Resident Evil has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance in the past few years, both through HD remasters of the original game and its prequel as well as Revelations 2, a charming little episodic title that proved the series could still do survival horror. And then there’s this year’s Resident Evil 7 that, while bringing survival horror back to the forefront of the main series, is an entirely new monster. By the way, it’s also a brilliant sequel.
There’s no doubt that Resident Evil is one of the most important series in the history of the horror genre. Along with other classic series, such as Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, and many others, the Resident Evil series has helped define what horror games can be and has continued to find new ways of scaring gamers for two decades. Early next year, we’ll even get a whole new Resident Evil experience in virtual reality.
More than twenty years later, we’ve been playing Resident Evil so long it should surely be called Citizen Evil. And it’s not just the scares that have made us come back time and time again for another adventure down the dark hallways of mansions and castles. Resident Evil is also one of the funniest franchises in gaming history, a magnificently indulgent parody of overwrought B-movies and ridiculous attempts to sound like a serious thriller…
Behold, some of the most spectacularly silly moments in this apparently immortal series:
Resident Evil 1 Live Action Intro
Of course, we have to start with the worst live-action intro ever filmed, because that’s what the game did. Treasure it! That’s the sort of sincerely awful cinema you just don’t get anymore. Nowadays shit like Sharknado appals on purpose, suxploitation movies exploiting our ability to enjoy the terrible by using it as an excuse to not even try.
But the people responsible for Resident Evil genuinely thought that clip was awesome. They advertised it! They had these amazing new discs able to hold a few minutes of grainy video – almost as much as a television ad break, if viewed through a blizzard – and truly believed a camera was all they needed to fill it with movie. It’s like thinking a scalpel is all you need to perform surgery. If they’d handed that scalpel to an angry monkey in a pet shop the results would still have been less painful. And better acted.
Resident Evil 1 Live Action Endings
Most people think that the live action intro is as bad as Resident Evil gets, but behold the live-action endings. The intros were the worst action-pantomime ever filmed, but these endings are masterpieces of art-house cinema.
True cinema makes you think and question. Here the question is “Did they really make real live humans come back and sit in what appears to be anempty warehouse just to pretend they were in a helicopter, doing nothing but reflecting on the wasted life of the gamma-list actor?” YES. Either that helicopter is a TARDIS or this is a French art film. If they’d released this without context at Cannes it would have won an award.
Then they did it again several more times, slightly varying the exact positioning of actor-buttocks on the bench each time, and that was your reward for playing the entire game all the way through again. Making it a masterpiece of metanarrative. Each replay forced the viewer to question his own role and wonder who was truly the one sitting around doing nothing but causing awful video to play. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors had nothing on this.
Video game terror is delicate artwork. Horror movies work because people surrender themselves to the fiction and accept the fear of death. But video gamers are always in control. And always know death is less of a delay than running out of Dr Pepper, because the former can be solved by waiting a few seconds but the latter means standing up.
Video game developers spend years working to maintain a stressful atmosphere under these conditions, because it’s really hard to scare an immortal holding a shotgun. Which might be why Capcom said “screw it” and make Mini Napoleon giggle his way through Resident Evil 4.
Ramon Salazar’ only power was making Leon forget he was holding a gun while standing on balconies. Resident Evil always mutates small seeds into massive mega-monsters, but in RE4 even immensity was idiotic with the attack of the gigantic Salazar statue, which only lacked the Benny Hill theme music to complete its utter destruction of the concept of fear.
Salazar was so ridiculously unthreatening that even when he was absorbed into a vast tentacle-whipping plant monster, he was the weak point of the vast tentacle-whipping plant monster. It would have worked far better without him. Just like everything else in the game.
Master of Unlocking
Barry Burton’s description of Jill Valentine as “the master of unlocking” has become longer-lived than Albert Wesker with an entire alphabet of viruses in his system. But not because of the terrible writing or the voice acting, which sounds like Jill was just taught English this morning by someone threatening her with a gun who forgot to teach her the word “gun” (scared, but more confused by the entire concept).
The real ridiculousness comes from context. By this point you’ve wandered through more painfully empty halls than a Chernobyl hotel inspector, and spent longer staring at opening doors than an elevator security camera. You’ve been put through so much simulated sensory deprivation that even this least offensive of all lines has become a cultural touchstone. Which still doesn’t explain why the elite team’s master lockpicker doesn’t carry any lockpicks. But it all became worthwhile when Barry reclaimed the title in Resident Evil: Revelations 2.
The Nemesis is the Umbrella Corporation’s Rube Goldberg of biological weaponry. Take a one-in-ten-million chance of the T-virus turning someone into a Tyrant, implant with an incredibly rare Nemesis-alpha parasite, and whatever you do don’t realize this means your single Nemesis has consumed more bodies and species than the evolution of humanity.
The Nemesis trails Jill Valentine through Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. It’s meant to be a terrifying avatar of doom but the limitations of loading times and scripted events turned it into an undead Kool-Aid man. If you walk past a pixellated wall, enter a large room, or – heaven help you—encounter a cutscene, you know Nemesis is about to pop up like a late night text from a drunken ex. With the same amount of grunting and desperate biological imperative.
By the time you find a massive immovable prototype rail-gun at the end of the game, it’s not even an attack. “Thank goodness you’re here!” you cry, as the Nemesis considerately drops right in front of the immovable mega-cannon. “You’re just in time to help me finish up this devastating experimental weapon!”
Falling in Love with Steve
Resident Evil: Code Veronica was a Bond movie gone wrong. You’ve been whisked to a mad scientist’s remote laboratory-island filled with death traps and a romantic interest, but it’s all tedium and chores. Especially the romantic interest. Steve Burnside was the only member of the opposite sex not directly trying to kill Claire Redfield, so there was a truly awful inevitability to their romantic development. Because we said “directly” on purpose – Steve will absolutely leave you to die on the undead island by withholding key items until you satisfy his whining demands. He moans, bullies, and refuses to acknowledge anything even when you appease his whims. It’s like Umbrella developed Pick-Up Artists as a biological weapon.
His every line is a whine, his every appearance a trial, but don’t worry, you get a happy ending. In that Claire gets an excuse to kill him when he’s horribly mutated by the virus. (The game wants us to believe the happy ending is his admission of love, but ugh. It’s better to believe that the t-Veronica virus is the most permanent possible version of “new body, who dis.”)
Albert Wesker is what happens when every single Bond villain can’t die and combines into one body. His plans were so infinitely cunning even his own writers weren’t aware of them. They thought they’d killed him off in the first game, but he’d always “reveal” another virus to return stronger and more maniacal than ever. The only effect constant bioweapon exposure seemed have on the character was the constant remangling of his accent.
What makes his death ridiculously awesome? Resident Evil 5’s final showdown takes place inside an active volcano. It’s the sort of ending James Bond and Jason Bourne would ramp motorbikes over exploding oil tankers just to high five over. It was the most magnificent beat-down in a series dedicated entirely to enemies who think death is a starting pistol. He was dunked in lava, arm-wrestled a helicopter, and became the first enemy to be double-tapped by rocket launchers.
This is the most ridiculous Resident Evil thing of all. Nowadays 100% only gets us an achievement, or an invitation to buy DLC. Instead, every game should award an idiotically awesome extra mode like Tofu Time, which rewarded a truly terrifying amount of gameplay in Resident Evil 2. Beating an entire city of undead is one thing, but doing it three times with an A rating and then clearing the bonus Fourth Survivor level as well? Those players were just crying out for something new in their lives. AND THE GAME DELIVERED! A secret minigame of a secret minigame, Tofu Survivor replaced the original Fourth Survivor “Hunk” with a large chunk of knife-wielding Tofu. Which is nowhere near the oddest biological material in the game.
Hunk had a handgun, shotgun, and magnum, but the tasty tofu had to clear the same levels with nothing but a knife. That’s not just hard mode, that’s outright psychological horror. Because. when you’re a block of tofu using a knife to defend yourself, it means embracing everything which destroyes you. Far more disturbing than mere dead bodies. Human bodies being dead only make tofu safer. Especially when they come back hungry for brains instead of bean curd.
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