Though it isn't the originator of the genre, Resident Evil for the PlayStation is widely regarded as the reason the so-called survival horror genre is so prominent in the console-game industry today. Its graphics, sound, and presentation were executed so well that some of those playing the game actually experienced a legitimate sense of dread, forcing them to walk slowly around corners or into the shadows for fear that a zombie or some other horrible creature would be lurking there. But as numerous sequels and new survival horror franchises arrived on the market, the original Resident Evil was slowly pushed out of the public consciousness.
Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on this, Capcom went to work on a remake of Resident Evil for the GameCube. Instead of simply porting the game over with a few enhancements here and there, Capcom has made a very strong effort to make Resident Evil for the GameCube seem like an entirely new game--even for those who played the original on the PlayStation. Given the original's popularity, such an undertaking would seem to be a little daunting, but, to a certain extent, it seems like Capcom has succeeded. Both the graphics and sound have been significantly enhanced to take advantage of the extra power offered by the GameCube hardware. But more importantly, several entirely new sections and puzzles have been added to the infamous Resident Evil mansion--there will be numerous times where you'll try to remember if a particular room, puzzle, or scene was in the original game or not.
In fact, you'll notice something different about the GameCube version of Resident Evil almost immediately. At the beginning of the game, you can select from two different options that affect its difficulty level. Essentially, if you select the first option, then you'll be able to carry more items in your inventory, but the mansion will have more zombies. If you choose the second option, you can't hold as many items, but there are far fewer zombies walking around in certain rooms. Despite the fact that you can carry more items, the first option is incredibly difficult because the zombies in Resident Evil for the GameCube are much tougher than those in recent Resident Evil games and even those found in the original PlayStation version. Add to that the importance of conserving ammunition and you can imagine why you're better off choosing the second option to start with.
Of course, the differences between the GameCube version of Resident Evil and the PlayStation version don't end there. The original Resident Evil opened with a full-motion video sequence that used live actors, but the new version features a full CG introduction that has some rather gruesome images of various S.T.A.R.S. members who have fallen victim to the freakish creatures living outside of Racoon City. Once they realize they're not in a particularly good situation, the game's lead characters--Jill, Chris, Barry, and Wesker--make a run for the mansion nearby. At this point, you'll probably notice the voice acting in the game. The original Resident Evil was notorious for its incredibly poor B-movie dialogue, which had wonderfully crafted lines such as "the master of unlocking." Fans of that will be happy to know that the voice acting in the remake is about the same, but a few lines have been cleaned up for clarity's sake.
Like the voice acting, the control in Resident Evil for the GameCube has only received a few minor tweaks, but the robotic controls are largely the same as those of the original game. The default control scheme is set up so that the analog stick lets you maneuver the character onscreen, but instead of a Devil May Cry-like setup where the character automatically faces and moves in the direction he or she is pointed in, you actually have to rotate your characters into the appropriate direction before they can start to walk. Fortunately, Capcom has integrated a feature that lets you perform a quick 180-degree turn by simply tapping the C stick on the GameCube controller. Though relatively miniscule in the greater scheme of things, this one added control feature makes a world of difference when zombies or other enemies confront you, because it will no longer take a few seconds to turn around and run. Aiming and shooting weapons requires you to hold down the right shoulder button and press the A button when you want to shoot. There are two additional control schemes available, but both are so incredibly awkward that most gamers will probably want to stick with the initial setup.
In any case, avoiding zombies, decaying dogs, enormous snakes, or even sharks can be quite a challenge, but the zombies present a particular set of problems that force you to stay on your toes. First, there is a new type of zombie that's capable of swiping at you, giving it a little more attack range than ordinary zombies. In addition, this same type of zombie can run after you, so you're better off killing them when you first catch sight of them. The zombies in this version of Resident Evil can also burst through doors, so if you happen to see a door rattling, you'll know there's a zombie on the other side trying to get through. Such clues will allow you to prepare a special bullet-ridden welcome for them.
Fortunately, you'll have plenty of weapons to do exactly that. In addition to the knife and pistol--which you receive in the early moments of both Jill's mission and Chris' mission--you'll have access to a shotgun, a grenade launcher, and a variety of other high-powered weapons. But, interestingly, the most valuable weapons in this remake aren't the ones that require ammunition. You'll find special knives and taser guns located throughout the mansion, but, unlike the other weapons in the game, these specific items are used strictly for defensive purposes. Whenever a zombie grabs ahold of you for the first time, your character can reach for one of the knives or tasers and attack the zombie with it, giving you a few seconds to change weapons or get in a few shots before the zombie can take its first bite. Typically, these items can only be used once, but if you use a defensive knife and happen to get a headshot on a zombie, then its head will explode and you'll be able to pick the knife back up. The value of these items is increased by the fact that they don't take up any inventory slots.
There's another powerful item in the game that has a fairly unassuming appearance. When you reach a specific save point, you'll find what looks like a small flask. This flask lets you poor liquid on zombies that causes them to burn, which is important because it prevents zombies from coming back to life and turning into the aforementioned super zombie. If you ever need to refill the flask, you can do so by simply heading back to that particular save area, but unfortunately, you'll rarely have the opportunity to carry this item with you since there are so few inventory slots in both of the two modes.
Instead of going for the full 3D look in games like Resident Evil Code: Veronica or even Devil May Cry, Capcom opted to take an approach that's both new and old. All the backgrounds in the game are prerendered, but they make use of a full-motion video technique that lets Capcom add animation and different special effects such as dynamic lighting and shadows. For example, in one part of the mansion, you'll be walking down a long hallway that has absolutely no light, save for the light of the moon and the stars shining through windows--all you can see are the silhouettes of trees swaying in the wind. In another area, you'll be walking down a hallway with a swaying chandelier at the very end, and the chandelier creates a great-looking shadow effect as you walk toward it. Of course, there are some rooms that look much better than others--since some still have a rather plain, static look--but all the rooms have been substantially improved when compared with those in the original game.
But as great as the mansion looks, the redone outdoor environments and the completely new areas are even better. One of the first new areas is a graveyard located just outside the foyer of the mansion. Once there, you'll see plenty of awesome details like small tufts of grass that sway in the wind and an eerie fog rolling across the ground. Another new outdoor area places you in the forest just outside of the mansion. You'll see small waterfalls cascading down rocks to form small puddles of water that will splash when you step on them. The shark tank, however, is perhaps the most impressive of the redone areas. This particular area is a flooded room that uses an incredible water effect to partially cover the catwalk running through the room, giving the three or four enormous sharks in the room a chance to beach themselves on the catwalk to take a bite out of you. The water effect in this area looks incredible, and it does an excellent job of conveying the sense that you're actually wading through two feet of water.
Naturally, the character models have been changed along with the environments, and they look incredible. From the embroidered S.T.A.R.S. logo on the back of Barry's jacket to the individual threads on Jill's shirt, you'd be hard-pressed to find character models that are detailed as this. Capcom has even made enormous improvements to the enemy character models. The giant snake and the sharks look so good that you could easily mistake them for CG if you didn't know any better. Even the average zombie is an improvement on the zombie character models seen in Resident Evil Code: Veronica.
While there's no question that this game definitely feels like the original Resident Evil, you can't help but feel like you're playing an entirely new game at times. There are enough new puzzles and new areas thrown in that even if you remember how to play the original Resident Evil step for step, it's still going to take you some time to get through the game. Resident Evil for the GameCube is scheduled for release on April 30.