Defining Moments in the RESIDENT EVIL Franchise
A person can’t think of the horror within the gaming world without first bringing up what is arguably the most influential series within the genre since the implementation of polygons and 3D environments. Of course, I speak of Resident Evil.
First unleashed upon the world in 1996, this immense gaming world was the originator of the “survival horror” moniker. Exploring a seemingly normal locale transformed in a truly scary environment (mansion, police department, local shops), you would fight zombies and creatures of all kinds, infected by a man-made virus of the evil Umbrella Corporation, all while solving puzzles, managing your scarce inventory and unraveling the layered story of multiple characters and mysteries that are involved in this global conspiracy.
Resident Evil has spawned multiple entries, whether it be the main line series that has now just reached its seventh title, official storyline side-quests (Code: Veronica), a light gun game (Umbrella Chronicles), “built from the ground up” remakes (Resident Evil Remake, the upcoming Resident Evil 2), or even handheld entries (Deadly Silence, Gaiden). Since I am quite honestly one of the biggest fans of this series, I thought it would be interesting for me to narrow down a list of the five most awesome gaming moments that I experienced in this series’ 20+ year legacy. This was harder than I expected, as this series is littered with show-stopping pieces, iconic imagery and gasp-inducing sequences. However, after much deliberation and choosing from my heart the parts that made me giddy inside, I was able to narrow it down to five. So, without further ado, let’s get on with the show, starting with (SPOILER WARNING):
#5 – Lisa Trevor’s Introduction – Resident Evil Remake (2002)
The epic remake of the original Resident Evil, dubbed REmake by the gaming community, was released in 2002 on the Nintendo GameCube to immediate critical and fan approval, but due to the small install base of the system and being primarily a Sony property, didn’t sell particularly well. REmake took the original ’96 original and completely overhauled the entire graphics engine, creating an incredibly detailed and creepy version of the Spencer Mansion that at both times felt familiar and quite new and scary. One of the greatest achievements of this remake, however, was the inclusion of new enemies and environments not previously seen before in the series, and that includes the aforementioned Lisa Trevor. A subplot that was originally removed from the original ’96 version, she was the daughter of a scientist that worked at the mansion for Umbrella, and her tragic backstory was quite haunting and brought some genuinely great pathos to the creature that you come into contact with. The very first moment you are introduced to her, which is located in a derelict shack on the backlot of the mansion, she is a foreboding presence that immediately presents a danger not to be taken lightly. If you stay and fight, prepare to die. The only option was to run, and flee you did. Encounters after that are just as tense, but nothing compares to that first glimpse of something that no one expected.
#4 – Giant Crocodile Fight – Resident Evil 2 (1998)
I believe the above image speaks for itself. Originally released in January 1998, Resident Evil 2 did exactly what a sequel should do. It was bigger, expanding the scope of the plot to include an entire city (not just a mansion), more action set pieces with more at stake, and increased zombie variety and newly designed creatures. It simply improved upon all the mechanics and design features that worked in the original, while removing ones that didn’t work quite as well. Nothing quite reflects the more grandeur scope and that “everything goes” mentality quite like the giant crocodile scene. What seems to be a mysterious and calm scene suddenly becomes the ultimate “what the fuck” moment when a G-virus infected enormous crocodile emerges from the sewer water and begins to pursue you down a narrow corridor. You can choose to dispatch this creature with a barrage of bullets (with ammo being in short supply, not recommended), or if your movie knowledge kicks in, in particular Sheriff Brody and the end of Jaws, then perhaps you can put that conveniently placed gas tank to good use. The satisfying pop and explosion of blood when, after the crocodile neatly scoops up that tank, you put exactly one bullet into its mouth region, is the stuff made of legend. This is the scene in an action or horror movie that makes you stand up and yell “HELL YEAH!!!!”. It was an amazing moment to experience, solidifying the overall gaming landscape’s current trajectory to become more cinematic in its presentation.
#3 – Albert Wesker FINALLY makes his return – Resident Evil: Code Veronica (2000)
This entry is probably more of a moment for me and the diehard fans of the series itself, primarily the individuals who have an unhealthy obsession with resident bad guy and all around scumbag Albert Wesker. Originally part of the STARS team that was investigating the incidents in Raccoon City in the original Resident Evil, it was revealed at the game’s end (SPOILER) that he was actual a double agent, working for the Umbrella Corporation in their development of their weaponized virus. A ridiculous character with an even more absurd voice, he quickly grew on me and became my favorite character. However, after that, Wesker simply vanished, nowhere to be seen. However, finally, after a few sequels and spin-off games, the man, myth and legend re-emerged from the ashes in 2000’s semi-main line entry RE: Code Veronica. Of course, in a way only Wesker could deliver, he made that return in the most grandiose and over-the-top fashion, a delightful face-to-face dialogue exchange with Claire Redfield, the sister of the Chris Redfield character from the original. I was literally giddy and jumping in my chair when he popped back in, and every word that leaked from his mouth was pure camp and oozing evil. The mastermind was back, and he was better than ever.
#2 – The Opening Village Sequence – Resident Evil 4 (2005)
By the time Code: Veronica released in 2000, the Resident Evil formula had begun to become stale to the masses, and was being reflected in the critical reviews and public reception (I, personally, could play those style games FOREVER, but games are still a business). The series needed a re-invention, and original creator Shinji Mikami came back to the franchise to steer it in a new direction. After a few false starts, which included a complete scrap of a product that was far ahead in development (similar to RE 2’s infamous scrap when the game was around 70% complete), out came Resident Evil 4 on the Nintendo GameCube in 2005. This was a complete departure from everything you knew about the original games. New over-the-shoulder camera perspective, ditching Raccoon City and Umbrella Corporation overall for something completely new, and even seemingly removed the single defining object of the franchise, zombies. Any resilience that this fresh take on the franchise was met with, and there was plenty, was quickly dispersed with the opening village sequence. You’ve barely been able to acclimate to the new gameplay mechanics, when you are quickly thrown into a small village with an abundance of possessed villagers brandishing pitchforks, and even a crazed man with a bag on his head and a chainsaw in his hands. This is still to the day the most tension filled set piece the Resident Evil series has ever produced. You are constantly being attacked on all sides, all alone with no one to help, and death is around every corner. Suddenly, after a few minutes of nail biting excitement and generally sweaty palms, a mysterious bell rings that echoes throughout the village. Everyone who was at your throat a minute ago drops what they are doing and move toward a mysterious door, disappearing behind it. Our hero, Resident Evil 2’s Leon Kennedy, emerges toward the center of the town, makes a snide remark, and then BAM…we cut to the title “Resident Evil 4”. No game better lets you know “We are not fucking around” like this sequence, and I couldn’t have been more happier about it.
#1 – The Initial Reveal of the First Zombie – Resident Evil (1996)
Honestly, if you are a fan of the Resident Evil series, this had to be the best series moment. Nothing quite matches that first time, back in 1996 (and with the dawn of the 3D polygon age of Playstation, Xbox and N64), when you are just starting to explore this new open world mysterious location. You just escaped a rabid group of dogs to end up in this grand mansion, you break up into teams to explore your new environment. You move to one room, you discover a pool of blood, and then leave your partner to examine that as you move through the next door. You turn left, head down the hallway a little and turn right. You are then treated to a quick cinematic of…something chomping on someone on the floor. A half-eaten head drops to the floor, and the world is treated to the first zombie of the Resident Evil universe, a slight glance it gives over the its left shoulder. It originally made me shiver in fear, and I couldn’t wait to explore even more. It’s emblazed in my mind and will never leave it for as long as I live, and that alone makes it the best RE game moment.