Happy Halloween everyone! In celebration of the synonymous date of imaginative malevolence, I thought it would be appropriate to delve into a classic horror title in hopes of developing a state of uncomfortable anxiety, securing my next quick fix of adrenaline pumping intensity. Resident Evil is an astounding experience that appropriately fits the stated criteria; inducing an abundance of atmospherically eerie goodness, boasting brilliantly crafted level design that is arguably unrivalled to this very day, and a surprising emphasis on non-linearity and intricate puzzle implementation that mirror the minutia of the renowned adventure genre. Although Resident Evil arguably fostered the Survival Horror genre, and has never been dethroned in terms of pure structure, Resident Evil is a conspicuous homage to the tried and true fundamentals of the adventure genre, cohering the structural puzzle format of adventure legends such as The Secret of Monkey Island or King’s Quest and the non-linear progression of the Zelda and Metroid series. However, given the true nature of Resident Evil as a horror title and the sheer fact that Halloween is upon us, none of this would be relevant, let alone bare any sort of legacy, if the title that single-handedly pioneered Survival Horror wasn’t able to evoke any form of fear in the modern era of gaming. Resident Evil emits an unsettling nature that is quite difficult to describe; it’s this ineffable nature, however, that sets RE apart from the rest of the herd, as there are many intricate variables within the minutia of Resident Evil, making it fairly difficult to identify the true culprit of your instilled fear. Crimson Heads are downright petrifying as they’re basic instinct and structure are completely alien to the strategies you’ve developed thus far, making their imminent rise all the more terrifying. Familiar locales may alleviate yourself to a point of ease, but RE will take advantage of that comfortability and twist the very paranoia that consumes you, throwing yourself into a state of danger when you least expect it. Brilliant sound design will constantly keep you on your toes as its minimalistic music still evokes an unsettling nature that’ll undoubtedly crank your anxiety up to eleven, while enemy noises will alert you on the imminent danger that lies ahead. Regardless of what you’ll find on your horrific adventure through the Spencer Mansion, there will always be something to fear, and cherish the moments of tranquility as these instances are few and far between.
Resident Evil is pure survival horror at its finest; there is no heavy emphasis on explosive action and no globe-trotting adventure to be found, this is a remote, claustrophobic nightmare, one that emits a sense of fear that is unlikely to shake off. Ammo is scarce, enemies range from the profoundly creepy to the relentlessly disturbed, and with no concrete form of guidance, scouring through the maze-like mansion proves to be a gut-wrenching expedition that’ll haunt the very perception of your typical domestic habitation. Danger is fickle and unpredictable, and thanks to the restriction of RE’s fixed camera, the ambiguity and uncertainty in regards to what’s lurking behind every corner is an agonizing sensation that’ll undoubtedly aggravate your paranoia. Crimson Heads, in particular, are relentless monstrosities that are to be feared since your own carelessness could be responsible for their birth. A typical zombie might prove to be an effortless threat as demobilizing their kin is anything but a difficult task. However you must be extremely particular on how you kill a zombie; any form of extermination, with the exception of decapitation and/or incineration, will cause the decaying fiend to eventually resurrect into a petrifying Crimson Head, which in theory are similar in nature to a zombie, but they’re extremely agile, aggressive, grotesque, and their resurrection is completely unpredictable. This uncertain nature as to when you’ll encounter a Crimson Head is splendidly agonizing, as you’ll aimlessly explore previously encountered areas, only to be greeted by fast, ferocious renditions of the zombies you exterminated roughly 20 minutes ago. Gameplay itself may feel rather constrictive in comparison to modern standards, as character movement is relatively slow and bears a certain weight. Due to the slow movement, certain enemy encounters prove to be more intimidating, as every second spent adjusting your current placement and aim will lead you closer to your impending doom. Praise towards dated gameplay mechanics may seem slightly obtuse, but Resident Evil’s poor controls surprisingly work in its favor as it augments the core experience that Capcom set out to create. The controls simply make the game scarier, as the lack of proper, intuitive control results in some intense encounters that prove difficult to maneuver and avoid. One could argue that this lack of control is unfair and an example of poor game design, but it instilled a questionable fear within myself, causing me to dread the very possibility of encountering a nimble enemy, as my speed and reflexes were simply incomparable. Another design restriction that surprisingly works in RE’s favor is its aforementioned use of a fixed camera. The camera will change based on your current location in an area, preventing any possibility of strategically scoping out the vicinity. You won’t be able to see what dangers lie behind each corner as you’ll have to approach said corner for the camera to change, only to discover that there’s a zombie idly waiting for you. Given the fact that Resident Evil was released in the 5th Generation of gaming, it’s fairly understandable as to why RE uses a fixed camera as 3D gaming was in its infancy, and developers were simply grasping the very surface of this new realm. Developers had to either make do with technological restrictions and attempt at incorporating a functional camera, or resort to certain alternatives so that the experience wouldn’t be hindered by a broken camera. In the case of Resident Evil, Capcom decided to use a fixed camera which, in the long run, was an intelligent move as the gameplay has aged extremely well due to the fact that it isn’t burdened by a prototype camera of its time.
I was pleasantly surprised by how akin Resident Evil was to the adventure genre as I am more familiar with the modern takes of Survival Horror. There really is no traditional form of guidance to be found here, you predominately have to explore every nook and cranny of the Spencer Mansion in order to determine your next level of play. A copious amount of doors will unfortunately be inaccessible and can only be opened once you retrieve its respective key elsewhere, promoting a sense of non-linearity and backtracking similar to the likes of Metroid or The Legend of Zelda. Speaking of backtracking, if you are not a fan of visiting old locations, then you most definitely won’t enjoy Resident Evil as it will constantly have you backtracking to old rooms, unraveling new discoveries that were inaccessible before. One iconic signature of the original Resident Evil are its perplexing puzzles, which are heavily inspired by the intricacies of adventure games. The game rewards player independence and will never hold your hand as you’re primarily tasked with solving these intricacies on your own accord. As opposed from the traditional fatigue of adventure games, each task you complete bears significant weight and most importantly, feels relevant to the inhabited world, leading you closer to your final goal of freedom. Puzzles are extremely intricate and, at times, can be extraordinarily daunting as you’ll seldom know where to start. Clues can be inconspicuously hidden within certain items and documents and the constant backtracking may become tiresome at certain points, but upon completion, Resident Evil’s puzzles are amongst the most rewarding that I’ve experienced and heavily compensate the player for their intelligence. Whether you unlock previously inaccessible areas, another clue for a puzzle found elsewhere, or new weapons to add to your expanding arsenal, there is no shortage of compensation as Resident Evil’s rewarding nature is second to none. In terms of further restriction, Resident Evil expectedly promotes selective areas to save your progress, which isn’t alienating to the traditional structure of gaming. However, not only are you restricted to saving at certain locations, but you’re required to have a certain item in order to save at all. If you don’t have an ink ribbon in your inventory, then you won’t be able to save your progress when encountering an old typewriter. This restrictive nature highlights the sheer fact that resource management is of the utmost importance, and since you’re only able to carry a maximum of eight items at any given time, you must choose your wares wisely.
Resident Evil is the best survival horror game I’ve ever played, as it’s more than just a myriad of traditional jump scares and gratuitous gore; yes the environments are expectedly haunting and certain enemies will undoubtedly roam the scopes of your nightmares, but aside from its glorious presentational values, Resident Evil bears a certain amount of depth and complexity that is seldom found in horror titles. With excellent puzzle implementation, a rewarding sense of accomplishment, riveting non-linear progression, and an adept ability to immobilize the player with fear, Resident Evil is an excellent adventure game with a fantastic horror twist. Whether if you’re playing the original on the PSone, the remake on Gamecube, or the HD Remake on current-gen consoles, Resident Evil is an astounding experience through and through, regardless of your platform of choice. If you’re itching for a classic horror experience to indulge on this festive night, then look no further as no other title fits the bill more perfectly than Resident Evil. Just turn off the lights, grab a pair of noise cancelling headphones, and immerse yourself into this endless nightmare. This is adventure gaming at its finest. This is the pinnacle of survival horror. This is Resident Evil.