From 1996 to 2012, Capcom has released 24 Resident Evil titles, stretching from different consoles and handhelds. But which ones had the biggest impact?
Resident Evil 2 (1998) PlayStation
Resident Evil 2 wasreleased in 1998, picking up right where the first game ended. It is regarded as one of the first Resident Evil games in the series to not only dominate the sales but pushed the series to a whole new gaming level. With more interactive scenarios, a greater cinematic experience, more weapons, creatures and most importantly being a survival horror, the game is a far scarier survival horror.
As the entire town of Raccoon City has been devastated and overrun by zombies, only a few dozen survivors are left scattered around the city. You can play as one of two protagonists, a rookie police officer on his first day, Leon S. Kennedy, or Claire Redfield, the sister of Chris Redfield. Each character has their own unique storylines, puzzles and obstacles. So just because you pick Leon it doesn’t mean Claire’s progression in the game does not exist. Both characters are running through the same locations of the city at the same time, so the things you do will affect the other character and you can see the situation or scenario also from the other character’s perspective. Resident Evil 2 is also one of the first games to give us different endings.
A new game means better graphics. Resident 2 brought us the 3D rendered backgrounds with 3D polygonal characters running through them. As well as looking visually more terrifying, the game drags you through the ruined city of crash sites and buildings occupied by zombies. Resident Evil 2 animation greatly improved and revolutionised the series. The zombies, heroes and creatures all move with true realism and the sound effects create the atmospheric illusion that they are right next to you eating the flesh of dead bodies.
Resident Evil 2 is one of the first games that set the bar to a whole new level for survival horror genre and also it is the first game of the series that paved the way for an entirely new terrifying endeavour. And that is what a new game to the series should do. It should surpass its predecessor by storyline, graphics, gameplay and add an unique experience that can stand on its own.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999) PlayStation
The first half of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is set 24 hours prior to Resident Evil 2 and the second half takes place two days after. Playing as former member of “STARS” Jill Valentine, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis not only shows the first T-virus outbreak in Racoon City but also determines the fate of the city and the population. As you run through the outbreak you meet many only old faces from the first game but also some new ones.
While the third instalment stays true to the original format with the same controls and graphics only improved, Nemesis adds a new ammo system to the series. Throughout the game you will come across all types of gunpowders to collect and create for the firearms you discovered in the game. From typical ballistic rounds to fire, acid and even explosive, you can create a variety of ammunition for the various weapons in your inventory.
As you walk around the empty ruined streets of Racoon City, the third instalment to the series adds a whole new level of terror with the new prototype deployed by the Umbrella Corporation that only utters the words “STARS”. Armed with a rocket launcher, The Nemesis sole mission is to hunt and kill all STAR members and eventually begin stalking Jill throughout the game. Though you have the option to evade or fight the Umbrella weapon, the decision to evade does leave the sour taste of cowardice. The Nemesis is not only the first original Tyrant to the Resident Evil series, it is also regarded as one of the most popular and most recognisable villains that help fuel the ambience of terror and horror.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is again another fine example of how a successor surpassed its predecessor with improved graphics, sound, and overall gameplay. However, one of the best features to this game is the hidden bonus adventure “Mercenaries”. You select your favourite character in the game, and play a quick run through game with hordes of zombies, creatures and the Nemesis on hot your tail. With the points you collect you then can buy and unlock new weapons to play in the original storyline, so this time Jill has the rocket launcher.
Resident Evil 4 (2005) GameCube
Resident Evil 4 is easily one of the most favourable games of the series. Just like Resident Evil 2 back in 1999, it took another giant leap into not only advancing the graphics but also gameplay and how we see the Resident Evil games today. From starting off as a survival horror, the game emphasises more on the action and less on survival but it marked a new chapter for the Resident Evil series. Once again you play as Leon but now as a US agent on a secret mission to investigate the president’s daughter. His duty takes him to a mysterious European village where a new evil awaits our protagonists.
When you play Resident Evil 4 you need to forget all the tricks you learnt from the previous games. No more aiming up with the shotgun and blowing off the heads of zombies or the shoot and slash tactic to save ammo. It is clear to say that Capcom did some significant changes to Resident Evil 4. No more aiming blindly shooting slow moving zombies with crowds of villagers chasing you with pitchforks, shovels and knifes. The days of the slow moving zombies is a thing of the past. The over-the-shoulder view not only allowed you to aim with precision but it also created a more chilling experience getting real close to the enemy.
This is by far one of the most beautifully stunning games on the GameCube console. The characters and the surrounding environment were incredibly detailed. Characters’ hair bounced as they ran and jumped. The beautiful wooden gave the appearance that the cabins, sheds and churches is constructed from different grains of wood. Trees moved as the wind blew thousands of leaves to the ground and when stepped on the leaves and twigs would break.
The days of the mindless slow moving zombies is left in the George A Romero 80’s & 90’s zombie flicks. When the predecessors had hordes of the undead chasing you, your new enemy is far smarter, faster, armed and even more deranged. Just because the game allows you to interact with furniture does not mean you can barricade yourself in a bedroom. The new villagers are organised and they not only coordinate the attacks but they will surround the house and break the door and climb through the windows. You think you have the high ground? Think again, they will just throw axes and Molotov cocktails until someone brings the ladder. This whole new experience of nowhere is safe not only makes you think again going in gun blazing but makes you conscious of your ammo.
Resident Evil (2002) GameCube
The 2002 Resident Evil remake from the original 1996 release not only marks the return to where it all began but also traces back to on-going franchises roots and seeing how far the game has come. With stunning graphics, terrifying scares and changing so much of the game without losing any of its original charm is for me a huge accomplishment from Capcom.
Powered by the little purple or black GameCube, twelve years later and the 2002 remake is still a stunner. While the 1996 game looked the worst and the original Intro cut scene is an actual video recorded footage, poorly acted by a bunch of B movie actors, the remake’s graphics on the textures, characters and lighting effect is a piece of modern art that should have taken the spot of the Mona Lisa. The quality of the remake completely overshadowed and outdid all of the game’s predecessors. With the new level of visual style the 2002 remake not only shaped how other Resident Evil’s would look but set the bar for Resident Evil Zero which was released later that same year.
Once you knew the ins and outs of killing the mindless slow moving zombies, admittedly the zombies became less scary and more of a nuisance. However the remake added a new twist to the zombies and shooting them wasn’t enough. The only way to kill a zombie was to decapitate or burn the body. If the body was not mutilated, the zombie only came back as faster, more deadly and would take a quite a few rounds to take him down.
Beyond the beautiful graphics and scarier zombies, the 2002 remake is to me the last Resident Evil to focus primarily on survival horror before it focused its attention on the action genre. This game was the reason you stayed up late, turn of the lights and played alone. The remake not only helped relive the original 1996 plot but it also took all the good parts of the predecessors and the end result made Resident Evil 2002 live up to all its expectations and exceeded them.