So it’s the month of October. It’s the month when Halloween is supposed to be creeping into my subconscious. It’s also the time of the year when I would complain about how the Philippines doesn’t really celebrate Halloween. However, since I’m not going out to malls as often as I did, the feeling isn’t as in-your-face as it was in the previous years. I still want to get in to the spirit of Halloween so I decided to play some spooky games. Unfortunately, the only horror games I have the new Resident Evil games and I’ve played these games to death already. Well, not Resident Evil 7 because that game still scares the bejesus out of me.
This did get me thinking about the original versions and how I would feel about playing them. I’ve watched my brother play both the original Resident Evil 1 and 2 on his then still working original PlayStation so I am familiar with the story. However, that was so long ago and I’ve forgotten most of the puzzles and the more important beats of what happens. So I decided, over the weekend, to to a marathon playthrough of the first 2 Resident Evil games which showed up on the original PlayStation and see how they both hold up.
I did hit a major snag early on. It turns out my brother’s PlayStation is not in the greatest of conditions anymore. The discs managed to load but there would be problems. The opening video would skip and stutter. There were times when opening a door to a new location would take an extremely long time to load or not load the area at all. It turns out the discs were pretty banged up. Considering these discs were the same ones he played when Capcom released them way back when, it’s a miracle they even work at all, I guess.
This, unfortunately, did lead me to find more amoral methods to play them. You would think Capcom would make the original PlayStation games available on services like Steam of GOG, wouldn’t you? I thought they would but, try as I might, I couldn’t find the original versions of the games! This made me scrounging the interwebs and playing on my PC instead of getting legitimate copies! If you’re reading this Capcom, don’t worry; my brother bought originals long, long ago! That means you already got your money way back when! I was eventually able to locate a copy of both Resident Evil 1 and 2 online and, after some adjustments with a PlayStation emulator for my PC, I was up and running!
I obviously started out with the game that started it all Resident Evil 1. I obviously was going to be looking at these classics with modern eyes so I did temper my expectations. I didn’t anticipate how awkward the opening cutscenes were going to be. I’ll get to Resident Evil 2’s opening CGI movie later on but I do like to focus on the first game’s live movie as it’s definitely hilarious today! I’m not sure how gamers reacted to how cheesy it looked but I do hope you do recognize how awful it looked! There’s a student film quality to it. I bet Capcom didn’t really want to spend a whole lot of money here as it was a new franchise so they really lowballed the budget for the live actor scenes. It still looks super silly but I like it! It’s got a certain charm to it.
Playing the original Resident Evil 1 felt strange after playing the new Remakes and since I have knowledge of the later entries of the series. It felt weird seeing Chris Redfield coming off as a newbie rookie against the zombie horde after watching his badassery deeds, like punching a boulder to make a bridge and staying all calm and collected during the events of Resident Evil 7 and 8/Village. He’s less of an action hero here and more of your everyday man caught up in a fantastical and crazy adventure. Jill Valentine also seems more naive and is more prone to being rescued by Barry than taking steps to save herself during the earlier moments of Resident Evil 1.
I played through both as Chris Redfiend and Jill Valentine and I liked how individualized their adventures felt. Jill comes off as the easier way to play as she has more inventory slots and she also has the lockpick as she is the master of unlocking, after all. This makes finding supplies and carrying objects much easier than Chris. She can also play the piano, which does help in that one puzzle. Sad that Jill’s musical ability doesn’t pop up more often in later entries. They also have different “helper” side characters, with Jill getting the more burly Barry Burton and Chris carrying the rookie Rebecca Chambers. I do like you have to control Rebecca for a short while when Chris gets poisoned so she doesn’t seem like a totally useless character.
I’m not sure if Jill takes more damage than Chris to balance things out but, from what I played, there doesn’t seem to be any difference with how much damage Jill and Chris takes from a zombie bite. You do get the same weapons for both characters but, because they have somewhat different skills and abilities, there’s a little more variety between the two, which I really liked. I generally had more fun playing as Jill as there was less backtracking to a magic storage box and picking locks made it a breeze to keep stocked up. I’d even go as far as to say Chris’ side of the adventure felt sluggish as I would run out of inventory space quickly.
As much as I enjoyed Jill’s side of Resident Evil 1, I was really chomping at the bit to play Resident Evil 2. I loved the Remake so I was curious how it would feel to play the original version. Well, I loved it but not as much as the Remake for sure. I was surprised at some of the differences and how Remake basically rewove the story into something much different. So, even though I did play Remake, playing the original Resident Evil 2 felt like it was something fresh.
I was really surprised at how expansive the opening scenes was, both the cutscene and the first few minutes of gameplay before you make it to the Racoon City Police Department building. The opening CGI movie did give me a good laugh! It may have looked stunning when the game came out in 1998 and I can see a lot of nice little touches that did give it more life than other CGI movies found in other PlayStation games. However, if you do look at it after experiencing the CGI intros in video games today, you can’t help but see how everyone basically look like plastic Barbie dolls. Not exactly the most lifelike models, are they?
As if the game were getting back at me for laughing at the CGI intro movie, Resident Evil 2 got me in a tizzy for how difficult it was to get to the police station! You had to maneuver either rookie cop Leon Kennedy or college student Claire Redfield through the narrow alleyways and zombie infested clogged streets of Racoon City just to get there! I actually died several times just trying to get to the game proper! I was also shocked at how minimal the gun shop owner’s role is here. He just appears at the start so Leon or Claire can get either a shotgun or a bowgun, respectively. I’m sorry but the bowgun sucks! Thankfully, they make it up to Claire as she gets the really awesome grenade launcher with it’s different types of ammo. I never stopped using it and I somehow always had spare grenade launcher ammo with me.
I did like how different Leon and Claire’s story are. Unlike the first Resident Evil, you basically go through the same story. Leon and Claire’s is vastly different. The mere fact you can play one game with Leon and then play as Claire to see what the other character was doing was some really great writing. I even liked the fact the two characters eventually meet up in one of the room of the Police Station! This would’ve blown my mind if I played this when it originally came out in 1998! Unfortunately, my mind was intact while I played it now since I’ve already experienced the same idea with the Remake. I still get how amazing it must have been all those years ago when doing it for the first time.
As much as I had fun with both games, the one major issue which really hampered my enjoyment for both Resident Evil 1 and 2 were the controls. A lot has been said about the old games’ tank-like controls and the static camera angles. These statements have mostly been negative and I do have to agree with them. The tank controls just feel overly cumbersome but does add to how tense things can get. Having to stop to aim up to pop a zombie’s head while the undead shambles closer and closer can be unnerving, especially if there’s another one just lurking behind you.
The biggest problem I had was with the static camera angles. It’s not just because of the abrupt perspective change, which is definitely annoying, but it was something I did get used to after a while. The biggest problem the static camera angles are how it makes some enemies not visible, leading to cheap damage! If they were lurking behind a wall or if they pounce out of a cabinet, I would be fine taking the damage. I’m not okay if the zombies are right in front of my character where they should be able to see them with their eyeballs and I run right into them because they were just off camera! Yes, it can lead to some jump scares but cheap damage is always going to be cheap.
So, should a modern gamer go back and play the original Resident Evil 1 and 2? I know I’m going to get some flak for this but I don’t think they do have to play it unless they’re really die hard survival horror fans. The clumsy controls and static camera angles can lead to some frustrating moments that just seem unfair. I would recommend watching others gamers, gamers who love the series and those games, play them as you can fully understand their perspective and why it was fun for them when they booted up their original PlayStation to enter the world of Resident Evil.
Have you played the original Resident Evil games? Did you enjoy them? Let me know in the comments section below!