I'm Reece from England. I'm a newly-recruited News Writer for gaming site Explosion.com, and its all thanks to this here website and blog! I love it here, I love this community and I love to write. I'm always willing to read your blogs here too, so maybe we can be friends!
I've been into gaming since I was about 4 years old, playing the Game Boy, PlayStation 1 and Sega Mega Drive (Genesis to you Americans! Damn you, stealing the better names). Having these systems around during my youth lead to the greatest and most-anticipated Christmas ever - the year I got my N64!
Ever since then I've been playing any and every game I can get my filthy mitts on, no matter what system or genre. I currently have a Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3 and a 3DS. Come on Vita, get more games so I can buy you too!
My favourite games are Resident Evil 2, Zelda: The Wind Waker, Streets of Rage 2, Left 4 Dead, Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter at the handle @ReeceH92. If you do follow me, send me a PM on here so I know you're from Destructoid and I'll follow you back too if you like! I will be more active on there as I get more followers and won't just spam news stories, and I'd be happy to chat any of you. I'd appreciate it as I'm new there and the majority of my followers currently consist of sexbots. If they were real ladies at least I could pass myself off as some kind of Twitter pimp.
This is the conclusion of my Resident Evil-themed blog posts, and what better way to end than looking forward. We all know that RE6 is on the horizon, and there is a mixed feeling of excitement, scepticism and disappointment already among the fans. Before we get into that though, letís rewind a little and begin with RE4. A phenomenal title, a masterpiece of the last generation Ė but also the game responsible for Resident Evilís new direction, thus separating the fans.
Part 1 and 2 were nostalgia trips of the classic games and the underrated Remake. These were the simpler days Ė the games were scary, there were zombies, and everyone loved them. But then RE4 was announced, and everything changed. All the wonderful player limitations that I discussed previously were now gone. Fixed camera angles were replaced by a new over-the-shoulder view; the slot-based inventory system for a new large grid-based attachť case; and zombies for crazy farmer villagers.
Though overused in modern games, when done right zombies are a fantastic enemy and Iíve never lost fascination with them. First, thereís the danger of viral spreading. Zombies can contaminate anyone with a single bite or scratch. You can get away without being eaten alive (which is already one of the worst imaginable ways to die), but if you made the mistake of getting too close youíre still becoming one of them, and youíll soon wish to feast on your friendsí tender flesh. The spreading factor then means ever-increasing hordes to outnumber you, bringing a claustrophobic element where youíre never alone. This was of course executed superbly in RE1ís mansion, but even a larger area like Raccoon City perfectly executed the constant groans and howls of the undead in the background that serve as a haunting reminder that youíre surrounded and may never escape alive. Plus, itís bad enough to witness your friend or survival partner die, but to then see them as a walking corpse and having to kill them a second time can only be a traumatising situation.
Now zombies are simply cannon fodder to new gamers Ė not anything to be feared or threatened by, just another target in the sights of their M16. The current generation has had Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, Call of Dutyís Nazi Zombie modes, and countless zombie-themed twin-stick shooters. Even Red Dead Redemption and Crackdown have included the lovable beasts for you to hurl grenades at. And thatís fine, because I love all of those games. Itís when Resident Evil also chooses to jump on this trend that problems arise. A single zombie was enough to fuck you over in Remake, but theyíre almost being humiliated as crowds of them can now be dispatched within seconds.
So you can imagine that the decision to remove them completely in RE4 hurt me inside as I read a preview in a magazine. Zombies, the staple of the franchise, the most important factor, what drew me into playing all the games when I was young: gone. It got to a point where I began to lose interest in the series. The screenshots didnít look scary at all. It was daytime, you could see all the enemies in front of you, and again, there were no zombies. Just people. Parasitic organisms, sure, but they still yell in Spanish rather than groan and growl.
Of course, I soon gave into buying the game. It got positively glowing reviews which I didnít expect, and well, it was Resident Evil. I couldnít stay mad at you forever baby.
Then I played it, and of course, it was one of the best gaming experiences of my life. And I didnít stop playing it Ė I must have completed that game well over ten times across the GC and Wii versions. Although it was fantastic, it wasnít really Resident Evil Ė at least not as Iíd come to learn it. It was scary sure, but in a more tense and panic-inducing manner than the traditional jump-scares. I canít complain because it could have easily been an average or even bad game. Still, thereís still part of me that wants Capcom to ďmake them like they used toĒ. Especially after RE5.
By no means a terrible game, but it seems the most far-removed entry in the franchise so far. RE4 brought the big changes in, sure, but it was still a survival-horror game. It still maintained that sense of loneliness, and really delivered on bringing death around every corner. In RE5, this had all disappeared in favour of the addition of co-op. Thereís nothing to be afraid of when Sheva is constantly beside you to heal you, revive you or kill enemies for you. You donít even get a chance to feel threatened. If you compare this game to the original, aside from the characters the only similarity is the use of healing herbs.
To me, I view the franchise as two different types of games: classic and new-style. As happy as I am with RE4 and as much as I feel it is a worthy entry, you could still essentially replace the character names and remove the Umbrella sub-plot and it could be a different franchise. Sometimes I wonder if this had been a better idea, as the problem is that now Capcom can never go back. Theyíve said themselves that there is no market for survival-horror games anymore, which I personally donít agree with. It makes no sense to go from the king of the horror genre to an average third-person shooter, where itíll constantly be compared to Gears of War until Capcom finally throws in chainsaws and satellite lasers. The gap in the survival-horror market is exactly why they should go back. I know that RE6 will feel like a high-quality game, and that Iím likely to enjoy it. Although Iím not a fan of their business practices, I love Capcomís games. Itís just sad that, as someone who loves both the survival-horror and action-horror that the series has been split into, Iíll likely never see one of those types of games again. And I hope that thereís never a third type: generic action shooter.
Speaking of RE6, how about some demo impressions? I said at the start that feelings of the franchise are becoming increasingly mixed amongst fans, and that largely remains the same for me after playing the demo. On paper, its everything every type of fan could want: for the the traditional fans thereís zombies, Sherry Birkin, and a seemingly invincible stalking Nemesis-type boss; for newer fans, thereís Plagas-type enemies, Leon AND Chris, rolling around, taking cover and always-available melee attacks.
It did feel odd to switch between three different gameplay styles. What captivated me in the old games was the sense of claustrophobia, being secluded and surrounded, which doesnít translate quite as well when youíre constantly moving across the globe. Still, Revelations followed this gameplay structure and that was a step in the right direction in my opinion. That was the scariest RE game Iíve played in a long time, and really got my heart beating during some of the jump-scares and tension of boss fights. Hopefully thatís a sign that Capcom still has it in them.
But enough digressing. First letís start with Leonís scenario, which I think I enjoyed the most out of the three. It began with a slow pace, perhaps a little too slow for a short section of a demonstration. However, things got exciting when I got to the elevator. Of course, it gets stuck as it descends. And we all know whatís about to happen when an infected member of the party is brought on. But what I loved about this scene was that it seemed like a tribute to the first zombie encounter scene in RE1. Whether Capcom did this intentionally I canít quite know for sure, but I enjoyed it as well as the horde of zombies that burst in when the elevator opens moments after. After I discovered that Leon can melee attack on command though, the sense of panic began to wane a little. Still, that sense of claustrophobia and instant disaster felt like a welcome return, as was the excellent jump-scare presented at the end.
Chrisí scenario is a complete change of pace. This is where the newer boulder-punching fans will find what their looking for, as Chris and his mercenary buddies tear through the city of machine guns and rifles. Although I wasnít too pleased at the addition of the new rolling and sliding and cover mechanics, I must say that they do work well here, and it does feel good to control. It felt fun, although I didnít feel I was in danger at any point. I fear that having a button for melee attacks will make the game too easy, and it seems to remove the strategy that previous instalments presented. Melee was presented superbly in RE4 (and even RE5) because you had to carefully shoot a specific limb or body part in order to stun an enemy before punching or kicking. Not only did this require accurate shooting under tense circumstances but it also required good timing, as you had to run towards the enemy to attack. And if you didnít get there quick enough, youíve just put yourself right in the enemyís clutches. Now that kind of tense and strategic element is gone as Chris swings his tree trunk arms around as he pleases.
I think Iíd have less of a problem with these new features if they stayed in Chrisí campaign only. Considering Leon is supposed to represent the main horror aspect of the game, limited ammunition isnít the concerning factor it once was when Iím freely able to kick back crowds of undead and roll around to safety. It seems to be an issue in Jakeís levels too. The new Wesker Jr. character is forced to constantly out-run and out-gun a huge and seemingly unstoppable creature throughout the game. Sound familiar, RE3 fans? I was thrilled when I first learned that the Nemesis concept was being brought back, but again I didnít really feel threatened here. Even as the hulking mass was running towards me I just felt safe in the knowledge that I could dive out the way. You can now sprint in this game too, so it rarely feels like the monster will catch up to you.
Thereís no complaints in the visual and controls department. It consistently felt like a solid and, dare I say, fun demo. It just doesnít quite seem to be the same game I fell in love with back in 2005. Should I expect another RE4? Perhaps not, as Iíve come to terms with the fact that thereíll almost never be a game to match such a masterpiece. Still, I wish Capcom would realise what it was that made that game so great Ė the unique atmosphere and sense of loneliness. They still have the ability to create that feel again too with hints of greatness, but they let their marketing strategies get in the way of that. And maybe they really believe theyíre creating a superior game with the addition of co-op, online play and ďimprovedĒ third-person shooter and cover mechanics. On paper, that is a superior game: build on the formula of a successful game and include new features. But these features obstruct the gameís potential, rather than improve it. I hate being ďthat guyĒ whoís negative and judging a game on a simple demo, but I already know in my heart that including co-operative gameplay and single-player AI partner again will repeat RE5ís mistakes. I hope Capcom can pull it off and make me scared again, but Iíd be very surprised.
So now that Iíve torn that game apart, what do I really want? Itís almost a clichť to hear a veteran RE fanís wishes for a new game, because itís almost always ďRE2 RemakeĒ. But it just makes so much sense. After the first Remake I hoped that Capcom would continue this fantastic new style with a modern rendition of RE2. It would be amazing to see the RPD building and the city streets in crisp HD with all the Crimson Heads, defense weapons, and new plot devices/bosses like the first Remake had. Even if they felt they had to use the new over-the-shoulder view, Iíd (slightly begrudgingly) accept. As a company who constantly re-releases its games to new systems, Iím surprised that they havenít given one of the best-loved games in the series a wonderfully bloody, surgical make-over.
Of course even more than this Iíd like a brand new game that follows Remakeís style. To be honest, I just want Crimson Heads back. It boggles my mind how such a revolutionary step in the series has been used once and has since been abandoned. I also want them to review their new plot ideas. Really Capcom, punching boulders and a teleporting villain?
[SPOILERS AHEAD in the next three paragraphs if you have not yet completed RE1 or RE5. Although you shouldnít care that much about RE5ís plot and, well, RE1 is over 15 years old.]
Itís one thing that Wesker in RE5 ridiculously abandoned his seemingly unstoppable powers to become a walking target practice for the final boss, but why did he have the power to dodge bullets at all? I like anime-style action in my Metal Gear, but never my Resident Evil. I donít want to see Chrisí muscles versus Weskerís teleporting. I want tension, desperation, and sometimes to feel disturbed during cutscenes. RE6 will have over four hours of cutscenes, so letís hope that not all of that time is focused on different angles of Leonís hair.
Getting back to Wesker, I was very fond of the character in RE1. It was shocking to discover he was the villain all along. He was the best kind of villain Ė a goddamn bastard villain, who blackmailed, deceived and cheated the S.T.A.R.S. members to gain power over them. And I donít mean the Dragonball Z- style powers he gains in later games, I mean the might of the sinister corporation that is Umbrella in his clutches. If thereís one thing scarier than a zombie invasion, itís a human being that has control over it and is willing to leave you trapped inside it. It was fascinating to suddenly see him in that position from the good guy he faked being, and then to see it all taken away as the very creation he admires, the Tyrant, stabs him through the stomach. Its weakness as well as power that makes a great villain, and itís a shame that Capcom decided to take this attribute away. Wesker in RE5 almost embodies the game itself: an entity that is technically given more power and flashy moves, but comes off as far less entertaining.
His motives were also clear in RE1: lure his ďcolleaguesĒ into the lab so he can use them as test subjects, allowing them to be killed by the deadly experiments while he reaps a hefty monetary reward. Simple but effective: the lengths this man will tread for money makes him terrifying. In RE5, he plans to release the Uroburos virus into the atmoshphere to infect the globe. But why? What will he do next when everyoneís a walking mass of black tentacles?
I want believable characters that feel threatened and sometimes believe that they may die. Thereís always room for a Leon Kennedy, but letís not have every character shrug off a massive behemoth inches away from their face with a cocky one-liner Ė it seems like Jake might take that direction in RE6. No over-sexualised battlesuits, acrobatic combat, and please god no more superpowers. Itís bad enough that the Paul Andersonís movies are still being made (seriously, who is it thatís watching those?). As I said Iíd love a brand new game with the classic formula, but I worry that Capcom will be too tempted to spoil it with this kind of Hollywood-style action and dialogue and one-dimensional characters, which makes RE2 Remake a preferable and safer choice.
And that about wraps up my thoughts on the franchise (I wrote too much again, didn't I?). Thereís been some disappointments, but mostly love, fun, nostalgia and above all fear. I canít wait to see how Resident Evil 6 turns out, and I will control my expectations and be as optimistic as I can. Despite my nitpicking, the demo was overall positive, and with the excellent Revelations (that really deserved more discussion in these blogs in retrospect) bringing my faith in the series again, Iíll continue to love the series throughout its changes. At 16 years old after all, itís sure to experience some changes into manhood. Itís up to daddy Capcom to bring him up just right.
Here we are, at the longest section of this series of blog posts and where the initial idea for this began Ė my scariest Resident Evil experience.
Did you ever play Resident Evil Remake? There is a good chance you havenít. The fact it was a GameCube exclusive is enough to enforce that prediction, but it was also, as I stated, a remake. Its technically titled simply Resident Evil, but let's call it Remake for the sake of preventing confusion. Itís often considered a travesty to enjoy a remake more than the original game it is based on Ė especially as a die-hard RE fan. I absolutely love the original, its charm, camp voice acting and timeless quotes make for a phenomenal start to the series. And though even the "Jill-sandwich" line is now gone, this moodier take on the original is, at least what I feel, what Capcom wanted the series to be all along.
Itís important to note that I say scariest, and not necessarily best. It could possibly be my favourite, but deciding between this, RE2 and RE4 is like deciding which of your children you love most. Its a debate I'll have with myself until my dying days. However, in terms of what I feel Capcom intended all along, which was of course to scare the player, Iíd say that this without a doubt did it best.
In Part 1, I discussed how I got into the franchise when I was young. If you missed it, I ended it on a car ride home with my cousin, with our new Resident Evil game. You guessed it, it was Resident Evil Remake. At the time, I didnít know it was a remake, or anything else about it really Ė all I cared was that it said ďResident EvilĒ on the box. My lack of knowledge left me unprepared, making it all the more terrifying.
It was already getting dark during the winter afternoon when we got back, running upstairs to the GameCube. I turned off the lights as we started up the game, so I could revisit that ďfun fearĒ once again with my cousin. We watched the opening cutscene. What was once a hilarious, goofy live-action B-movie clip on the PlayStation was now a fully animated, atmospheric prologue of a man being ripped apart by zombie dogs in the woods. As the remaining S.T.A.R.S members escape to the iconic mansion, I soon assumed control of my precious Jill Valentine. Hey baby, remember me, the one who saved you from the Raccoon City outbreak a few years back? This time she didnít have her huge assault rifle. Itís cool though, I had Mr. Barry Burton accompanying me. They wouldnít go and do a silly thing like separating.
After discovering (hopefully not Chrisí) blood by the fireplace, I began investigating by going through the next door, leaving Barry to examine the claret substance stained in front of the fireplace. That iconic opening door transition animation lead into a very dark corridor, only illuminated momentarily by the lightning from a nearby window. Despite it being a renowned horror series, I think this was the first time Iíd seen it this dark Ė the original games are actually brightly lit and colourful most of the time, and still manage to scare despite this. I turned the corner, to the iconic scene with the very first zombie encounter.
Now, youíd think that after gunning down and avoiding all the zombies in RE2 and RE3, just this one foe wouldnít really have any effect on my mental state. Despite not playing the original myself and only watching my Grandad play it briefly, I had actually seen this scene in the original game, which was one of the few memories I have of the first game. But now it was even grittier, darker and bloodier than before Ė the munching sounds, the blood dripping down the zombieís chin, Kennethís face twitching during his final living moment... and of course, the famous final shot of the zombieís head turning towards the player. It had scared me as a child, and it was somehow scaring me already now.
Already I could tell that these zombies were far more menacing than the ones Iíd seen before. It was an accurate sign of things to come. I tried shooting it, pounding multiple rounds into its undead chest as it lurched towards me as I stood before it, enclosed in the tiny corridor space. As I backed away, the camera angle changed, positioned from the other end of the corridor, leaving the zombie out of sight. I heard a thud, and presumed it was dead. No problem. My cousin and I taking a breather from that intense encounter, we left Jill standing by what we thought was now a corpse. Until the zombie then grabbed Jill from around the corner, causing us to simultaneously scream.
Again I backed away and fired at it, this time ensuring that that bitch stayed down. I saw the blood seeping animation that, as experience told me, meant that he really was dead this time. Again I sighed in relief, my cousin and I laughing at ourselves. I checked Kennethís corpse Ė ammo, awesome. I almost couldnít believe how few pistol rounds I began with, and how many of those precious bullets I used just on that one zombie. In RE2, Leon gets a shotgun from the gun store near the start of the game, while Jill in RE3 jumps into gameplay with the aforementioned frickiní huge assault rifle. I always played in Easy mode on those games, too. I felt scared, but I usually felt somewhat safe. But there was no Easy mode in Remake. And no assault rifle.
I headed back to Mr. Burton, triggering a cutscene. ďBarry! Look out, its a monster!Ē Jill screams, before a zombie follows her through the door. That guy is still alive?! ďLet me take care of it!Ē Barry exclaims, handcannon at the ready. Three magnum shots are fired before this thing is put down. After the initial shake-up, the duo head back to report to Wesker. Before retreating through the door to the main hall, thereís a groan and a door closing where the ďdeadĒ zombie once was. Youíve got to be freaking kidding me.
I started to wonder if those things can die. It only took a few bullet rounds to put them out of their misery in the previous games I played, but here they keep on coming. Of course, you can kill them. But funnily enough, itís often best not to. And this is one of my favourite aspects of Remake, and what makes it so terrifying: the introduction of Crimson Heads.
Simply killing a zombie in Remake can have dire consequences. Naturally, the extremely limited ammunition is a factor Ė any rounds that are wasted on them are rounds that wonít later save your life in times of danger. But it goes beyond that. If you kill a zombie, they will later reincarnate as the terrifying Crimson Heads. Not only does this mean more ammo, but theyíre faster and more vicious than ever before. Of course, going into this game with no knowledge of the game or the story, I learned the hard way.
As I revisited a corridor that was en route to a puzzle that required solving, I noticed the corpse of a zombie I had previously killed. This corridor was narrower than even the one at the start where Kennethís undead buddy was having dinner. I had to kill that guy, or Iíd surely get bitten every time I passed through. It was a simple and effective strategy. I found it odd that the corpse remained Ė in the classic games, the zombie bodies had disappeared in any areas you went back to, complying with that classic video game trope of enemies disappearing after death. I shrugged it off Ė weíre not on the Playstation anymore Ė this is the future on GameCube! I assumed that the bodies remained simply because there were fewer limitations in this newer generation.
I ran past the corpse, towards the door. As I did, the thing leapt up and roared inhumanely, before sprinting towards me. Wide-eyed and panicking, I continued desperately running for the door, and somehow made it through. What the hell was that?! I was safe for now. I completed the puzzle and received a new key. But this room was a dead end. I had to go back in order to use my new key... through the room where that freak is waiting.
I hesitated with fear before exiting the room. But there was no other way.
Reluctantly pressing the A button and again triggering that opening door transition, I then re-entered the corridor, and immediately paused the game. Sometimes the pause menu was my only safe haven Ė stopping all of Umbrellaís experiments from tearing me apart and devouring me, at least momentarily. I began preparing myself, taking a deep breath. Opening my eyes fractionally and gritting my teeth, my thumb edged toward the Start button to unpause. I returned. Nothing was coming towards me. I did, however, hear the insane growls and guttural groans that it made. This wasnít like the normal zombie groans, this was the noise made from something far sinister. Again, remember that the camera was fixed in place. I couldnít see where that thing was, all I could see at that moment was Jill and the door she just came through. That thing could be straight ahead of me for all I knew, biding its time. Iíd have to edge slowly forwards to change the camera angle to find out.
And so I did. I walked her forward, almost halfway across the small hallway. The camera changed... and the beast was nowhere in sight. This corridor was U-shaped, and so it must be hiding around the corner. I ran for the door, and sure enough, the camera changed and exposed the Crimson Head, sprinting and getting dangerously close to my position. I made it. But it wasnít over. Itís never over in Remake. You have to revisit a rooms and corridors constantly to unlock doors with a new key, or use it as a route to get to a new destination. And that was the case here Ė Iíd be visiting Mr. Crimson again soon, and inevitably re-incarnate his buddies throughout the mansion in the same way.
There are two methods of preventing this monstrosity though: scoring a headshot, and thus destroying the head of a zombie means you can rest easy Ė he wonít be coming back as a Crimson as they require the head for the transformation (hence the name). However, this method is purely based on luck as there is no skill involved in headshots, despite what every shooter ever this generation may have taught you. Headshots with a pistol are rare, but if you use a shotgun you can raise those chances. That is, if you want to risk using your limited but precious shotgun shells and not save them for more dangerous enemies later. Thereís infected Dobermans (or Cerberusí), Hunters, and Chimeras, all of which are more powerful, agile and vicious than zombies. Yay!
The second method is incineration. If you have kerosene in your inventory, you can make Kentucky-fried zombies, preventing them from ever getting up again. Hooray! But itís not that simple. Of course it isnít. First, you have to consider your limited inventory Ė as Jill, you have 8 item slots. You canít simply drop items either, as you constantly need to visit item boxes in save rooms to swap items around and make space. So you canít hold onto a kerosene canister forever. And even if you do have it on you, you must make sure that canister is filled, and a filled canister only has enough to incinerate two zombies. As well as safe rooms, you have to also visit kerosene tanks for refills. Did I mention you only have 6 item slots as Chris?
Sounds complicated, right? I bet to anyone who hasnít played the game, it sounds like a drag, too. Fixed camera angles, limited inventory, limited ammunition, revisiting old areas... These are all things that have been phased out in favour of modern conveniences in the current generation. But itís these very things, these restrictions on the player, that make me adore this game. I spent a lot of the time staring at the map, as unlike recent games, this was an essential tool. I couldnít simply run to my destination, as that kind of thinking would get me killed. Taking to account my current health, ammunition and empty inventory slots, I would plan which route would be best.
Iíd consider all the different paths to take, sometimes noting down what dangers lie in each room and weighing up the advantages of each route. If I go this way, I can make a pit stop at the save room, but that corridor has three zombies in it and I donít have herbs... I could go this way thatís safer, but I really need to make space in my inventory for that key I need to pick up... and I donít want to go that way because I left a Crimson in there...
And when you think you have the perfect plan, an impenetrable strategy in the path you have chosen, something new will come along when you least expect it. Youíll run through the same empty corridor dozens of times with nothing happening, but then this time ten zombies will smash and slide through the windows making that once safe path an extremely hazardous route. And youíll be stuck in the middle of it, unprepared for this new fiasco thatís torn a hole in your plan. And if youíre enough of a pansy like I was, youíll restart the GameCube with deep breaths, and start planning all over again.
Of course, the game is full of these jump-scares. No one forgets the dogs jumping through the window, and itíll get you every time. Jump-scares may now be considered an old horror trope, but damn does it work. And as I said, you just wonít expect it. This depth of strategy and these shake-ups that constantly threaten your survival, testing your instincts in a new unexpected situation, make for perhaps the purest survival-horror game Iíve ever played.
Did I mention there were boss fights? ďNow come on bro, they canít be scary. Theyíre methodical practises consisting of attacking an exposed weak spot a set number of timesĒ. Guess again, dawg. In the courtyard cemetery, youíll have to go underground in order to remove the four chains from a suspended coffin, in order to open it. As each chain is removed youíll hear demonic growls from within and blood seep out as it shakes around. So why the heck would you open and release the inevitably horrific creature that waits angrily inside? Duh, thereís a key in there too. And then thereís my encounter with Neptune the shark boss, as Iím forced to wade through waist-high water across a scaffolding, while it waits for me in the depths. Iíll scream every time she rockets to the surface, her gigantic teeth smashing together as she attempts to eat me whole. Then thereís a whole new level of creepiness with the introduction of the new boss exclusive to the remake: Lisa Trevor. Oh yes, Ms. Trevor...
An invincible, chain-bearing, hunched shadow of the sweet girl she once was, wearing the skin of her beloved motherís face on her own. She wonít stop following you and groaning in despair, and all you can do is run. Youíll find excerpts of her diary that records the process of her transformation, an example of the many unsettling and tragic glimpses of the endless victims of the virus that many of the gameís files explore. Even as youíre reading, the game wants you to be uncomfortable.
And gosh, those graphics. They blew my mind back then and a decade later it still looks stunning. Even as an early GC release, it puts later games to shame in the visual department. Characters models, monsters, environments are brought to life with stunning animations and amazing lighting effects. The sound design is similarly fantastic, as each groan, footstep, and thunder strike will instantly alert you.
I could go on about this game forever, as you can tell from this long blog post that Iíve had to separate into three parts. But I donít want to spoil everything nor turn this into a novel. This game is definitely underrated in my opinion, and doesnít seem to get the attention it deserves compared the other instalments. If youíre an RE or simply a horror fan I hope youíll give this game a look if you havenít before. Lisa is waiting for you and a hug.
In the final part, weíll be looking into the future!
So hereís the deal. A while ago I decided to write about Resident Evil, one of my all-time favourite video game franchises. The result was a 6 page-long Word document of over 4,000 words. It began with my intention to discuss what I believe is the scariest game in the series, but I couldnít help myself from also writing more - about my past with the series and my feelings for the future of the franchise. This here is the first of a three-part blog Iíll be publishing, of my thoughts, opinions and experience with the series. I hope you enjoy it, and that itís still not too long! Letís start, appropriately, at the beginning.
My introduction to Resident Evil was an unusual one. When Iíd visit my grandparents, they had a PlayStation, and sometimes my Grandad, still a horror movie fanatic to this day, would play Resident Evil Ė occasionally 1, but mostly 2 and 3. Iíd become all giddy when he set it up and put the disc in, like when youíre secretly watching a mature-rated movie as a kid. I used to get scared but also excited Ė for some reason I liked being scared, watching my brave grandfather run through Raccoon City, taking down zombies, facing the terrifying first Licker, and out-running and out-gunning the Nemesis.
Of course, for a long time I was just watching, not playing. And I liked it that way. I was young and surely could never take control of a character inhabiting such a dangerous world. I was scared enough just watching, surely I couldnít handle taking the responsibility of ensuring Leonís, Claireís or Jillís survival. But one day, Grandad handed his controller to me. I was reluctant at first, laughing and trying to give the controller back. He assured me that I could do it Ė he ran me through the controls, set it to Easy mode, and gave me control of Leon. I let the opening cutscene play, even though Iíd seen it many times before Ė it may feature zombies, but at least in cinematics Leon can take care of them himself without my guidance. It soon edged towards the end with the fateful car crash that separates Leon and Claire at the start of RE2, leading into the first part of gameplay.
Have you seen the beginning of Resident Evil 2? There is no tutorial, no hand-holding, no time to think. Youíre surrounded by zombies, many of whom are on fire from the crash as they shamble towards their newfound meal. Itís at this point, this dangerous and claustrophobic situation, that youíre meant to get used to the controls Ė anyone whoís played the original games knows of the unusual movement controls, where up on the D-pad always moves forward, regardless of the direction the character faces. Already I was terrified, doing my best to avoid the undead but inevitably running into some of them, offering each a chunk of Leonís neck flesh. I donít know how but I managed to escort an injured Leon to Kendoís gun shop. From that day onwards, Iíd ask if I could play, and not just to watch Ė my first step into manhood.
My confidence increasing, I eventually completed RE2 and 3. Just like as the backseat gamer I once was, I was often scared, but it was a good kind of fear. The lights were on, my family was around me, and weíd laugh every time something made me jump. It sounds strange but it was an enjoyable fear, a light-hearted and fun fear. Its testament to those old games that they can be so absorbing even in such a happy environment.
This was the first mature game Iíd ever played. Iíd mostly stuck to platformers and games without any fire-arm, and hadnít encountered foes any scarier than Gruntilda and Gnasty Gnorc. I was drawn in and blown away by the emphasis on survival. There were no 1-Ups to be found here, no funny cartoon-like death animations, like Crash being flattened or reduced to ash. This person that I was responsible for, would be eaten alive if I wasnít careful. And itíd be my fault.
It was the first time I took interest in a serious narrative in a video game, too. I had to be the only young gamer that didnít mash Start to skip a cutscene and get back to the action. Iíll never forget Leonís first Licker encounter, Jillís helicopter (and only escape from the city) being destroyed, Brad being decapitated by the deadly Nemesis.
I felt ever so glorious when I completed each game. Playing a game to the end is boastful enough when youíre young, but this was a hard and serious survival game. Itís here that my love for zombies began. Yeah thatís right, I liked Ďem before they were cool! And oversaturated in todayís games.
Moving on a few years later, my Dad took me and my cousin down town to get a new game, and Iíd stumbled upon a Resident Evil title. At the time I didnít know much about it, other than it having ďResident EvilĒ on the box. Thatís all I needed. Iíd played the games before, but was I old enough to own one of them yet? Surely my Mum wouldnít approve. Yet, as I glanced from the back of the game case to my dad, he gave me an approving look that suggested he was saying ďSon, there comes a time in a manís life when he must shoot zombies in his own homeĒ.
My cousin and I gleefully left the store and continued looking intensely at the back of the game case on the ride home, flicking through the manual. This was our first game that had guns, zombies, and blood. ďDamn, those graphics look goodĒ, I thought. It looked scary alright, but I was already a young zombie veteran. A new lick of paint wouldnít be enough to stop me from saving my precious zombie survivor again. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
In Part 2, I will share what I believe is the scariest in the series Ė my choice may surprise you!
What do I mean by a ďlicensedĒ game? All video games are licensed by their manufacturers. But usually when we say ďlicensed gameĒ, weíre talking about video games adapted from existing franchises in other mediums Ė movies, comics, cartoons, anime, and so on. Let me give you an example: South Park: The Stick of Truth. If you watched (or rather, struggled to stay awake during) the Microsoft conference at this yearís E3, you may have seen the unveiling of this game. As much as I enjoyed and appreciated Trey Parker and Matt Stone bringing their entertaining presence and mockery of Smartglass to an extremely dull conference, I just canít get into South Park as a series. Thatís not me saying that Iím better than any of the fans. Contrarily, it means that I could potentially be excluded from a fantastic video game.
Of course, if the game does indeed turn out to be a masterpiece, nothingís really stopping me from playing. Iíll play anything, regardless of genre, humour, or who made it. But it still wonít be high on my priority list when it releases, and Iím likely to ignore it in favour of another highly-regarded game that happens to come out around the same time.
Even if I did play the game, I wouldnít be gaining extra enjoyment out of it that the fans will. Think of all the references that will fly over my head, the jokes I wonít laugh at, the characters I wonít recognise. The gameplay could be really fun, but I wonít benefit from much more. Itíd be like being given a fraction of a game. To franchise outsiders, licensed games can present a barrier Ė locking up some of the fun youíre supposed to be having. Itís like unreachable bonus content or DLC, that no amount of effort or money can unlock. I might like it, but I canít love it.
Iím also one of the few living males that doesnít really like Star Wars. Thatís not me being hipster, because Iím actually quite envious of the fans. There are dozens of great Star Wars games; in fact Star Wars probably has the best line-up of video games out of any movie franchise. From Super Star Wars to The Old Republic, the franchise has over 20 years of classic games. Not only does the medium prevent George Lucas from monstrously tampering with it to an extent, it can also represent the story in an interactive way, and allow the fans to feel involved and a part of their favourite scenes. It also offers the possibility of an extension or re-telling of the saga, a la The Force Unleashed. Of course, Iím going by what Iíve heard and read, because I havenít played a single Star Wars game.
Even if you are a fan of the franchise that is being made into a game, there is always the chance that you wonít like what has been created. Maybe youíre dissatisfied with the story direction, character portrayal, different voice actors/actresses Ė or, more simply, the game just really sucks. Fans of the franchise will be in uproar, the outsiders still wonít be tempted, and nobody wins. Those Regular Show and Adventure Time iOS games? They werenít what I wanted at all. Because I know that they could be better, that both of those cartoon worlds could be explored more thoroughly and the humour and appeal of both shows brought into a video game with more love. If a game consisting of a brand new, original IP with no licensed franchise attached to it released, and sucked, I would of course ignore it and move on. But if youíre a fan of something external that has been simply thrown into your game system in a half-assed attempt, you want more. You know that they could have done more.
Iím pretty sure I donít need to go into the whole licensed movie games debate. Anyone who plays games enough to go on Destructoid knows that they mostly suck, due to rushed development and greedy cash-in practises. And this is a shame, because my second love after video games is movies. Similarly, games-to-movies are always a disaster, and itís sad that the two mediums rarely seem to get along.
There are some exceptions, though, and theyíre usually revivals of old classic movies, rather than cinema release tie-in rush-jobs. Telltaleís adaptations of Back to the Future and The Walking Dead are fantastic. The former is an old movie franchise that could not be revived the way it was in any other format, and the addition of engaging interaction allows us to enjoy that world in a whole new way. The latter, a franchise gaining recent popularity from the great TV series, gives fans something more to enjoy while enduring the wait for season 3. And who knows, to people who havenít watched any of either franchise before may feel compelled to do so after playing the games, discovering movies and TV shows they never before knew about or considered.
Batman: Arkham Asylum was one such game for me. I was never that much of a fan of the caped crusader Ė I never disliked him and I loved The Dark Knight (see, I do have some taste!), but it was this game that made me fall in love with the world and characters, even if it was Rocksteadyís own adaptation of them to a degree. I loved the game and I wanted more, and thus my interest in the movies and comic books grew. Similarly, The Darkness was a fantastic game, and it wasnít until after I completed it that I discovered it was based on a comic book series. Iíd never heard of it before, and I wouldnít have nor would I have cared if it werenít for that game.
Spider-Man on PS1, too, was what turned me into a wall-crawling fanatic as a child. That fandom has stayed with me ever since, and Iím now excited for the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man game and movie. Earlier I mentioned Adventure Time, with its first disappointing dive into the world of video games. However, I canít wait for WayForwardís new 3DS entry. I couldnít think of a better choice for developing a game with such a wonderful and imaginative world. While thereís much to be excited about already with the amount of originality we see in video games, it can be just as riveting to see our favourite characters dipping their toes into a new medium.
When youíre on that other side of the fence, when you love a series and the game that it has been adapted to, then you feel overjoyed. What could be a barrier for some is now an enhancement for you. Your beloved franchise has been crafted into something special, and you know that the developer loves and respects it, just like you do. When you are part of that fanbase and enjoying that game, you can make faces at the people outside of the aforementioned metaphorical fence, knowing theyíll never enjoy what you can! But seriously, donít be a jerk.
I hope that South Park: The Stick of Truth and Star Wars: 1313 makes you fans very happy. And who knows, maybe theyíll be the games to convert me too. Games can be a powerful tool, helping to continue those franchises after the several years of their existence, bringing in a new audience and allowing fans to step into that world, becoming more than a simple observer.
And letís thank Christ thereís been no Twilight video game yet. Although maybe it could be the answer to a female gamerís Leisure Suit Larry, consisting of a series of mini-games to seduce vampires and werewolves and goblins and whatever else is in those films. Get with the times, man, women donít want you mere mortal men anymore.
Yup, boiled. I gave that disc a nice hot soak in the frying pan in my kitchen. It was broken, you see. We all need a hot relaxing bath to restore and refresh our tired bodies sometimes Ė even video games. Well, thatís not entirely why I did it. So what series of events could possibly lead me to carry out such a maniacal endeavour? Iím glad you asked! 'Cause, y'know, I've gone and written a blog post all about it.
The victim was Lost Odyssey, a fantastic 360 exclusive that Iíve recently got round to playing. Itís a rather large RPG held across four discs, and a few weeks ago I had reached the finale that is disc 4. Over 40 hours of gameplay later and I was prompted to insert disc. I obeyed, only to be greeted with an error. I was devastated! Now Iíd never see the ending, or get round to exploring and completing the side-quests as I had planned. Sure I could buy another copy of the game, but I couldnít simply wait for a new game to be delivered. Iím a gamer, so I want everything now.
Because Iíd been playing the game for so long, it meant the return period had expired too. I couldnít really complain because it was a steal on eBay, especially considering the amount of fun Iíd already had. Being locked out of the final section of an amazing game is maddening, however. I had to find a way.
Guys, I know we all love Jansen, but sometimes I've just got to burn him. Its for his own good.
Many of you may have heard of the toothpaste method Ė you can fix scratched discs by rubbing fluoride toothpaste all over their shiny underside, which fills in the cracks and evens out the surface, so that the laser can once again read it correctly. Iíd never heard of such a thing before myself Ė mainly because I take good care of my games my babies. The odd thing about all this was that the disc looked fine. There were one or two light scratches, but nothing more than youíd expect from even a fully-functioning game, and I wasnít sure if there was really anything there that a bathroom substance could fill in. Having read about the toothpaste fix across the Internet and how it has such a high success rate of fixing games though, I decided to give it a go all the same. The disc was worthless at this point, so what did I have to lose?
About four or five squeezes of toothpaste, actually. Yeah, it didnít work, as I suspected. After all, the disc didnít really have any visible scratches to fill in. I used a disc cleaner on my Xbox too. It already played other games fine, but I was desperate. That didnít help either, and I was puzzled. What sick twist of fate was this? What could possibly be preventing this game from working? Thatís when I decided to ask Google. Whenever I have a question, no matter how obscure or trivial, Google is there, like some digital agony aunt/wise man that I turn to. It seemed unlikely at the time that many would be experiencing the exact same problem with the exact same disc of the exact same game, but again: desperate times.
To my surprise, the issue was common. Dozens of forum threads appeared in the search results, created by people who once shared my pain. The solution that kept appearing seemed less than regular, however: submerge the disc in boiling water for a few minutes.
I laughed at the premise. Oh, you Internet trolls. What next? Dry it off in the microwave? That scepticism began to fade, however, as the solution became more and more frequent, and delivered with such sincerity. Could it actually work? Well, if toothpaste can fix video games, maybe anything was possible. As I read more, I learned that disc four of Lost Odyssey was packaged in a sleeve in new copies (mine was of course pre-owned), which left a very thin invisible layer of residue on the disc that prevents it from working. It must have been deeply embedded into the disc, as apparently it canít simply be rubbed off, with hot water being the only removal tool. Well, I still had nothing to lose.
Even though the disc wouldnít work anyway, I hesitated as I lifted the boiling kettle, Jansenís face on the disc staring back at me, his eyes silently begging me to reconsider. But I forced myself to flip over the disc and pour the water, and stared intently. I donít know how discs work Ė would it not snap, melt, explode, scream in agony? I left it there for a few minutes, and sure enough faint traces of the residue appeared on the waterís surface.
My disc is immortal - just like Kaim!
I dried it off and ran back upstairs, all giddy. I put the disc in, and while it got further than it had before, it still got stuck in a few attempts. I took the disc down to once more submerge it in boiling liquid, as I had likely been too impatient before and took the disc out before all the residue had been removed. Another intense watch of the cleansing disc, and another giddy run up the stairs. Another error. It wasnít over yet though, because I could try installing the game. When I tried installing before, it would reach around 20% and throw another error at me. It happened this time, too, but it kept getting further on the installation bar at every attempt. I kept watching and hoping, thinking maybe I'll get lucky and reach 100% this time. I bet you never thought a loading bar could become so intense.
More errors taunted me, but it progressed further and further each time, and I kept trying.Suddenly, the game had installed past the 90% mark. Could this be it? There were many times during the installation when the machine stopped making noise, which usually meant it was ready to give up and show an error. It seemed my Xbox shared my determination this time, however, and gave it all it had, resuming its duty. Only 5% left. The sound again dropped and the bar stopped. I like to think there was an epic digital battle raging inside my Xbox, between the disc and the system. 3% left to go. Another moment of dead silence after the loud humming of the Xbox. There was no way that it could give up on me now!
Thankfully, it reached that glorious 100%, and told me pleasantly ďthe game has been installed successfullyĒ. I had finally lifted Gongoraís curse on my disc! And I could resume my playthrough.
Over a decade ago I was blowing my Game Boy and N64 cartridges to get them working again. Now Iím rubbing bathroom substances onto discs and cooking them in my kitchen. It was a funny experience that I had not had since my youth Ė that desperation and the tension as you can only sit, wait and hope for a broken game to realise your effort and start working again.
I guarantee it was this sly bastard casting a spell on the final disc. He's aware of my unmatched gaming skills and did it just to stop me kicking his ass in the final battle.
If anyone reading has any stories of fixing damaged games, please share! Have any of you discovered strange fixes for your games? Have you too felt the relief of seeing your beloved, broken game working again?
When we inevitably enter a completely digital age, its unlikely weíll have to fix physical games again. This is great as scratched discs are always a pain, but still, blowing and rubbing our games (oh yes, ha-ha very good... grow up will you?) feels almost part of being a gamer.
My biggest surprise from this whole affair was how accepting my parents seemed upon seeing me squirting toothpaste and boiling an Xbox disc. Perhaps they think Iíve lost it and find it best not to ask. Itís probably the best philosophy if you live with me.
If you look at the line-up of recent attention-grabbing games, you'll notice the majority of them are sequels. Max Payne 3,Diablo III, and the upcoming Sonic 4: Episode 2 are just recent examples. Its hardly surprising - a follow-up to a successful IP can lead to masses of hype from gamers, as it can offer an even bigger and better experience. Rightly so, as some of the best games of all time have been sequels: Super Mario Bros. 3, Resident Evil 4, Final Fantasy VII. Naturally, its sequels like these that are likely to pave the way for many stories of most-hyped games among the blogs for this assignment. Funny, then, that one of the games I got most excited over was Animal Crossing.
Technically, AC is a sequel, but to a Japan-only N64 game that I'd never heard of before. I first learned of its existence from the pages of the UK's old Nintendo Official Magazine. I don't know what it was, but there was something about it that kept me staring at those screenshots and re-reading the information with curiosity. A game with no objective? Although I was young, I had already played a lot of games, and all had presented me with something I set out to achieve. Saving Princess Peach, escaping Raccoon City, thwarting Dr. Robotnik... A game with no goal conflicted against all the gaming instincts I had acquired up to that point.
Yet it was that sense of freedom, the ability to set my own goals and do what I want that appealed so much to me. The only game I'd played that was close to something like that was The Sims, and still that had restrictions - you could make your little people billionaire's and the world's most intellectual family, but you do also have to prevent them from starving and pissing themselves.
But there was more to it than that. The game ran in real-time, and events occurred whether you played or not. Best of all: you could play it forever. I'd never heard anything like it, and I wanted it.
My hopes were quickly crushed, however, when I read that there were no plans for a European release at the time. It still never left my mind though. Collecting Mario furniture, going fishing throughout the seasons and chatting to animals in shirts sounded like something I had to do.
I remember seeing an expensive import copy of the game in a Gamestation store. The combination of the high cost and my region-locked GameCube meant that I could only stare at it, imprisoned as it was in the display case before my eyes - like a poor Charlie Bucket staring intently at his desired Wonka bars.
My golden ticket arrived when sometime later, a new issue said that a PAL version of the game had been confirmed. Hooray! Leading up to the eventful launch, I had asked my dad to pre-order the game for me. Brand new games were a rare luxury back then, as it meant relying on my parents money. And that meant relying on my lazy ass to work for it. But Animal Crossing motivated me, and I felt like I'd do anything to play it. This was a risky decision too, as that would be the one game I'd be stuck with for the next month or two. Of course, I planned on playing it for far longer.
An agonising wait led to the launch of the game in the UK. I remember the day clearly. My Dad picked me up from school on Friday and handed me my copy. I held the game firmly with disbelief and ecstasy.
The wait didn't end there, however, as first we were off to visit my relatives. As much as I love my family and their company, my mind was racing with excitement and impatience as I clutched the game case, re-reading the text on the back and flicking through the manual. From the moment I asked to pre-order to now finally owning the game, I kept wondering if I was insane. How could I possibly be so excited for a game so much, without so much as watching trailers or gameplay footage, or playing it first? I'd always played it safe by buying games I knew I would like. It wasn't like there was anything cool about it either. No zombies, guns, chainsaws, mythical beasts, or even boss battles. Questioning myself only lasted a few seconds however, before my mad anticipation for the game returned.
It was late at night when I got home and slammed the small disc into my GameCube. K.K. Slider soon graced my screen, with his mellow attitude and guitar held in his doggy paws. I can't remember his exact words, but it was probably something along the lines of "so, you finally got my awesome game. I dig that". I was then greeted by Rover the cat on the train to "DarkTown" (my now-embarrassing attempt at a badass town name within an eight-character text limit). Despite the late night, it wasn't long until I was put into Tom Nook's work uniform and familiarising with the locals.
I still remember many of my first villagers: Mitzi the cat, Dotty the panda, Frobert the frog, Wolfgang the wolf. I ran around, talking and completing errands for them, all the while plotting my plans for domination. I would soon become the hero among these animals, become rich from my foreign fruit farms, live in a glorious mansion, catch rare monster fish, fill the museum exhibits with badass dinosaur skeletons. I would turn this simple town into my own glorious empire landmark! And sometimes chase butterflies with my net.
Its safe to say that, despite my ridiculous expectations, Animal Crossing did not disappoint in the slightest. To this day I'm not sure where all of the hype came from, but I'm just glad that it led to me to such a phenomenal video game. Maybe it was that feeling of enjoying something no one knows about - not that Animal Crossing flopped because no one bought it, but among my schoolmates I would be the only one to know of it (until I would show my jealous friends). Owning a GameCube in itself was like being part of a cool exclusive club. Maybe it was the concept of something new and original. I like to think that, even as young as I was, I could recognise that a game with an original enough idea can be just as exciting as a AAA sequel, and like many gamers I could appreciate the value of originality in the industry. While I'll wet my pants with the rest of them at the most vague indication that Half-Life 3 exists, I can get equally as excited at something new and weird. I had similar experiences with the likes of Portal and Katamari, where I simply had to own them immediately, and again it paid off.
Ironically, as successful franchises gain more and more attention with each entry, I found myself far less enthused with each new instalment in the Animal Crossing franchise. I'm not the only one to realise the lack of evolution in the series, but it's also because I just played so damn much of the first game. I enjoyed starting over in the DS and Wii iterations, but nothing could match the experience of my first town. For a game with essentially no point to it, I dedicated hours every day into it.
I'll never forget my time in Animal Crossing, or the time leading up to it. It was the game where waiting until Christmas to receive it wasn't an option. If the game had turned out to be poor, my disappointment could have been overwhelming. Hype for a game can go either way, giving the player something to look forward to or crushing their expectations. As a whole, however, it is a great thing, as it represents our unbreakable passion for the medium as gamers. Its a reminder that we love doing what we do, and its amazing that, even after devoting our entire lives to such a hobby, we can become excited about simply doing it more.
For all the effort, money and sleep that that hype took away, everything was worth it when I dug up that Master Sword furniture piece.