Full Review: Capcom has unlocked the "master of unlocking" for one last time.
Amazing. It was once believed that Alone in the Dark, the best and scariest horror video game series for the PC at the time, set the definition of what should and should not become of the dabbling new genre. Despite Alone in the Dark's psychological mixture of the weird, the obscene, and just plain terrifying imagery, Capcom's Shinji Mikami was told that he was at a position where he needed to design a horror title for the brand new 32-bit Sony PlayStation. What became of his vision was a jerky controlled, dynamic camera angling, and frightening experience that from the moment of the game's release was a success. That success was the original Resident Evil. Now Capcom is revisiting the same zombie infested mansion with the same story using a whole new perspective that must be seen to believe it.
Every great story needs a place to begin the tale. Like the original, the Resident Evil remake for the GameCube starts off with mysterious reports coming in from a mansion located on the outskirts of Raccoon City. These reports tell of unexplainable deaths and missing people. Shortly after, the S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Service) Bravo team was sent in to investigate the mansion.. and were never heard from or seen again. With their disappearance, a second S.T.A.R.S. group was formed, which is where you come in. Playing as either Chris Redfield; a strong, cunning, and intelligent operative, or Jill Valentine; a skilled, smart, and agile team member, your job is to survey the mansion, discover the roots behind the dark tale of this household and solve the bizarre puzzles within.
First of all, this game is not the Resident Evil you once knew. This is the new Resident Evil. It is a remake of the original pasted with a new look, new gameplay, and even new areas to explore. The revamped gameplay design isn't all that different, even though the new GameCube controller sure makes it feel like it. As either Jill or Chris, the analog or directional pad on the controller lets you turn either of them in a clockwise or counterclockwise order, depending on which way you rotate the pad in the enlarged 3D environments. If you're to move in one direction, you first have to wait for the character to turn that way, and then you can proceed in motion. In short, it's stiff enough so that at least an hour or two of practice is a requirement just to get a feel for the game. Fortunately, though, the C stick allows you to move your character in a quick, 180? direction for easier turning efforts. It's a step up from the original, but just not too much.
Other than that, you see a lot of the same controls that were in the original. New to it is an auto lock on feature that's accessed when pointing any gun at any enemy. Also new is an auto defense item system that adds a greater amount of depth to both combat and item hunting aspects throughout the dreary mansion. By exploring every possible layer in any room, you may come across this new defense item that can be set on either a manual or automatic format, which will later aid you in times of need when any creature latches onto you, letting you use the item for a quick defense. Unique to both characters, Chris's game consists of flash napalm grenades, allowing him to stuff them into a monster's mouth, run away, and aim a gun at it for explosive results. Jill on the other hand has the option of collecting a stun gun, and with it, giving her the ability to shock an enemy into a sizzling morsel. Both Chris and Jill can also find a dagger weapon, for the stabbing-a-zombie-in-the head effect, lessening the chances of its survival. Defense items also don't take up any space in your item list, so you can rest assured that you'll want to collect as many as you can, because once you use them, they're gone.
That's another thing about the Resident Evil series. Item hunting has always been about conservation of ammo, and what is needed to carry along with you in your adventures. Chris and Jill can only carry so much at one time, so don't except that the mansion will serve you at your every beck and call when you need a refill or you need some health because you're about to be killed off by a creature with really big teeth. In order to balance your item list, to maintain what you need at the present moment, or what you will need in the near future, you'll find storage boxes placed throughout gameplay areas. The storage box can carry in it a large enough amount of items so that it won't be required to try to bring with you everything all at once. This item box rule will also leave you running back and forth through the mansion's spooky areas, causing the hairs on your neck to stand on end more times than you can count. Aside from the standard ink ribbons, that allow you to save your progress, herbs, that cure your health, and ammo, which replenishes your best defense against the overcrowded odds, there's also variations of puzzle items that will help you get through the numerous locked and puzzling areas of the mansion. To name a few, you'll need to track down specific keys for the right type of doors, missing items, such as a battery for the inoperative elevator, and even vague objects that you'll actually have to examine a couple times in your menu just to find out what it really is. A lot of backtracking is still required to solve the mansion's riddle of escape. It does become annoying at times, but this puzzle solving formula also challenges your nerves to the test to see if you're brave enough to revisit areas with the unexpected happening at every creeping turn.
When the moment comes for the time when you must fight, expect the unexpected. Much of hubbub about the remake is the addition of the crimson zombie. Once a zombie is dead, it's not gone. To truly finish off one of the undead, you must either take off its head with the help of a powerful shotgun blast, or by burning it to death using kerosene and a lighter that can be found in the game. If and when a zombie does reanimate, it will grow claws, and it will have the ability to run at you at impossible speeds. It's kind of like shooting at Superman. Considering the fact that this Resident Evil version is a remake, the mansion is not the same as it once was. You can open the same door, and anticipate a couple of zombies to be awaiting your arrival. However, once you actually enter the room, you could find yourself mystified that not only is there not a zombie not waiting for you, but there's nothing there to begin with. It's especially interesting how many of the original rooms have been remodeled and extended for a better benefit of surprises to emerge.
Resident Evil's graphics are like ones you've never seen before in the series. Everything is grander. Everything is brighter. Everything is dimmer. Everything is scarier to the point where you are afraid to play, and love it for that. In these much-improved environments, it's easily noticeable by how shadow and light effects play along with you and the rooms. As you traverse through sections of the mansion, lightning will flash at key moments, and through the window a perfect balance of light and dark is spread across the floor. Outside, moving objects such as trees and grass will flow in the wind and cast a shadow against the ground that will eat up everything it touches with darkness. Reflections -- whether they are in a mirror, a puddle, or a pool -- play their part thoroughly. True enough, this is the pinnacle for the vision of what the game should be seen as.
Dressed up with a look to kill, the game's setting is fine in every combed over angle. Amongst smashed objects, scratched wallpaper, misplaced furniture, flickering firelight, insects swarming around the glow of a bulb, and mist enveloping the moonlit path you stroll down, scary is just too simple of a word to describe your surroundings. With a game that looks this good, it might come as a disappointment to some fans or newcomers to the series that the remake isn't in full 3D. Even though Capcom has decided stick with the pre-rendered background scenery, the game looks divine enough to eat its brains out.
More so, the character models and animations are exquisite to the point that they could almost be called real. Seriously. As Chris or Jill runs, walks, escalates or descends within a room, the way their body has a natural appearance to it will have you staring into Resident Evil's world for hours on end. Just the same, the monstrosities that roam the house, its outsides, and all the other areas never looked better. Mutilated flesh and blood stained faces and clothing covers the zombie exteriors. On the dogs, rotting portions pop out in all their glory. Especially in a close up shot, the crows can't help but look lifelike. If you thought that the Dreamcast or PlayStation 2 versions of Resident Evil were good on screen, wait until you see how much better the GameCube version is.
Like the visuals, sounds are amongst everything and anything, and will scare the daylights out of you. When entering into a newly discovered room and exiting out of it into another one, eerie and intensifying music within the background pitches itself just enough so that your senses will you tell you not go further. Much of the music -- but not all of the music -- is the same as from the original Resident Evil, albeit remixed a bit for a closer, more suspenseful orchestration. At times, it will fade into nothing, and makes you realize that you are truly terrified.
Living the nightmare is only the start of your problems. Inside the game, what you can see and experience is just a part of the scare. Another part is what you hear that will get your heart pumping. Through certain areas, you will come across a room and listen to the environment's objects, whether they be a ticking clock, wind rustling a bush, streaming water, or even the moaning and groaning of a zombie heading your way. They are all alive, and sometimes act as your warning signs for danger. That rap, tap, tapping against the window isn't a poem by Poe; it's a starving man-eater trying to break inside the house. What sounds as though a beast is growling in the distance could actually be a group of crows, hungry for your fleshy body. Your actions across a squeaky floorboard, broken glass, or dirt paved ground make the noise all too real, for an extremely lively listening experience.
Many times before, it has been criticized that the original Resident Evil had the worst script ever written. I'd have to disagree. Even though the lines sound like they were made for a B grade horror film, the sentiment behind it made you laugh, and let you forget for a second that you had to continue on with enduring absolute horror. Still, the dialogue in the game is similar (though rewritten to be a little bit better) with added adult language. Listening to a game character curse is one of the many surprises you can expect. Also, the voice actors do a great job for each of their roles, but it would have been nice for the original actors and actresses to come back, so that the next generation of Resident Evil fans would know how the character voices once and forever should be heard.
It's not every day that a company pulls one of their finest creations from out of the reference drawer, adds a lot more features, laminates the core, and polishes it to a finishing point where you can almost call the game a completely new title. Capcom has gone over the edge, and into the beyond to bring an entirely new generation of Resident Evil fans a treat that veterans of the original can enjoy to the brink of an insanely fearsome game. For those who do remember the game backwards and forwards, it will still take you a good 15 or more hours for your first trip through the mansion. With 10 multiple endings, and 2 different difficulty settings, this is the ultimate version of Resident Evil like you want it, need it, and must have it.