Jon Gracey's

Games That Rocked…Matthew Highton’s World – #41: Resident Evil

In DS, PC, PlayStation, PSN, Saturn on June 28, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Today’s post is by Matthew Highton.

——

Title: Resident Evil

Format: PlayStation, PC, Saturn, DS, PSN

Released: 22nd March, 1996

Resi Box Art

In 1997 I go to a small shop at the back of Oldham town centre and purchase a second hand copy of a game I’ve heard so much about: Resident Evil. I take it to my friend’s house and five minutes later I’m killed by a dog. The game resets and I ask: how the hell do you save on this thing?

From the moment the PlayStation fires up I already know this is everything I’ve ever wanted in a game. I don’t even know the term survival horror yet, all I know is that it appeals to everything I have ever loved: horror films and computer games.

The intro is terrible, straight out a VHS horror, choosing live action over the now growing skill of Capcom’s graphics. The voice acting has some of the most baffling and  awfully scripted cut scenes  ever created and yet the plot has a depth and imagination that draws you further and further in. The eerie sound effects, the drawn out loading screens between rooms, this is a game of atmosphere opposed to action. It’s like nothing I’ve ever played before.

This is the first game franchise I ever truly loved. The canon that exists in the Resident Evil world may have strayed into the realms on nonsense of late but its true heart flourishes in these early games. I won’t lie: I favour Resident Evil 2 over the first, but the first’s the one that hooked me. It’s the one that would live long after I spat a rocket into the heart of that tyrant sonofabitch and left the mansion in flames (sorry, I should have said: sixteen-year-old spoilers alert).

I vividly remember jumping as that second zombie bursts through and Barry eviscerates its skull with his magnum. Jesus Barry you’re a man’s man – well it is the nineties – how many trees have you chopped down? Don’t answer that Barry, we don’t have time…I’ve still not fully processed that first zombie, let alone this meat pile!

Barry & Jill

The zombie’s body falls to the ground in a hailstorm of blood and gore and when it hits, it remains. This is one of the first things that drew me to the game, the bodies don’t disappear! This is a landmark in gaming, the same way that bullet holes in Goldeneye were. Here you make the undead deader (real term) and the bodies stay! Not disappear like other games. STAY! My friend told me this before I played it and I think the term “shit off” was employed.

This is the power of the Playstation in full swing.

Initially I found the game challenging, but picked it up quickly. This was a new type of game cramming puzzles with action, chills with story, dialogue with, well terrible, terrible acting (I can’t stress this enough). I didn’t just want to find the lost members of my team; I wanted to know what the hell was going on.

Zombie Wardrobe

The effects in Resident Evil are so detailed, that I remember late nights apprehensive to put the CD in the Playstation, knowing that I would spend hours running away from baddies opposed to sending them to hell, simply because I was limping with damage and I didn’t have the bullets. I also reluctantly played because it really did give me chills. It was so creepy in a blocky, polygonic way. This was smart, clunkily controlled, well thought-through and atmospheric gaming. I was playing a film!

It was designed with passion. It paid homage to a back catalogue of films that defined me. Not only that, it predated the zombie revival in Hollywood, rejuvenating interest in the genre for a new generation. I wholeheartedly believe it was a large reason Hollywood zombies took off. Playstation was turning gaming mainstream and Resident Evil was a hit, influencing and inspiring other games as well as other mediums.

Resi Crows

I couldn’t stop telling friends about it. Sometimes they’d watch me play for hours, never wanting to take the controller because they didn’t have the instinct for survival I had (I know how to run past crows good) and wanted to keep the story flowing (what game had that before?).

It was also the first game that made me realise: wow, adults like these things too. Early into the game I got stuck on a puzzle, my Chemistry teacher overheard me asking a friend about it and smiled. A few days later I’m in detention for something minor (lack of homework, or arson, or something) because at this age I’m somewhat of a loveable rogue (mildly amusing and harmless). My teacher was one of those young people who never forgot to be human. She brought me a photocopied walkthrough she’d got out of a magazine and pointed me to the back of the room where the other detendees couldn’t see. For the next hour I was allowed to read through what was to come.

Resi Hallway

Whilst my other inmates are forced to sew trainers for the schools illegal sweatshop I’m given amnesty and begin planning my evening. Scrutinising detailed pictures and guides, learning what enemies are coming my way and what I’m about to face. I studied that guide over and over and learnt everything I could to further immerse me in this world of zombies and giant snakes named Yawn.

I revisit this game every few years or so and even though it has in many areas dated terribly (God those controls are clunky), for me it’s still a perfect survival horror game. Risk of death – high. Threat levels – high. Fixed uneasy camera angles – tick. Ominous score – tick. Evil corporation doing morally questionable experiments leading to an army of the undead and genetically mutated super-beasts without enlisting the mechanism of magic but grounding it a scientifically viable plot – tick.

The first time I played this game I had to stop – the room with the bees crashed and froze (sometimes that’s what you get for getting second hand games). I had to wait a month before I could re-buy it. It killed me (not really). But the second first time I played this game it changed my world and everything thereafter had to measure up!

AND IT HAS BARRY BURTON!

Matt H Edinburgh PosterMatthew Highton is a comedian and gamer. Here’s the poster for his show at this year’s Edinburgh festival. Looks freakin’ great, right? Make sure you check his website for further details and follow him on Twitter.

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  1. […] At least not after an hour or so, when you begin to realise what the game is doing. Just like Resident Evil with its deliberately horrible-beautiful control system, Dark Souls redefines the meaning of death […]

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