It all began twenty years ago, a team of S.T.A.R.S Special Tactics And Rescue Service are sent to the outskirts of Raccoon City to investigate reported signs of cannibalism. Two teams, Alpha, and Bravo travel via helicopter to the location in order to get to the bottom of the mysterious occurrences. Upon landing, Alpha team locate the downed helicopter of their fellow team members with only a severed hand left behind. While searching the dark forest, they are quickly surrounded by a pack of vicious dogs. Joseph Frost, Alpha teams helicopter pilot is killed by one of the dogs and with Brad Vickers running off the remaining members of Alpha are pushed inside a lonely creepy mansion, their only source of refuge.
Albert Wesker, Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, and Barry Burton are all that is left of Alpha Team as they are trapped within the mansion by the blood thirsty hounds. Within moments of entering the mysterious mansion, a gunshot rings throughout, upon investigating the chosen S.T.A.R.S member comes across the body of Bravo team member, Kenneth J. Sullivan who is being savagely eaten by a Zombie. Those opening moments were to be the catalyst for things to come, they helped to define a genre long in need of a wake-up call.
Capcom will spend the next year celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the franchise they created – Resident Evil. Over the past twenty years, Resident Evil as a series has evolved to keep players on their toes. Heavily influenced by George A. Romero’s Dead Films and Alone In The Dark, Resident Evil has always provided great enemies venturing across some fantastic locations such as Europe in Resident Evil 4. Since the original title launched March 22nd, 1996 there have been ten different Resident Evil titles to follow, a further thirteen spin-off games developed, the series has also seen its fair share of remakes. The past twenty years have offered some of survival horror and video games greatest moments. I take a look at some of the unforgettable moments from Resident Evil’s bloody history.
Resident Evil 4 [European Village Attack]
The opening moments of Resident Evil 4, for me, helped to set a real precedent for the survival horror genre. Leon S. Kennedy is sent to rural Europe to rescue the Presidents daughter, Ashley Graham, who has been kidnapped by a mysterious Cult. George A. Romero himself would struggle to match the tone and feeling I got as I took control of Leon and began to investigate my surroundings. As I pushed further through the countryside towards a village in the distance I began to witness some utterly disturbing sights, each one more strange than the previous. Upon entering the center of the village I was greeted by the locals, who appeared to be acting perfectly normal; rounding up chickens, bailing hay. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary that was until I got closer to the middle of the village where I was greeted by the burning corpse of one of Leons associates.
To go from a perfectly safe, if not strange environment to all out madness is a typical trademark of survival horror as a genre. Capcom had conveyed something truly exciting and had me feeling a mixture of emotions. The locals, who had appeared to be acting normal had now become aware of my presence and were now making a beeline for my location. Leon quickly finds himself inside a house drastically barricading every opening as the band of crazy pitchfork wielding locals attempt to get inside and at Leon.
The beginning moments of Resident Evil 4 are something that would stick with me for a while. The opening moments of investigation and ensuing fight for survival as the baying mob attempted to kill me were extremely intense. Capcoms decision to throw players under the bus within the games first ten minutes would be one to define survival horror. No puzzles needed to be solved it was a simple example of what survival horror should be about, in its purest form and it was definitely an unforgettable moment in the series and the genre as a whole.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis [Raccoon City gets Nuked]
A setting can be everything to a game, much like the Town of Silent Hill, Raccoon City is undeniably one the of greatest settings in video game history. Location and atmosphere are two of defining factors when creating a game to remember, Racoon City is one no fan of the genre could ever forget. Sure many of Resident Evil titles have left its home setting, taking to Spain and China. Raccoon City though remains the true epicenter for the franchise, after all, it was the setting for the first three games, it’s where the infamous Umbrella Corps are based, played home to the Spencer Mansion of Resident Evil, why would you ever want to leave home?.
When I reached the end of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis the City was in utter chaos. The City was now home to masses of undead while some of its residents had managed to evacuate the crumbling city before it fell into quarantine. The U.S Government decided to take drastic action and gave the decision to wipe out the entire City and the infection with the aid of a powerful Nuclear bomb. Series favourites Carlos Oliveria and Jill Valentine who had previously killed the last Nemesis manage to escape the City with some help from Barry Burton just in the nick of time as the huge explosion Government approved failsafe ripped through Raccoon City with devastating force in one of the series most explosive moments.
For me this is one of most memorable moments in Resident Evil history, it’s one that fans of the franchise won’t forget. The obliteration of Raccoon City was a huge moment in the series, helping to elevate the game to new heights. In fact, the very same scene was depicted in Paul W.S Andersons Resident Evil: Apocolypse which saw the remaining members of the cast unable to outrun the aftermath of the explosion, the downed helicopter carrying Alice would crash land deep in the woods outside Raccoon City.
Resident Evil [Dog bursts through window of Mansion]
At the time of its release, Resident Evil became a beacon for a genre that had yet to fully realize its potential. In 1996 Capcom laid the foundations for things to come, taking survival horror in a brand new direction. Resident Evil became a major influence for so many great horror titles that launched in years following its release including Konami’s Silent Hill. I spoke before about a games setting being everything, for Resident Evil this proved to be very much the case. Capcom nailed down the uncontrollably eerie atmosphere, everything about the games setting was perfect.
From the moment those doors slam shut behind the Alpha team, the Spencer Mansion would play host to every player’s worst fears. As a fan of horror both in gaming and films this was the moment survival horror as a genre took its rightful place at video games head table.
The set up to one of Resident Evils most iconic jump scares is so simple in nature it’s scary. Players investigating the winding hallways of the Mansion shortly after discovering the first Zombie, wind up walking a tight corridor leading past a few windows. There appears to be no threat nearby, but you see, that is where horror can jump up and bite you on your arse, in this case, take that literally. Shortly after passing the windows, there is a loud crack of glass breaking as a Cerberus hurdles through one of the windows and begins chasing the protagonist, this is quickly followed by another hellhound. Fans of Resident Evil will know this moment all too well. Jumpscares tend to go hand in hand with horror games, sometimes heavily overused and cheaply done. This particular jumpscare was executed so well, fans will look back fondly on that moment, it’s one that will live long in the memory.
Resident Evil 1996 [First encounter with a Zombie]
Throughout the past twenty years, Capcom has provided fans of the series with some truly terrifying enemy encounters. With Lickers, Nemesis, Giant Cobras, El Gigante and, of course, Albert Wesker to name but a few. Resident Evil however simply isn’t Resident Evil without an all-star cast of the undead, they are the reason the games exist and no game would be complete without them. As far as unforgettable moments go this is by far and away the easiest decision to make when writing this article.
Resident Evil was my first real experience with survival horror on a console. I purchased the game for the PlayStation back in 1996 with no real expectations, I had no idea what was awaiting me over the course of the next few hours, but I sure as shit wouldn’t forget it in a hurry. I remember the scene so well like many would remember their first kiss or first record bought from the local music store. It’s something that stains the memory, it leaves an everlasting impression and that is full value for money right there, no refund required.
After regrouping with the remaining members of the Alpha team a loud gunshot echoed throughout the old mansion. Alone, I begin to investigate the sound and after walking through the large dining room I turn to find Kenneth’s body lying on the floor, hunched over him a flesh-devouring Zombie. The moment that Zombie stops snacking on Kenneth’s lifeless corpse and turns slowly to face players is utterly terrifying. Experiencing that scene for the first time is something I would never forget. The later remakes especially the 2015 remastered version brought back all of the memories. The design of the Zombie in question is one of perfection; the black background, those pure white eyes, and rotting flesh staring you in the face before attempting to feast on you is quite something. When I look back over the last twenty years of the series so far, that is what I remember most.
And there you have it. I have covered some of my own personal favourite moments from the past twenty years of Resident Evil, there are so many more I haven’t covered. Like Marmite, Resident Evil divides opinion – you either love it or you hate it but one thing is for certain it is a series that deserves respect, it’s earnt it. Resident Evil is the most successful and popular survival horror franchise around today for very good reason , I hope that continues in the foreseeable future. Capcom have provided some of the genre’s greatest and most defining moments and that is something worth celebrating.