Fifteen Years of Resident Evil – Weekly Recommendations 28/03 – 03/04
Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own. Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.
Last week it was announced that Capcom are to release a Resident Evil HD collection. Marking the 15th year since the doomed S.T.A.R.S team first sought shelter in the Umbrella mansion, it will feature newly polished versions of Resident Evil 4 and Code Veronica X, running in glorious HD. Japanese gaming bible, Famitsu, broke the news but did not offer a release date.
Created by Shinji Mikami, the series has undergone a number of changes since taking its first clumsy steps in the survival horror genre. Recent instalments have been more action orientated and the series has also branched out into the on-rail shooter genre, with mixed results. The movie spin-offs continue to do well at the box-office, despite receiving a far from enthusiastic response from the critics.
What follows are the three games I would recommend to a Resident Evil newcomer, giving them a feel for the series and its history. They represent the best of the traditional REs, the more action orientated approach of the last decade and also its foray into the world of on-rail shooters.
1. Resident Evil 4 – Nintendo GameCube & Various (2005)
Receiving stellar reviews across the board, Resident Evil 4 is widely regarded as the best of the series, thus it is no surprise that it is the focal point of the forthcoming HD collection. Viewed in a third person, over the shoulder perspective, you take the role of RE 2’s Leon S Kennedy on a mission to rescue the President's daughter from a mysterious cult. You battle through a number of unpleasant foes, including a community of zombie-like villagers and some gloriously OTT boss battles - some of the finest of a series jam packed with them.
RE 4 is a thriller from the outset, featuring one of the more memorable opening sequences in video game history. Besieged by a village full of bloodthirsty Los Ganados, you are forced to take refuge within an old house, relying on your limited ammo and some heavy furniture to bar the doors and windows. You are soon overwhelmed and flushed-out by a chainsaw wielding maniac – few sounds are as unsettling as the whirring of a rusty chain saw – and forced into the open where you must make a stand and slaughter the entire village. And that's just the first 20 minutes!
Resident Evil 4 boasts a number of mini-games, the most impressive of which is the Mercenaries mode – soon to be a full game in its own right on the 3DS. Fighting wave upon wave of bad-guys you desperately battle for new high scores, mindful of timing, accuracy and style. As much as I love the main game, I think I have spent more time in this addictive mode than playing the campaign.
Resident Evil 4 was a defining moment not just for the series, but for action games in general and its HD rebirth is a very welcome one.
2. Resident Evil 2 – PlayStation & Various (1998)
Resident Evil 2 improved upon the first game by becoming bigger and better. It shed (most of) the tongue-in-cheek B movie homages of its predecessor, yet retained its essence as well as the defining elements of survival horror, including the claustrophobic corridors, puzzles, pre-rendered backgrounds and rationed ammo and saves.
Stranded in the zombie infested Raccoon City Police Department, we are introduced to Claire Redfield, sister of RE hero Chris, and rookie cop Leon S Kennedy whose first day on the job turns out to be a bit of a nightmare. Controlling each character across two varied scenarios, you witness the final hours of Raccoon City through two different perspectives. Each scenario offers new NPCs, stories and puzzles and your actions in scenario A effect the events of scenario B, adding a depth that was missing from the original.
Moving the series to the city, Resident Evil 2 cranked-up the thrills with an increase in explosions, blood and brains. Once you are finished it dares you to try it again and gives you plenty of reasons to want to do so. On top of that, you get Hunk’s “Fourth survivor” mode and the ability to play as a giant slab of Tofu – every zombie slayer’s dream.
3. Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles - Wii (2007)
Umbrella Chronicles recycles a number of iconic Resident Evil characters and settings including the original mansion and Raccoon City, and throws them all on-rails, House of the Deadstyle. Vanilla Ice look-alike Albert Wesker, RE’s supremely evil and useless villain, is our narrator, recalling some of the series finest moments for our enjoyment.
Best experienced in co-op, it is a well paced shooter with no shortage of surprises. A new nasty lurks around almost every corner and they are actually more frightening on-rails than off, as you are unable to turn around and flee. There are plenty of hidden pick-ups and extras which will have you scouring the backgrounds of every level, furiously pressing the A button in hopes of stumbling across a new weapon or file.
Achieving critical hits, awarded when scoring a clean headshot, is a tireless joy. Accompanied by a satisfying click, it soon becomes a necessary skill as the difficulty is ramped up, and your ability to nail increasingly fast creatures between the eyes is reflected in your end of stage scorecard. Trying to accumulate perfect S ranks on each level is one of the best reasons to revisit Chronicles long after foiling poor old Wesker for the umpteenth time.
Umbrella Chronicles is a love letter to RE fans and a highly entertaining opportunity to experience familiar events from a different perspective. The vast array of unlockables and a fairly lengthy run-time help to make it the best of Resident Evil’s fascination with the on-rail shooter genre.