The STARS Task Force makes a house call gone horribly wrong as it investigates an outbreak of cannibalism
There’s a reason that first zombie encounter at the beginning of Resident Evil is so iconic. Taking refuge with your squad in the Spencer mansion after being attacked in the forest, you begin to explore the eerily quiet house. As each door slowly opens, you’re never sure what you’re about to step into. Moving to the end of a dark corridor, storm beating down outside, you round the corner. The first zombie, chowing down on a man-made meal, turns its head slowly, stares you down, then begins to shuffle towards you, the narrow corridor forcing you to back away. It is chilling to this day. No matter which route you decide to take through Resident Evil – you can choose to play as either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, members of the STARS Task Force who have slightly different starting loadouts and paths through the manor – you’ll be coming up against much worse than that first zombie: Crimson Heads that dash at you, slashing with their claws; a gigantic poisonous snake that’ll smack you around; and an unkillable, tentacled, shackled monstrosity that’s locked away in the mansion. But the fact that even its most basic enemies, the zombies, can be so terrifying, and can cause you so many problems if you let them get too close, is a testament to everything that the first Resident Evil got so right, and allowed it to give birth to such a long-lasting franchise.
KEEP CALM, EMBALM
Its brand of survival horror was put together impeccably. Within the Spencer mansion, whether you are playing as Jill or Chris you never feel safe. Even with the limitations of PS1 technology, the house feels sprawling, and it’s one you have to explore and pick away at to progress through, finding keys and solving devious puzzles as you forge a path forward, always wary of what might come at you round the corner, unravelling the twisted
“WITHIN THE SPENCER MANSION, WHETHER YOU ARE PLAYING AS JILL OR CHRIS YOU NEVER FEEL SAFE.”
plot of Umbrella Corporation’s T-virus experiments gone wrong as you go. With a brutal save system where you can only save on typewriters in specific rooms (requiring the use of a limited Ink Ribbon item) it punishes the unprepared in a way that makes you cautious. Limited items mean you always feel like the creatures of the mansion have the upper hand – always questioning whether you can really spare those bullets; whether you need to use that herb to heal; or whether you should be using your fuel to burn up the decaying corpse of that zombie before it can come back to life to make your own worse if you need to backtrack. With the tank controls it’s certainly not easy to navigate – simply moving through zombieinfested rooms or even aiming for headshots is a challenge. That’s by design. It still works by making you feel powerless. When confronted with the shuffling dead, you can’t just mow through them in Resident Evil. So timeless is the core game that in 2002 it was remade with modern (for the time) graphics, eventually shambling its way not only onto PlayStation 3, but also PlayStation 4. The premise of the game is basically the same in this remake, and the newer version uses prerendered backgrounds, exactly like the original. It just looks a lot better. Some changes were made to the mechanics, and some puzzles tweaked so they feel a bit less obtuse. A few plot elements were added as well. Thanks to being developed for more modern hardware, the atmosphere is spookier than ever.
The legacy of this first haunting scrape with zombies in the isolated Spencer mansion continues to this day. The most recent Resident Evil, VII, returned to a mansion setting, and revived a lot of the survival elements from this outing. On top of that, the upcoming re-imagining of Resident Evil 2 modernises the classic survival horror that this first game got so right (see p44 for more on it). But even as it continues to impact on the series, stepping back into the Spencer mansion is still its own experience every time.
“LIMITED ITEMS MEAN YOU ALWAYS FEEL LIKE THE CREATURES OF THE MANSION HAVE THE UPPER HAND.”
All enemies are a threat if they get too close; you’ll constantly need to create distance.
Chris can’t carry as many items as Jill, which is odd as men’s clothes have more pockets…
The giant snake is called Yawn, and yes, he is ready and willing to completely ruin your day.