Memoirs of a Gamer – Resident Evil

Here the zombies in the latest installment of Ellie Zoe's editorial series

We continue Ellie Zoe’s reflection on the games that have made an impact on her. This latest edition takes a look at Capcom’s juggernaut survival horror – Resident Evil

I’m genuinely not that bothered about zombies, yet this is the second zombie game on the list. That would be because Resident Evil is massively dear to me, and to this day remains one of my favourite games ever made. Specifically, we’re talking about Resident Evil on the Gamecube, the remake with the pretty graphics. The series has certainly had both highs and lows when it comes to the quality of the games themselves, but it’s been fairly consistent in both thrilling and terrifying me since I started playing it. For anyone somehow unaware, Resident Evil is a series of games set in a universe filled with bio-terrorism and assorted nasties.

You’ve got your standard zombies – available in a variety of flavours, but then you’ve also got giant, evil animals, and a number of other completely disgusting abominations of all manner. You’re put in an environment filled with the blighters, given a few puzzles and mysteries to solve, and then left to explore. Some of the games are far more linear than others – Resident Evil 4, 5 and 6 are more like standard shooters with some added creepiness, but 1, 2, 3, 0 and even 7 to an extent are more focused on moving around a location at a slower speed and tackling challenges one at a time.

Stiff, tank style controls and set camera angles were used to dictate pace exactly and set up some of the series’ most memorable scares. It’s easier to create tension and fear in an environment that you have complete control over – you can put the player exactly where you need them to be and show them just what you want. Without cutscenes, it’s far harder to do that if you give the player free movement and 360 degree camera control. It’s perhaps ironic that far less natural controls can lead to far more organic frights, and you need only look at Resident Evil 1 for some of the best examples of this.

If you were to poll a hundred gamers of a similar age to you or I – and ask them what the scariest moment in gaming was for them, there’s a good chance they’d tell you it was the zombie dogs bursting through the windows of the the Spencer Mansion. Sure, a loud noise and sudden movement can be frightening, and I can’t say it didn’t shock me too – but Resident Evil doesn’t let up after just one scare. Jump-scare has become a bit of a dirty word in the gaming community, seen as a cheap tactic to illicit a quick reaction from the player but little more. Whilst this certainly can be the case, mixing them in with other elements of creeping terror and horror can be very effective.

The best part is, not all of Resident Evil’s frights are built around jump-scares. The environment itself is often used to panic the player, with crushing ceilings and spinning axes looking to take your life away at the slightest touch. For the first major portion of the game, there’s a coffin hanging from the ceiling that you have to keep coming back to. You’re not told what’s in it, or why it’s in there, just that you really don’t want to let what’s inside out – but that you will have to to progress through the mansion.

Another of the most terrifying parts of the game is one Lisa Trevor. This is a monster that was quite clearly once human, but has gone through a slow and painful transformation. Your first encounter with her is via sound alone. There’s a locked passageway under the stairs, and inspecting it reveals nothing bar some unpleasant moans in the distance. You keep seeing little hints of her here and there, but nothing solid until you’re trapped in a situation with no way out and have to confront her one on one. You’re actually made to go inside her shack to search for items – only to have her return home whilst you’re still there.

Another way that resident evil creates a sense of dread is through its item management and inventory systems. It sounds silly, but limiting the amount the player can carry and often making them choose between ammunition or important healing items really applies the pressure. Game saves are a finite commodity too, forcing the player to make use of an Ink ribbon to log their progress. This isn’t always the best mechanic to include in a game, but here it stops you going out guns blazing with reckless abandon – and makes every choice feel that much more significant.

The remake of Resident Evil 2 is finally set to release in January of next year. Survival horror was put on the shelf by plenty of developers for far too long, but after the indie revival it has experienced and then the commercial success of titles like Resident Evil 7, we’re finally seeing one of my favourite genres taken seriously again. The gameplay we’ve seen so far looks to be of a refreshingly high standard, and I can only wish it success and that it paves the way for even more fantastic projects in the future.

Ellie Zoe

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