My first experience of Resident Evil on a Nintendo console was Resident Evil 2 on the N64, as a spectator. The console belonged to my older brother and, as a young lad who’d visit at his apartment, I used to enjoy watching him play through the story. As a viewing experience, I found it to be a strange mix of wonder and bemusement. I marvelled at the graphics, cut-scenes and moments of game design genius, such as the first scene with a Licker. On the flip side, I found the script hilarious, with the voice acting and writing being so bad that they were funny. Overall, though, I could see that this was a game crafted with great care, and experiencing it as a spectator, rather than a player, meant I could take it in and appreciate its quality.
After the N64 I skipped a console generation, relying on a reasonably kick-ass PC for my gaming fix. Things changed in 2007, when temptation became too strong and I once again leapt into Nintendo gaming with a Wii. After I’d played through the awesome Twilight Princess and Super Mario Galaxy, I began to research the Wii catalogue, hunting out critically acclaimed titles. Resident Evil 4 made its way onto my list, as I read all about this new-ish Resident Evil title that dared to move the series forward into modern gaming trends.
My favourite part of Resident Evil 4 is, pretty much, the whole campaign. A cop-out in a ‘Memories’ article, absolutely, but I genuinely became engrossed and obsessed with the whole game, wondering why the heck I hadn’t bought a GameCube and the original version. The opening scene, right up to the point that the village clears, the camera pans upwards and the title appears, just blew me away. The impact was probably so strong because I was still getting used to pointer controls, had prepped myself by lowering the lights and playing the game at night, and was ready to be impressed. Still, that opening sequence progressed with a perfect flow, sucking me into the experience.
That feeling carried through the whole campaign, all 12 hours or so of it. Every night, after dark, I’d fire the game up and progress a little further, playing around 45 minutes at a time. Why such a short time? Because I’m a wimp and I was scared. Not scared by monsters leaping through windows, but by the environments, sounds, and the many enemies, each with their own quirky mannerisms. Whether it was villagers shouting in a foreign language, the chanting cultists or the snarling of dogs, I always feared the worst. I’d check my ammo every two minutes, then the map to find the next save point, and shut the game off once I’d made it there. The tension was just too much, and the ‘You are Dead’ screen would torment me often.
I played this title every night, in these short spells, until it was beaten. It was compulsive, and I had to have my 45 minute fix of frights. The debate about Resident Evil 4 will rage on until the end of time, in terms of is it a ‘real’ Resident Evil game, or whether it’s a glorified action title. I know which side I’m on, because action titles don’t make me switch off after less than an hour, or give me a confusing mix of anticipation and foreboding as I boot it up. I’ve played Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 on different platforms, but it’s Resident Evil 4 that fills me with fear every year, because I can’t resist replaying it again and again.
Although I didn't own it myself, I had briefly played the first Resident Evil on Playstation. I was rubbish at it and didn't get very far. Then the sequels came out and it became one of those series I didn't bother with. This was partly because I was busy with other things and partly because I thought if I ever did try out the series, I might as well start with the first game – though I never quite got around to it. When the GameCube remake was announced I saw it as the perfect jumping on point.
The creepy music worked well but so did the quieter moments, eerily silent apart from echoing footsteps, some thunder or a (hopefully very) distant howling
I had seen people playing the PSX original at various points of the game, but when my copy of the remake arrived I couldn't remember any of that and so played through not noticing things that may have been different. Again, I was rubbish at it but persevered because it was a very impressive title. I recall the controls took a bit of getting used to but I got sucked in by the atmosphere: the creepy music worked well but so did the quieter moments, eerily silent apart from echoing footsteps, some thunder or a (hopefully very) distant howling. There could be long moments without a zombie encounter, which added to the shock when one would appear. Of course the biggest scares would often come from how low my ammo was getting. The game also looked great, not just the way things were designed (including some wonderfully horrific monsters) but in the way it was lit: often showing you enough for you to find your way, but not quite enough to feel safe.
I was very impressed with the game but after I finished it other things once again caught my attention, and I didn't play any further instalments of the series until the iOS titles years later. Considering how much I've enjoyed what I've sampled of the series, this really needs to change and now I'm planning on playing through the series-so-far in preparation for Revelations next year.