If you don't already know, Resident Evil was originally released in February of '96 for the Sony PlayStation and was considered an instant classic by most in the video game community. On the PC side, it is less of an event, as many games of this ilk have been seen before. But it's unfair to dismiss Resident Evil as simply an ultraviolent Alone in the Dark. The game does something that very few action-adventure games have been able to do: create a mood of true terror. With depictions of death and violence, and with eerie music and sound effects, Resident Evil is one of those rare games that's almost as entertaining to watch as it is to play.
It all starts out when the special tactics and rescue squad (S.T.A.R.S.) vanishes in a remote location recently plagued by bizarre disappearances and deaths. Another team is sent in to investigate and is quickly set upon by creatures that force the team to run for shelter in a creepy old mansion. From here you start your journey as one of two characters, Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. The only real difference between the two is the amount of items each one can carry at any one time. Ammo and health are also scarce when you play as Chris, so it is naturally a bit harder.
Resident Evil isn't a simple action game. Most of the time you have to conserve your shots and just try to survive. The limited number of rounds for your weapons actually helps to create a feeling of terror as you wander through the mansion, your ammo supply getting lower and lower. You frantically begin searching every bookshelf and closet for more ammo in anticipation of your next encounter with the undead. You gain access to different areas of the mansion and its grounds by finding keys and solving puzzles, using your head and your guns. The puzzles in Resident Evil are pretty logical. For instance, at one point you'll face an impassable giant mutant plant. You simply go to the garden and get the weed poison. It's all really straightforward stuff.
The mood created by Resident Evil really sets it apart from similar games. It accomplishes an ambient feeling of fright with graphics that are a mix of 3D polygon graphics and detailed 3D-rendered environments. All of this is seen from a third-person view that changes from fixed position to fixed position when moving throughout the game, giving it the "cinematic look." The character animations, which were revolutionary on the PlayStation two years ago, are average - and in some cases below average, depending on what type of 3D accelerator you are using.
The music is truly half the experience in Resident Evil, because it perfectly matches the onscreen terror. For instance, when you are simply exploring the mansion the background music is eerie horror-flick music that seems to keep you in suspense all by itself. But when you find yourself trapped in a room with a collapsing ceiling, or some similar life-threatening event, the music turns into this loud, frantic "you're about to die" ditty.
The only drawbacks to Resident Evil are the saving system and the camera angles. To save your game in Resident Evil you have to find these ink ribbons and take them to a typewriter. Doesn't sound too much like a pain? Well, being that there is a limited amount of ink ribbons and the typewriters are few and far between, it is. And the variable camera angles often make it difficult to see targets during combat, simply because you aren't standing in the right spot. It is frustrating, but you get used to it.
In the end, Resident Evil is a rare gem that has not only been able to make the jump from a video game to a computer game nearly flawlessly but has done so almost two years after it was originally released. Console gamers may want to check out Resident Evil on the PC - it is the only true uncut version of the game, featuring scenes not even in the recently released Resident Evil Directors Cut. If you aren't too squeamish, you should definitely give Resident Evil on the PC a look.