Special: Okay, so it's not Shakespeare. Still...
It's a franchise marked by cheesy dialogue, gruesome monsters, kick-ass women, and grisly deaths. No, I'm not talking about the latest Friday the 13th flick. Rather this is about the world of Resident Evil, Capcom's revolutionary survival horror series. Now revolutionary might be a term that gets bandied about a bit too much, but in Resident Evil's case it's entirely justified. This series solidified the appeal of the survival horror genre, and to this day is one of the most lucrative gaming franchises in existence, complete with successful cinematic adaptation.
Now other people on this site are going to go over the actual gaming experience and the evolution of the series in gameplay into its latest incarnation on the GameCube, but this article is going to look at something slightly different. This is for the people who might have seen the movie, but never played the game. Or just those looking for a refresher on the plots thus far explored. This is all about the complex and utterly twisted story that is one of the reasons this world is so favored by gamers. And why Resident Evil doesn't break any new ground on artistic levels, it gleefully embraces it's clich?s to make a world that's just good wholesome fun; Well aside from the carnage and rampant mutilation. There are four main characters that make up the Resident Evil series, all of whom manage to fill to fill in a necessary niche in the tapestry of RE.
The star of Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Chris is the stereotypical American Badass. A highly skilled yet fiercely independent member of the secret service (because we've never seen that before), Chris is reassigned to the S.T.A.R.S. unit at the beginning of the first game, and becomes the testosterone fueled set of eyes in the world of Resident Evil. He's the first to realize the truth behind Umbrella, and to know about Wesker's betrayal. After the first game Chris is the one who continues the war against Umbrella, becoming their primary threat.
Our heroine, and the self styled ?master of unlocking.? Whatever that means. Jill is the yin to Chris's yang. The star of Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Nemesis, Jill is the pretty face to Chris's brawn. Of course don't let the pretty face fool you; she's just as capable of carnage on a wholesale level as her partner in crime. Why not as dedicated to the cause as Chris, she is on some level the ultimate survivor. After facing down the Tyrant in the first game, Jill chooses to retire. Too bad Umbrella has other plans for her, and that plan's name is Nemesis.
Chris's kid sister and tomboy. She rides into town looking for her brother at the beginning of Resident Evil 1, and becomes embroiled in the saga as she faces zombie hordes. After facing down a G-type Tyrant, Claire begins a campaign of her own against Umbrella, one that will eventually reunite her with her brother.
The rookie. The last piece to the RE puzzle, Leon is the inexperienced and na?ve persona that helps draw the gamer into the world of Resident Evil. A rookie cop brought into town on the day of the G-Virus outbreak, Leon's world is turned upside down. After killing a Tyrant, the G-Type Tyrant, and losing someone he cares for in Ada Wong, Leon teams with the federal government to take down the Umbrella Corporation the right way.
Now there are plenty of other characters that populate the RE world, such as Albert Wesker, Barry Burton, Carlos, Ada Wong, and of course Hunk, but they'll be explained later. First we need to begin at the beginning, with a little game called Resident Evil.
? The first game of the series, and the episode that introduces us to our intrepid heroes Chris and Jill. You see there's a small town in America by the name of Raccoon City, and no they never explain why the town has such a lame name. The town itself is inconsequential, except for the fact that it's all but a front for a mega corporation by the name of Umbrella. And when I say mega-corporation I mean it. Think Microsoft merged with Disney. Umbrella is a pharmaceutical and electronics company that supplies a vast amount of the products the world uses, from toothpaste, to televisions, to shampoo. Yet behind that fa?ade lies a darker underground organization, one that specializes in biological warfare and possibly has even darker aspirations. They have a massive underground laboratory hidden beneath the city (actually two of them, but we'll get to that later). There doesn't appear to be any problems until a couple of hikers are found killed in the woods, there bodies mutilated by an unknown beast. There are talks of an old mansion in the woods, one that might contain answers. A deployment of a S.T.A.R.S. (Whether they are a police division or a kind of governmental strike force akin to the FBI has never been full explained) unit takes place, to investigate the happenings. The team disappears without a trace.
A second team is dispatched then, under the command of Albert Wesker. As the team enters the mountain ranges that lead to the mansion, they are ambushed by strange mutated canine creatures and torn apart until they go into full retreat. They seek shelter in the mansion they came to investigate, but by the time they reach it there are only four members left. Albert Wesker, Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, and Barry Burton. Now at this point the player could choose either Chris or Jill to play the game out with, but both storylines were fairly similar. As the player begins to explore the mansion he comes across zombies and other creatures, and then loses track of the rest of the team become thoroughly isolated. If you play as Jill you will receive help from Barry Burton, if you play as Chris though you'll meet up with a member of the old S.T.A.R.S. team by the name of Rebecca Chambers. Both have a back-story to tell.
As the player further explores the ruined mansion, they begin to get clues about what really happened here. The zombies and mutated creatures are the byproducts of the T-Virus, a biological weapon that was being worked on and got out of control. Through a series of creepy diary passages (itchy scratchy) the player begins to see the truth about Umbrella. That's not all though, there appears to be a traitor in their midst. The S.T.A.R.S. team was set up to fail. They were wanted as a test for the biological weapons that were created by the T-Virus, to test their efficiency in combat. Thankfully the vast majority of the creatures that were created are all but brain dead, so their efficiency is somewhat lacking. The traitor it appears is the team leader Albert Wesker, a dedicated employee of Umbrella. He's blackmailed Barry into helping him by threatening his family, and together they set the rest of the team up. Wesker also introduces the player to the main purpose of the T-Virus, a creature of immense strength and adaptability, the Tyrant. Like all good megalomaniacal bad guys though, the Tyrant slips beyond Wesker's control and skewers him before coming after the player. After laying the smack down on the creature, the player sets off the self-destruct sequence and flees after rescuing their partner (the character the player didn't choose to play). Along the way, the Tyrant comes back, and the player sees the true strength of the creature. It is a constantly adapting nearly invulnerable killing machine. Luckily your chopper pilot Brad swoops in for the save, tossing the player a Rocket Launcher that reduces the Tyrant to kibbles and bits.
From this point on, Chris and Jill take on two different stories. Chris seeks to bring Umbrella to justice, but there's no proof of their involvement, and they can easily influence the higher levels of government. So he pushes on, leaving Raccoon City to wage a guerilla war upon Umbrella and to bring the truth to light. Jill has less noble intentions in mind. After seeing everything that happened in the Resident Evil, she's shaken to the core and just wants to quit and leave the whole thing behind. Umbrella will later force her hand though.
Resident Evil 2
? As mentioned before, there were two labs in Raccoon City. One beneath the mansion, and another located beneath the city streets and under the command of a scientist by the name of William Birkin. William has been working on an even more powerful and virulent form of the T-Virus, the G-Virus. After the events of the first game, Umbrella demands that Birkin give them his work and research. Being the mad scientist that he is, Birkin of course refuses to give up his precious work. Umbrella sends a retrieval squad to force the issue, which they do by shooting Birkin and taking a sample of the G-Virus. Dying and angry, Birkin lashes out and injects the G-Virus into himself. The chemical compound augments his strength and gives him the ability to heal, so he chases after the retrieval squad and rips them to pieces; all except for one soldier who was left for dead by the name of Hunk, but more on him later.
The G-Virus also leaks out into the open, carried by rats and infecting the water supply, which in turn infects the populace of the town. Into this nightmare come two strangers. Claire Redfield, sister to Chris and looking for why her brother suddenly dropped off the face of the earth. The other is Leon Kennedy, a cop straight out of the academy that finds the town in chaos. The two meet early on when Leon saves Claire from a rouge zombie, but are quickly separated again by a blazing inferno. Both make their way to the RCPD, hoping to be able to regroup at the police headquarters. Once there they find the place deserted and themselves trapped in and looking for a way out of Raccoon City. They split up, each taking a different section of the compound.
This is where RE II takes a bold leap over its predecessor. There is much more interaction between Leon and Claire then their was Jill and Chris, giving the impression that both are actually operating at the same time. Further augmenting this is the fact that after you get done beating the game with one character, you can go through it with the other to continue the story. Thus giving the player four different ways of going through the game. Much like the first game, choosing Leon or Claire alters the way the game is played. Besides using different weapons (Claire is all about the grenade launcher while Leon has the supped up shotgun and magnum) the two encounter different characters as well. Both meet Sherry Birkin, the daughter of William who is unwittingly carrying around a container of G-Virus in her pendant. Leon meets a character by the name of Ada Wong, a spy who claims to be looking for her dead lover. Her intentions are always murky, but she does begin to develop feelings for Leon and vice versa.
The police station is abandoned, but it's full of zombies and mutants as well. As the duo begin to filter through the place, it becomes increasingly clear just how deep Umbrella's control of the town had become. Every high-ranking official was on their pay roll. It seems to be around this time that Umbrella decides that Raccoon City is unsalvageable, because they drop a Tyrant by the name of Mr. X into the police station, and this creature continually stalks the B-side player.
Claire and Leon push even further on, and find themselves descending into the bowels of the city and Umbrella's second laboratory. Besides dealing with zombies, mutants, super critters, and a constantly evolving Mr. X Tyrant, the duo find themselves coming into contact with a constantly evolving William Birkin, transforming into a Tyrant like creature of even greater power then anything seen before. The two press on, trying to find an antidote for Ada after she's been scratched by the Birkin Tyrant (if you're Leon), or to find the missing Sherry (if you're Claire). Claire eventually manages to find Sherry, and also Mrs. Birken. The question is whether or not the mother is more obsessed with her daughter or with the G-Virus sample. Ada, shows up and gets into a fight with Mrs. Birken, in the process getting shot and falling over a banister.
At this point the Claire and Leon are just trying to escape from the ravaged city. Claire finds an underground railroad, and after activating the self-destruct sequence in the base why constantly fighting off a mutating Birken Tyrant, they manage to start the train and prepare to leave. Leon meanwhile is confronted by the final form of the normal Tyrant, and after receiving a rocket launcher from a mysterious stranger that looks and sounds like Ada, makes his way to the train station. He and Claire ride off, only for their escape train to be slowed down. When Leon goes to investigate he finds a giant amorphous blob of tentacles and teeth that's assumed to be Birken. After pumping a crap load of ammo into the monster, Leon separates train cars leaving the Birken Tyrant behind to be destroyed along with the rest of the lab.
At the end of the game, Leon and Claire part ways. Claire decides to go on looking for Chris, raiding Umbrella compounds until she can track down her brother. Leon takes Sherry and goes to the government, seeking to work within the system to take down Umbrella. There are several questions left up in the air after this one. The ultimate fate of Raccoon City and the character of Ada Wong are the primary ones. How did Ada survive that fall? Has she been infected by the G-Virus? It is a question that has not yet been answered in the RE series.
And there's another story that takes place in this game as well. Remember the Umbrella Security Officer by the name of Hunk? After regaining consciousness, he sees that he's the only member of his team that has not been killed by Birken. He's also carrying the G-Virus on him. Running low on ammo, Hunk races through the city to reach the helicopter evac site that was set up. Along the way he faces zombies, mutant spiders and dogs, and a few Tyrants as well. Hunk does manage to reach the helicopter sight though, and flies off to Umbrella HQ, a sample of the G-Virus in hand.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
? This game is a bit shorter on story then the previous RE games, but a lot higher on action. Jill Valentine is the star of this one, and the game itself takes place before and after the events of Resident Evil 2. As noted at the end of the first game, Jill wants nothing more to do with Umbrella or the situation that's going on. She just wants to flee and lead a normal life. Unfortunately she gets caught up in the midst of the zombie outbreak due to the G-Virus and must fight her way through Raccoon City. Making things a tad more complicated is a practically unstoppable killing machine by the name of Nemesis. Jill first meets the monster and his rather limited vocabulary as it kills Brad Vickers (who actually shows up as a zombie in RE 2) and then sets his sights on Jill. By all accounts, Nemesis is an even more advanced version of a Tyrant then anything that's been seen before. And unlike any of the other creatures in the previous RE games, Nemesis actually has the ability to chase the character.
Jill fights the creature off time and again, but never manages to put him down for the count. And Nemesis himself keeps mutating and growing stronger. In her attempt to flee Raccoon City, Jill runs across a platoon of Umbrella mercs, dispatched to the city to keep order. In reality the platoon was sent by Umbrella to be guinea pigs, but obviously they don't know that. In that platoon is a young brash soldier by the name of Carlos who Jill bonds with. In fact the virus from Nemesis infects her, and it's Carlos who risks his life to find the antidote to save her. Of course he does, and when she recovers she is still being hunted down by a Nemesis that is growing ever stronger. You see Nemesis has been programmed by Umbrella for one express mission, to kill all the S.T.A.R.S. members who were involved in the first game. Compounding problems is the fact that Raccoon City has been deemed unsalvageable and a biohazard by the government, and will soon be blown off the face of the earth.
So now Jill and Carlos race to a pre arranged evac sight, still dealing with zombie hordes and that pesky Nemesis. Finally Jill enters a warehouse, filled with dead soldiers and Tyrants. It's also where Nemesis tracks her down for the final time. Using a proto-type rail cannon, Jill blasts Nemesis into the next century, finishing the creature off with six point black shots from her Magnum into his head. Jill and Carlos fly off then, and as they leave Raccoon City and the outbreak become enveloped in a mushroom cloud. Jill comes to realize one thing from this. She cannot hide from this anymore, she must confront Umbrella and the horror it represents. She decides to find Chris then, and join him on his campaign to bring down the biological mega corporation.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica
? The fourth game in the series, we begin with Claire Redfield again. She is raiding an Umbrella facility before being overwhelmed and captured by the security forces there. She awakes on a strange island, one that is apparently rapidly going to hell. It's another Umbrella research facility, this one under control of one of the founding members of Umbrella Inc., the Ashfords. The T-Virus has escaped, and Claire goes about trying to get off the island, along the way running into another refugee by the name of Steve. Together the pair make their way through the island, meeting the powers in charge, a brother/sister duo by the name of Alexander and Alexia Ashford.
They also come across a mansion that is eerily similar to the first one in the original RE game. Along the way Claire manages to find a radio is briefly able to get a message out to Leon requesting help. Alexander however cuts her off, and begins to hunt her with a sniper rifle. One gets the feeling that Alexander is not quite right in the head, and this is confirmed when its revealed that there is no Alexia, it's been Alexander cross dressing all along. Oh, and there's a third factor on the island as well, an invasion by another mysterious merc force full of the advanced creatures created by the T-Virus. And this strike force is led by none other then Albert Wesker. It seems the reports of his death were greatly exaggerated, and in fact he appears to be greatly augmented displaying speed and strength far beyond a normal human's. He beats the hell out of Claire for a bit, but doesn't finish her off. He's after Alexander and Alexia for a new version of the T-Virus that they've been working on.
Steve and Claire finally discover that there is a private airfield on the island, and manage to board an airplane and escape. Of course along the way Claire has to confront a Tyrant released by Alexander. Then again, at this point in the series a normal Tyrant feels almost mundane. Of course he keeps coming back, but Claire eventually offs the Tyrant by throwing it out of the Airplane why it's fifty thousand feet in the air. Unfortunately Alexander seizes control of the airplane by remote control, and directs it to an Antarctic Base that is also under the control of the Ashford's. This base is also in the grips of a T-Virus outbreak, and Claire and Steve again attempt to flee the place. Along the way they hear rumors of a creature by the name of Nosferatu, a failed experiment of the updated T-Virus, officially dubbed the Veronica strain. The pair managed to get through the arctic base fairly quickly, and Steve shoots Alexander in the process. As they leave the base though, a recently escaped Nosferatu, who is actually the father of Alexander and Alexia, confronts them. He became an unwitting test subject at the hands of his daughter. After a protracted battle, Jill finishes off Nosferatu. We then cut to Alexander, who is in another part of the Arctic base. He punches in a few commands and cryo tube opens, revealing a slumbering and adult Alexia. He dies in the arms of the sister whom he loved. Alexia doesn't take this very well, and of course she's far from human. She moves at uber speeds, ambushing and capturing a weary Claire and Steve.
But as mentioned before, Claire did get a hold of Leon at one point to request help. Leon himself doesn't come, but he did managed to find and get a hold of Chris who assaults the island to find his sister. He quickly discovers that his sister is not on the island, but now he's stuck there with creatures that mutated even further along then when Claire was there. He fights his way through the hordes, garnering the attention of Alexia all the way in the Antarctic. But there's a threat even closer to home, because Wesker is still on the island. He overwhelms Chris the same way he did Claire, but Chris does get a few ineffectual shots in. He manages to knock off Wesker's sunglasses, revealing eyes that are lizard like in appearance. Wesker is no longer human and no longer working for Umbrella. He blames Chris for his situation, and is about to kill him when Alexia intervenes, revealing her position. Wesker breaks off is attack and Chris, willing to settle the matter with him later.
Like Claire, Chris manages to work his way through the rest of the island and go to the Antarctic base. Like the island, the base has degenerated even further then when Claire was there, and is even more expansive as new areas have opened up. Working his way through the base, Chris comes to the heart of Antarctic instillation, and a mansion just like the one on the Ashford's island. He also finds Claire, but she is in the throws of the virus, and he must race to find a cure for her. Along the way he stumbles upon Wesker and Alexia, as the two fight. Both display meta-human abilities, with Alexia being able to generate flames to boot. Wesker breaks off the fight when he sees Chris though, knowing his former agent will unwitting take down Alexia himself. Chris does in fact fill Alexia with lead, but when he returns with the antidote for Claire, Alexia is nowhere to be seen.
The Redfields, now reunited explore even further into the mansion. Claire manages to find Steve, but after a tender reunion she bares witness to his mutating into a giant creature that puts Nemesis to shame. She has no choice but to flee for her life, and the Steve creature unwitting finds itself impaled upon a descending gate.
Chris meanwhile finds clues as to what is actually going on. The Ashford's were part of the founders of Umbrella Inc., who came together after discovering a virus with odd properties that they dubbed the ?mother virus.? However over the years the Ashford lineage has diminished, until Alexia's father ran it into the ground. Alexia was a child progeny though, and developed a new strain of the virus that was based around an ant like property. She infected herself with the virus, and then placed herself into cryo stasis letting the virus mutate into her naturally. Unfortunately this left the rather unstable Alexander in charge, who did little to advance the cause. Wesker has come at the behest of a mysterious new organization to retrieve a sample of this Veronica Virus.
The two discover an airplane in a hanger that they can use to escape, but they have to activate the self-destruct of the lab first. They gladly do this, but are confronted by a very pissed off Alexia. Chris makes Claire go on ahead of him, as he confronts this very dangerous mutant. Alexia takes on many forms against Chris, growing more and more bestial as the fight rages on. Finally though, Chris offs her and races to get to the airplane. Waiting in the hanger for him though is Wesker. A battered and bruised Chris fights the man in vicious hand-to-hand combat. Wesker's genetic augmentation allows him to seriously outclass Chris, but the elder Redfield is the trickier fighter and uses the environment to his advantage. An explosion separates the two enemies though, and neither has the time to finish the fight before the instillation will blow. Chris flees with Claire and Wesker escapes using his own methods.
There was another Resident Evil game as well, by the name of Survivor but this has very little impact on the story itself. A first person shooter game, your character is an agent dispatched by Leon Kennedy to take down an Umbrella satellite company. Nothing new or startling is really revealed.
So that's the four main games of the RE franchise, and the story thus far. As of right now there are even more questions then there are answers. With the fact that Umbrella has an army of Tyrants and Nemesi at their command, and the G-Virus form Hunk, they are truly a global threat. At the same the intervention of Wesker in the last game shows that there are other mysterious forces at work who have the same technology as Umbrella. And our four heroes are still out there somewhere, hoping to merge into one unified team and finally take down Umbrella.
The next game out is actually a prequel that focuses on Rebecca Chambers, but it should shed some more light on the Resident Evil mythos thus far created. And after that, well there's any number of places the franchise can go. Should be entertaining to see regardless.