I think Matt and I expected different things when we popped Resident Evil into our GameCubes. Whereas Matt was hoping for something "new," I was merely expecting a remake of the old survival horror classic that I loved so much back in the day. I was prepared for the clumsy movement, odd puzzles and the nonsensical level design that earmarked the original (and pretty much define the survival horror genre as a whole). With my set of expectations, Resident Evil is a resounding success.
In this day and age of survival horror overload, it's hard to imagine that this was the game that brought the genre to the mainstream. Gamers who haven't played the original Resident Evil, but have played games like Silent Hill, Dino Crisis or Onimusha, will pick up the Gamecube's Resident Evil and wonder what all the commotion is about. After all, they nearly all play the same and feature similar themes of suspense and horror. But I believe Capcom has done a great service to the gaming community, and survival horror fans especially, by remaking Resident Evil and showing us some historical perspective on this genre. Like it or lump it, survival horror is extremely popular, and had this little strange and gory game called Resident Evil not come out in 1996, survival horror as we know it would not exist.
Resident Evil isn't just a remake of the original, though. New areas, sub-plots and some new gameplay elements are thrown into the mix to try and help the experience feel somewhat fresh. Defensive items allow you to fend off zombie attacks without taking damage. The zombies also become reanimated after a short time if their bodies are not properly disposed of (burned or beheaded). They don't just come back as their former selves, either. They come back as "Crimson Heads", which stands for twice as fast and twice as deadly. Although the few elements that were added to Resident Evil are a far cry from making the entire game "new", it does do a good job of giving us players who have played the original some new sights and scares.
What really stands out in Resident Evil, though, is something Matt has already talked about: its visual presentation. It is unparalleled in the video game industry and sets the bar extremely high for future games. Without going into it too much (since Matt already did a great job of that), it is safe to say that Resident Evil is a piece of art. Every pre-rendered scene is like walking through, and interacting with, an elaborate animated painting. The backgrounds are also further complimented by the great use of lighting and camera angles and the stress-inducing ambient music and noises. Resident Evil is simply stunning.
Even though I'm still kind of wary of all the classic video game remakes that are expected to come out in the years to come, Resident Evil showed me that some games are worth revisiting. Matt was right when he observed the financial success of these remakes as a sign of creative impotence, but if Resident Evil is any indication of the remakes to come, then I am very excited. After all, these are the classic games that brought videogames into the spotlight. Shouldn't they be revisited?