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Horror Revitalised – Resident Evil (2002)

By Yoamiwaii, Mar 6 2018 09:00AM

[Article By: Amiwaii]

You have once again returned to the world of survival horror. Good Luck.

Within six years of the franchise’s birth, Capcom had released numerous sequels and side games to intrigue and scare the gaming populous tenfold, eagerly drawing horror fans back for more with every new instalment. Combined sales saw the games sell well into the millions, cementing its place in the high echelons of mainstream gaming. With the title a guaranteed money-maker, Nintendo were quick to swoop in on the franchise and secure an exclusivity deal that would cover a number of future editions in the series; so as such – well, for a few years at least – Resident Evil found its new primary home on the GameCube.

While in hindsight this deal likely hindered the series somewhat, the GameCube itself – at the time – was a fantastic console with exceptional graphical capabilities. The power that the console offered was something Shinji Mikami utilised to finally realise his true vision of what the original Resident Evil was supposed to be, which at the time was limited by the technology it was produced on. So, in 2002, Mikami brought to the world the remake of his 1996 success. But this wasn’t just a glossy paintjob; this was a full rebuild from the ground up, with new additions just so experienced players weren’t simply strolling through the same game they had played before. This reinvention was something that truly challenged their knowledge of the original version. The game released in 2002 was definitely an evolution worth all their time and effort. It was to become a true masterpiece of survival horror gaming.

REmake – as it’s usually styled, and how I will refer to the game for the rest of this article – from the get go is a visual treat with an awe-inspiring presentation. From the moment you put the game into your console, you knew this was going to be a whole new experience, even if you were certain of how the story plays out. Seeing that twitching body-bag sit up prior to the title screen certainly sets the tone for things to come. The game was set to disturb you in every way possible.

The opening movie takes you back to July 1998, right smack dab into the events we are all too familiar with. It’s the same story: S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) Alpha Team are dispatched into the Arklay Forest to search for the missing Bravo team, who were sent out the day before to try and locate the hideout of the ‘cannibal killers’ – suspected individuals who have committed numerous murders where the victims were apparently eaten. There isn’t a live action actor in sight throughout this opening sequence, replaced by exceptional-looking CGI to recreate the scene – which in this case, means we get to see an actual forest depicted and downed helicopter. Well, we of had a bit of primitive CGI to create a forest in the original – but it was really very fleeting, and when the live action kicked in, it was just grass. Yeah… Long grass… You had to apply your suspension of disbelief to the maximum setting to overlook it.

Anyway… They land and inspect the wrecked chopper and find the body of the pilot, Kevin. Wait…? Who? To clarify, he’s a REmake new addition as the original pilot Edward Dewey – who was never seen in the original and was suspected to be a disembodied hand – had been reused elsewhere; more about him in Resident Evil Zero. But yes, Kevin Dooley, rent-a-pilot of the RPD is the replacement victim, soon to be followed by Alpha team's Joseph Frost, again meeting his maker at the hands – or paws, should I say – of the Cerberus dogs, which is even more disturbing and heart-wrenching as Jill just kind of stands there paralysed as she watches him mauled like a piece of meat. Thankfully, there is no melodramatic ‘JOSEPH!’ hollered in his direction this time around.

When the dogs attack, everyone makes a break for it, including Alpha’s pilot, Brad Vickers, who takes off in the chopper and leaves his comrades behind, who eventually flee into the ominous mansion hidden between the trees.

And the game begins. No cheesy cast introduction this time. We just dive right into the horror that awaits us.

Players take control of either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield once again, re-joined by their partner characters Barry Burton and Rebecca Chambers respectively. Despite there being modes of difficulty, Jill is once again the easier scenario of the two. Though she isn’t quite as fast or can take punishment as well as Chris, she has the extra item slots, the lock-pick to negate picking up extra keys, the grenade launcher and, well, Barry – who does a lot to help out Jill when she’s in a pickle. For Chris, Rebecca is a pretty reliable partner, on hand to heal you if needs be and solve all those extra puzzles like mixing chemicals and playing the piano which elude Chris so spectacularly, though she isn’t quite the indomitable mountain that Barry is and will require Chris to look out for her on occasions.

The game reintroduces players to the mansion, but it’s nothing like the abandoned building with only sparse decorations like it was before. This time, it’s definitely got a more lived in feel. There are more elaborate fixtures and fittings bedecking the place to give a grander visual spectacle. It’s beautiful, but still undoubtedly creepy. While you may initially feel confident in knowing your way around, it quickly throws a spanner in the works by introducing a whole new wing on the west side of the house, leading off from the room where you find Kenneth just after he is murdered by the first revealed zombie of the game. Then you have the added areas of the graveyard and crypt accessible from the main hall through a not-so-obvious door just up the first set of stairs; not forgetting the long forested path within the mansion grounds that includes a secluded cabin deep in the heart of the woods, where a new resident to the mansion saga lurks, but more on her later.

The developers have done their utmost to change up the experience to set it apart from the original. Item placement is mostly altered, many puzzles have been completely redone, with many actually becoming more interesting and challenging, and others altered to mess with your head, to show that what may have worked in the ’96 version is no longer the case here. And with expanding the many areas of the mansion grounds, brand new puzzles and routes were introduced which you had to remember and solve while avoiding being munched by a hungry zombie.

Some rooms have also been completely changed from their original design – for example, the ballroom-like lesson space where you fought Yawn for the second time is now a mural gallery with moving walls where you complete a new puzzle. No boss fight exists there now. This encounter has been moved elsewhere. Another noticeable change is the guardhouse basement, which has now been turned into the ‘Aqua Ring’, a circular multi-levelled facility that is completely flood; this is where the nasty Neptune sharks are swimming about waiting for their prey. Previously, the basement was just a centralised tank in a fairly small, square room, but the REmake completely evolved this into something much more intricate and complex, which almost seems like a whole other world of its own under the dormitory. You definitely feel a lot more vulnerable against the sharks in this version, dunked further into the nightmare as you struggle through the water to get out of dodge. There was one room that was completely omitted in the REmake that I miss – the hidden observation room to view the helipad that was connected to the library. It had that sort of ‘ray of hope’ in the darkness vibe that there was a possible escape route on the horizon. But with the library completely remodelled, for some reason they didn’t feel the need to bring it back as well.

There are a few new game mechanics introduced in REmake, one of which includes the defence items you can collect and equip during your campaign. They are used on enemies when they grab you so you can break their attack to avoid taking damage. Both characters get access to the dagger, a small knife that can be used to thrust into the enemy’s head to stagger them back. If you manage to get a critical headshot when the dagger is lodged in a zombie’s head, you can retrieve the dagger to use again, otherwise the item is lost if the zombie goes down any other way. Jill gets the use of a taser, but these require her to obtain batteries for each use; this will stun an enemy with an electric charge. Chris gets the use of flash grenades, which he will shove into an enemy’s mouth. He can either detonate the grenade with a shot or just let it explode on its own after a few seconds, decapitating his foe. The defence items are an amazing edition to the game, which can get you out a tight jam. You can either set this as an automatic action when the character is grabbed or perform the action manually, just in case you want to save some of your defensive weapons for later down the line.

There is also the additional mechanic of burning zombies after you down them. Unlike any other game in the series up to that point, taking out zombies was a cakewalk, and you had very little to worry about unless they were set to respawn. In this case, REmake introduced an even deadlier element to the zombies, meaning you couldn’t disregard them so easily anymore. You will notice that if you didn’t headshot a zombie when you killed it, the body will remain where it fell when you return to that area. If you leave the body for too long and return again, the zombie will have changed into something much more fearsome. Getting close to one of these beasts after its changed will cause it spring up and run at you. Yes, that’s right, RUN at you. The zombie has now become a Crimson Head. You can distinguish this form by the reddened skin, stark white eyes and the clawed fingers. They are much tougher to kill and deal more damage, making them a pretty dangerous foe to encounter. And man are they’re extra freaky when they start running at you like mad men. To prevent a zombie from becoming a Crimson Head, you will need to burn the bodies when you down them. You can achieve this by collecting a flask which you can fill with a limited supply of kerosene and using the lighter (which you will have to collect separately as Jill as this will already be in Chris’s inventory as a personal item). You can also use the flame rounds in the grenade launcher (Jill only), though you might want to save this ammo for tougher enemies later on.

Speaking of enemies, there is a whole new enemy included in the REmake, the cabin dweller I eluded to earlier. She is a shackled, skeletal creature that wanders hauntingly around the estate – the former daughter of the mansion’s architect, Lisa Trevor. For over thirty years, Lisa had been the test subject for many of Umbrella’s heinous biological experimentations, only fourteen when she and her beloved mother Jessica were abducted upon visiting the mansion in 1967. After being separated from Jessica, she would continue to search for her, not knowing what had happened to her, all the while her form degenerating and mind warping into a chasm of insanity from the viral experimentation. She would confuse female scientists for her mother, going as far as to ripping off their faces and wearing them, wanting to ‘return’ the face to Jessica from the so-called ‘fakes’. By the time Chris and Jill reach the mansion, Lisa is nothing more than a withered hunchback monstrosity, hands bound in a manacle, covered in a leathery mask of human faces contorted into frozen expressions of pain and terror. But Lisa is not to be underestimated. She is invulnerable to attack and incredibly strong, and you will have to avoid encounters with her if you want to survive the night. She will appear at a number of intervals in the game, most of which will have you dodging around her until your final, tragic showdown.

While the game may have had plenty of juicy updates, it still has pretty much the same progression as before; though you do end up having to backtrack to the mansion again for a third time in the REmake, as there is no longer an elevator in the caves to take you up to the hidden entrance of the laboratory at the fountain. This is instead relocated to a whole new area which you unlock under the mansion stairs, which leads you down to a very eerie catacomb, where you have a very poignant encounter with Lisa Trevor. Having to go back to the mansion again after the second visit was overkill for me, but at least you have made yourself a shortcut by that time to actually bypass pretty much most of it, meaning it’s only ever a fleeting visit.

There are things I miss about the original game compared to the REmake; mostly to do with Barry and some of his cheesy scenes. Though I think on whole the so-bad-it’s-good voice acting was dearly missed just for its comedy gold. The quality of the new voice acting is definitely leagues better than the original to fit with the setting, even if some small parts are a little clunky because of the dialogue and performance (without the same narm charm of the original). Obviously, with the improvements made to the script, things like the ‘Jill Sandwich’ and ‘Master of Unlocking’ lines are completely omitted, and some other hilarious exchanges are completely axed altogether. Like with the change to the lesson space which had the Yawn fight. After you defeat Yawn, Barry would come in – completely ignoring the melting snake carcass, asking if Jill ‘found anything interesting’ (What the hell, Barry?!).

Going back to the things I miss regarding Barry, the scene after the aforementioned ‘found anything interesting' with him offering to help her climb down the hole was entertaining for good old clumsy Barry dropping his conveniently acquired rope down after her. It was an unintentionally funny part of the whole ‘do you trust Barry?’ storyline, where there are a couple of parts you could choose to trust him or do your own thing, and they were pretty detrimental moments that would see you choose whether Barry was going to survive or die at some point in proceedings, which could be in two different places. In the REmake, this was changed to only having one point where you made a very pivotal decision regarding Barry. Well, not to say he couldn’t be killed off accidentally after that, like with Rebecca in Chris’s scenario, but it just wasn’t the same. I also disliked that the crests that were originally the key to unlocking the back door of the mansion have been relegated to an optional puzzle, but one you’d want to do to get one of the best weapons in the game.

Onto the positive changes, I really liked that you could save Bravo team member, Richard Aiken, just to prolong his life a little longer so he could be a badass and sacrifice himself to save Chris or Jill from death, and give you the benefit of an extra weapon. Not only do you feel proud for saving him, but you get a present for doing so as well! But he still dies... bummer.

Modes you can unlock at the end of the game include Real Survivor, which takes away your ability to access all your items from any item boxes in the game. If you put one item in one box, you have to go back to that specific box to collect it otherwise you’re stuffed! There is also Invisible Enemy mode, which sounds like a hoot – I say that with an air of sarcasm. There is also One Dangerous Zombie mode, which becomes a permanent feature unlocked if you beat the game with both Chris and Jill and save on the same save file. This mode has zombie Forest Speyer chase you around sections of the mansion strapped with grenades, and you can’t attack or use defensive weapons on him or he explodes, handing you an instant game over. Probably a little tedious but quite the challenge for players, though not being able to turn it off seems a bit of a design fail. Thankfully, after you complete the dormitory section in the game, Forest takes a smoke break for the rest of the game and doesn’t bother you again. I mean, having him around when the Hunters turned up would have just been completely unfair. Other unlockable items included the spruced up Samurai Edge handgun and the epic Mark II Rocket Launcher. Chris and Jill also got new costumes, including outfits reprised from Code Veronica and RE3.

I should really talk about how amazing the music is for this game. REmake boasts a soundtrack of atmospheric and intense pieces that completely encapsulate the scenario, enhancing the experience of being trapped in a spooky, dangerous mansion with God knows what. Most of the pieces are harmonised in a way that they create such a chest-tightening intensity, putting you on edge as you explore your surroundings. The soundtrack for the original game had a more dramatic edge to many of its tracks, which worked well in its own way, and you can actually hear some tunes recycled into the REmake soundtrack with a bit of fine tuning to fit the setting. Certainly, I enjoyed some of the original’s music score, but REmake’s soundtrack is far superior for creating a terrifying ambiance in the most subtle of ways. I highly recommend for people to go listen to REmake’s soundtrack, which I’m sure some kind soul has uploaded onto YouTube for your listening pleasure (or terror, perhaps?).

In a nutshell, REmake is a prime example of how to do a horror game right. Yeah, fixed camera angles aren’t everyone’s thing, though it does work to build the tension as you can’t always see what’s coming to get you. On the control front, tank controls have been hit and miss with gamers for a long time. Personally, I like the tank controls and have never had any real issue playing with them. They just take a bit of patience to master. The whole redesign of the game has been beautifully done, giving the mansion an even more eerie grandeur than before. I’ve never been the biggest fan of remakes, but the first Resident Evil definitely needed a fine coat of polish applied, even if the original game was charming in its own way. Certainly there were changes made to improve aspects of the game and make the puzzles more interesting, but they never wavered too far from the original, especially with the story, which was now presented in a tone you could actually take seriously. I think if you’re a horror fan and have never played this game, you should think about getting your hands on a copy of REmake; you’ll be far from disappointed with the experience.

Since its 2002 release, the game was ported to the Nintendo Wii in 2008 and given a control update to fit with the console’s controller. At the beginning of 2015, REmake was ported outside of Nintendo consoles for the first time in a high definition format to play on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC as the ‘REmaster’ version. This included new difficulty modes, alternate analog control scheme, a 16:9 ratio camera perspective and RE5 era B.S.A.A. costumes for Chris and Jill.

Images © Capcom.

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