Resident Evil

Resident Evil (RE) is noteworthy for several reasons.

First, it created a new genre of gaming, coined survival horror. In RE, the goal wasn’t to kill all of the enemies or rack up the highest score. The sole objective was to do whatever was necessary to survive. The game made players betrayed by their expectations. No longer were backgrounds just decoration; an enemy could come crashing through a window at any time. Players had to pick and choose their battles, whether they were going to fight or retreat and find another way. Ammo was very scarce, and the monstrosities of the Umbrella Corporation were unlike anything ever unleashed upon the world, so it was hard to tell how to best combat them.

Richard has been bit by a large snake, and it is up to Chris to find a serum, and quick!

Second, the level designs enhanced the gloomy and dire atmosphere of the game. What starts off as a simple rescue mission quickly turns into a struggle for survival. Trapped in a dense forest on the outskirts of a secluded town, the players take refuge in an ominous mansion, riddled with deadly secrets. An old grandfather clock ticks back and forth with unnerving regularity, echoing throughout the house. Floor boards creak under your weight. A single, small lamp, the only source of lighting in a room, plasters eerie shadows on the walls. Letters detail a coverup of a pharmaceutical, scientific experiment gone horribly and irreparably wrong and diaries give a glimpse into minds that are slowly decaying, becoming something inhuman. Once outside of the mansion, your boots slop in the mud and weather vanes moan as they are rotated by a gentle wind. You stumble across a solitary cabin in the woods, only to find that it is empty. But, a newly built fire cackles in the fireplace, making it apparent that this cabin hasn’t been, and likely won’t be, deserted for long.

Chris and Rebecca find an old piano, which surprisingly is tuned perfectly. Rebecca sits and plays the “Moonlight Sonata.”

Even the music crawls under your skin, attempting to dampen any feeling of hope players might have . One memorable moment in the game is when you put together sheets of music and arrange them to display the notes for Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, and you sit down at a piano and start playing the sorrowful tune, unsure as to what will come as a result. In fact, the entire game is filled with uncertainty. Is that shuffling sound coming from around the corner? Is this person trying to help me, or am I a means to their end? Are these numbers the key to escaping, or are they part of a deadly game?

Shinji Mikami and his team at Capcom masterfully crafted a game that made players sweat their every move and question everything they saw, and because of that Resident Evil felt more like an experience than anything else. The tension was amplified because players were in control of the characters, unlike watching a horror movie, where the audience is just observing. Don’t get me wrong: directors use their imagination and vision to enhance the movie experience, and create thrilling and memorable works of art. But I believe that Mikami also deserves to be called an artist, and his game art, for designing a miniature world that manages to creep into the player’s psyche for hours on end.

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