Developer(s) – Capcom
Publisher(s) – Capcom
Director(s) – Shinji Mikami
Producer(s) – Tokuro Fujiwara & Masayuki Akahori
PEGI – 16
Released to universal praise back in 1996, the original Resident Evil (or Biohazard as it was named in Japan), in many ways, set the standards of the survival horror genre (for better or for worse) and has since spawned a beloved franchise with countless spin-off games, seven main entries in the series with an eighth on the way. My personal feeling regarding the Resident Evil series, as well as the survival horror genre in general, have been mixed throughout the years, as I have surmised that they offer far too little in terms of Gameplay compared to games in other genres, and far too much story, with the original Resident Evil, for me, being a very mixed bag. On one hand, there is a fair bit of Gameplay and action to keep up the entertainment (as well as replay value) and on the other hand, too much story with very questionable elements.
Graphics – 8/10
The game primarily takes place in a mansion on the outskirts of Raccoon City; the location synonymous with the original trilogy. Like in the Final Fantasy series on the PlayStation, the scenery consists of wonderfully designed still images throughout, but cutscenes were created using live-action, which was something relatively new to me at the time. The technology of the same vein had been used, such as the inclusion of digitized sprites, but the idea of having full live-action cutscenes was something to behold back in the day. The biggest gripe I have with the visuals is the designs of the zombies, with the same sprite being replicated throughout. This would later be rectified in Resident Evil 2, but in the first game, after you see the first zombie, the recycled sprite doesn’t give you the same sense of horror anymore.
Gameplay – 7/10
The game is an action third-person shooting, puzzle-solving survival horror. Players must navigate through the mansion and uncover its secrets; all the while fighting off zombies and other infected creatures including crows, dogs, and giant tarantulas. It’s during gameplay sequences where the vast majority of the horror in this game is conveyed through the build-up of tension as the player progresses through each room, which was a revolutionary gameplay trope at the time. In many ways, the game does display a great deal of innovation, and it’s in the respect of gameplay where this becomes most prominent.
Controls – 7/10
The biggest problem I had with the controls is in terms of character movement. There were a lot of 3D games released early on during the PlayStation and Sega Saturn’s early days that suffered in terms of controls such as the original Tomb Raider, Croc: the Legend of the Gobbos, and Blasto. Unfortunately Resident Evil suffers from much of the same problems as well. It’s especially annoying during both general combat and the game’s end boss fight. Capcom would also use the same principles in games like Onimusha, which whilst improved on the general formula, still suffered from many of the same issues.
Lifespan – 7/10
To complete the game fully will take around 15 hours, which for a survival horror was relatively impressive at the time. I’ve played many other survival horrors since playing through this game for the first time that has been made to last far less time, so for the game that brought the entire genre to greater prominence than ever before, it got off to a great start in this respect.
Storyline – 6/10
The story of the original Resident Evil follows the investigations of the Alpha Team of Raccoon City Police’s special forces unit STARS. Following reports of mysterious and seemingly random attacks throughout the city, the team is dispatched to investigate the matter. After becoming stranded in the city’s outskirts, the team is forced to retreat into a nearby mansion after being attacked by mutated dogs. The player chooses between two STARS members; Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. The story follows the exploits of whichever character the player chooses. The structure of the story is well thought out and there are a lot of exciting twists and turns along the way, but what stops this story from being taken as seriously as it could’ve been is in the quality of both the dialogue and the voice acting. Indeed, the “Jill sandwich” line has become a meme throughout the years.
Originality – 9/10
Regardless of the quality of the storytelling, however, the fact of the matter remains that this game changed the course of how players saw horror games, and the genre evolved from there, with many developers taking this title as a major source of inspiration. The rest of the Resident Evil series went on to vary in quality throughout the years, but this is where it all started, and it got off to a relatively solid start, albeit, an incredibly unique one.
Overall, the original Resident Evil, though being one of the most influential games of all time sat only relatively well with me. Survival horror has never been one of my favorite genres of gaming, but there are titles that have managed to impress me over the years, such as BioShock and Dead Space, and this is where the genre’s widespread popularity all began. Despite my gripes with it, I have to give credit where it is indeed due.