The Bad Movie You Play
I had been killing zombies
for what seemed like days, but it was only hours. Slow as they were,
they were still
capable of being sneaky, and that worried me. As bad as the human zombies
were, it was the undead dogs that presented a real problem. They were
fast, and mean. Still, life had gotten easier since I found the shotgun,
and I had a fair number of shells left, and plenty of ammo for my Beretta.
So it was with a small degree of cockiness that I entered the room.
Nobody told me about
the giant spiders. They dropped on me from the ceiling. I didn't have
a chance. Blood gushed and I was engulfed in a clear white light.
This is Resident Evil,
one of the first big hits for the Sony Playstation (and recently released
for PC). In it, you play a member of some pseudo-SWAT team that makes
the mistake of looking for comrades who vanished while investigating
monster sightings near the improbably-named Raccoon City. Set upon by
ravenous hell-hounds, three of the survivors take refuge in an old mansion,
which -surprise!- seems to be the epicenter of the weirdness. As all
participants in bad movies must, the survivors split up to look for
clues. ("Shaggy, you and Scooby check the dining room...")
And the fun starts.
It won't take you long
to meet your first zombie; he's happily munching on the corpse of one
of your team members. This is a really creepy moment, and I'll confidently
stack it up against any number of similar scenes in actual movies. Luckily,
a couple of bullets in the right place will put the shambling undead
back down for keeps. Unluckily, you don't have much ammo. And did I
mention someone on your team is a traitor?
Past that, Resident
Evil is a fairly standard adventure game: find keys, open doors,
solve puzzles, try not to die. It's the desperate gunning down of beasties
that make you feel like you're immersed in a George Romero movie, angrily
cursing every missed shot, because each bullet is precious. Only
a soundtrack by Goblin would have improved the overall feel.
Oh, but that's not the
best part. The reason why this belongs in The Bad Movie Report.
You see, when you reach certain
points in the game, or pass some milestone, the game serves up a Full
Motion Video sequence, and the voice acting in these segments is rancid.
Part of the problem is an inexplicably slavish devotion to the too-literal
Japanese translation ("You have once again entered the world of
survival horror")- but the scripting can only be blamed for so
much. One of the main characters, Jill, sounds like a cheerleader in
full pout, and the ever-helpful Barry bellows everything. A favorite
Barry line, delivered after a couple of hours battling various monsters:
"Whoa! This hall is dangerous!"
You get your choice of
characters to play: Jill, the aforementioned cheerleader, or Chris,
the male model. Everyone I've ever spoken to prefers to play Jill (does
anybody ever play anything but the babe in these games?).
Not quite as tough as Chris, but she can carry eight items, whereas
Chris can only carry six. With each gun and its spare ammo taking up
two spaces, this becomes very important very quickly.
The game does have its
downsides. Basically, the system must pause to load each room into memory
as you come to it; this is covered by animations of doors opening and
the like. Once you've cleared an area of beasties, solving of puzzles
can become a tedious run-click-load-run-click-load affair. You can only
save your games by using "ink ribbons" that you find in certain
rooms that contain typewriters. I hate games with save schemes
like that. A save-when-you-want scheme, as in the immortal Doom,
encourages far more exploration. But not as much tension. Admittedly.
what Resident Evil does; splendidly recreates the tension and
atmosphere of a really good bad movie, the entertaining crap we all
love so dearly.
As a postscript, a couple
of things might be mentioned. One is that the publisher of Resident
released a version called Resident Evil: The Director's Cut,
which promised an uncensored experience.... which wasn't, prompting
the inevitable flurry of complaints and rants on Usenet. And what is
with the box? Would you see a movie with a crappy poster like this?
Do they even care? Well, no, not really. Publishers feel... and
they're probably right... that Americans just don't care about the cover
What The Director's
Cut did include was a demo disc of RE2 (due
in January) which looked simply smashing. The game opens in Raccoon
City, where we are firmly embroiled in Dawn of the Dead territory.
Gangs of zombies walk the street, and they're looking more Romero-esque...
and hungry... than ever.
In fact, the director
for the TV commercial for RE2's Japanese release is... George
Romero. And we'll probably never get to see it. Crap.
Who doesn't want to blow out zombie brains?
And while we're here,
it's as good a time as any to talk about Clock Tower, another
attempt to bring the horror movie experience to gaming. Specifically,
the slasher movie.
After starting with a creepy nightmare
sequence, Clock Tower purports to be about the legendary Scissorman,
a serial killer who uses an enormous pair of scissors to dispatch his
victims (shades of William Peter Blatty's Legion). Generally,
you play a girl who survived a Scissorman attack or the research assistant
who's trying to help her remember exactly what happened. After a far-too-lengthy
bout of exposition (A unique thing in a videogame, to be sure), the
game proper begins, as Scissorman begins stalking you in a locked-up
University building. Then a locked-up house. Then a locked-up castle.
Clock Tower is
great fun for about the first couple of hours. The only music occurs
whenever Scissorman pops up, and he can be damned sneaky. These parts
of the game can be quite pulse-pounding. Fortunately, he is also slow
and rather stupid, and you can usually find a place to hide until he
leaves, or even find something lying about to brain him with so you
can.... yes, run away. Not stay to finish the job, no, that would ruin
the bad movie.
Scissorman does get a
little smarter in the latter part of the game; if you try to hide from
him in the same
place twice, he will kill you. Sadly, by that time, programmers
also seem to get a bit bored, so they threw in a couple of doors and
drawers that flat out kill you. No saving roll, no way out, just bam.
You die. Awfully frustrating in a game that's primarily about exploration.
Clock Tower claims
to have ten different endings, depending on who you wind up playing,
etc, etc. , supposedly to enhance it's replayability - but the game
simply isn't that good, not enough to make me replay it over and over
and over, just for the endings. Running for your life is exhilarating
the first ten or fifteen times, but as a steady diet...... ehhhhhhhh.
Gimme a shotgun and beret anyday.