Whenever I receive a game to review it feels like my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one, but when I saw it was Resident Evil Origins, I’ll be honest, I squealed a little.
Let me be very clear, I LOVE THE RESIDENT EVIL FRANCHISE!
I don’t know why. The game mechanics are clunky and the mandatory character swapping can be infuriating, not to mention the physics defying storage chest which magically teleports your stuff to whichever chest you happen to be at…
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I love Resident Evil. All of them. Even RE 6, which has to be the worst game in the franchise. I started my love affair way back in 2003, playing RE on PS2. I remember I was playing it when my wife went into labour with our first child. I asked her if she was absolutely sure because I was really close to solving one of the puzzles and if I have to stop now, I would have to start the stage over.
The Origins Collection is the remastering of the first two games in the franchise to bring them in line with modern consoles. This means re-rendering everything in HD yumminess.
The story, however, has remained the same.
Interesting side note: The idea for RE 0 came about while RE 1 was already in development, which means that 1 came before 0. So let’s think of 0 as a prequel.
Let’s consider some other popular prequels for a moment. Star Wars 1-3, The Hobbit 1-3, Dumb and Dumberer. You see where I’m going with this?
They all have something in common. They are all way worse than the originals, and RE 0 keeps up this tradition.
I understand why they did it. They had a fantastic survival horror story on their hands, and starting in the spooky Spencer Mansion was the best beginning to any story ever (personal opinion admitted), but there were a few holes in the story.
Enter RE 0!
You start off as a rookie member of S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactics And Rescue Service), Rebecca Chambers, on your way to investigate some grim cannibalistic murders in the wilds just outside Racoon City. The helicopter you are in crash-lands in the middle of the forest (obviously). Your team discovers an overturned military vehicle, full of the mutilated corpses of Alpha Team.
Bravo Team decides splitting up is a good idea – just like running up to the roof when being chased is a good idea, or walking into an abandoned house and taking a shower is a good idea.
Anyway, they split up.
You head off into the dark and discover an old train, called the Eclipsal, full of corpses. After fighting off a number of gloriously slow zombies and running into Billy Coen, the escaped prisoner of Alpha Team, and solving some fairly challenging puzzles, the train lurches to life and barrels off into the stormy night.
Just before this happens, you see an eerie androgynous, falsetto singing figure in a white gown standing on a hill in the distance controlling the toothy land oysters that have been trying to kill you.
Oh, did I mention, there about a million toothy land oysters trying to kill you?
You eventually manage to slow the train down and steer it toward an abandoned building, which is, actually, the property of the original big pharma bad boy, The Umbrella Corporation!
Here, all the pieces missing from the original Spencer Mansion story get revealed. Who originally started Umbrella, how was the nasty T-virus developed, and what really happened to Billy that got him court-martialled?
Through a fairly tense series of events, Billy and Rebecca meet up with William Berkin and RE super star Albert Wesker.
Together, they manage to track down the gender neutral girly – boy and discover he is actually Dr. James Marcus, the original creator of the Progenitor virus – the virus that started it all. WHAT?!!
“But he’s dead! Wesker and Birkin killed him 10 years ago!”, I hear you say.
Not before he infected himself with the Progenitor virus, which revived him and kept him alive long enough to create the mayhem we all know as Resident Evil!
The virus manifests, a fight is had and everything gets blown up in the end.
Billy and Rebecca separate, she assures him he will be listed as just another casualty in the very long list of deaths. He goes off somewhere, and Rebecca heads towards a very scary mansion in the distance to find the rest of Bravo Team…
But wait, there’s more…
Resident Evil 1, or Resident Evil Origin, or Bio Hazard, if you are in Japan.
We pick up where RE 0 ended, pretty much. There are a few discrepancies in the story, but we will forgive Capcom because we are finally back to classic RE gameplay! YAY!
Alpha Team (which you may remember were found dead in an overturned military vehicle) discovers Bravo Teams crashed helicopter.
They get attacked by some dogs who look like they have been on slow roast for 6 hours. Some die and the rest head off to the safety of a mansion a little way off in the distance.
I won’t go into too much detail (space in this review is finite), but I will say this is what RE is all about. An eerie mansion full of traps, puzzles, monsters and horrors of every kind, dilapidated buildings, passageways, and tunnels, ultimately converging on an underground laboratory, where we see the extent of the evil of the Umbrella Corporation!
There are double-crosses and double double-crosses, and there is teamwork.
Follow this if you can:
The virus manifests, a fight is had and everything gets blown up in the end. Fine. We expect that, but this game is the only one in the franchise that I know of that has multiple possible endings, and as far as I can tell, they go like this:
Whichever character you are playing finds the other playable character in a cell and manage to get him/her out. Chris, Jill, and the helper character (Rebecca if Chris, Barry if Jill) head for a heliport but the other two are separated from the player due to more creatures. The player gets up to the heliport and meets the other two survivors there, but are attacked by the Boss monster.
After defeating it, Chris, Jill and Barry/Rebecca manage to escape the premises in the team helicopter, just as the entire facility is destroyed by explosives through the self-destruct system activated earlier.
If the player fails to save the helper character of his or her team (Jill letting Barry die, or Chris letting Rebecca die) then the helipad battle will not occur and the game will end upon the player reaching the helicopter….
As far as I can tell, there is no way of saving everybody.
The best you can hope for is:
Your chosen player character, Chris or Jill, save both their partner (Barry if played with Jill, Rebecca if played with Chris) and the other player character, who is imprisoned in a basement cell for most of the game, and destroy the mansion.
So basically, sucks to be you if you are anybody else.
So the storylines are a bit shaky, so what?
These games are beautiful. They look beautiful and the sound beautiful.
All indoor areas look like they were decorated by a satanist. There is excessive opulence everywhere, but the rot has set in. Imagine the hotel from The Shining, but half the light bulbs have blown. And this is further accentuated by the digital wizardry of remastering. You can play the games now in 16:9 aspect.
I found half way through RE 0 I switched back to 4:3 mode as some important detail gets lost in the upscaling.
I’m not sure how it looks on other consoles, but some of the darker scenes have awful banding and pixelation in the blacks on the Xbox One.
RE 0 intentionally tried to make life hard for players by introducing the Item Drop system. In most other RE titles, you have the “Magic Treasure Chests” where you can store your items and no matter where you are, if you find another chest, ta-dah! All your stuff is there.
Not in RE 0. You have limited item slots and nowhere to store your stuff, so if you want to carry something, you need to drop something else, and this makes solving some of the puzzles really challenging, which I like.
The character swapping function is quite novel as well. I suspect they did this more to show off the power of the Nintendo GameCube, which could facilitate the kind of computing power necessary to make that process seamless.
Anyway, I like it. Rebecca is weaker physically but has potion making capabilities. Billy can’t mix a brandy and coke, but is strong and resilient, which makes it necessary to play both in order to complete the game. So that’s nice.
In RE 1 we go back to more familiar territory.
Both games keep the traditional typewriter save points. If you find a typewriter and you have an ink ribbon, you can save, but the ribbons, like all supplies in RE land, are very scarce, so choosing when to save becomes as calculated as everything else you do in the game.
I love these save points, They’re are a warm safe place in a world of chaos and danger.
Resident Evil 0 is the weakest I’ve played in the franchise, barring RE 6, which is awful, but playing it is very important to enter into the mythology that is Resident Evil.
It feels much older that RE 1, even though it’s newer, but forgive its shortcomings and think of it as your entrance fee to the ride of a lifetime.
RE 1 is fantastic! As good as I remember it. I was concerned that revisiting the game all these years later would be like watching a TV show you loved as a kid 20 years later and realising how weak it actually was, but it didn’t fail to deliver. The HD sweetening works. It adds to the horror factor.
It may be due to the fact that I played RE 0 first that RE 1 seemed so good again. That could be a tactic on Capcom’s part. In which case, well-done lads!
So, to cut a long story short (too late, I hear some of you say), these games were a mixed bag for me. I love the franchise, but playing these origin stories make me realise the little irritations that I experience every time I play any of these games is actually intrinsic to the franchise. I guess if they weren’t there, they wouldn’t be Resident Evil…
Weak storyline, massive plot holes, frustrating gameplay, and voice acting that really, REALLY should have been redone versus beautiful locations, frightening sound design and music and high definition detail…
This is Resident Evil baby, you either love it, warts and all, or you move on to a more refined (read sterile) survival horror labels like Evil Within or FEAR.
I’m going to give it a thumbs up!