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Resident Evil

Director George Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead scared the hell out of movie-going audiences across the globe when it debuted so many years ago. The idea that deceased people could somehow rise from the grave again was only slightly less frightening than their seemingly newfound hunger for the living.

In 1996, some 25 years after the release of the movie, Japanese development house Capcom Entertainment released Resident Evil for PlayStation, and in doing so successfully recreated the suspense, thrills and gore of Romero's film as a videogame. Just as scary in its own right, the "survival horror" entry defined a new game genre, sold millions, and spawned countless sequels.

Fast forward to the present. For many the original Resident Evil has remained the scariest of the bunch despite natural improvements in technology and presentation for some of the follow-ups. Capcom director Shinji Mikami, who hatched the franchise to life on Sony's console -- a Romero for the digital age if there ever was one -- shares the opinion. With that, the videogame master has set out to recreate the original for Nintendo's next-generation console, using all of the advancements in technology to present the reborn game with a heightened sense of mood, style and atmosphere. And most importantly of all, to once again scare players as they have never been frightened by a videogame before. Have he and Capcom succeeded? Keep reading.

The Facts

  • The original Resident Evil recreated, revamped and dramatically altered
  • Third-person action-adventure
  • Explore a haunting mansion filled with interactive puzzles and mysteries, many of them new
  • Fight zombies and other gruesome foes including giant bosses
  • Play as Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine (as well as some side characters)
  • Noticeably different play experiences for Chris and Jill extend replay value
  • Use a wide arsenal of killing weapons to viciously eliminate enemies
  • New defensive weapons protect characters when being attacked
  • Beautiful pre-rendered backdrops animate realistically and mingle with real-time visual effects
  • High polygon characters, incredibly detailed textures and unparalleled particle, shadow and lighting effects
  • Completely new areas of the mansion and its surroundings to explore
  • New types of enemies
  • More than 10 different game endings -- unique endings dependent upon play decisions and successes
  • Surround Sound
  • Single-player game
  • * This game does not run in progressive-scan mode, support 16x9 widescreen mode, or run in Dolby Pro Logic II

Gameplay
The Raccoon City Police Department doesn't know what happened to the Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) team it sent out to investigate the Arclay Mountain area on the outskirts of the city, where a number of people have recently gone missing. The unit's helicopter seems to have crashed in the woods, and it hasn't received any contact from the squad since. The department decides to dispatch another S.T.A.R.S. unit, the Alpha team, to check things out. But something goes terribly wrong.

A beautifully rendered FMV (changed completely from the original's cheesy opening) introduces Alpha team members Chris Redfield, a seasoned police veteran and the quick-witted Jill Valentine as part of the second group to find the crashed copter. Even before they can examine what happened, though, the group is attacked by rabid dogs -- seemingly diseased, rotting animals, in fact, but nonetheless totally vicious. One Alpha member is eaten alive and the rest run for their lives -- literally -- toward a big, dark, abandoned mansion. Once inside, the premise is explained, and it's a simple one: survive. It's not as easy as it sounds, as Chris, Jill and the others learn.

In Resident Evil for GameCube, like the original, gamers play as either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine -- each one delivers an altered play experience with slightly changed plot developments, weapon attributes, defensive moves and so on. Exploring the mansion as Chris is more difficult, but either way, everyone is in for a very challenging, thoroughly satisfying adventure -- one that genuinely scares and flows without a hitch or stutter.


One of the very moody in-game environments.

Gamers that have played the original Resident Evil will be wondering about the changes, particularly in regard to control. The basic setup has, unfortunately or not, remained largely intact with Capcom's GameCube remake, offering no true analog sensitivity. What this ultimately means for players is a control scheme that isn't poor, but isn't great either. It gets the job done, and in truth works quite nicely in some cases, but always feels decidedly old, sometimes over-responsive and robotic. There is no real precision -- it's impossible to tiptoe by an enemy, or to aim at a specific body part, in other words. One wonders why, when Capcom could overcome so many technical feats visually, it couldn't address some of the control problems inherent to the series itself. And yet most everybody will probably be willing to forgive any manipulation drawbacks as the end experience is otherwise perfectly tight.

The standard setup is nearly identical to the classic one. Chris and Jill are manipulated with the analog stick, but they don't move with analog precision; they either walk or run, no in-betweens. Pressing the R button, meanwhile, pulls the characters into the offensive positions. If they have a gun equipped, they will raise it, ready for fire. From here, players can use the analog stick to aim the weapon low, middle, or high -- but again, no in-betweens, which is disappointing. A button will shoot the weapon, slice the knife, or act as a general all-purpose action button (opening doors, examining objects, etc.) in non-offensive situations. The remaining face buttons are used to bring up a map or to active an items screen, an integral element to the game as so many weapons, medicines, keys and puzzle pieces are accessed this way. Capcom has mapped a quick 180-degree turn-around function to the yellow camera stick -- a welcomed plus, as it allows the characters to easily and intuitively zip around and run when necessary. This control setup doesn't allow players to run and turn at the same time, which presents problems, especially when being chased during a frantic situation.

Luckily, though, there are other control schemes present, and one that we highly recommend over the standard setup. It's control 'Type C,' and while it might take a minute or two to get used to, particularly for seasoned players familiar with the old controls, it's worth the time and energy. In Type C, players move Jill and Chris with the R button -- minimal pressure makes them walk and full pressure makes them run. The analog stick, then, is used for turning the characters as they run, a huge benefit during play. The offensive aiming positions, meanwhile, are then mapped to the L button. Everything else remains largely unchanged. This alternative scheme feels all around more intuitive once the initial effects of the change wear off.

The play design is linear -- gamers move throughout the mansion and its surroundings while fighting off bloodthirsty zombies with a barrage of different weapons. The undead come in all shapes and sizes, from regular old ghouls to nasty crimson zombies that brandish razor-sharp claws and run faster than the characters. There are hunters, spiders, snakes, dogs -- just about everything rotting and grotesque, all of which present different offensive and defensive challenges to players as they progress, and all of them scary. On top of that there are bosses -- from demonized sharks that flail about in open water to overgrown, man-eating plants -- and one or two additions not featured in the original game, we might add. There is, in fact, one particular enemy that's so new it has its own sub-storyline to it -- never before seen. No spoilers here, though. The weaponry is equally varied and impressive, allowing gamers to shoot everything from a regular old pistol, to a head-exploding shotgun, a grenade launcher, rocket launcher, flamethrower and more -- again, all of which have different gory affects upon the enemies. Using each weapon feels great. Blowing apart a zombie, blood and guts flying in every direction, carries with it a certain sick satisfaction that we don't like to talk about with our psychiatrists... uh, if we had them, we mean.

There are puzzles -- some that make sense and others that have no place within the universe of the game. The puzzles range in difficulty and size. Some may take hours to complete. Others can be completed within a matter of minutes. Some will be familiar to gamers who played the original. Others, more than some might think, are completely original, brand new, and in fact take place within areas that weren't even featured in the old version. Puzzle types range from turning objects to face a certain direction in order to unlock a door to retrieving a number of artifacts which, when fitted appropriately, trigger events. These puzzles are generally satisfying, but there are a few that go above and beyond their call of duty to extend replay value, and these sometimes become frustrating as it's quite obvious that there's really no point to them other than to prolong the length of the game. No spoilers here.

There is an inventory system that must be balanced, items used and stored carefully by players depending upon the situation. This works in an identical manner to the original title -- it's part of the gameplay mechanic, really. Only a certain number of items can be held at any time, but there are chests located about the mansion that can handily store objects and weapons that aren't needed immediately. The problem, or the trick if one prefers, is that certain situations arise when characters will absolutely need to pick up an object to proceed, but can't because their inventory is full. So, they'll have to go back through the mansion, drop off unnecessary inventory, go back to the spot with the needed object, pick it up and proceed. Once they use it, meanwhile, they might need to go back through the mansion again, pick up their initially useful items, and come back once more. It extends the length of the game greatly -- but let's face it, it's a cheesy ploy to do so, and it does sometimes become tedious.

Resident Evil for GameCube is a difficult title, even on easy. It may be possible to beat the adventure in less than five hours if one knows every nook and cranny of the mansion, has the exact method of everything down pat, and is dead set on doing so. But it's a near impossibility. Several editors at IGN attempted to beat the game on easy, and -- well, it wasn't. We estimate that even gamers who played the original version will spend more than 12 hours, and possibly up to 20, running through the adventure for the first time. That's with Jill. For Chris, it's even harder. And on the most difficult setting it's more trying still. There is never a point in the game, though, where one will want to call it quits for good. The mansion calls to players -- its mood and promise of something special in the next room, and it's highly likely that gamers will go through it several times in hopes of seeing the different endings.

There are both subtle and massive changes to the GCN version of Resident Evil over the original. Zombies are more intelligent -- a plus. They come through doors, crash through windows, and change into even more dangerous crimson versions of their former selves a bit into the adventure. There is a new foe that can and does follow players through the entire mansion. There are more of zombies -- in different areas, even on easy, than there were in the original, and they're more difficult to kill. Weapons and objects are sometimes put into different areas than they were previously, as are other enemies. For instance, the undead dogs no longer jump out when gamers walk through the checkered hallway for the first time. It's changed up. There are new puzzles -- some changed slightly, others completely original. There are new areas of the mansion -- big areas. There are new areas outside the mansion -- also large and unexplored. There are new enemies -- some more grotesque and disturbing than can easily be imagined, and some integral to the storyline. There are new side-character operations and interactions. Some of these will have a great bearing on the outcome of the adventure. There are new defensive moves -- Jill and Chris can now stab enemies in the head as a protective maneuver. Jill can also electrocute zombies. Chris, meanwhile, can actually stick a grenade into the mouth of an undead, stand back, point his pistol at the bomb and shoot it. The result, we assure you, is both thrilling and disgusting. There are more than 10 FMV game endings possible. Players can go it as Jill or Chris on easy or hard for different endings. Plus, the objectives players complete or fail weigh into the final ending, and may even affect some of the following game scenarios. In addition to everything else, there are secret costumes that can be unlocked, a new weapon or two acquired, and various cheats that become available after accomplishing specific tasks. These are just some of the amazing extras, more than enough reason -- we absolutely guarantee -- for any owner of the original game to pick up this GameCube update without hesitation. It practically is a brand new experience. All said and done, Capcom's Resident Evil remake for GameCube is a triumph -- an atmospheric ride through a zombie-infested mansion. Sure, we have some control complaints, and we freely admit that some of the areas are designed frustratingly in order to extend play time, but even with these issues the game delivers. It's fun. It's scary. It's addictive. It's challenging. It's immersive. It's satisfying. It's a killer application in every way -- no doubt about it.

Graphics
Wow. One look at the presentation of Resident Evil GCN and gamers will be floored. As of its release, it is the prettiest title available for GameCube, no comparison. We could write for hours about some of the visual accomplishments, but we'd be better served to send readers to our media section to download screenshots and videos.

The game uses pre-rendered backdrops, as the original did, but with much improved high-resolution textures, sweeping background art, and varied locales. It then uses polygons to overlay real-time shadows, lights, particles, and animations into and onto the environments so that they bloom to life. The result is a mansion with fans that rotate and cast spooky shadows onto walls, with fluorescent lights that buzz on and off, illuminating dirty kitchens infested with cockroaches, with plants and grass that sway in the wind outside the house, puddles that splash and reflect the objects around them, and much, much more.

Odd camera angles shoot the action from eerie spots, as characters walk down long hallways, shadows stretching onto the flooring and tunneling about the environment. Chandeliers swing to and from somewhere above stairways as animated crows watch from a window ledge, cocking their heads instinctually. Water splashes around with realistic reflections as giant sharks crash into it, their dead eyes staring blankly, their giant teeth outstretched. Defined zombies crawl and fall as if right out of a George Romero movie, blood spilling from their mouths, eyes white. It looks absolutely fantastic -- stunning, to be sure, and if this is what it means to be pre-rendered, we couldn't be happier.

High polygon characters never looked so real. Up close shots of Chris or Jill look almost photo-realistic. They've been constructed for maximum detail from head to toe, so Jill's face is rounded, her eyes grooved, lashes protruding, hair ultra fine and still more. Her belt, vest, shoes, pants and everything else are realized with actual geometry -- not just textures, so that gamers will see really be able to see the subtleties of the extensions.

Death animations look nearly real thanks to some truly brilliant particle effects. When blowing a zombie's head off, gamers will actually be able to see not only the tiny spurts of red liquid, but chunks of skull and brain as it all splashes and crashes against a nearby wall. A lighter and flask can be used to erupt flames that consume the bodies of fallen zombies, charring them to a crisp. There's even real-time damage to zombies who continue to exist -- we've actually blown a hole through an undead foe and it stayed there. It's gory, nasty business, and it's the only the beginning of Resident Evil's atmospheric graphic side.

All of the enemy animations are truly well done, from the horrific hunters to the zombies, to the repulsive bosses in between. The main characters themselves have digital-like movements about them though -- a touch too stiff to be totally believable, but still striking all the same. The good news is that all of this runs at a constant 30 frames per second, though there are a couple of odd pauses during cut-scenes in the beginning and middle of the game. The bad news, for some at least, is that the game does not run in progressive scan mode despite all of Capcom's other visual boastings. Oh, there also seems to be one slightly less crisp texture in the game -- it's the object that must be pushed off the second floor. Look for it.

Gorgeous. Atmospheric. Moody. Dark. So real it'll give players goose bumps.

Sound
Let's get it out of the way -- Resident Evil does not run in Dolby Pro Logic II. Blame it on Capcom's lack of care, or on Nintendo's inability to get its contract with Dolby fleshed out in time for the company to use the technology. But it still delivers gamers a rather amazing aural experience. The title does run in surround sound, with fine separation between the two fronts and mono to the rears. Gamers will be able clearly ascertain hair-raising zombie moans from the left and right speakers, with follow-ups to the rears. The audio presentation -- the quality of music and sound effects, is perhaps the moodiest portion of the game. Even when players know something is waiting around the corner, they are likely to jump at the sound of a crashing window, or barking dog or a howling zombie anyway. And if they don't, the rise of music, over-the-top and thrilling, is sure to get them. After a while, even the silence before a big scare is eerily effective. And beyond scares, there are the subtle effects -- the way, for instance, the sound changes to reflect different footsteps depending upon whether or not characters are walking on grass, wood or glass. Or the way doors creak and slam shut, interrupting the silence like a shot in the dark. It's all very well done.

What isn't so polished, however, is the voice acting. It's just poorly acted. The characters have odd pauses between spoken conversations, don't seem to react to what each other are saying, and some of the dialogue, bad to begin with, is made even worse by the exaggerated delivery. When compared to a game like Eternal Darkness, with cinema quality voice acting, the differences weigh very negatively on Capcom's adventure.

Overall, though, the scares work in large due to the mostly excellent audio portions of the game. It's clear that Capcom has worked overtime to offer gamers a nearly movie-esque listening environment, and this has paid off greatly.


source IGN Cube

Publisher
Capcom Entertainment

Developer
Capcom Entertainment

Genre
Adventure

Origin
Japan

Number of Players
1

Release
September (TBC)

Peripherals
Memory Card







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