- Original release year: 2002
- Consoles: GameCube (later: Wii, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
The first Resident Evil game, released for the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn, was a landmark game for the industry, popularising (although technically not inventing) the Survival Horror genre and introducing plenty of gameplay initiatives. When the next generation of consoles started to build hype in the late 90s and early 2000s though, the original Resident Evil, whilst a classic, was starting to show its age.
If the truth be told, the gameplay was a bit clunky, the graphics were bad, the voice acting was terrible and the dialogue was just cheesy. I mean, it’s cool for a ‘B Horror movie’ style game, but it wasn’t actually very scary… at least in my opinion… The game was in desperate need of a remake. And what a remake it was.
When I not so wisely (or in retrospect, actually very wisely) bet on the Dreamcast and purchased the sexy white box as my console of choice for the 128-bit generation, only to find out within a couple of years it was being killed off, I decided I needed to buy one of the other current at-the-time consoles. The choice was between the PS2 (Boo! You killed my beloved Sega), the GameCube (it looks like a duplo brick) and the Xbox (it looks like… what the fuck is that thing and how am I going to store it?). Honestly, I thought all were potentially great consoles, but ultimately, there was one thing that swayed it for me and that was Capcom’s Resident Evil announcement and the screenshots for this true ‘next gen’ Resident Evil remake.
And here’s the thing with the Resident Evil Remake. Even though it looks absolutely gorgeous (even today), gameplay-wise, it was still as clunky and archaic as the original was, yet, it doesn’t really matter. Yes, the characters are controlled using an awkward, much criticised ‘tank’ style control system. Yes, saving in this game is treated as a luxury, as opposed to modern gaming’s attitude that it is a right the gamer should have access to at any time. Yes, you have limited slots to store your items and you’re going to have to manage them efficiently by storing items in storage boxes. And yes, you have to stand still to aim and fire your weapon. But you know what? Call it nostalgia if you want, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Nothing beats though late nights my friends and I had, in the dark, playing through this game together, jumping a mile whenever a zombie would come out of nowhere or zombie dogs leaped out of windows. The visuals are borderline photographic and the realism allowed me to truly feel scared.
Resident Evil on the GameCube didn’t mess with the original story much. It’s still the same Survival Horror you loved back in 1996, it just looks and plays a lot better. In terms of the story, it’s mostly the same. The Raccoon City Police Department still dispatches the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha unit to try and find out what happened to the Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) team that were originally sent out to investigate the Arclay Mountain area on the outskirts of the city, where a number of people were reported to have gone missing. Jill, Barry, Chris and Wesker still find themselves in the mansion where everything starts to go wrong… Instead of the live action, cheesy and laughable live action scene seen in the original game, this time the cutscenes are created with fantastic FMV sequences.
Once you begin the game, you are given a choice of characters to play as; Either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine. The game is mostly the same regardless, but there’s a few, minor differences to the story, the puzzles, weapons and item slots depending on your choice. Overall, Jill’s story is slightly easier (for example, there’s one puzzle you don’t even need to complete properly, as Barry will come save you regardless – whilst Chris just dies if you don’t do it properly), but for the most part, it doesn’t matter too much who you choose.
What made Resident Evil so special, for me, was exploring the mansion. There was something really rewarding about seeing an area that is inaccessible, solving puzzles and eventually working out how you delve deeper into the mansion. It’s all really satisfying. There’s more to this game than just the combat. It’s all about survival, rationing your ammo (you have no idea how many zombies I waste time, painstakingly trying to kill with a knife, without taking much damage, despite having a gun and a reserve of ammo – simply because you don’t know when you will really need that ammo), solving puzzles and exploring the open, maze-like, brilliantly designed mansion.
There’s also the atmosphere too. Not knowing when something is going to jump out at you, never knowing what is around a corner or behind a door. Resident Evil is one of the tensest games I’ve ever played. Or, in the case of this remake, never knowing when a zombie you haven’t managed to cremate, is going to come back to life as one of the genuinely terrifying crimson zombies that can run and chase you through doors.
Resident Evil for the GameCube, to this day, remains as potentially the greatest video game remake of all time. Although it kept the “old fashioned” gameplay, it’s still one of the scariest, most drop-dead gorgeous and atmospheric games I have ever played and now it’s had the HD treatment done on both last and current generations of consoles, there’s no excuse for not owning the game.