Resident Evil 1: Resources, Speed, and Camera Angles

 

Resident Evil 1 – Resources, Speed, and Camera Angles

Not all horror games are a constant game of cat and mouse with an unbeatable foe.  Resident Evil is a series that showed that a slow burn with a different kind of tension is just as effective.  That is the tension of limited resources, limited speed, and limited sight.

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Something to note before we go further: this will focus on the 2002 remake of Resident Evil 1 rather than the 1996 original; the differences are minimal, save for the massive update in graphics.

With that said, onto the first mechanic.

Resources

re-inventoryWhen you start the game, your inventory looks like this:

You have 15 shots, use them wisely, and pray you don’t run out.

You’ll find more, but they’re finite; you can run out and killing even a single zombie can take 5-6 shots.

Thus, the tone is set.  Everything is limited; ammo, healing, even the ink ribbons you use to save your game.

You have to pick your battles.  The zombies are slow, so you can run past them and save resources, but every time you do, you run the risk of getting to close and letting one grab you.

And of course, zombies aren’t the only thing you’ll be fighting.

Speed

Resident Evil‘s movement is not traditional 3D movement for a 3rd person game.  It employs what have been dubbed “tank controls”.

With this scheme you control your character like a vehicle; move forward and backward, veer left or right to turn, or come to a stop and turn like that.

This kind of movement, while still usable, limits your maneuverability enough to make fighting enemies.  You are trained how to use it with enemies that are slow and clunky.  The zombies are easy to maneuver around, and those that are difficult spots, you can gun down.

But there are faster enemies.

The corpses of the zombies you kill stick around, and after enough time passes, some of them get back up angrier, faster, and redder.  Meet the Crimson Heads

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These monsters are improved in every way.  While a normal zombie will slowly shuffle towards you and make halfhearted lunches, a Crimson Head will break into a run, moving faster than you can, swiping at you with its brand new razor sharp claws.

An assortment of horrors, many more dangerous than the simple undead, await in the mansion as well.  Agile humanoid reptiles that you’re far better off pumping with bullets until they stop moving, half-human, half-fly mistakes of nature that like to attack from hiding places.

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An assortment of horrors, many more dangerous than the simple undead, await in the mansion as well.  Agile humanoid reptiles that you’re far better off pumping with bullets until they stop moving, half-human, half-fly mistakes of nature that like to attack from hiding places.

In short, you will not be able to avoid them all.

If you want to survive, you have to manage your movement and get in position to blast away before whatever is in the room is upon you and chewing on your limbs.

Sight

Unlike many 3rd person games, Resident Evil doesn’t have a controllable camera.  It used static, framed shots.  As a result, it has stellar cinematography.

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The static angles allow the developers to create some beautiful scenery. But these shots aren’t just there to look pretty.  This framing means that the first thing you see when you enter a new room is this:

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You can’t see down side hallways, leading to encounters like this:

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And it allows the game to give you glimpses like this:

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With payoff like this:

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Wrap Up

Resident Evil is a series that has spanned four console generations, bringing both good and bad games, but its legacy has never been questioned.  There is little argument that the first game is a classic example of how limitations on software can lead to some truly marvelous ideas.  In its original incarnation, Resident Evil, there are no panic-driven chases or musical stings.  There is only you, mostly alone in a mansion of locked doors, death traps, and hellish monsters, with an eye on your ammo count, a slow, cautious pace, and a threat you can’t see until you’ve turned the corner.

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