the game I bought a PS2 for, it certainly played a major part in my library expansion for the system. Then, later on I bought Resident Evil: Outbreak File #1 for whatever reason.
I didn't particularly like it, but that's a review for another time.
I looked up some footage of Resident Evil 2, and saw that it used the same gameplay style as Resident Evil, so I dismissed it. When I found out that the first game had been remade, I decided to look up an LP of it, but since it used the same tank control style as the first game, I dismissed it as well.
At Christmas, I got a 3DS and Sonic Generations. Right after I got the 3DS I connected it to the internet and downloaded a bunch of demos. Just for the hell of it, I decided to download the Resident Evil: Revelations demo.
I was extremely impressed. So later on, I decided I might as well pick up Resident Evil 4.
Twenty-one hours and ninety-some parts later, it was pretty obvious that I liked the series a lot more than I had. For one thing, I had a ton of fun playing Resident Evil 4.
So last year I figured I might as well fire up Resident Evil on my PlayStation again.
I wasn't planning on finishing it. I was just going to play a couple of hours, but as my YouTube channel will attest, I wound up playing the whole thing. All. Twelve. Hours.
I poured my time into this game. A game that not a whole year prior I was hating on like it was one of the worst games ever made.
I even posted a whole review talking about how much I disliked it.
Then again, DooM used to be one of my least favorite games until I stumbled upon a port that didn't suck. The Xbox version or one of the other official id Software releases are what everyone should stick to if you want a version of DooM that's got the levels arranged properly and actually plays the way it's supposed to.
Anyways, having completely retracted my statements about DooM, let's get around to tearing apart my opinions on Resident Evil.
Personally, I like the DualShock version because it gives you the ability to switch between the analog-joystick and the directional pad. That was invaluable to me, since I tried playing it with one exclusively, and then the other and....
Well let's just say it got weird. I'm not sure what was going on, but I liked being able to switch from one to the other at will for some reason. It's not like one is more precise or easier than the other, or even different from the other. The strange thing about it is that the ability to swap between the joystick and the D-pad probably kept me playing it a lot longer than I would have otherwise.
As the control-scheme is fairly impenetrable for someone who's never had any experience with it, options are a must. I don't think that there has been a single game in the series that lets you customize the controls to exactly your liking outside of Devil May Cry 3, and I'm not even sure that counts since it's a spin-off.
Despite the fact that I warmed up to the series as a whole while playing this game, I recognize that the controls will probably still turn off newcomers to the series given how different they are from almost every other game ever made. For that matter, the community surrounding the series (Especially the members of it that I personally ran into) can be a little bit unwelcoming.
At one point in time, I came across a group of people saying that you had to have grown up playing the series to get the controls.
Considering my well expressed dislike for the ESRB, growing up playing a game about New York City SWAT running around in a mansion filled with zombies and Lovecraftian horrors is something I can totally support.
Unfortunately, as I was born a year after this game came out I didn't grow up with it. I grew up with Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo. Considering that I never reached outside of the Nintendo line of consoles until a couple of years ago, my dislike for Sony was probably part of what tainted my opinion of Resident Evil. That and the fact that the laser on my PlayStation was in the middle of dying, despite not ever having been used certainly didn't help. Maybe the laser was just dirty, that's entirely likely.
Anyways, from what I can tell the DualShock version didn't add a whole lot compared to the original release. For instance, the right joystick doesn't do jack. Not that that's an issue, since it's not like there's any way the could have used it in the game without it being extremely awkward. The game simply wasn't designed to use a second analog stick, as a lot of games from that era weren't. For whatever reason, despite not using the right analog stick, they added an alternate control to R3. It brings up the pause menu. I have absolutely no comment. There's no reason for it to do that I can come up with, and I never used it in my gameplay to any memorable ends. To be honest, the only reason I even knew that button even did anything was by complete accident. I think I either dropped the controller or clicked the stick while I was holding it with one hand during the many, many times I had to pause the recording so that I'd have less editing to do in post production. Not that it matters how it went down, the un-memorableness of how I discovered it still highlights how useless it was. Especially when the actual Start button is closer to the Square and X buttons than R3 is. And in a game like this, you need to be able to pause the game as quickly as possible to reload in the heat of battle, lest ye be eaten by one of the many, many creatures out to chew on Jill Valentine.
So aside from the control changes, or the lack thereof, the only major differences I can tell are that they swapped out the soundtrack for whatever reason.
Personally, I don't like the pieces composed for the intro. It took me playing the Nintendo DS port to actually listen to the original soundtrack, and I have to say that version has better sound design. Even as a self admitted noir fanboy, the obnoxiousness of the poor attempt at drama that the new music applies to both the intro and the introduction of the cast is awkward, dated and unnecessary, a lot like the Japanese Dragon Ball Z soundtrack.
I guess that's a thing that the world can forgive Mamoru Samuragochi for, not composing the opening of this game.
Even though I'm on the record for disliking obnoxious and dated orchestral pieces, this is different since Capcom replaced the music that fit with the opening with this, as opposed to what happened in Dragon Ball Z, where the original soundtrack was almost completely unlistenable, but the American release replaced it with much better music. This game had good music in both the Japanese and international versions of the original game (Granted they were different pieces, but they were both still good) but the re-release replaced it with a psuedo-noir composition that was trying way too hard to be dramatic and edgy.
Which is odd, considering that the rest of the game has really well-made music.
But I mean seriously, I didn't like that twangy obnoxious ambiance in Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 and I don't like it in Resident Evil. Granted, as I said before, the rest of the music fits a lot better so this is just me rambling on about how I didn't like two pieces of music in an otherwise good soundtrack.
Anyways, the non-DualShock version has a much better instrumental song during the cast introduction that fits a lot better with the cheesy, neon, technicolor vibe I get from the game. The Japanese intro to the pre-DualShock version, Gaze of Ice also fits with the day-glo aesthetic of the game.
Blagh, rambling again. I should probably start talking about the plot.
This is one of the most famous plots in gaming history, but I'm going to summarize it anyways. Not to fill space, but to show you my interpretation of the events.
Resident Evil starts out with the Raccoon City S.T.A.R.S Alpha team investigating the disappearance of their comrades, Bravo Team. Bravo disappeared during their search for a group of cannibalistic murderers that had been plaguing Raccoon City for a month. Or alternatively, a group of homicidal rabid dogs.
During the intro cinematic, depending on which version of the game you own, it's either in black and white or in color. Personally, I like it in black and white. The color version is a little bit weirdly done. I'm not sure if the actor playing Captain Wesker had his hair dyed bright yellow or if they colorized the footage and it wound up looking really weird. Granted, the rest of the game is brightly colored as well, but something about black and white makes the whole thing seem a little grittier. Granted, the silliness is what I like about the first game, and it's actually what saved the whole experience for me. The thing about the color opening is that it shows the kind of low-budget they had for the special effects with how unrealistic the blood effects look.
Something that I found interesting about the Directors Cut was the fact that, thanks to a printing error that didn't get caught until it was too late, the American version doesn't have any differences from the original release. The scenes with Chris smoking have been cut, the scenes with the dead bodies in the intro have been cut, and Joseph's death has been cut down. The same thing happened for the Nintendo DS version as well, except that it happened in all versions of the game, even in Japan. I remember reading once that the German version, of all things was the only release of the PlayStation version outside of Japan with the uncut opening. Oddly enough, the PC version of the game is the only release that was completely uncensored outside of Japan, despite not being labeled at the Directors Cut.
After having let myself enjoy the game, I do like how over-the-top the opening is. I can forgive the bad acting, since they did what they could with what they had. I can also forgive the stupid special effects, since they're the kind that look best in black and white, but don't transition well into color.
Fun fact, did you know that instead of ketchup, the film industry used to use chocolate syrup in place of blood? It looked better on camera and behaved more like blood.
Also, I presume it tasted better.
Anyways, if you were looking at it from a pure quality standpoint, it's a complete mess.
But if you look at it as something that's goofy and over-the-top it's actually a pretty funny experience.
The cast introduction in both versions of the original game is pretty sweet. Even the noir-ish opening is nice. I like the Japanese and original intros better, but they're all kinda nice.
Upon selecting "New Game", you have the choice between playing a Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. Chris has a much harder time of it than Jill, because he dropped his gun in the uncut opening.
Except he didn't. I've watched the uncut opening of the original game, and Chris does't drop his gun. He also doesn't drop his gun in the REmake opening, so I have no idea why he doesn't have a gun.
Jill has a much better time of it. She has a gun, she can hold more stuff than Chris, and can also pick locks.
Given my bad experiences with combat as Chris in my first experience with the game, I chose Jill.
Now, despite having played Resident Evil 4, I had very little idea what went on during this game. And despite the fame of the first games plot, I also had very little idea what went on during the game. I led a fairly isolated life for the first decade or so of my existence, and as I didn't become a horror fan until very recently, I didn't know much about Resident Evil as a franchise, or as a game.
So in the intro, Joseph Frost finds the severed arm of Bravo Team pilot, Edward Dewey in the grass right before being ripped apart by zombie dogs.
After shooting some of the zombie dogs and running to cover in a nearby abandoned mansion, the remaining S*T*A*R*S* Alpha team members find that one of their members has gone missing. In Jill's half it's Chris, and in Chris's it's Barry. Since I chose Jill, she goes looking for Chris. Barry Burton comes with her, and they discover a bloodstain in the dining-room. Barry presumably has an evidence kit on him and stays behind to analyze the blood.
Now, considering this is set in 1998 and was made in 1995, that stinks of lazy writing, but it's a just a game. You probably shouldn't think too much about it.
Jill discovers a Bravo team member, Kenneth Sullivan dead. And being eaten by a zombie wearing a bright green suit. A zombie with white skin.
Weird thing is, even if you kill it it still comes after you later on.
So Barry shoots the zombie after it somehow manages to bust down the door.
They make it back to the hall, and find that Captain Wesker has gone missing.
Granted, by now we all know where this went, but for conversations sake let's keep up the facade.
Barry and Jill split up to look for Chris and the Captain. Along the way, we find the mansion is full of traps, zombies and The Legend of Zelda style puzzles.
And a lot of goofy dialogue.
The puzzles and the funny voice-acting are pretty much what saved the game for me.
I really liked the garishly colored backgrounds as well. They and the insane voice acting lend a surreal quality to the game that I really liked.
I'm not quite sure where my unconditional love for surrealism came from, but it helped me learn to like this game. And I have to say, if I'd known you could run back when I played the game originally I would have found it a lot less tedious. Granted, having a manual for the game probably would have helped me out to no end.
Anyways, there are some really cool puzzles in the game, and some pretty nice plot. Granted, the translation is pretty dodgy, but the plot as a whole is a really cool concept. To me at least.
I know that Capcom isn't known for good storytelling, but back when I started playing this I liked how straightforward everything was. While the plot might be extremely complicated, it's also a simple story of good against evil. Back in 2013, I got majorly into The Walking Dead and a lot of other cerebral morally complex stories. I got pretty tired of how deep and insane most of the stuff I was watching or reading had become, and that's why I loved how simple the story was. A group of morally upstanding officers of the law coming up against a group of mad scientists with no regard for human life? That's as straightforward as you can get.
I guess that's why I fell in love with the series, the fact that it was a story of good people in a bad situation that was brought upon them by no fault of their own clicked with the mindset I had at the time, and that's part of why I like the first Resident Evil so much.
In the end, sometimes it's a good thing to have a simple story about good and evil struggling against each other. And if you can do that while exploring a really cool mansion, killing zombies and other monsters with strategy and some pretty cool characters.
Chris Redfield is an ex ace United States Air Force pilot who has won several marksmanship awards.
Jill Valentine is a former Delta Force operative and the team medic, with a talent for lockpicking.
Barry Burton is also an ex USAF pilot, with a nice gun collection and a wife and family to get back to.
Albert Wesker is about the same age as Barry
I suppose Resident Evil can be summarized as follows: Here are some cool monsters inside a sweet house. You have the ability to kill these monsters in awesome ways, but only if you solve these interesting puzzles and if you think ahead properly.
So yeah, I like the multi-faceted puzzles. It tickles the Sherlock Holmes center of my brain. I can't explain it, but I like the puzzle-solving. It's almost on par with The Legend of Zelda I would suppose.
Now, a problem I had when I originally played the game was not being able to walk up the stairs, which in retrospect seems idiotic of me. But in the end, the whole reason I knew how to controls work was of Resident Evil 4, because it had button prompts on the screen.
But Resident Evil 4 was all about knowing what you could do. Resident Evil was all about uncertainty and surrealism. Unfortunately, to a newcomer it's unlikely they'd know even the basic controls if they didn't determinedly research everything about the game before buying it (Or at the very least, read the manual like I bloody should have), and then what's the point of even playing it?.
So Jill and Barry split up and search the mansion. Jill stumbles across a room with a shotgun in it, but the room outside locks down, and the ceiling starts closing in. Barry breaks down the door and delivers one of the most famous lines from the whole series. "You were almost a Jill sandwich"
Which isn't a bad image if you know what I mean.
But anyways, the dialogue is awful. It wouldn't fly these days (He says with Ride to Hell leaning around behind him) but I feel that it's a critical part of the game. It's funny. And if you take it like that's the way it was supposed to be, it's actually kind of cheery. It lends a nice contrast to the loneliness of game.
On the balcony, Jill runs into the corpse of one of Chris's old friend, Forrest Speyer. Picked apart by a pack of genetically-engineered crows. A sickening image to say the very least.
 Jill later comes across a dying Richard Aiken from Bravo Team and manages to mix together an antidote for his snake-bite. Oh, and by the way, he got bitten by a gigantic snake, which you fight a little later in the game.
Unfortunately he dies from blood poisoning despite the potency of the antidote and Jill's medical skills.
Jill later meets up with Barry, who is now wielding a flame-thrower while facing off with a giant plant monster, which was one of the coolest boss-fights I've ever participated in.
She and Barry run into Enrico Marini, commander of S.T.A.R.S Bravo team in the catacombs under the mansion. He's pretty badly wounded, but not gravely so. He manages to tell them that there is a traitor in the RCPD before being shot by the same said traitor.
If you're counting, that leaves only one member of Bravo Team alive and five of them dead (At least in this version of the game) and exactly two members of Alpha Team unaccounted for. We know it's not Chris Redfield, since he's the other main protagonist (And was cleared in my REmake playthrough and review, having witnessed Enrico's murder himself) and it's unlikely Rebecca Chambers would be the culprit. She's barely eighteen (And looks to be about fifteen) and this was her first mission outside of school fieldtrips.
And this game has been out for almost twenty years, so everyone know exactly who the traitor was.
Albert Wesker, the man who wears his sunglasses at night, and one of the most badass characters in all of gaming history. He served as Umbrella's head of security and bio-weapons research consultant. Wesker killed Marini and blackmailed Barry into destroying evidence, but Barry and Jill overpower him and knock him out. But because cops apparently don't carry handcuffs in this universe (Or maybe they were bitten off by the Cerberus's in the intro) they leave him alone, unguarded and unrestrained with all of his gear still on him. They don't take his bullet-proof vest, his sunglasses, his equipment, his gun or ammo, and didn't even bothered tying him up. Just take a belt and lash his arms and legs together for gods sake!
But then again, they were trying to kill the Tyrant so they DID have better things to do.
After killing the Tyrant for the first time, they find Wesker has left and activated the mansions self-destruct sequence. Jill and Barry rescue Chris and radio their pilot, Brad Vickers to come pick them up. Chris and Barry stay behind to fight off some Hunters while Jill sends up the signal flare. Barry, Chris and Jill manage to get to the rooftop and wind up having to fight off the Tyrant a second time. Barry, Jill and Chris pump it full of lead to very little effect, but Brad drops out a rocket launcher in the nick of time and Jill blasts the Tyrant creature away.
Jill, Chris and Barry fly off as the mansion explodes. They get back to the police station, and the events of Resident Evil's 2, 3, Outbreak, Outbreak File #2 and Caliban Cove ensue.
So all in all, I was surprised by how much fun I had. The game is actually quite interesting. Aside from Wesker, none of the cast has a secret past, nobody has any ulterior motives, the villains are not sympathetic, and the heroes are morally upstanding people.
Granted, Brad Vickers isn't the bravest or smartest person in the world, but he's not really important.
I love the surrealism that the visuals and the story exude. The translation has a lot to be desired, but I love the game all the same. While the voice-acting is some of the worst I've ever heard, it almost seems intentional. Unlike some of the other games I've played with horrible voice acting, which are mediocre or painfully bad, this just seems like they were trying for comedic.
So in the end, I give the game a 9.8* rating.
I remember thinking that Silent Hill had to be a lot better back when I hated Resident Evil. Kojima and Konami made it, but in the end it was just a badly made cash-in on the survival horror trend. I might change my opinion later, but even though Silent Hill had slightly more logical controls, it had too many technical issues for my taste. I got pinned between a monster and a table in the diner before I could save the game. That and the horrible draw-distance and acidic texturing make it kind of hard on the eyes. Unlike Resident Evil, which has clearly defined colors and lines.
I'll see you soon with Resident Evil Zero!