Monday, October 31, 2016

Spoopy Games: The Early Capcom Horror Games

Capcom went to the survival horror cash cow as often as they could after their success with Resident Evil 1. They were known for their beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds, stiff controls, 3-6 hour games, and campy voice acting.

There was a time where you could argue they were better at horror than fighting, something inconceivable in recent years.

And this, this is where my obsession started. The games weren't enough. I started buying Resident Evil comics (they are all terrible), Resident Evil action figures (really awesome), and even jackets with the Umbrella logo on them.

Resident Evil 1 (1997)/ REMake (2002)

There was a long time where I maintained that this was the best Resident Evil game.

It was part nostalgia. I played it for the first time when I was 13. I had a knack for beating my head
against Lucas Arts point-and-clicks, so the obtuse puzzles strangely made sense to me. Sure, there were the easier puzzles, find the key that matches this door. But then there were other puzzles that required you to look at the item up close.

I never would've figured out that we had weed killer without looking at the item. I never would've found the wolf medal in the Doom Book had I not inspected it.

REMake took a mansion I knew like the back of my hand and added large portions to it. It was the same, but a new nightmare. And for a game that came out in 2002, it still looks incredible. Capcom made high-resolution prerendered backgrounds, but gave them life by making all the light sources actual characters in the world so they could cast shadows. It seems like such a small touch, but it makes a huge difference.

Resident Evil 2 (1998) / Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999)

It took several decades, but I think I'm in the Resident Evil 2 camp now. The police station is such an interesting setting for the zombie apocalypse. They do a great job of explaining why there is so much fine art and booby traps everywhere, a corrupt police chief on the Umbrella payroll who helps hide their underground lab.

The weakest parts of the game are transitioning from the sewers to the underground lab.

And the way they bring Resident Evil 3 into the timeline is genius. You go into the police station and you see blockades set against doors that you know are torn down before the events of RE2.

And getting to run through Raccoon city and seeing the damage was an incredible treat for a fan of my level.

Resident Evil 3 is the first game I preordered. I saw the opening cinematic playing on repeat at Babbages and I couldn't give them my money soon enough.

My dream is that the Resident Evil 2 remake Capcom is currently working on features Resident Evil 3 and possibly thre battle for the police station.

Dino Crisis (1999) / Dino Crisis 2 (2000)

Dino Crisis took the combat and inventory management system you grew to love in Resident Evil
and then made you fight much larger, faster enemies with less ammo.

I wasn't sure how I felt about the dinosaur horror pitch, but it worked great. It was a different sort of tension. Instead of Resident that caused you to freeze, think about the situation, and slowly move forward, Dino Crisis sent raptors after you. You didn't have time to think. Resident Evil was fight, Dino Crisis was flight.

The sequel, although still good, went more arcadey and bright. You had more ammo than you could ever want and killing the dinosaurs gave you money to buy more weapons.

Also, I went to buy Dino Crisis 2 on my 17th birthday and got hit by a lady in the Blockbuster parking lot totaling my first car.

Resident Evil Survivor (2000)

Survivor showed a ton of promise early on. A light gun game where you could pick branching paths and target specific parts of zombies.

Unfortunately Columbine happened and Capcom pulled the light gun support. Instead we got a generic adventure where you controlled the crosshair with your controller.

It's an interesting game in an interesting setting, but it has many mistakes. One of the most glaring is the lack of a save or checkpoint feature. You can play to the final boss, die, and it's start over time for you. Granted, the game is only about 2 hours long, but that's still a lot of time to lose.

Resident Evil Outbreak 1 (2003)

I bought the PS2's network adapter, the strategy guide, and the game to play this. High-school cash, I dropped a solid $95 on the total package.

But I loved it.

The maps were well designed. Capcom created suspense and drama with the enemies. They introduced mechanics like being able to board up a door to give yourself more time, zombies following you through doorways, branching paths, and puzzles that gave you high rewards but would likely cause the hordes of enemies following you to catch up.

And when you played online, the difficulty level ramped up. Not only were you not able to talk to the other players beyond the pre-set commands, but the enemies were more vast, and the layout of weapon and enemy placement was changed.

The biggest problem with the game was that the load times between rooms were crazy long, something like 20-30 seconds. That doesn't sound like too much, but there are times where you go into a closet, grab and herb, and then leave. For 10 seconds of gameplay, you spent a minute watching loading screens.

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