RE:Enter the survival horror…

It’s hard to believe that Resident Evil turns 25 this year. It seems impossible a quarter of a century has passed since Chris, Jill and the other survivors of the S.T.A.R.S. team burst into the Spencer Mansion for the first time.

Many people have fond memories of those opening moments, and indeed the game as a whole. The live action video sequence of the team pursued by a pack of T-Virus infected dogs. The first zombie chewing on the corpse of your fallen teammate, Kenneth. The maze-like layout of locked doors, traps and puzzles…

I recently downloaded the Resident Evil HD Remaster – a convoluted title, it’s a remaster of the 2002 remake, obviously – and finished playing it a few days ago.

The ‘replay’ came with a heavy dose of nostalgia. However, I soon realised (and remembered) it wasn’t a replay for me at all.

I was ten years old when the original was released and I didn’t have a PlayStation. My friend did, but I don’t remember him having Resident Evil. The first game in the franchise he owned was the second, the punchily named Resident Evil 2.

Then, it came to me. Like a remaster of a remake, the reality was convoluted. It was my friend’s, friend’s dad who owned Resident Evil. We would pile into his house and watch him play it as it grew dark outside. My experiences of the game were second hand. I only watched someone play, I never actually played it myself.

This might be why I remember the game having such a cinematic quality. I had no control over the actions, I simply watched it unfold before me.

Playing it again, for the first time, I was struck by how Resident Evil was still as strong as it had been when I was younger.

The sound of your footsteps echoing, or the banal ticking of a grandfather clock broken by a low moan from a zombie off screen, still held power.

The static camera angles – those low shots of long corridors and skewed views from high corners – are claustrophobic and disorientating.

Every time you pass into another room and have to watch a cut scene of a handle turning and a door pushed inward induce seconds of panic and paranoia.

Of course, these things come with problems. It’s impossible to get anywhere fast in the mansion. You run in circles trying to navigate an odd bend. You’ve been through this dining room how many times now? And – oh god – it’s another door I have to watch open. Or you happen to press on the typewriter for the umpteenth time and are told that, if you had an ink ribbon, you could save your progress…

The game is also famed for it’s bad dialogue. It’s littered with odd descriptive phrases too. I happened upon this one of a statue and thought of the struggling novelist who crafted it.

A large statue stands silently in the darkness.

A struggling novelist

Silently. But surely all statues are… *sighs*

I hope they find an agent soon. Or an editor.

Resident Evil isn’t perfect. That said, all of these things add to the game’s nostalgic charm and the effect is transportive.

Interestingly, I found the initial magic began to wear a little thin and I couldn’t help feeling once you move beyond the mansion the beauty, and the fear, waned. For me, that empty mansion is where the game has and always will shine.

Once we’re below ground – in possibly the grubbiest laboratory ever rendered – some of the power from the earlier parts of the game dissipates.

I do wonder if this has something to do with my memories of the original. I remember the Spencer Mansion. The zombies grabbing you. The dogs bursting through windows. The doors. Oh, those doors… Lighting a fire to reveal a map, opening a door with a collection of bizarre objects hidden in bizarre places.

But then, when it comes to the later stages, my memory fades. Perhaps I never saw those later stages of the game, so that nostalgic pull is lessened. Or perhaps I did, only the weakened appeal of the tunnels and lab wasn’t worth remembering.

I suppose it doesn’t matter. What matters is that, after almost 25 years, I finally entered the survival horror and played Resident Evil.

On easy.

Because, deep down, I’m still afraid.

That has to mean something, right?

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