Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Resident Evil review

The first game in the Resident Evil franchise was released for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn in 1996 and is an undisputed classic, propelling the "survival horror" genre into widespread popularity and spawning many sequels and clones in the process. By 2002 however, certain aspects of the game were definitely starting to show their age, so therefore Capcom decided to remake the game from scratch for the Gamecube. Instead of allowing the game to moulder and decay like one of the zombies the game is known for, it was given a new lease of life. This week, I take a look at this definitive version of the game that introduced to the Umbrella Corporation and the characters of Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Barry Burton, Rebecca Chambers and Albert Wesker.

Genre: Survival Horror
Developer: Capcom
Expect to pay: Around £10
Release dates: 13/09/02 (EU), 30/04/02 (US), 22/03/02 (JP)

Graphics: 8 out of 10
Capcom have taken the familiar environments from the PlayStation original, such as the mansion and the laboratory, and have recreated them as high resolution pre rendered backgrounds. On top of this, there are a host of all new areas to explore, and some of these have a really creepy atmosphere. The extremely cheesy live action intro has been thrown out altogether, and a much much scarier CG movie takes its place. As for the characters, the boxy polygonal Chris, Jill and company are now highly detailed 3D models. Overall the game looks great - not quite in the same league as the fully 3D Resident Evil 4 that came long later in the Cubes life, but definitely one of the better looking games for the system.

Sound and Music: 8 out of 10
The first release of Resident Evil is fairly infamous for it's poorly written and badly delivered lines, classics like the "Jill sandwich" line and the "master of unlocking". The script has been completely rewritten and rerecorded, which if you loved the PS1 game for its B-movie atmosphere could be seen as a bad thing, but now the game as a much more serious tone and is spookier as a result.

The sound effects do a good job of putting your nerves on edge, with background effects such as mechanical gears clanking, strange abominations moaning in the night, and the wind blowing through the trees. Musically the game is just as good as it ever was, with familiar composition taking their place side by side with some new pieces.

Game Mechanics: 8 out of 10
Mechanically, the Gamecube version of Resident Evil does play pretty similarly to the original but there are a few differences that Capcom have introduced. The major one is probably the "crimson head" zombie. You see, you may think that you have killed zombies, but leave their corpses lying around for long enough and they will get back up again with a ruby coloured noggin. These guys are far tougher than your common variety of brain muncher - they can run much faster, pack a mean wallop and take more hits to take down. It's probably better in the long run if you can avoid meeting one of these chaps, and there are ways and means to to that.

With a bit of clever planning, you can use fuel canteens and the lighter to burn the bodies of certain zombies (which prevents them from getting up again), leaving a relatively safe path open for you to explore the mansion. On your first time through the game this may be difficult, but I have completed this game so many times now I have the ideal route memorised.

Detractors of the franchise will often chastise the "tank controls" and the fact that if you want to aim and shoot you have to be rooted to the spot to do so. Take this away though and it really wouldn't be the same game, as the limitations do add to the fear factor. If you are looking for a game in the series with improved controls, then maybe take a look at Resident Evil 4 or 5 instead, as they have taken things in a more action oriented direction, but personally I get on with the old fashioned style just fine.

Supplementary video
- thanks to Interghost for allowing me to use his Resident Evil video review on the site

Innovation and Cleverness: 4 out of 10
Being a remake, Resident Evil for the Gamecube as little scope or reason for innovation, but the addition of the crimson head zombies and the new/rearranged puzzles do a good job of shaking things up for those who have completed the game before.

Value and Replayability: 7 out of 10
The game takes a decent length of time to play through for the first time - I would estimate around 10 hours or so. Then you can play the game as the other character using the same save file, which changes the way the end of the game pans out slightly. On top of this, there is a normal difficulty mode and a harder one, and of course playing as Jill is slightly easier than playing as Chris as well due to her having more inventory space and the lockpick from the start.

Overall: 8 out 10 - Recommended
Resident Evil is a undisputed classic, and Capcom have done a fantastic job in updating it. It definitely needed it becuase good as the PS1 original was back in its day, it is certainly showing its age nowadays. It is a great shame that Resident Evil 2 never got the same treatment, as that is my personal favourite entry in the series. One final note: this version of Resident Evil was ported to the Wii, with the only change being that the graphics were formatted for 16:9 televisions. Seeing as the Wii can play Gamecube discs though, I see little point in spending more money on it when the GC version does the job just fine.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Lord of the Rings: The Third Age review

After releasing two licenced Lord of the Rings games based on the second and third films, EA followed up by having a go at making an original story in the world of Middle Earth. Instead of being a hack and slash action game, this time they decided to try their hand at a turn based RPG, very much in the style of the Final Fantasy series. Is the game worthy of your time? Read on...

Genre: RPG
EA Games
Developer: EA Games
Expect to pay: £5 - £10
Release dates: 05/11/04 (EU), 02/11/04 (US), 22/12/04 (JP)

Graphics: 7 ouf of 10
The Third Age features decent graphics that do a pretty good job of representing the various races as they were portrayed in Peter Jackson's movie trilogy, but they're not quite up there with the best that the Gamecube has to offer. Everything is just a little grainy and textures can look a little low res and bland at times. The different races such as the goblins, dwarfs, elves and urukhai do feel authentic however, as do the various bits of armour and weapons that you can equip.

Some of the bosses are impressively large, such as the Watcher in the Water, the Cave Troll and the dreaded Balrog. Separate from the in game graphics are well over 100 clips taken from the films, and while this is all recycled material it does help to immerse you into the world, especially combined with the sound and music...

Sound and Music: 9 out of 10
The Third Age is absolutely crammed full of music taken straight from the fantastic movie soundtracks composed by Howard Shore. In addition, the aforementioned snippets taken from the films feature newly recorded voice overs from Sir Ian McKellan, and go a long way indeed to creating the atmosphere in the game. The rest of the voice cast is decent enough, but not in the same league as Gandalf himself. Sound effects are also straight samples from the movie trilogy, by and large, so also sound exactly as you would expect. Overall the sound and music contributed in a major way to my enjoyment of the game as a whole.

Game Mechanics: 6 out of 10
For the most part The Third Age plays just like any other bog standard turn based Japanese RPG, and doesn't deviate too far from that template. There are a few minor touches here and there that are quite neat, such as a variety of different special powers that can be earned in an order of your choosing. You earn points towards these abilities by using weaker abilities in the same class. For example your ranger character has a whole set of archery related abilities that he can learn. Some of them dish out damage to single or multiple opponents, some are strong against a particular type of enemy such as orcs, and others buff your party of debuff you enemies.

One thing that did get quite irritating for me is the sheer frequency of things that take you out of the game and into the menus, like levelling up, equipping new armour or viewing the many video clips. These did get less frequent as the game went on, but in the early going it seemed like I was pressing start and distributing stat points after every battle. If the Lord of the Rings licence hadn't been present I probably wouldn't have persevered very far with this game, but I'm a sucker for wizards and magical doodads, so I was hooked.

Innovation and Cleverness: 4 out 10
The Third Age really brings very little to the genre, but I'll give it a few points for giving many Lord of the Rings what they want - namely a Final Fantasy style RPG wearing the skin of their favourite film trilogy. This in itself was enough to keep my attention.

Value and Replayability: 5 out of 10
The game itself is nice and cheap these days, but it's debatable whether you would ever want to play it again once you've completed it. It's more a game you'd pick up on the cheap, play once and then forget about.

Overall: 7 out of 10 - Recommended
As I've said several times already, the only reason this game is really worth a second glance is because of the Lord of the Rings licence. So if you're not a fan of LOTR, then you will most likely be bored to tears. Those who are should grab a copy, play it through, and then resell it on eBay.

Welcome to the Vault

Welcome to the brand new Gamecube Vault, a site that I hope will eventually build up into a useful source of reviews and information for fans of Nintendo's ever so slightly maligned console. The site will mainly consist of reviews, but there may be other types of article as well as time goes by. I'm going to tag posts by the starting letter of the games title and eventually build an A-Z listing with links to all the articles. I'm also going to add tags for whether I feel the game ranks as being terrible, flawed, recommended or essential, and if I consider it to be a hidden gem. Things will be kicking off with a review of The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, and will be followed up soon after by reviews of the Resident Evil remake and Skies of Arcadia Legends. Thanks for reading, now let's get started!