Resident Evil is a survival horror game developed and published by Capcom in 1996. It is the first game in the Resident Evil franchise and paved the way for all survival horror games to come.
The game stars S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team members, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, who the player gets to choose between before starting the game. Each character offers their own challenges and scenario. Chris can take more damage, but has fewer item slots and need to find more keys. Jill takes damage more quickly, but has more item slots, a lockpick, and Barry helps out a lot more from the start compared to Rebecca.
We start things off with a black and white FMV with Chris providing narration. Despite the game giving you the choice of who to play, it's obvious Chris is meant to be the main character as he provides narration for both scenarios and get the most screen time in the opening credits.
Resident Evil primarily takes place inside the Spencer Mansion, a mansion found in the middle of Raccoon Forest that the team enters for shelter. Depending on which character you choose, Barry or Chris will be missing. Once a gunshot lures you into the dining room you have your first feel for the controls.
“A dining room!” – Barry
Nothing gets pass him, huh?
Whether you're new to the franchise or are a longtime fan, chances are you probably discussed the “tank controls” at great length. For those who don't know, “tank controls” is a term used when a game doesn't allow the player's character to move forward and turn at the same time. If you're not used to this style of controls it can be extremely annoying. Many of us who grew up with the game didn't find all that hard, but I'd be lying if I said I never ran into anything stupid because of it.
Then we have the fixed camera angles. As you explore the mansion the camera will change accordingly. This provides some suspense when you encounter an enemy you can't see, but it also generates a cheap level of difficulty as when you go to line up a shot the enemy will trigger the camera angle to change messing you up. Some times the camera will be far away making it hard to line up your weapon.
Enemies range from zombies, animals, etc. Each one is due to the experiments that were going on in the mansion before you arrive. You can learn more through documents you can discover in the house, just like a mystery. The best part about the first game and what helps make it so scary, is that you have no idea what's going on. Why are there zombies walking around? What happened to the dogs? Why is there a giant snake killing people? You don't find out until you put all the clues together by the end. That, combined with the atmosphere and music, makes it a wonderful experience to play.
Introducing the “Master of Unlocking.”
Your inventory comes into play when you need to balance out your weapons, ammunition, healing items, keys, and items you need to solve puzzles. This is where the survival elements comes in as you only have so many slots, and you only get so much ammunition at a time. Even ink ribbons that are used to save your process are in short supply, so you need to use them sparingly or it can come back to bite you, pardon the pun.
Because of this, you really need to think carefully about how you're going to use your items. Some times it isn't in your best interest to just blast through everything that gets in your way. You need to explore every crack of the mansion you can so you don't miss anything important. I can understand why this wouldn't be some people's cup of tea, but I honestly think this is what separates Resident Evil (and survival horror) from other games and is something that's been lost for a while now.
Puzzles in this game can be rather tedious. When you're in need of a key or something you need to solve a puzzle. In the example above, you need to click on several pictures in order from newborn baby to old man. That's easy to solve unless you just click yes to the first picture you find. To get a key in order to fight Yawn, you need to exchange emblems in two separate room and play on the piano to move the clock. If Umbrella employees put half the effort into their experiments that they did with these puzzles they'd be ruling the world by now.
Aww. I want a flamethrower.
Now, while I enjoy Barry as a character, it just bothers me how much he's used to save Jill in her scenario. In later games and the movies Jill is depicted as a badass, but if you played the first game you wouldn't get that vibe from her. She comes across more as a damsel in distress than special forces. That's why I don't understand why Rebecca is seen as the weakling. She ends up helping Chris a lot more than Chris had to save her. To be fair to Capcom, I don't think they intended for this to come across as sexist, that's just what happened. They balanced it out pretty well between Rebecca and Chris so it's just disappointing that they couldn't do the same with Jill and Barry.
I think you all know what's coming next.
The voice acting is horrible! It's so bad it's good. When Resident Evil began it never took itself seriously, whether it meant to in the beginning or not. That's part of the charm. If that isn't something you could get into I suggest playing the Remake. They do a better job of playing it straight in that one.
Resident Evil has multiple endings depending on choices you make in the game. You don't even have to save your lost teammate to complete it. Several FMVs were recorded to accommodate this, and if the mansion remains in tact the Tyrant will survive. Rebecca and Barry can also die if you're not careful so there is a sense of accomplishment escaping the mansion with everyone.
Conclusion: Resident Evil is a fun survival horror game with a fair amount of replay value. If you enjoy survival horror, zombies, or hilariously bad voice acting, then I definitely recommend Resident Evil to occupy your time.