Nobody could have known, back in 1996, just how big the Resident Evil franchise would go on to become.
Since that first game appeared almost 20 years ago, there have been six main games, more than a dozen others (including spin-offs and remakes), comics, novels, and the long-running film series. While the games have lost their way somewhat (with a decline of the survival horror feel that made them famous), the first entry in the series is still a stone-cold classic.
Dated? Sure. Cheesy? Definitely. But there’s no denying that Resident Evil is one of the PlayStation’s best, most important, and most influential games.
Let’s take a look at the five key reasons we still love it!
That Legendary Opening Scene
Anyone who played Resident Evil back in the day will remember that incredible opening sequence. Filmed in live-action, with a cast of actors you can’t help but feel bad for, this sequence sets the scene for the action to follow – boasting some of the worst production values & dialogue you’ve ever seen.
This starts with a brief narration (performed by Chris Redfield himself), describing a spate of recent murders in the forests to the north-west of Raccoon City, which appear to have been committed by a “group of about ten people” (which is nice and precise, for a cop).
The S.T.A.R.S. team encounters a pack of blood-thirsty zombie dogs, and one of their members (Joseph, we learn, when Jill Valentine screams his name to hilarious effect) meets a grisly, toothy end.
In the ensuing chaos, Chris, Jill, and Captain Albert Wesker make a run for a nearby mansion.
However, the opening sequence doesn’t end there – we’re then treated to an introduction of the main cast. It really has to be seen to be believed.
Given how dark, unsettling, and atmospheric the game itself is, this cheesy, silly opening does it a disservice. Luckily, by the time Resident Evil 2 rolled around, the live-action approach was dropped – but the in-game acting didn’t necessarily improve. Nor did the writing.
For example, the first game’s dialogue included many gems (many of which came from exchanges between Jill and Barry Burton), such as:
“Watch out! It’s a monster!”
“It was a huge … snake … and also … poisonous. Ugh.”
“I’ll just go out and get some fresh air … and be eaten by a monster!”
“Let’s go together, since it’s dark, and we can’t see very well.”
Golden, isn’t it?
The Fixed Camera Angles
At the time, Resident Evil’s use of static camera angles was mind-blowing, but by the time the fourth main entry arrived, Capcom had switched to an over-the-shoulder dynamic style.
The characters themselves are 3D polygonal designs placed on pre-rendered backgrounds: this gives the game a distinctive style, but makes for some confusing controls at times. Still, nobody can argue with just how effective these angles are in helping to build suspense – finding yourself a few feet from a corner, with no view of what lay around it, is a real thrill.
Of course, this is even better when you hear the moans and shuffling feet of an unseen zombie. Will there be more than one? Can you get your gun or knife ready before it grabs you and takes a bite?
While the transition to a dynamic camera was a breath of fresh air the series needed, Resident Evil’s fixed angles are still one of the game’s defining qualities.
The Great Range of Weapons
While you start the game with just one or two weapons (playing as Jill, you have a pistol and a knife, but with Chris, it’s just the latter), you do get access to more throughout the campaign.
Of course, as Chris is the equivalent of a ‘hard’ difficulty mode, he never gets hold of the bazooka, but the game makes up for this by giving him the flamethrower later on, which is unavailable to Jill.
Overall, Resident Evil has some fantastic weapons, which (with one exception) give an advantage without making players overpowered. The Remington pump-action shotgun, the Colt Python (remember the puzzle with the tiger statue’s eyes?), and the bazooka (with its variety of ammo).
That one exception we mentioned? The rocket launcher, of course! This only becomes available at the very end of the game, when Brad (the trusty helicopter pilot who comes to your rescue) tosses it down to help Jill or Chris defeat the Tyrant. This is a true sweaty-palm moment, as you have limited ammunition – miss your target, and you’re dead.
Still, completing the game in under three hours (which is doable, but takes real concentration) earns the rocket launcher with unlimited ammo for subsequent playthroughs. Whipping this out and blasting away during the game’s first zombie encounter is still incredibly satisfying.
The Grotesque Monsters
While the zombies are the undisputed stars of Resident Evil, the game tosses a variety of other monsters at the player. Zombie dogs? Hunters? The Tyrant? Who can forget that giant snake?
Of course, let’s not forget the enormous spider. Few things could be as terrifying as wandering into a room filled with a man-eating arachnid – and Resident Evil does this brilliantly. Using Chris’s flamethrower helps to make the battle a little bit easier, but this is one of the game’s tougher fights.
The Hunters are some of the game’s strongest enemies, and their shriek is scary enough to bring out a sweat – especially if you’re far from a typewriter (the game’s save points), with no ammo and no first-aid sprays.
The Fiendish Puzzles
We’re not quite sure who spent days on end setting up countless puzzles around the mansion, but without them, Resident Evil just wouldn’t be the same.
Completing puzzles allows access to new areas and weapons, and some are unforgettable: pushing the oddly-placed statue through the convenient gap in the railing above the dining hall; finding the gems for the tiger’s eyes; placing the wooden steps beside the statue to reach the map stored on top; and, last but not least, creating the V-Jolt mix to poison Plant 42.
Some puzzles in games equate to little more than ‘find the key’ or ‘pull the switch’, but Capcom’s team put real effort into creating interesting puzzles which are genuinely challenging and rarely ridiculous within the game’s context.
This brings our 5 reasons to love Resident Evil to a close – what are your favourite things about Resident Evil? Let us know!