After watching Kessler and Steve playing Resident Evil 1 for the Fear Gauntlet I found myself having the incredible urge to play it again. Not having a copy anymore, and being too lazy to leave the house or wait, I hopped onto the PSN. Low and behold they had all of the original PS1 Resident Evil games for cheap. So, having a four day weekend I decided I was going to marathon the entire core Resident Evil series. That's right 1-5 back to back to back to back to back. Having just finished 1-3 I thought I'd hop on here and share my thoughts.
Resident Evil 1
While it's still a seminal moment in gaming the core gameplay has not aged especially well. I'm not talking so much about the visuals, which are obviously dated, but more about the core gameplay. While the puzzle solving and atmosphere of the mansion are still as engaging as ever the fixed camera angles, tank controls, poor gunplay and save system can make the game nigh on unplayable. It's almost like the game is trying to make you angry. I believe I spent more time redoing entire sections of the game than I spent playing the game. While I understand it was the best they could do at the time it doesn't make the experience any less frustrating.
That being said the story and atmosphere do wonders for the proceedings. The fact that ammunition is incredibly limited and even one zombie can take a dozen pistol rounds before dropping leads to some incredibly tense moments. In a modern world where zombies have been relegated to cannon fodder to be killed in the hundreds this is a welcome change of pace. I wouldn't recommend playing RE1 to just anyone but if you want to get a sense of where the series came from this game is essential.
Resident Evil 2
Now we're getting to the real meat and potatoes. RE2 is commonly accepted to be the "classic" game of the RE series. This is where they took the formula of the first game and polished it up quite a bit. The visuals are approaching a level that most modern gamers can handle and the atmosphere has been cranked up even further. The opening sequence of Leon running for his life through the streets of Raccoon City is an effective source of tension to this day. You really do feel as though you're trapped in a police station in the middle of the city swarming with the living dead.
They also began to lay the framework for much of the RE fiction we know and love today. While RE1 had the barest of bare bones plots to justify the proceedings RE2 starts to put some meat on those bones. It established further that Umbrella is a truly heartless corporation who are hell bent on covering up their own dirty dealings. Many iconic RE enemies such as the Licker are also introduced. Overall another seminal moment in the RE series.
Resident Evil 3
This is the game that I feel like the series stumbled with. It almost seems like they were trying to experiment with the formula but weren't wholly successful. After having pumped out three games in as many years Capcom probably felt some evolution had to occur. Instead of taking place in a fixed location as the first two games had RE3 has almost an open world going on. You are given almost complete free reign of a section of Raccoon City that changes dynamically. Implementing tech they had tried in the Dino Crisis series RE3 had randomly spawning enemies and changing terrain throughout. There were even multiple cutscenes which would play depending on your choices and recurring battles with Nemesis where you could choose multiple actions. Capcom even implemented an ammo creation system which shows one of their first forays into weapon customization and upgrades.
RE3 is not a bad game by any stretch but it feels like an experiment that wasn't wholly successful. By setting it at roughly the same time as RE2 the story doesn't progress terribly. It's a fun experience but I wouldn't say it's essential to the proceedings.
Overall I have to say that the PS1 RE games are good for seeing where the series came from but not really essential. The plot was almost paper thin at times and the gameplay just doesn't hold up in the modern age. I had a good time playing through them but much of the frustration of the interface and gameplay makes me think I won't even go back. Now, on to RE4 on the "next gen" Gamecube.