Love/Hate: Resident Evil

Welcome back to the Resident Evil love/hate series! Now that we’ve been through all the main entries in the franchise, it’s only appropriate to go back to the beginning with the original PS1 trilogy. Naturally, that means we’re going to start with the original Resident Evil! How does this game hold up 28 years later? Read on to find out…

Note: Since I played REmake was Jill, I decided to play as Chris for this run. I know that this makes the game a fair bit harder, but given that this is essentially a second playthrough for me, I figured I was up for the challenge. This may or may not colour some of my opinions on the game, so fair warning.


  • Cheesiness – Early Resident Evil games are known for their bad voice acting and writing, and they don’t get any cheesier than the original game (other than maybe Survivor). The live-action FMVs, the bad localization, and the pathetic voice acting are hilarious and give this game a unique charm that we simply do not get in games anymore. There are just so many unintentionally funny and awkward lines in this game. I already knew about Barry’s heavily-memed lines, but experiencing Chris’s campaign first-hand introduced me to some funny lines I’d never heard before. By far the funniest moment is when Wesker is trying to show off Tyrant, and Chris just laughs at him and calls them both failures. It completely clowns on Wesker as a character, which really undermines what he becomes later in the series (complete with Chris saying that he’s “sleeping with the ultimate failure”), but goddamn is it not funny to see here in the first outing.
    • I’ll also say this – the janky voice acting and writing actually manages to mask some of the more ridiculous aspects of the story compared to REmake. For a particularly egregious example, Enrico’s death is kind of an idiotic plot point. He calls Chris a traitor, points his gun at him, and then someone off-screen shoots him. Instead of, y’know, trying to figure out who shot Enrico or why they might have done this, Chris just goes “huh, I wonder what happened?” in both this game and REmake. That doesn’t make a lot of sense with REmake‘s much flashier and serious presentation, but here it’s just par for the course.
  • Spencer Mansion – I’ve played a lot of Resident Evil games and I can confidently say that the Spencer Mansion is still arguably the best-designed layout in the whole series. Having a central hub area that you figure-eight through throughout most of your journey works fantastically and it’s kind of surprising that no game since has been able to match this kind of design. It also helps that item boxes are never more than a couple hallways away, which really facilitates the kind of survival horror gameplay loop that this game is going for without making it a constant slog.
  • Established the Classic Formula – The quintessential “Resident Evil” formula is here and pretty much all intact, albeit in an unrefined state. That said, it’s kind of amazing how much the core gameplay of “ammo/health scarcity and exploring to find new items to unlock new areas” is still intact nearly thirty years later and as compelling as ever.
  • Some Unexpected QoL – Even here in the first entry, the game will tell you when a key item is no longer useful and allow you to immediately dispose of it. I was shocked by this, I’m used to games of this era being very unrefined and would have completely expected them to expect you to head back to an item box to deposit it. This is especially helpful in a game like this where inventory slots come at a premium and disposing of it automatically might mean that you now have room to pickup whatever new item is in the next room. Also, the Black Tiger boss fight ends with a door covered in spider webs, and the game helpfully provides you with a second combat knife so you know what you’re expected to do and to save you a trip to the item box. Handy!


  • REmake Exists – Without a doubt, the biggest issue the original Resident Evil faces is that you’re going to be constantly aware that a better version of this game exists. REmake is literally just Resident Evil, but with more content, phenomenal presentation, and better execution. Unlike Resident Evil 2 and 3, where their remakes are more reimaginings of the locations and concepts of those games, Resident Evil is left completely overshadowed. There isn’t much reason to go back to this version of the game other than the novelty of it and to laugh at the cheesiness.
  • Low HP – Compared to other Resident Evil games, you have shockingly low health reserves in this original entry. The first time I took a bit from a zombie and then realized I was already in the yellow, I knew something was up – and, remember, I was doing this playthrough as Chris, the character who is supposed to be significantly tankier. Jill has even less health than he does! Legitimately, you can’t take more than three zombie bites without dying in this game, which is kind of insane considering you can take that many hits in other Resident Evil games without even going into the yellow.
    • Just a note: I’ve read that you couldn’t shake off zombies in this particular entry, so you’ll always take full damage from them. However, this appears to be somewhat conflicting – some people say you can, some say that you can’t. I tried button mashing to push them off towards the end of the game when I became aware of this and didn’t notice a difference. I’m willing to own up if I’m wrong about this, but my opinion here was based on my experience in this playthrough.
  • Frustrating Early Game – The first thirty minutes or so of this game are incredibly irritating. Nearly every single door you come across is locked, you only have two viable paths to start exploring, there are zombies all over the place, and you are extremely limited on ammo. As even more of a piss-off, some of the paths you will HAVE to go at the start of the game have several zombies blocking the way, and each zombie takes at least six handgun rounds to kill, even if you’re also using the knife to soften them up. Basically, the start of this game requires either: 1) knowledge from previous playthroughs to know where to go and what you can afford to kill, 2) considerable trial and error, or 3) a walkthrough. This presents a massive hump to get over in order to actually start enjoying the game and I can see a good chunk of players just quitting in frustration right off the bat as a result.
  • Unrefined Design – Being the oldest game in the franchise, you can really feel the lack of refinement and QOL features which would quickly become standardized throughout the franchise. I don’t want to hold that too much against the game, but there are some particularly frustrating examples. Most egregious is the in-game map, which is about as bare-bones as it could possibly get. It shows the mansion layout, tells you what area you’re currently in, and what rooms you’ve visited… and that’s it. You can check other floors and areas, there’s no information about the names of the rooms, save points, item boxes, locked doors, etc. You’d legitimately be better off making your own map on paper while playing, that’s how archaic this game’s map is.
  • Presentation and Game Design – This is one of my harder-to-articulate complaints about this game, but I’ll try to explain it. I think that Resident Evil‘s fixed camera angles and tank controls were sensible and clever design choices given the technical restraints of the time. However, the way that these have been implemented here create more frustration that they needed to.
    • Pathways are often very narrow, making it difficult to dodge zombies without taking a hit or requiring gunning them down to pass safely (again, see my complaints about low HP and the early game lack of ammo for why this is such an issue). To make matters worse, the camera angles are often so zoomed out or angled in such a way that it can be difficult to judge exactly how much space you have to maneuver around a zombie, making you take hits that you could have dodged otherwise.
    • In addition, the graphics and camera angles combine to make it difficult to even see what paths you can take. On more than one occasion, I completely missed paths forward because they just blended into the background. This is especially pronounced in the underground, where the background textures are extra low-resolution and monotonous.
    • This can also make knowing what to interact with the the environment really frustrating. The most prominent example of this is the placement of the eagle and wolf crests on a fountain with four corners. I walked up to the first, most visible corner and nothing happened. Turns out that the game wants you to go to two other corners, whose points aren’t even on-screen when you reach them, and then interact with them know that’s where you’re supposed to put the crests. It is incredibly easy to miss this and I’m sure plenty of people got stuck wandering around trying to figure out where to go next.

All-in-all, the OG Resident Evil is still a pretty fun time, but you can really feel how unrefined and aged it is, even in comparison to its immediate follow-ups. While REmake is the best way to experience this game, there’s still some old-school charm to this original rendition which makes it worth playing through at least once.

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