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Reviewing The Resident Evil Series
They have escaped into the mansion,
where they thought it was safe.
The horror began in 1996 when Capcom released the game that changed everything. Before this games were only scary because of text or creepy pixelated graphics. With the release of Resident Evil, gamers everywhere were introduced to a new kind of horror: an interactive one. A horror where your control would mean life or death for your character. You had to be smart. You had to know when to shoot or when to flee. Ammo was precious but even more so time. With every loading screen of a door opening or ascending stairs our hearts would beat faster and faster because we could never guess what could be waiting for us.
The story of Resident Evil’s birth is a telling one. It frightened many people and started a craze. Gamers wanted more. Survival Horror took on a whole new meaning thanks to Capcom’s new title. Who knew how huge it would get? Who could have possibly thought that we would be looking at a franchise full of games, comics, books, clothes, and tons more. Hell, even I’m sitting here looking at this gigantic review I am doing and thinking to myself that back during the PS1 days I thought Resident Evil would end with number 3 and it would go into the record books.
Regardless of whether you actually wished that happened or not, we are looking at 24 games to be featured in this franchise review and 7 movies. To make it easier on everyone I have split this up into four sections, or files. Capcom has a thing for the word “files” when it comes to Resident Evil. Everything has to do with Umbrella’s secret files and who has them. Well today, we have them and this is how it will be broken down:
- The Raccoon City Files: This section will review the 11 games that told the tragic story of Raccoon City beginning from the initial outbreak out near the Arklay Mountains and up to the when the government decided to cover up the entire story with a nuke. We’ve seen plenty of perspectives and plots that when put together give us all the answers we ever needed about what truly happened in Raccoon City.
- Games: RE1, RE1: Director’s Cut, REmake, RE Deadly Silence, RE2, RE3: Nemesis, RE Zero, RE Outbreak, RE Outbreak File #2, Re The Umbrella Chronicles, RE Operation Raccoon City.
- The Expansion Files: After Raccoon City the outbreaks began to spread. This section is where we see the viruses’ first steps outside of “home”. There are 7 games to be covered in this section.
- Games: RE Survivor, RE Code: Veronica, RE Code: Veronica X, RE Gaiden, RE Survivor 2: Code: Veronica, RE Dead Aim, RE The Darkside Chronicles.
- The Global Files: Evil never stops. The outbreaks are now global and the world has task forces set up to stymie any bio-attack and bring some resemblance of hope back to Earth. There are 6 games found in this section.
- Games: RE4, RE5, RE5: Gold Edition, RE The Mercenaries 3D, RE Revelations, RE6.
- The Movieverse: Evil knows no bounds. The franchise broke out of game screens and into Hollywood. We’ll cover the 5 silver screen releases and the 2 animated ones.
- Movies: RE, RE Apocalypse, RE Extinction, RE Afterlife, RE Retribution, RE Degeneration, RE Damnation.
*Note: This franchise review is not set in chronological order in terms of storyline or release.
This is where it all began. Umbrella’s once noble goals turned to destructive means. “Our business is life itself.” Deep in the outskirts of Raccoon City the scientists toiled away until a discovery was made that changed everything. The following events tell the story of what really happened in Raccoon City. Capcom has spent a lot of time in this damned place and because of that we have accounts from key characters, random survivors, and even Umbrella themselves. There’s a lot to cover here as we have 11 games in this section. It may sound a tad ridiculous but 4 of them are the first game. We have the original and three re-releases and remakes. As noted above, I will not be listing these games in chronological order or storyline or release. I will be grouping major games first then side stories. We start in 1996, when it all began.
The Mansion Incident. There is where we are introduced to the three main characters that will be littered throughout this franchise and are all equally important: Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Albert Wesker.
To be honest, the first game in this franchise is not a very fun one to play. It is tedious and the menus are horrific. Still, back then that didn’t matter. All people wanted to play was a either a good story or a good game. They didn’t clamor for both. Which is a damned good thing because Resident Evil would have been chewed out in reviews all over. The controls are clunky which makes movements tough and that is just inexcusable for a game which relies on your quick reaction. Still, you can’t fault Capcom completely. It was their first foray into this genre and for what it was, it laid the groundwork and got things moving. It succeeded in making people want more and that was the only thing that mattered.
The story of the first Resident Evil was mainly a rescue mission as you searched for the other survivors of the task force. The mansion provided a wonderful starting location as it was creepy, empty, and quiet. No one foresaw the events unfolding in the lab and who was attempting to cover it all up. In the end, Resident Evil started a craze and although it can be bothersome to play today, it is a classic and should be played by all who like this franchise. You just can’t miss out on the beginning.
Score: 4 out of 5
Resident Evil: Director’s Cut
In order to satiate the masses craving for the often delayed Resident Evil 2, Capcom came out with the (at the time) definitive version of the original. Labeled the Director’s Cut, this version of the first game added two new modes of play and enhanced some aspects of each. You could play the original or you could choose to play either the new Beginner or Arranged modes.
Beginner mode made enemies easier to kill and doubled the amount of ammo you could find in the entire game. Arranged mode was radically different, however. Capcom changed the positioning of every enemy in the game and every item was changed. Players also started out with an enhanced handgun that had a chance to destroy zombies in one hit. Characters were also given new looks.
This version is available today on the PSN (PS3, PSP, and Vita) and if you don’t have access to a Gamecube or some kind of DS, this is the best version to play.
Score: 4 out of 5
Resident Evil (REmake)
Most will argue that this is the definitive version of the original game but I like to alternate between this and the DS version. The Gamecube title, nicknamed REmake, revitalized nearly every single aspect of the first game and updated it. It used many features found in Code: Veronica and Zero to make the gameplay more fluid and the backgrounds look photorealistic.
The game itself remains basically the same with the layout of the mansion and other areas but the puzzles were very different. Combat was easier to control and the inclusion of defensive weapons was nice. They did add some story elements to the game but nothing drastic so if you never played REmake you won’t be missing out on anything crucial. It was nice to see the Gregor plot put in and even Birkin and Ashford’s presence was a nice add-in. As with most remakes you have to worry that they’ll change way too much (aka Twin Snakes) but Capcom hit it right on the dot with REmake.
Overall, I tend to agree that the REmake is perhaps the best Resident Evil game ever made. It encompasses years of gameplay perfection before Resident Evil 4 moved to the new system. It is the pinnacle of old school Resident Evil.
Score: 5 out of 5
Resident Evil Deadly Silence
2006, Nintendo DS
Finally, the last re-release of the original game. Capcom loves this game to death but four total versions of the original is borderline obsessive. Either way, Deadly Silence added some cool features that aren’t present in the REmake or Director’s Cut.
First up we have the Nintendo DS’ hardware being used to its fullest with Deadly Silence. The built-in mic and touch screen are used heavily in this game. Players are able to use the touch screen to solve puzzles, use melee attacks, and fend off close enemies. Gameplay was updated to feature the 180 degree turn from RE3 and even some things from RE4 like tactical reload and a dedicated melee button.
There are a lot more people these days with DS’, DSi’s, and 3DS’ than there are with Gamecubes. Although you can find the REmake on the Wii now, if you have some type of DS laying around, you’ll be fine with Deadly Silence. It won’t be a groundbreaking change like REmake but Deadly Silence is as old school as you can get with updated gameplay and features without drastically looking or playing different.
Score: 4 out of 5
Resident Evil 2
Survival horror finally continued after many delays and Resident Evil 2 did not disappoint. It was easy to see why this game was delayed so much. There is a ton of stuff in this game. You have two discs in which each house a campaign with a different main character. You play as either Claire Redfield or Leon S. Kennedy, two mainstays for the franchise, as they enter Raccoon City for the first time. Hell is about to break loose and your first sight of the city is a gruesome one. what follows is a long game filled with secrets, tons of characters, giant bio creatures, and a large city to roam around. Raccoon City is huge and so is the outbreak. It takes two characters to fully explore this game and you’ll be wanting to play each disc and character.
Resident Evil 2 was a huge upgrade from the original game (the original version of the original game, that is). Everything felt smoother from running, gunning, and going through menus. There were plenty of unlockables found in Resident Evil 2 that made exploration rewarding. The story was very complex and at the end raised more questions than answers but one can look at Resident Evil 2 at the original launching point for Capcom’s vision. The original did a great job starting the craze. The sequel proclaimed Capcom’s intent on making this a franchise. We weren’t going to stop with just two games.
With that said, we can look back at Resident Evil 2 as a huge introduction to how tense and dark this series would be. Also, we were introduced to many characters we would see down the road including Sherry, Ada, Leon, and Claire.
Out of the original three games, Resident Evil 2 covers the most ground and stands out as the franchise favorite for many, many fans.
Score: 5 out of 5
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Capcom didn’t leave us hanging for long with Nemesis. This is my favorite of the original three as my friend and I used to get so freaked out whenever Nemesis broke through the scene to kill us. I used to scare him so bad as he walked down the street home and I screamed “STARS!” He would run home so fast.
Ahem, childhood memories aside, Resident Evil 3 boasted upgraded graphics and quicker movement thanks to the 180 degree turns. We return to Raccoon City in the midst of the chaos with our old friend Jill Valentine. Rather than staying scarred by the events in the mansion, Jill is looking to be out this cursed town forever. Her journey out of Raccoon City brings us in contact with an Umbrella response team and more bio-creatures than we can shake our controllers at.
Nemesis provided more fun with the series but ultimately felt like Resident Evil 2.5. There wasn’t much changed aside from the new turning system and a better look, albeit using the same graphics engine. Still, the fun was in the story as the travel to get out of Raccoon City was met with the chase by Nemesis. The game rewarded you for standing your ground against the mutant but unless you were stacked with ammo and good weapons, a sense of fight or flight was best used throughout the game.
Jill’s second adventure in this franchise is well remembered and plays the best out of the original three to this day. After this game, the general tale of Raccoon City’s demise is told and you can get a grasp of what happened if you piece together the mansion incident, Claire and Leon’s adventure, and Jill’s escape.
Score: 4 out of 5
Resident Evil Zero
This was Capcom’s way of explaining how Raccoon City happened. It is the prequel to the beginning as we head to the Arklay Mountains to investigate a string of murders and disappearances. We play as the rookie Rebecca Chambers who you may remember from Resident Evil 1.
This game was alright. Honestly, there wasn’t a reason to remember it. There wasn’t anything ground breaking and I found the partner scenarios annoying. It was cool how you could see your partner finding a way for you to continue but the split between characters made me not care about either of them. It felt like there was no main character to grab onto and the split sections were everywhere. I spent erratic amount of times with both characters and as a result, I could care less what happened to them.
The gameplay was really good combat-wise and the movements were really smooth thanks to a new engine. The story was the only thing that kept me going as it was great to see the initial outbreak and how Rebecca got to the mansion in the first place. It tied together some events and answered some beating questions as to how this all happened.
Is it necessary to play? If you’re playing for the story of the series, yes. If you play Resident Evil just for the scares, then I think you can skip it honestly. The scariest parts are in the beginning then it’s so-so after that.
Score: 3 out of 5
Resident Evil Outbreak
2003, PlayStation 2
Now we hit the side games and spin-offs. Every section is going to have its main games but there are more of these obscure titles than numbered entries. While Outbreak is by no means the first side game to release with the Resident Evil name, it is the first one we will talk about in the Raccoon City Files section.
Outbreak at first sounded cool but we all expected it to fail. The PlayStation 2′s online capabilities were extremely limited and borderline useless. This game was riding on the online feature to make it stand out. Honestly, it didn’t need it. Playing online was cool with this game but the scenario-style campaign was what brought me to the dance. Outbreak was pleasantly awesome. While you could make the argument that the key characters in this franchise are normal Joes that just have a badge or some training, in Outbreak we got to play as Raccoon City citizens who witness the outbreak in the city and try to escape.
Valve’s Left 4 Dead must have taken a lot from this game and its sequel as the story plays in very similarly. You have main characters in a group trying to escape from a zombie outbreak in a city and its outskirts. Each scenario pits the group against the hordes in a specific location and they have to escape. It ends with the final run to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Either way, Outbreak surprised a lot of people and was the different kind of perspective and co-op experience a lot of people were pining for in the Resident Evil series. It just needed to be refined and thought out better. I think of it like an experiment just like the original game. Capcom hinges most of their games as experiments to gauge the audience’s reaction before placing more money and resources into something. And because of how Outbreak was received we got…
Score: 3 out of 5
Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2
2004, PlayStation 2
This sequel took mostly all of the complaints fans had of the first game and got rid of them. Unfortunately this came with a new problem that the first game did not have. It was very hard to piece to story together as the scenarios were very different from each other. It almost seemed like this time around Capcom tried to come up with the most ridiculous places this group of civilians could end up rather than horrific scenarios of escape. It kind of brought of me out of the experience a bit but luckily the refined gameplay and co-op elements made up for most of it.
You can’t play File #2 for the story. You have to play for the fun and the experience of the group. Online felt smoother but was still hampered by the PS2′s capabilities.
There’s really not much else to say about File #2. It was Outbreak but better. A standard fair with enhanced features that made for a more enjoyable experience coupled with a confusing story.
Thankfully those enhanced features made the game better. If the story flowed like the first Outbreak, this would be one hell of an unforgettable experience. Capcom really needs to revisit the Outbreak sub-series.
Score: 4 out of 5
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
2007, Nintendo Wii
The Wii never got a standard numbered game for Resident Evil. It got ports and on-rails shooters. The Umbrella Chronicles is the first of the two on-rails shooters to grace Nintendo’s motion-filled console.
Umbrella Chronicles takes events from the Raccoon City incident and puts them in a different perspective as we play through events from Resident Evil Zero, Resident Evil, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Each scenario covers the beginning, somewhat middle, and end of the Raccoon City tragedy. To be honest, I was surprised how fun this game was. Think of a Resident Evil-branded Time Crisis for your house. High scores abound as we charge through the Arklay Mountains, the Umbrella mansion, and the city itself.
The gameplay works really well here thanks to the packaged gun accessory and there is little to no frustration aside from your own crappy aim. I may not have been a big Wii supporter but Umbrella Chronicles managed to hold my attention for a good amount of time. It’s fun to see events that fans have been through in a different kind of gameplay. I also think that the success of these on-rails shooters and how fast their gameplay was made way for Resident Evil 5 and 6 to have more action-y combat.
Score: 4 out of 5
Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City
I hated on this game big time when it first came out. The gameplay is atrocious. Let’s just get that out of the way, shall we? Enemies are way too resilient and ammo just doesn’t cut it for that. Aiming is nigh useless and the AI for your partners is borderline blind. It saddens me that this is the closest thing we have to a third Outbreak game.
Operation Raccoon City puts you in a squad of Umbrella troops as you enter Raccoon City to assist HUNK in his mission of cover up. If fans of HUNK from Resident Evil 2 play this game, you may just get pissed. First off, HUNK was the silent badass. It was so awesome back then to play as someone from Umbrella and have a different viewpoint of what was going on in Raccoon City. Now he just talks too much and acts like a know-it-all ass. Not someone you want to follow and take point for.
Still, the only redeeming part about this game was the story. We got to see the corporate angle that Umbrella was pulling in Raccoon City and how it felt to be apart of that company during the tragedy. As you progress through the game you have to deal with Birkin, Nemesis, and even Leon and Claire. The choices you can make in the game were pretty cool and although it is painfully obvious how non-canon the one ending is, it was still fun to see it unfold.
I generally tell people to stay far away from this game but if you play strictly for the story of Resident Evil, it really pans out the Raccoon City incident and it should be played. For that reason, I can’t just give it a 1 out of 5 like I originally intended to. It just plays so poorly. Such a waste for such an awesome concept.
Score: 2 out of 5
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