It was a difficult time for us GameCube gamers back in the day but if there was one aspect that kept us going beside the obvious first-party games by Nintendo was the prospect of having the amazing Resident Evil 4 for our beloved purple cubes sometime in the future. It was all nice and dandy the fact we were going to get re-releases of every other Resident Evil worthy of attention and the prequel Resident Evil 0, but Resident Evil 4 was the main meal and we were eager for it.
Still, waiting for a game that turned out to be released 2 years after what was expected was hard and though we wanted the new experience that was promised by Capcom the first release and arguably the least interesting of them all was getting released first. It was a completely redone version of the first game.
Think about it, all games had something in their favor.
Resident Evil 4 was the new thing in town, the premise was too good to be believed.
Resident Evil 0 was fresh new experience, never released anywhere, but retaining most of what Resident Evil was known for.
Resident Evil 2 and 3 were both newer and more polished experiences.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica had also a newer scope.
Then there was the first game with its ancient structure, lesser scope and Jill sandwiches. Sure it was a classic, sure, but hadn’t the time passed and been quite harsh on poor Resident Evil from the original Playstation? Could it be that, one generation after, this game could be redone into something memorable, worthy of its time?
The answer is a resounding yes. Not only Capcom managed to make it completely fresh but also captivated us, eager waiters of Resident Evil 4, to go ahead and give them a chance to show us what they were about to do with Resident Evil. There was no revolution here, simply the work of polish in terms of graphics and gameplay to make it more in par with better 3D controls we had in 2002.
The infamous “tank controls” are still there, though one change which turned out to become ever-present in subsequent releases with pre-rendered background was introduced, the quick turn. By pressing back plus B you performed a quick 180º turn that made thing much more dynamic, offering different strategies to go head to head with zombies and the whole molecular engineered, DNA-twisting enemies that haunted the Spencer mansion in that iteration.
Tank controls simply mean that you walk frontwards while having the option to slightly change directions within the pre-rendered world. The camera is fixed at one point so the graphics are easily incredible, but they can’t be acted upon and are not in real-time. The scenarios by themselves are absolutely amazing noentheless, and they hold up their awesomeness up until this very day. The way Capcom used lighting with the background was eerily beautiful. The enemies reached maximum potential graphically. Hunters, spiders, dogs, zombies, all had assumed extremely detailed designs, something the atmosphere really profited from.
One of the aspects that got me more concerned when I thought of it as a remake of a 1998 game, the fact both RE2 and RE3 had accomplished the feat of extending the gameplay outside the bounds of a mansion or simply the outskirts of that central location, became one of its strong points. There’s heavy backtracking to be done here, no doubt, but it just serves to remind how beautiful and memorable each location was made out to be.
The claustrophobic thoughts abound your head thinking about such a clustered location full of secrets is unmatched. Some locations even had stuff like broken doorknobs, so if you used too much a door you wouldn’t be able to return through the original path, you’d have to rethink your movements around the mansion because of that. With such limited array of weapons and even more limited amount of ammunition, it was natural to kill enemies in corridors and pathways that you traveled more, while retaining the will to lose valuable resources with enemies in faraway areas or small one-time-only rooms.
Solving puzzles was basically what you had to do within the living hell you were placed into. There’s the average Resident Evil puzzle involving statues and weirdly-shaped keys. Along everything there was the intense sub-plots marked by journals, papers, notes and books found throughout the mansion stating the mundane everyday lives of the residents and Umbrella’s employees while working with some of the most dangerous chemically engineered bio-weapons one could think of.
The whole story of Resident Evil is one of the best-written pieces, not only in video-games, but in western culture overall. It revolves around a secret organization called Umbrella founded as a pharmaceutical company but hiding a much more morbid facade. Most people are already familiar with the general story but it’s worthy it to go into full-detail through the games and read all the small narratives. Reading them and forming the whole picture in your head is both gloomy as well as mysterious.
The gameplay is based on few items you can travel around in your inventory while administering the dozens of others in infinite chests found all around. The term infinite just means that when you place an item in a chest it become available in every other chest you might access. Figuring out which items are used in each situation is what really keeps us awake at night besides the haunting atmosphere.
The fact you may get an item in the beginning of the game that you’ll only use later in the end is something you need to account for. Another new treat was the inspection of items that could reveal new items, secret uses or even evidences that could lead to solving a whole different puzzle. You can also combine items to form final forms of crests or keys or whatever the game presents. It’s all part of the experience of Resident Evil puzzle solving.
While is might get overshadowed by recent releases, and at the time it only the fact that it was the first one of all the Resident Evil games planned for the GameCube, but this game might be the definitive Resident Evil survival-horror experience. It’s tank controls at its best, and while tank controls are in itself love-or-hate, if somehow that bothers you there’s no chance that any classic Resident Evil will ever be your cup of tea.
If not, just enter the survival horror.