Thursday, March 1, 2012

Game A1 : Resident Evil - Final Rating

It’s finally time to apply the COWARD system for the first time and see if it Works… All in all, I enjoyed my time with Resident Evil, even if I acknowledge there are a lot of flaws who will be adressed in the sequels or the remake…(and assets we'll never find again in this series)  Let’s try it… here goes nothing !

First category, first difficulties : Resident Evil is a bit of a mixed bag here. In one way, your approach to this game gives you the illusion of liberty. You feel free to wander the mansion how you see fit, cleaning zombies in one place or just running in the corridors avoiding them to keep your ammo. At first, there is a real feeling of exploration. Of course, pretty soon, you realize you’re on a predetermined path. Each key leads you to one part of the mansion where you find a few items, a lot of foes, and another key, and so forth. The puzzles themselves are not particularly clever : with a few exceptions, they consist mainly on pushing items sokoban-style or following instructions. The scarcity of ammo force you to do resource management during the course of the adventure. Shoot everywhere or save a little too often (like I did) and you're probably getting in trouble for the rest of the game. I'll go for a 5 there, mainly because it makes you feel more free than, for example, RE3.
Rating : 5

I agree that Resident Evil created a subgenre of video games. However, it was preceded by two major influences. Shinji Mikami, creator of the game, recognizes the influence Sweet Home (NES - 1989) has on his work. The way the doors open, for example, is directly taken from it. It even seems Resident Evil was, at first, supposed to be a remake of this game, before going to a different direction. Even if Mikami never acknowledged it, I find too many similarities between this game and Alone in the Dark (DOS - 1992) to not think the two are unrelated. You have a choice between two leading characters, the action takes place in a dark mansion crawling with zombies and other beings, with only a few ammo to take them out. Even if the explanation for the events in Alone in the Dark lurks within the Chtulhu mythos instead of the bio-technology approach of Resident Evil, the two games are really close. Anyway, you can't ignore the gigantic influence Resident Evil had on the rest of the industry, spawning a huge series and hundreds of followers like Silent Hill or Dino Crisis.
Rating : 5

Most of the backstory in the game is learned through different reports and journals found scattered around the place. They're pretty well written, and it makes up for the horribly acted cut scenes. Of course, the story itself is as cliché as it gets. The good guys fight against the evil corporation, there is a traitor among them, blah blah blah... As I mentioned before, a pretty nice touch is how you understand that Wesker is the traitor : you find clues in the various documents around the lab, first a picture (he is the only guy in the whole world wearing sunglasses), then a name... until you confront him and he shots Rebecca (too bad he misses her though). Of course, if you don't read the docs, it feels a bit like you missed a cutscene, but, hey, they have been written for a reason, right? This touch, however, isn't really enough to fill the huge gaps in the story : Umbrella is barely mentioned and there is almost nothing concerning the mansion (it will be pretty well addressed in the remake, but not here), so it lacks a bit in this category.
Rating : 3

Wait, what? He missed you? errr... I mean, glad you're alright!

Of course, I have to judge this category by putting back the game in its context. It's 1996 and the rendered 3D for the backgrounds, and real-time 3D for the character is the technological pinnacle of the year. This game made Playstations flying from the shelves and almost single-handedly buried the aging SNES and Genesis. A year later, the Director's cut was a bit better-looking, especially showing new camera angles who go a long way to add to the overall experience. My biggest concern is how bland the mansion looks. A lot of rooms feel a bit empty. The sound design is interesting, though, because you can always know when a hostile is in the same room, even if it's not shown visually. If you compare it to other 1996 3D releases (Tomb Raider or Die Hard Trilogy for example), it does pretty well, but I'll be a bit harsh here because I really think the beginning of the Playstation era was one of the darkest periods of video game graphics...
Rating : 4

This is where Resident Evil really drops the ball : the controls are awful. The infamous tank controls are at work here. Missing a "quick turn" button like in the sequels, your character takes forever to turn around, getting hit a few times if you're in a bad position. The aiming is pretty awful too. Between the arbitrary camera angles and the importance turning yourself in the exact direction of the enemy, you're more than likely to waste a few bullets shooting around. The crows or dogs, in particular, are really annoying. I know it's kind of the point that these things are hard to shoot at, but it's sometimes really a hassle. The interface is kinda difficult to bear too. The six-items limit inventory (ok, ok, I've seen now that Jill has a eight-items limit, but that's not the point! ;) is pretty harsh, especially considering your character is just too stupid to be able to switch an item with another one. Combined with the inability to temporarily drop an item somewhere else than in the magic box, there are some situations where you have to spend ten minutes going back and forth places just because you took too many green herbs and are not able to pick a key item.
Rating : 2

Don't know what I'm shooting at, but I'll get them anyway!
Overall, was Resident Evil a nice game to experience again? I guess it was. The construction of the game is quite nice, and it manages to keep you on your toes the whole time. As soon as you're accustomed with zombies, the hunters come into play. As soon as you know your mansion layout, you gain access easily to new areas, etc... The horrible quality of cutscenes and the controlling problems sometimes get you out of it, (granted, it's especially the voices of Chris and Rebecca that are aggravating, maybe the experience is better with Jill and Barry) but all in all, it was nice being able to see again where it all started. I'm glad the remakes exist, though, because it means we'll see the Spencer Mansion again, and in all its glory.
Rating : 6


A bit below the medium mark for this one, so it works for me. I think the Director's cut would have fetched a few more points, but I will skip it, considering it's basically the same game, and that DS and Gamecube versions exist anyway. We'll see with the next games if the rating was justified and if the COWARD system works...

To the green pastures of Hyrule we go!


  1. I know the numbers are mostly arbitrary, but I didn't get a feeling from your writing why 'Cleverness' and 'Originality' received above average marks. You mentioned the puzzles are fairly similar, and the writing is cliché, but 'Originality' gets good marks?

    In any case, congratulations on getting through your first game. I'm looking forward to the next two.

  2. I get your concerns, because these two categories are the ones I had the hardest time to grade. For Cleverness, it's mainly for the resource management mechanics and the feeling of freedom that I liked. As for Originality, it's a category that I really hesitated to include in the rating system, mainly because it's kinda flawed when you're working on game series. Resident Evil's story is cliché (reflected by the low Writing mark) but it had a major influence on the video game medium.

    I'm still working on the COWARD system, though, so it may get some readjustments in the next ratings...

    Thanks for the congratulations, and thanks for the comments ;)

  3. Hello there. I just started following this blog, and it looks very interesting so far. I look forward to future posts. I thought of a change to the COWARD system, especially for horror games. You could use COWARDS, with the final 'S' being the number of times you had the shit scared out of you. Of course this won't work for Zelda.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi CheezBorger, welcome! The more the merrier!

      I actually considered this when I was thinking about doing a full survival-horror blog, maybe I could add one category especially for each series. I'll look into it... Scare meter for survival works great, but any suggestion for zelda?