EVIL GETS AN UPGRADE
When news broke that the very first RE was being remade, I was elated. But that excitement turned to serious concern akin to being the guest of honor at a zombie cook out when it was revealed the series was going to be exclusive to the friggin' Nintendo GameCube. It was pretty easy to cure this melancholic mood, though. I just had to buy a GameCube system. I never cared for Nintendo systems, mostly because they were known mainly for Mario and other kiddie style games (I did like Playstation's CRASH BANDICOOT series, though), which I was never a big fan of.
Later it was revealed that this exclusivity deal was for three titles, one being the next official installment in the franchise. I didn't actually buy the GameCube system till RESIDENT EVIL 4 hit the streets; and when I got the system, I also got the RE remake and also the other GameCube exclusive, RESIDENT EVIL 0. This game explored the origins of the events that led up to that fateful night in and around the Spencer Mansion.
Purchasing all three at once ensured that lots of evil would be encountered. I first gave the RE remake a spin, having heard rave reviews about it and also in how fucking difficult it was to play. And it was all true. The whole look of the game was one of the most beautifully macabre things I'd ever seen. To say the game looked gorgeous is an understatement. It also reinforced the fear factor that the first game did so well. The ability to scare hadn't evaporated from the series, but it wasn't on the level of that iconic first game till this GameCube entry. The RE do-over multiplied the terror times a hundred and amped up the difficulty level, too.
For this revamped version, everything was overhauled and major differences were implemented. About the time I realized why the "dead" zombies hadn't disappeared from the hallway and room floors after I'd put them down was about the point where frustration overpowered me and I shut the damn thing off.
I didn't have a strategy guide and hadn't bothered to look at one online. But I was curious why there were gas cans and gasoline about. I continued to play and once I left the house and returned, I discovered, much to my horror that the zombies have returned from the dead again stronger than before and nearly invulnerable. After emptying bullet after bullet back into them to no avail I went online and learned that you have the burn them or else they come back to life even more powerful than before. But from what I have played so far, this was an amazingly detailed, absolutely terrifying game. I can only imagine what the remainder is like. Hopefully, I can get around to trying it again in the near future.
SURVIVAL HORROR FILES #3: THE THING
"This is one intense action/horror game. You gotta play this one, man -- it'll blast you against the wall." -- John Carpenter
Now here's a game I could play again and again. John Carpenter even gave it a great review! The game itself is something of a sequel to the actual Carpenter film of the same name from 1982. Captain Blake is a member of two different teams sent to both the US and Norwegian arctic camps to find out what has happened there. When Beta team loses contact with Alpha team at the Norwegian camp, Blake heads for their location. The rest of the game is made up of mountains of suspense, horror, gore and tons of monsters.
The game is highly innovative in that you can have multiple people on a team. The AI is great and they'll engage in a heated firefight as opposed to just standing there like in other games. Trust is an important part of the game, too. If you accidentally shoot one of your men, they may lose trust in you and try to kill you, or they're possibly infected by the Thing and you'll have to kill them instead. Also, the stronger monsters can't be killed with conventional weapons. They must first be weakened by bullets then destroyed with the flamethrower. You also have a life bar and when you're outside in the extreme cold, there's another bar that, if it runs out before you get back inside, you'll freeze to death!
Fans of Carpenter's movie will be pleased with nods to his version of THE THING and rewarded by an appearance from a familiar face during the big boss finale. A shame the sequel game never got released.
BEGINNINGS OF THE LIVING DEAD
Putting that one aside, I dove straight into the other two. RE0 was an interesting, if seemingly detached prequel game. I liked it, but it had an odd feel about it that didn't seem to gel with the others. Possibly because the storyline wasn't as engaging as some of the others mirroring the bland plot of RE3, yet RE0 has no other game to feel like it's an expansion pack to. It also lacks the familiarity of some of the series' more recognizable names.
It was different in that you played two characters (Rebecca Chambers and ex-Marine deathrow captive, Billy Coen) onscreen at the same time. You controlled one and the computer controlled the other. It's pretty much par for the RESIDENT EVIL course here with little variation. The ability to drop items at random spots and pick them up later was a nice touch.
The familiar monsters are all here with some new additions like the Leech Zombies (which foreshadow the beyond creepy Regenerators of RE4), mutant scorpions and these rabid ape monsters called Eliminators; which are basically the Hunters, just as damn dirty apes. I don't remember a great deal from RE0, but one part in particular really "jumped out at me"; it was a scene on the train when a zombie burst out of a refrigerator for a snack.
SURVIVAL HORROR FILES #4: THE SUFFERING
This was a particularly brutal game from 2004. It's about a condemned man named Torque about to be executed for allegedly murdering his entire family. The night Torque arrives at his new prison home, the Earth cracks open and out pops all manner of horrifyingly demonic creatures. Torque must escape the island alive in an effort to learn what really happened to his family. This was an incredibly gloomy, yet kick-ass game filled with tons of hallucinogenic and nightmarish imagery. It differentiated itself from RE by having the main character make decisions whether to help, kill, or ignore innocents, or other prisoners. His actions determine a possible outcome at the end. It also added an Insanity meter that when at full capacity, Torque could change into a powerful monster. The game was also unique in that Stan Winston designed the impressive menagerie of monsters. A sequel game was released the following year, but I never did play that one.
EVIL GETS AN OVERHAUL
The meat of all this monster mayhem is undoubtedly RESIDENT EVIL 4. This game remains my all time favorite game. I remember buying GOD OF WAR around this time and as great as that game is, Kratos is Krushed by the monstrous might of RE4 and its insurmountable number of enemies and magnificently macabre, epic atmosphere. A complete and total overhaul was in order, so the series originator was brought in to take the reigns of this groundbreaking, series altering fourth entry. The antiquated pre-rendered backgrounds and alternating camera angles were tossed out the window as were other familiar mechanics of the series. Replacing them was an innovative "over the shoulder" angle and unique aiming system.
Also revitalized were the franchises most famous, and recurring creatures--the zombies; only these shufflers weren't actually zombies. They were individuals turned ravenously insane by these parasitic creatures called Las Plagas. Upon learning that there weren't any flesh-eating dead in this upcoming RESIDENT EVIL game, that was cause for alarm. But after playing it, this was a great direction to take the series. Los Ganados, as they're referred to in the game, turn out to be a far more vicious, and dangerous adversary than the standard gut-munching zombies. These homicidal human monsters talk, run, duck, dodge and throw weapons at you! There are also other types of Ganados that have various types of parasitic beings that erupt from their heads after taking damage. The various types of reptilian insectoid things are all hazardous to your health.
Also, the entire game takes place in fog enshrouded European locales. Much of the scientific gobbledy-gook that loomed large over the previous entries is overshadowed by Los Illuminados, a vile cult who has kidnapped the daughter of the president of the United States. Leon Kennedy, last seen blowing away zombie hordes and assorted monster scum in RE2 is tasked with the job of rescuing the presidents daughter.
Not since RE1 had a video game had me so enthralled that I didn't want to put it down. It's that damn good. It's also a lengthy adventure that alternates between outright horror and action-adventure. I suppose it's the natural progression of the series, but from here on out, the "Survival Horror" portion of the series takes a back seat to gun action, car chases and big explosions. RESIDENT EVIL also introduces Quick Time Events to the series for the first time. These heighten the intensity of numerous sequences whether you're battling El Gigante or engaged in a knife battle with the mercenary Jack Krauser.
This was the first time I had encountered actually playing, or interacting with a cut-scene. I remember putting the controller down expecting the game to take over for a time, not knowing it was going to put me in control of how the scene would play out. Needless to say, I found this new addition to the series pretty amazing. The high point of this was the aforementioned knife battle between Leon and Krauser as perfect timing was key to surviving the scene.
I've never actually been a HUGE video game fan. I go through spells where I play them, than may not touch the damn things for months or more. RESIDENT EVIL 4 rekindled my interest in gaming. Not long after, I purchased GOD OF WAR, an awe-inspiring barbaric bloodbath that was probably what CLASH OF THE TITANS would've looked like if it were directed by Chang Cheh. As gloriously over the top as it was, I thought RE4 nudged passed it in pretty much all areas. Something about RE4 grabbed me, and thankfully it wasn't one of the numerous nasty nightmare monsters healthily spread throughout the games lengthy running time. The game rightfully won several awards and also remains the biggest selling entry in the franchise up to this point.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART FOUR