Tuesday, October 25, 2011

resident evil: director's cut

ESRB RATING: M for Mature
Progress: Finished

Interesting or irritating? That depends on your sense of nostalgia for the Resident Evil (RE) series. I (and for the sake of this review) am leaning towards interesting. Resident Evil in its original incarnation was more of a puzzle game than the survival horror/shooter franchise it has become. Once called "The Greatest Game Series of All Time" Resident Evil games have a special place in my game collection but how does the original game play now? Can I play it on my PSP now as a PSOne classic?

You bet I can and did.

There are two things I want to get out of the way when discussing the original RE. First, with this recent play through of mine I am finally proud to say I have finished the game. I never had the PSOne, the system this game was released on first, back in 1996. My first experience was with the remakes for the NGC. I'm not too proud to admit that I was too scared to finish and didn't even make it to the second disk.
 See the uncut version of the opening cut scene here
Second, there was a strange decision made to have a live action cut scene at the beginning of the story. This was America's first introduction to beloved RE characters Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Rebecca Chambers and Albert Wesker; all of which have reappeared in the continuing franchise. This cut scene was a pretty neat feature in 1996 but really dates the product today. Some of the wonkiness of the cut scene might be explained by it being edited down from the Japanese release for length and gore. For a game that creates suspense and scares, the voice acting is comically bad. With lines such as "Quick, head for that mansion" or "I'm sorry for my lack of manners, but I'm not used to escorting men." In fact the whole game's dialog is right up there with Duke Nukem's sexism and subtlety. Luckily, this hokey cut scene does what it needs to do, introducing the characters, setting the scene then going away.

A series of bizarre murders has been reported in an area outside of Raccoon City. Possible reports of cannibalism. The police department of Raccoon City wastes no time sending its S.T.A.R.S. agents to the scene. Broken into two teams, Bravo was sent in first. Communication was lost with the Bravo team so the Alpha team is sent to investigate. Immediately after being dropped by helicopter, the Alpha team is attacked by morbidly deformed dogs. The encounter with the dogs does not go well, the three remaining agents find shelter in a nearby mansion. As you might guess this mansion is much more than it seems.

My play through clocked in at just under ten hours. That was ten hours of edge-of-your-seat exploration and puzzle solving. Aside from the obvious zombie slaying, the game play is mostly puzzle solving. Solving each puzzle will get you into the next part of the mansion. Some puzzles are very Zelda-like, moving statues and lining up lights. Others involve collecting a few items to unlock another area. The rewards in this game come from opening up a new section of the mansion which in turn provides story-reveals about the mansion, the zombies and how the shady corporation, Umbrella, is involved.

Gameplay restricts you to holding 6 items on your person, making it a puzzle in and of it's self. This is managed through careful use of ammo and game saves and the storage box. Ammo is in short reserve and it can even be advisable to run past some zombies rather than shoot them to conserve. Games saves come in the form of using the scattered typewriters with the ink ribbons. You only find 20 or so ink ribbons in the whole game. The storage box "system" allows you to store extra ammo and weapons you can't carry and claim them at any of the storage boxes found in the game.

The main frustration with the game is too much back-tracking through the same game map. This requires you to basically memorize the mansion and other locations. If this zombie outbreak was really happening I hardly believe I would be running back and forth through the same hallways. My second frustration is the ominous "door opening" scenes that you see while the game loads. While I do prefer this to a standard flashing "loading" page, it gets old fast. Remember when Voltron was formed in the old cartoon and they showed the same animation for it every time? That kind of frustration.

Spawning four sequels, up to five movies, and various other on-rails shooters, portable games and remakes, the original nightmare called Resident Evil is a classic game experience. Join the S.T.A.R.S. and enter the infamous mansion of horrors for a zombie experience that has pretty much inspired the entire video game zombie genre. Originally released by Capcom in Japan under the title Biohazard, RE was renamed for the US release because of problems trademarking the name Biohazard. Resident Evil goes down in history as being the ground breaking game of its time that still warrants your play-through today. So, conserve your ammo and make some room on your PSP for this trip.

Respect your elders

I know the "Director's Cut' isn't actually the original release from 1996 on the PSOne. For the record I played the Director's Cut Dual Shock Edition now available on PSN. I just didn't want to get into the whole version thing.

Who can tell me what the "T" in T-Virus stands for?

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