Apr 22, 2008

Resident Evil

Resident Evil was one of the first and most prominent survival horror games created for the Playstation.

I want to launch with an exploration of the control scheme for the game. The user inputs that were chosen for character movement were heavily criticized for being ‘unintuitive’. [Indeed it took me 3 or 4 attempts at playing this game before I finally figured out how to shoot the pistol]

The game uses an unconventional mapping for character movement - the ‘up’ button moves the character forward, and the ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons rotate the character. I believe that this mapping was chosen to anchor one consistent direction to the up button. Because the game has dramatic camera angles that change orientation in almost every room, it is functional to be able to hold down one button and continue progression in a consistent direction.

In order to shoot a weapon the player needs to hold down the L1 button while pressing a 2nd button on the keypad. This is also an unconventional choice but serves the useful function of not wasting ammo by accident – because this is a game with limited resources.

The limitation of resources is not only a gameplay mechanic, but adds a level of emotional tension. Most players experience a sense of anxiety as their resources diminish. The amount of times that a player can save is also a commodity. This inability to easily leave the game world beautifully mirrors the core of the story – that the characters cannot escape the house.

The flow and content of the game is fairly predictable, but balanced and well executed. The player can find various keys that unlock different types of doors. This mechanic is straightforward and in most instances the game does nothing to mask this element.

At certain junctures there are puzzle elements which are necessary for progression. This is a bit curious in that the puzzles are not a core element of the game, yet do not add substantial depth.

The visual aspects of this game do give substantial depth, however. The backgrounds are pre-rendered, which allowed them to be created with far more detail than its real-time contemporaries. That detail allows each part of the mansion to look unique, and helps the feeling of reward when a new area has been unlocked. Each room is displayed from different camera angles, giving a dramatic aesthetic.

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