“They have escaped to the mansion, where they thought it was safe, yet…”
This opening text to Resident Evil, the popular survival-horror video game for the PlayStation Console, is one of the most haunting and influential moments in video game/pop-culture history.
Released in 1996 to eager and enthusiastic horror fans, Resident Evil flipped the script on horror-based video games, and revamped a sub-genre visited infrequently up to that point. Survival Horror was reawakened with cinematic flash and christened a slew of video games borrowing the methods of Resident Evil. But it was Resident Evil itself that set the bar as high as it would go, not realizing the rising acclaim it had earned.
The synopsis for Resident Evil borrowed heavily from some of the great horror movies of the 80s. With that said, its own originality was nothing to take for granted.
The opening cut scene centers on a group of people known as the S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Squad) Alpha team. Alpha team is en route, via helicopter, to rescue the S.T.A.R.S. Bravo team, who have not responded to radio communication and have apparently crash landed in the Arklay Mountains northwest of Raccoon City, Pennsylvania. As the Alpha team emerges from the thick clouds, they spot a smoldering hue arising from the dwindling foliage.
Landing near the area of smoke, the Alpha team’s five members (minus pilot Brad Vickers), Chris Redfield, Barry Burton, Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker, and Joseph Frost, engage the wooded area for any sign of life from their fellow S.T.A.R.S. team. Joseph Frost is dispatched by an apparent “zombie dog”. Brad Vickers, in a “chicken-hearted” move, flees the scene in the chopper, leaving the team stranded with no place to go but the mansion, which was reported to have been abandoned for over 2 decades.
The real horror begins as the team members encounter a secret biological laboratory within and underneath the Spencer Estate. The mansion is also occupied by flesh-eating zombies, mutated monsters, and giant insects and animals of all varieties. The S.T.A.R.S. Alpha team fights for their survival throughout the rest of the game, trying to reconnect with missing members of Bravo team, and uncover a mole within their own ranks.
The premise for Resident Evil formidably entertained gamers, while also leaving plenty of room to expand the story with various arching plot lines. To date, ten games have been made that make use of the running main plot and characters (although most of the time not in chronological order), while numerous off-shoot games have been created to expand various game play styles such as FPS (First Person Shooters) and 3rd Person controls. While the games following the main plot device have garnered critical acclaim with fans of the series, the off-shoot games tend to be overlooked.
Some say these off-shoot titles are nothing more than a ploy to garner money from fans of the series while the main games are in development. As this may be true in some cases, a good amount of the plots inherent within the off-shoot games tend to fill in space and answer various questions overlooked by fans that play the core games.
As off-shoot games garnered most of the negativity throughout the late 20th century and into the new millennium, the real let down was prevalent in the highly publicized, extremely long overdue, Resident Evil film franchise.
Fans of horror films and zombies know that the main source of inspiration for Resident Evil’s shambling and lovable zombies can be associated with the great George A. Romero and his “Dead” series of films. With that impenetrable truth, why not have the legendary filmmaker helm the adaptation of Resident Evil to film? As you may know, this was actually a lot closer to reality than many seem to realize.
According to Romero, he was approached by representatives from Capcom (makers of the RE franchise) to write a script based on the popular game. Declining at first, citing disinterest concerns, Romero eventually drafted a script after an associate played through both games and video recorded them for him. While the script remained in “developmental hell,” as Hollywood employees like to call it, Romero helmed a Japan-aired only commercial for the release of Biohazard 2 a.k.a. Resident Evil 2.
The commercial lead to major excitement from fans awaiting the final word on the future of Romero’s script. Unfortunately due to artistic differences, Capcom decided not to move forward on Romero’s script, causing Romero to lose out on personal time to make another “Dead” film for his fans, while also taking away a very important catalyst for the future of the Resident Evil franchise.
Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat) penned a new script loosely based on the video game plot while Romero’s script was very faithful to the plot of the games. The movies garnered heavy popularity, but more so with non-gamer fans.
Resident Evil’s success lies in its ability to put the gamer into the hapless protagonist’s shoes and bring an element of fear and apprehension like no other game did for the time. It carried itself cinematically at times, while still remaining playable. No other game was hailed as more fun to watch than play.
The series has gained even more popularity since the advent of new consoles, with 10 plot-based games made to date, a plethora of off-shoot games, action figures, novels/comics, and 6 blockbuster movies. Resident Evil is still chilling and is considered a legendary landmark in video game history.