Game Corner: Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix (Xbox 360)

Released: 26 November 2008
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Also Available For: PlayStation 3

The Background:
In 1987, Capcom released Street Fighter onto the arcade scene; this oft-forgotten one-on-one brawler may have been criticised for its repetitive gameplay and dodgy controls but it certainly laid the groundwork for probably one of the most recognised fighting games ever created. Thanks to game’s special moves, pulled off using directional inputs in conjunction with button commands, and the introduction of a six-button cabinet, Street Fighter gained a modicum of intrigue on the growing arcade scene that exploded with the release of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991). Expanding the playable roster to eight, Street Fighter II changed the genre forever through the accidental introduction of combo moves and gave Nintendo a much-needed edge in the “Console Wars“ of the nineties with its blockbuster release on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Street Fighter II was so universally popular that it revitalised the arcade scene and was bolstered by a number of revisions and expansions that increased the number of playable characters, special moves, and vastly sped up the gameplay. By 2008, there had been at least five of these revisions as Capcom desperately milked their popular title for all its worth, but the idea of giving the title a whole new gloss of HD paint came at the suggestion of Backbone producer David Sirlin, who spearheaded the game’s development, although sacrifices had to be made to keep the digital release small. In addition to a slick graphical aesthetic courtesy of artists at UDON Entertainment, the game also included an overhauled soundtrack by music tribute website OverClocked ReMix and even saw a limited physical release on the Xbox 360. In keeping with the success and popularity of Street Fighter II, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix was met with largely unanimous praise; reviews lauded the new graphical style and arcade-perfect controls, though the lack of additional options was noted as a downside. While it wouldn’t go down in history as the definitive version of Street Fighter II, this HD re-release ensured that Capcom’s influential fighter lived on through another console generation.

The Plot:
The malevolent M. Bison, ruler of the criminal organisation Shadaloo, is sponsoring a martial arts tournament for the world’s best fighters. Twelve such fighters join the fight, battling each other for the right to face M. Bison’s four Grand Masters, with each of them having their own motivations for personal vendetta against the dictator.

Gameplay:
I should preface this review by pointing out a couple of things; the first is that I first played Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix on the PlayStation 3 after buying it on a whim (I think, or at least hope, it was on sale at the time), most likely because I realised that I didn’t currently only a version of Street Fighter II. The second thing to note is that there’s a very good reason for that and it’s simply that I’m not a fan of the series; I’m much more of a Mortal Kombat (Various, 1992 to present) kinda guy as I prefer the simplicity and brutal nature of that franchise to Street Fighter’s more intricate mechanics. I owned a cracked version of Street Fighter II for the Amiga as a kid, which fooled me into thinking I was somewhat competent at the game (infinite health will do that to you), but this didn’t translate when I played versions on the Mega Drive and PlayStation 2. Hell, I struggled with the later games in the series despite desperately wanting to get into it since they all look so appealing and everyone always raves about them, but for the life of me I just cannot seem to click with the franchise and always end up feeling frustrated and defeated as a result. I only say this because my enjoyment and opinion of this game, and the entire series, is thus inherently soured; I can’t be anything but biased against it despite my best efforts, but I went into this new playthrough of Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix hoping that maybe things would be different as I do have a lot of fondness for the franchise.

Be sure to press your attack with the game’s combo system and to be on your guard at all times.

As any gamer will be able to tell you, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix is a 2D, one-on-one tournament fighter in which players pick from a roster of sixteen playable fighters and either take on either the computer in a series of battles in a bid to get to M. Bison and his four Grand Masters or go head-to-head with another player, either on or offline. The game’s controls are exactly as you might expect from a Street Fighter II title; you have three types of punch and kick, ranging from a weak, strong, and fierce attack, with each assigned to different buttons. X throws a jab, Y a strong punch, and the Left Bumper a fierce punch while A throws a shot kick, B a roundhouse kick, and the Right Button launches a fierce kick, though all of these controls can be fully customised to your liking. Combining these button inputs, and directional controls, will allow you to pull off various move combinations to dish out greater damage or pull off your character’s special moves, which are helpfully listed in the game’s pause menu. In Street Fighter II, you hold back to block incoming attacks and use up to jump; you can also throw and grab your opponents, sometimes in mid-air, to deal a ridiculous amount of damage. While you can hit buttons to recover from throws, getting stuck in an enemy’s grasp is basically a death sentence and will see your health whittled down in the blink of an eye; you can also be stunned if you take too much successful damage, which can be catastrophic. Fights are decided in rounds, with the default set to best two out of three, though you can change this to as little as one and as many as five (and rights may go to a sudden death final round in the rare instances of a double knock-out). You’re also battling a timer, though you can again disable this option, and can increase the game’s speed on a scale of one to five (with five being the fastest, which also seems to equate to attacks dealing more damage). Finally, you can set player handicaps for player-on-player fighters and choose from four difficult settings to challenge the game’s two arcade modes.

Stagger your foe with special moves or finish them off with a grandiose Super Finish.

For me, these difficulty settings are a joke; I played with the game speed set to five and on the ‘Easy’ difficulty and still struggled to get past even the first few fighters even with the timer disabled. The computer is an absolute unrelenting machine, making use of combos, frame damage, and cancels to land strings of attacks you have little hope of blocking or counterattacking. The computer is somehow able to hit through your moves at times, grab you in the middle of attacks, and even hit you out of mid-air with low attacks and projectiles, making for an uphill battle right off the bat. As mentioned, you can pull off special moves with each character, though I find these difficult to figure out even with the helpful move list as the require complicated half-turns, charging, and diagonal inputs on the control stick. I find even some of the easiest moves, like Ryu and Ken’s Hadoken, inconsistent to pull off, though projectiles such as this will cancel each other out, which is extremely useful when fighting against spam-artists like Sagat and his constant barrage of TIGER! TIGER! TIGER! shots. As you fight, you’ll build up a little Super meter and, when it’s full, you can try and pull off your character’s Super move, but these are even more complicated to execute and the computer is an expert at blocking and negating all incoming damage. I couldn’t tell you the difference between the ‘HD Remix’ and ‘Classic’ arcade modes as I was barely able to scrape through the ‘HD Remix’ arcade on the lowest difficulty; ‘Classic’ thus seems harder but that might also be because I changed the rounds to win to one, which seems to put the computer in a hyper-aggressive “pinch” mode. Consequently, I can’t say if the classic bonus stages are present in this mode; they weren’t in the ‘HD Remix’ arcade mode I played so, from my perspective, the entirety of the game was geared around tournament fighting, fighting with friends, or desperately trying to get to grips with your character in the game’s training mode.

Graphics and Sound:  
Graphically, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Street Fighter II looking better than it does here; the slick UDON aesthetic really makes all of the fighters and their stages pop out and makes the most of HD overhaul the game has received. Every character has their own eccentricities, loudly announcing their special moves and pulling off a couple of victory poses when the fight goes their way in addition to being followed by a shadowy double whenever they execute a Super move. Little touches such as every character’s unique fighting pose, being able to hit off Vega’s iconic claw, M. Bison tossing aside his cape, and characters like Chun-Li being able to spring off the sides of the screen help to make the game more immersive, and this carries over to the stages as well. Some stages have destructible elements such as crates and barrels to smash your opponent into, and all of them include some kind of animation in the background, from cheering crowds to roaring elephants to fighting cages being lowers and boats rising and falling. The remixed soundtrack is a joy to listen to; memorable tuns such as Ken and Guile’s themes sound great, though the fight announcer remains merely serviceable. Although the game lacks a memorable introductory sequence, each character has their own ending, which you’ll get to see even on the easiest difficulty; rendered using text and static artwork in the style of the UDON comic series, the only thing letting these down is that you can’t unlock them to view anywhere else in the game.

The UDON aesthetic is far more visually engaging than the distorted classic sprites.

If you’re a purist and prefer the classic look of the original games, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix has you covered; you can enable not just a classic option for the in-game sprites but the music as well. Unfortunately, the sprites really don’t benefit from this; they appear large, garbled messes against an otherwise pristine background and hearing the classic arcade-style move announcements and music doesn’t make this any better to look at. It would’ve been better if the game had the option to switch everything to an optimised pixel-art aesthetic but, as is, it’s a garish reskin that’s probably not going to appeal to fans of the original releases. One area where the game does get some credit, though, is in the inclusion of palette swaps for each character; each button corresponds to a different palette for each character on the character selection screen, which adds a touch of variety to the game as your opponent’s randomly pick different palettes for each bout, though you can’t switch between different styles of fighting like in other Street Fighter games. The game does run as smooth as butter, though; I noticed no input lag or slowdown, even on the highest speed setting, and I’m sure an accomplished Street Fighter II player would appreciate such a smooth presentation to the game’s action. Every bout also ends with with the victory taunting the loser, who’s left a battered mess, and I’ve always found these jabs entertaining; a helpful countdown gives you ten seconds to continue fighting, which will reinvigorate your fighter and return you to the character selection screen to challenge your opponent again.

Enemies and Bosses:
Being a one-on-one fighter with sixteen characters to pick from, every fighter in Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix will inevitably be your enemy at some point and each offers a slightly different, if also similar, level of challenge. It’s not uncommon to have to switch to a different fighter depending on your opponent as it’s some fighters are better geared towards dealing with certain opponents, though I find it better to stick to one fighter (Ken) and power through with an attack that favours fast-paced button mashing and aggression over any kind of actual strategy. Some fighters, like Zangief, E. Honda, and Balrog are slower, much heavier characters who rely more on grapples, powerful punches, and slams; you can sue faster characters, like Chun-Li and Cammy, to negate their power but this isn’t always a guarantee as they’re still able to close the distance despite lacking projectiles thanks to diving headbutts and screen-covering uppercuts, for example. Dhalsim is a pretty unique fighter in that he has super stretchy limbs to attack from afar, can teleport about the screen, and will set you ablaze with his Yoga Fire and Yoga Flame attacks, making him quite the slippery opponent. Similarly, Chun-Li is extremely quick on her feet, able to flip around behind you and send fireballs your way at a higher speed than Ken or Ryu, who are equally formidable thanks to their Shoryuken and throws. Other fighters, like T. Hawk and Fei Long, present their own challenges thanks to their bulk and lightning-fast speed so it’s recommended that you spend a bit of time playing as each fighter and seeing what they can do before you head into a fighter.

Surviving Sagat’s spam and M. Bison is one thing but challenging Akuma is a true test.

Some characters, like my favourite (but not to play as), Blanka, fall back on the unpredictable; not only can Blanka barrel across the screen in a cannonball roll but he can also fry you and chow down on your head if you get up close. Others, like Guile, require more patience to execute their special moves; you’ll need to hold back to charge up before pressing the attack button, for example, but they can catch you unawares because of it as they lure you in for the kill. None exemplify this more than M. Bison and his four Grand Masters, who act as the game’s bosses. Things start off pretty simple against Balrog; while he can deal tremendous damage with his charged-up punches, he’s slow and not too difficult to get around. Vega, on the other hand, is the exact opposite; he flips and whoops about the place, dancing around you and slashing with his claw and easily catching you in a German Suplex or a horrendous rolling throw. Vega can also scale the cage in the background to dive down at you and has a great aerial game, which can make him a tough opponent, but I’ve hit a brick wall with DeeJay just as often as Vega thanks to the former’s aggravating Capoeira style. Things really get serious when you face off against the walking mountain of muscle that is Sagat, the former Street Fighter champion; this absolute spam-artist of a bastard will relentlessly throw projectiles high and low, lure you in to knock you flying wit his TIGER!UPPER-CUT!! and flies across the screen with his TIGER!KNEEEE! attack, all of which make him easily the most formidable of the four Grand Masters on Easy. M. Bison represents the game’s final challenge but is nowhere near as spam-happy as his chief lieutenant, though he’s no less dangerous as a result. M. Bison likes to bounce off your head, land multiple hits with his bicycle kick, and send you careening through the stage statues with his Psycho Crusher attack. On higher difficulties, his challenge only increases with a heightened aggression, but you’ll need to get to M. Bison within twenty minutes if you want the honour of being absolutely obliterated by the game’s secret boss, Akuma, a psychotic variant of Ryu who fills the screen with fireballs and leaves you lying with his destructive Shun Goku Satsu Super move.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As it’s a one-on-one fighter, there’s nothing to help you out here except for the Super meter; land hits, blocks, and reversals and you’ll build it up and then it’s just a question of mastering the button inputs and landing the move through your opponent’s block to hopefully score an impressive finish to your fight.

Additional Features:
Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix has twelve Achievements on offer, though I’m not holding out hope in earning any more than the paltry one I got for limping my way through the game’s arcade mode. You’ll snag an Achievement for earning five perfect rounds in a row (achieved by not taking a single hit, so well outside my skill), landing a Super Finish (possible, but most times when I tried it the computer obliterated me as I was trying to input the combo), winning a round in fifteen seconds (I was thoroughly slaughtered on every attempt), and landing ten throws in a single match (also not outside the realm of possibility, though I have trouble executing throws). In addition to a bunch of Achievements being dished out for online play, there’s also Achievements for beating Akuma in arcade mode and for landing Ryu’s Super Finish on Sagat, all of which is probably very doable and appealing for more accomplished Street Fighter II players. Other than that, there’s not much on offer here beyond some run of the mill online modes (including ranked matches and the like) and player-on-player play, though you can input a button code to play as Akuma if you fancy it.

The Summary:
Look, okay, I’m sorry I’m not a more accomplished Street Fighter II player. I’m sorry I haven’t master frame-perfect combos and move cancels and all that nonsense. I’m sorry that it was a constant fight against not only the computer but my desire to rage-quit the game and just relegate this to a Bite-Size review, but I’ve just never got on with Street Fighter II. Having said that, I don’t think I’m wrong to say that the difficulty curve here is pretty unforgiving; you can’t just pick up and play Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and expect to be good at it; button mashing works, to be sure, but only on occasion and some rounds will fly by in the blink of an eye without you even landing a single hit if you’re not using a bit of skill. Consequently, as always, I struggled with Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix; I was able to make it through the ‘HD Remix’ arcade with Ken after numerous losses, but I couldn’t make a dent in the ‘Classic’ mode and the experience is so draining that I’m not sure when or even if I’ll go back to try and get at least one more Achievement. The fact of the matter is that no game should every require you to go into it as a master, or even a high-intermediate, player; that’s what difficulty settings are supposed to be there for, to incentivise replay and the building of confidence and skill. Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix opts instead to whack you over the head with its unforgiving arcade-style difficulty and force you to earn every win, no matter how cheap. On the plus side, the game looks, sounds, and plays great; I might suck with the combos and special moves, but everything runs super smooth here, it’s just a pity that it’s such a barebones release. It can’t be denied that there are better versions of Street Fighter II out there, and compilations that allow you to sample the length of the series, but this is still a pretty decent conversion and representation of one of gaming’s most successful and influential fighters…I’m just hopelessly bad at it and that apparently will never change.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you ever played Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix? If so, what did you think to it and how do you think it holds up against other versions of Street Fighter II? Which version of the game is your favourite, or which one did you play the most back in the day? What did you think to the game’s graphical overhaul and lack of additional features? Which fighter was your favourite, or least favourite? Have you ever beaten this game on the hardest difficulty? Are you an accomplished Street Fighter II player and, if so, how much of a noob do you think I am? Which fighting game franchise is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, your memories of Street Fighter II, and your opinions on the franchise in general, feel free to share them below or on my social media.

Talking Movies: Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

Talking Movies

Released: 24 November 2021
Director: Johannes Roberts
Distributor:
Sony Pictures Releasing
Budget: $25 million
Stars:
Kaya Scodelario, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue, Robbie Amell, Hannah John-Kamen, Tom Hopper, and Neal McDonough

The Plot:
In the year 1998, the grim post-industrial town of Raccoon City has just lost its biggest employer, the Umbrella Corporation. While college student Claire Redfield (Scodelario) believes Umbrella has polluted the town’s water, her estranged brother Chris (Amell) and his team investigate a nearby mansion and find the area swarming with flesh-eating zombies! Claire is forced to team up with rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy (Jogia) to survive and unravel the mystery behind the outbreak and of her traumatic childhood.

The Background:
Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996) began life as a seminal “survival-horror” title for Sony’s burgeoning PlayStation that emphasised atmospheric horror and conserving resources. Although the original title suffered a bit from the PlayStation’s blocky and clunky graphics and mechanics and dodgy, B-movie voice acting, the game was a best-seller for the PlayStation and bolstered by a number of sequels. Resident Evil 2 (ibid, 1998) improved on many of these mechanics and, alongside, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (ibid, 1999), established much of the lore and groundwork before the fourth game forever changed up the formula for a new generation of gamers. The franchise’s success inevitably led to discussions of a live-action adaptation, which initially had legendary zombie horror maestro George A. Romero attached to direct before Constantin Film placed Paul W. S. Anderson in charge of the film series, which eventually included six live-action films. The movies, which were more of an action/horror genre, starred Anderson’s wife, Mila Jovovich and, despite earning a mostly negative reception, became the most successful and profitable live-action adaptation of a videogame series, though I can safely say that I was left disappointed by their lack of fidelity to the source material.

The Resident Evil series has enjoyed great success in games and movies.

After Anderson’s series concluded, Constantin Films began developing a much-needed reboot, and director James Wan initially expressed interest in the project before dropping out to direct Mortal Kombat (Wan, 2021) and being replaced by Johannes Roberts. Roberts aimed to return to the same dark, foreboding, and fun horror of the original videogames and the capture the traditional spirit of the source material by returning to the original locations, time period, and heavily featuring the popular videogame characters. Initial reactions, however, we less than encouraging, with many criticising the film’s B-movie feel; this was only exacerbated when Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City released and criticised for its lack of substance and character development. The film was praised for its fidelity to the source material and references for long-time fans, however, and grossed $42 million worldwide; additionally, both the director and star Robbie Amell have expressed interest in returning for a sequel and tackling some of the later games in the long-running franchise.

The Review:
I feel like I need to preface this review with the revelation that, while I am a big fan of the Resident Evil videogames, I am not a fan of Paul W. S. Anderson’s live-action franchise. I spent a year of my PhD researching the history of zombie cinema, watching and studying and delving into Anderson’s movies, and I came out the other end absolutely loathing them. The only one I even remotely enjoy is Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Witt, 2004), and that’s purely because it’s the closest adaptation of my favourite games in the series (Resident Evil 2 and 3: Nemesis). I absolutely despise Alice (Jovovich), hated how Anderson ignored, cherry-picked, or diluted the source material and its iconic characters, and was actually a little insulted by how continuity was continuously thrown out of the window with the next movie purely for the same of slapping together a new plot. To me, Anderson’s films, while successful, are not Resident Evil; they do a decent job of adapting a different elements of the source material and zombie troupes but the result is this incomprehensible mish-mash of ideas that have been done much better elsewhere and with the Resident Evil title slapped on it purely to make money. And, make no mistake, they did make money and were popular enough to become their own independent franchise from the source material, but I longed for something a bit more faithful to the games I grew up with so I was excited at the prospect of a new Resident Evil adaptation that not only featured the iconic characters in starring roles but also revisited the events of the videogames…even if it was lumbered with a ridiculous title.

Chris and Claire’s fractured relationship is a central story of the film.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City opens with Chris and Claire as young children (Daxton Grey Gujral and Lauren Bill) at the Raccoon City Orphanage; there they, and many other children, are cared for by the Umbrella Corporation and scientist Doctor William Birkin (McDonough). While this scene does go on a little longer than you might expect, it establishes a few key elements that crop up throughout the film; first and foremost, that Chris and Claire’s relationship is an important part of the story, the mystery surrounding what Birkin and Umbrella are doing with these children, and the existence of the malformed Lisa Trevor (Marina Mazepa). Lisa watches and visits Claire, scaring her but also arousing her suspicions, but Chris never sees the young Trevor and despairs of Claire’s stories. The story then jumps ahead a few years to 1998 to find Claire all grown up and journeying to the veritable ghost town of Raccoon City to reunite with her brother, who has joined the Raccoon City Police Department’s (RPD) special operations team, Special Tactics And Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) and all but given up on her younger sister. Their relationship is strained, to say the least, since Claire ran away from the orphanage and left Chris alone; with no one else to turn to, he came to see Birkin as a father-figure and grew up a loyal representative of Umbrella and dedicated law enforcement officer, so he’s less than thrilled when Claire breaks into his house spouting conspiracy theories about Umbrella poisoning Raccoon City’s water supply.

Leon is oddly characterised as a bumbling fool who often makes an ass of himself.

Raccoon City has declined over the years after the Umbrella Corporation randomly pulled themselves out of the area, leave only a handful of staff and those too poor to leave behind to fend for themselves. As a result, the RPD is a bit under-staffed and has little choice but to accept the unlikeliest of recruits, such as rookie Leon. A young, fresh-faced, inexperienced cop, Leon is a recent transfer to the RPD thanks to the grace of his father, who ensured that he continued on with his law enforcement career after an embarrassing mishap where he shot his partner in the ass. Consequently, Leon is constantly berated, talked down to, and the butt (no pun intended) of other character’s jokes and frustrations…and he certainly deserves this treatment. A lackadaisical kid who’s in way over his head just manning the front desk, Leon fumbles with police protocol almost as much as with his firearm; he has no idea how to handle a shotgun, is easily disarmed by desperate conspiracy theorist Ben Bertolucci (Josh Cruddas), and is constantly just getting in people’s way and asking questions rather than actually being a pro-active and resourceful character. He’s kind of here as the film’s comic relief, though he doesn’t actually make any jokes, and his character arc is a very slow burn from being an awkward and unreliable rookie to building his confidence towards being more useful and capable, but it’s not handled too well.

The S.T.A.R.S. team are a tight-knit group, but Wesker has secretly got his own agenda.

RPD police chief Brain Irons (Logue) has little time for Leon’s antics, and is frustrated by a spate of mysterious attacks and killing across town. Reports of a chewed-up body at the old Spenser Mansion raise his ire further and, when Bravo team fails to report in from their investigation, he sends in Chris and the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha team to find out what happened. Alpha team is also made up of jock commander Albert Wesker (Hopper), trigger happy bad-ass Jill Valentine (John-Kamen), expendable nobody Richard Aiken (Chad Rook), and pilot Brad Vickers (Nathan Dales); they are an overconfident, militant bunch who have a friendly camaraderie that include splaying pranks on hapless colleagues like Leon and some sexual chemistry between Jill and Wesker. They travel to the mansion for a side story that is basically a condensed adaptation of the original Resident Evil and involves them exploring the dark, elaborate mansion with only their torches and a whole mess of submachine gun ammo on hand. Upon being dispatched, however, Wesker receives a mysterious page and is led to a PalmPilot that contains a map of the mansion, which is all part of a pre-arranged agreement with an unknown third party to led him to Birkin’s research and score him a big payday at the cost of betraying his teammates.

Though a loyal family man, Birkin’s research leads to a horrifying outbreak of zombies and monsters.

With Chris busying fending off the recently reanimated dead at the Spenser Mansion, Claire is forced to team up with Irons and Leon inside the police station for the Resident Evil 2 aspect of the film; the RPD is as beautifully true to the source material as the mansion, but it quickly becomes apparent that they can’t hold out against the increasing zombie horde. Irons leads them to the orphanage, which contains a secret passage to the mansion, and Claire is forced to face a traumatic experience from her childhood where Birkin tried to ship her off the mansion for experimentation with the mysterious T-Virus. Claire managed to escape, and has been trying to uncover the truth about Umbrella ever since; although a Licker shreds up Irons, Leon and Claire are aided by the grown-up Lisa Trevor and meet up with Chris right as he’s in the middle of being overwhelmed by zombies. Thanks to Wesker’s knowledge, the survivors are led to a secret passage in the mansion, which leads to a confrontation between Wesker and Birkin. A creepy, clinical scientist, Birkin is given layers of humanity through his devoted (and naïve) wife, Annette Birkin (Janet Porter), and innocent young daughter, Sherry (Holly De Barros); unlike his paranoid, self-absorbed, and malevolent videogame counterpart, Birkin is a loving father and equally concerned with getting his family to safety as he is preserving his research into the G-Virus. His desire to protect both leads him to pulling a gun on Wesker and getting riddled with bullets, and his desperate plea to Annette to inject him with the G-Virus so he can survive his wounds.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City owes a lot to the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes in terms of its visual presentation; the cinematography is dark, gritty, rain-swept and gory just like in those games and the representations of familiar areas like the mansion and RPD are ripped right out of the high definition remakes of Capcom’s classics. The fidelity to the source material is so strong here; the orphanage and S.T.A.R.S. office is exactly like in Resident Evil 2, Chris, Leon, and Claire are all decked out in game-accurate outfits, even the Arklay mountains match up with the videogames. A surprising amount of time is spent with the trucker (Pat Thornton), who has only a brief role in Resident Evil 2 but, here, plays a pivotal role in bringing Claire to Raccoon City and expositing some background on the city, and the film is punctuated by both eighties horror tropes such as constantly onscreen reminders of what time it is (since the city is on a countdown to destruction) and onscreen text that recalls the opening of the original Resident Evil. The film’s title font is event exactly the same as the classic titles, and many of the shots and events are pulled right from the videogames; Vickers crashes his helicopter into the mansion, similar to a chopper smashing into the RPD, Chris’s first encounter with a zombie is almost exactly like in Resident Evil, and stormtrooper-like members of Umbrella Security Service even appear in a cameo role.

Some characters suffer from the writing and differ considerably from their videogame counterparts.

Unlike Paul W. S. Anderson’s films, the focus of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is squarely on adaptations of the videogame characters, however long-term fans of the videogames may be a little disappointed with how some characters are represented. He clear standout is Claire; she’s a little more capable and has a bit of a chip on her shoulder compared to her videogame counterpart, but is a strong, bad-ass central character here and more than able to wield a shotgun, pick locks, and beat zombie dogs to death with melee weapons. Chris also fares pretty well; he’s much more the unprepared cop rather than a boulder-punching bad-ass and, while he doesn’t have as much nuance as Claire, he’s got just enough personality to not just be some meathead or stoic military brat. Unfortunately, my favourite character in the franchise, Leon, gets well and truly shafted here; never have I ever seen the character portrayed as such a bumbling klutz and it’s truly baffling that the film can be so true to the videogames in so many ways and bungle one of the most capable and popular characters so completely. It seems the writer/director decided to really overemphasise Leon’s rookie status and portray him as an incompetent fool who as no idea what’s happening, trips over his own feet, and constantly needs his ass pulling out of the fire. He does grow as the film progresses, but sadly not completely; thanks to Claire giving him a kick up the ass, he becomes more useful and even gets to deliver the coup de grâce to the film’s big-bad with a rocket launcher, but he definitely survives more due to the assistance of others and in spite of his incompetent nature.

While Birkin is surprising layered, Wesker is very different from his usual cold, calculating persona.

Another character who suffers quite a bit is Wesker; this isn’t the cold, calculating, manipulative puppet master you know from the videogames and is, instead, a bit of a cock-sure douche who Jill fawns over with doe eyes, banters with his teammates, and betrays his team for money rather than because he’s working for (or directly against) Umbrella. For much of the film, Wesker is actually surprisingly likeable; he leads his team efficiently, clearly cares for them, and even when he reveals his true intentions, he is remorseful. When he confronts Birkin, he repeatedly gives the doctor the chance to hand over the G-Virus samples peacefully and is distraught when he is forced to gun down Birkin and Annette. The implication is that his mysterious benefactors have some kind of sway over him and are forcing him to go down a dark path, or that the money is too good to turn down, and he expresses his regret and even apologises to Jill and Chris and directs them to the exit after being shot to death by Jill. Jill is also a little different to her videogame counterpart, and previous live-action portrayals; as mentioned, she’s quick to pull her gun and has eyes for Wesker, ignoring Chris’s clear attraction to her in favour of her commander, but luckily this aspect isn’t dwelled on too much (there’s no actual romance between her and Wesker, no kiss or anything, but she is clearly hurt by his betrayal as more than just a teammate). Birkin is noticeably altered as well in a way that makes him a touch more sympathetic, but not completely absolved of all evil as Claire stumbles across evidence that he has been experimenting on children as part of what he calls “God’s work” and developed the virus that is responsible for the city’s horrific events.

Zombies aren’t too commonplace in the film, but grotesque monsters are still a constant threat.

While Anderson’s previous efforts did include their fair share of zombie action, zombies were pretty much relegated to cannon fodder and annoyances to move his characters along and insert an action scene here and there. In Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, zombies are actually few and far between; thanks to Raccoon City being all-but deserted, we don’t really get any sweeping, dramatic shots of an army of the living dead. The zombies we do get are quite different to the usual depiction as well; they’re fast, as is to be expected, and much more vocal and animalistic than the traditional Resident Evil shambling hordes. They do attack in a ravenous fury, however, and relentlessly pursue fresh meat; they overwhelm Richard, chewing him up in an instant, though Chris is somehow able to fend a whole gaggle of them off with only a lighter as a light source. In the orphanage, Irons, Claire, and Leon are attacked by a Resident Evil movie staple, the Licker. As in Anderson’s films, the Licker is merely a more ferocious inconvenience; it reduces Irons to bloody ribbons but is easily subdued by Lisa Trevor, who is recast from a tortured monstrosity to a sympathetic tragedy of Birkin’s experiments. Also included are the infected crows and zombified dogs, but the depiction of the T-Virus is also a little different; according to Ben, the entire town was slowly exposed to the virus over a long period of time, and Umbrella even issued shots to its staff and the RPD officers to stave off their infection (though it’s not really clear as to why they would do this), and the focus is less on depicting the motivations behind developing the virus and more on the impact it has on the survivors.

Birkin undergoes a grotesque mutation that forces Leon to finally step up.

After Wesker and Birkin kill each other, Chris, Claire, Leon, and Jill follow Wesker’s directions to an underground train to will take them (and Sherry) to safety. However, exposure to the G-Virus causes Birkin to undergo a horrific mutation; his right arm becomes a monstrous claw-like appendage and disgusting tumour-like eyes glisten out from his skin. Driven by an animalistic urge, he hunts the survivors, attacking Chris and taunting him (an addition I can get behind as it retains McDonough’s visage and deliver), and reunited the estranged siblings as Claire comes to his aid. Wounds only exacerbate the G-Virus, however, mutating Birkin into a grotesque monstrosity that franchise fans will recognise as “G”; it attacks the train, sporting Birkin’s wailing, agonised face on its torso, and threatens to eviscerate all of the survivors. They are saved by the unlikeliest of heroes as Leon blasts the monstrous Birkin in the face with a rocket launcher (dangerously close to Claire and Chris, but they survive thanks to Plot Armour) and the survivors manage to escape Raccoon City right as it collapses in on itself and is erased from the face of the Earth. In the aftermath, Umbrella believes that they have contained the outbreak and eliminated any witnesses, unaware of the five survivors, and Wesker suddenly wakes up in a body bag in a mysterious facility. There, the mysterious Ada Wong (Lily Gao), provides him with sunglasses to ease his newfound sensitivity to light and forcibly drafted into an unknown fate. I applaud the confidence in the film’s ability to get a sequel, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it does get on in some way, shape, or form but I do think it might have been better to have this scene take place after the credits rather than mid-way through them.

The Summary:
I went into Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City with pretty low expectations; I was excited by how faithful to the first two games it seemed from the trailers and images, but wasn’t impressed with the odd title and heard that it wasn’t that great. Specifically, I heard all about the assassination of Leon’s character and Wesker’s odd characterisation, and criticisms about it being little more than a dumb B-level monster movie. While I was displeased with Leon’s characterisation, and surprised at the take on Wesker, I would still say that Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is better than every single one of Paul W. S. Anderson’s previous live-action adaptations put together. It’s so true to the games (which were B-level monster movies at heart) that I’m genuinely surprised to see Anderson listed as a producer since he seemed determined to ignore everything but the most popular aspects of the source material. While the film still has a focus more on action rather than survival, the characters, locations, and atmosphere are so perfectly in-tune with the classic Resident Evil videogames that it easily compensates for any misgivings I may have about some of the characterisations. If the film does get a sequel, I’d like to see these issues addressed as part of a larger story and character arc, but I was very entertained by Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City’s back-to-basics approach. For me, Resident Evil works best when it’s a gory, horrifying battle for survival against zombies and other monsters and Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City definitely meets these criteria. I’d even go as far as to say that, despite some missteps with Leon and Wesker, this is the live-action Resident Evil movie fans have been waited for since Capcom first considered producing an adaptation and that there’s enough here fans of the videogames, and of gory action/horror films, to really sink their teeth into.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Have you seen Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City? How do you think it compares to the previous live-action films and the videogames it is based on? Which character was your favourite, and what did you think to Leon and Wesker’s characterisation? Did you enjoy the B-movie trappings of the film or did you prefer Paul W. S. Anderson’s more bombastic approach? Would you like to see a sequel to the film or were you disappointed by it? Which Resident Evil videogame is your favourite? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, so sign up to leave a comment below or leave a comment on my social media.

Back Issues: Resident Evil (2009)

BackIssues

Issue One
Story Title:
One if by Land, Two if by Space…
Published: May 2009
Writer: Ricardo Sanchez
Artists: Kevin Sharpe, Jim Clark, et al

Issue Two
Story Title:
Dirty Jobs
Published: June 2009
Writer: Ricardo Sanchez
Artists: Kevin Sharpe, Gabe Eltaed, and Randy Mayor

Issue Three
Story Titles:
If You Meet the Zombie on the Road… and Holiday Sugarman: Special Operations Agent
Published: January 2010
Writer: Ricardo Sanchez
Artist: Jheremy Rapaak


Issue Four
Story Titles:
Ich Bin Ein Schlechtes Genie… and Mina Gere: Special Operations Agent
Published: May 2010
Writer: Ricardo Sanchez
Artist: Jheremy Rapaak; Al Barrionuevo

Issue Five
Story Title:
The Bio-Weapons of Urador
Published: July 2010
Writer: Ricardo Sanchez
Artist: Jheremy Rapaak

Issue Six
Story Title:
Schafft Chaos Und Lasst Die Kriegshunde Los
Published: February 2011
Writer: Ricardo Sanchez
Artist: Jheremy Rapaak

The Background:
As I’ve detailed previously, WildStorm comics first published a five issue anthology series based on the first two Resident Evil videogames (Capcom, 1996; 1998). Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine featured stories and characters, both primary and secondary, from the videogames and fleshed out the lore surrounding the Raccoon City outbreak and the malevolent Umbrella Corporation’s experiments with the Tyrant Virus (T-Virus) and the Golgotha Virus (G-Virus). While many of these events have since been rendered non-canon, WildStorm also went to the trouble of creating a number of original characters, who were revived for a subsequent four-issue series, Resident Evil: Fire and Ice, published between 2000 and 2001. This series focused on the hitherto-unknown Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Charlie team and was, honestly, pretty terrible compared to WildStorm’s previous efforts. With Resident Evil 5 (ibid, 2009) having been released earlier in the year, WildStorm returned to the franchise with another six-issue series, simply titled Resident Evil, that featured an entirely new creative team and was marketed as a prequel to Resident Evil 5 despite its events also being rendered non-canon almost immediately.

The Review:
Our story begins exactly where you would expect a Resident Evil story to start…in space. Thanks to some expository text boxes, we discover that the President of the United States has been made aware of some illegal bio-organic weapons (B.O.W.) research being conducted onboard the Joint Nations space station, so he authorises a shuttle to be sent up to investigate. The investigation is assisted by rookie agent Mina Gere of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (B.S.A.A.) who, after arriving on the space station, discovers no response from the crew and that the station has suffered a non-lethal hydrogen leak. Much of Mina’s backstory is later revealed through a two-page backup story that details that she was arrested for hacking into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (F.B.I.) most wanted and added her school principal’s name to the last as an April Fool’s joke. After choosing to enlist rather than go to prison, she excelled during her training with the Marines and as part of an experimental space combat unit, all of which made her an ideal candidate to join the B.S.A.A.

Of course the story begins in space, just like every classic Resident Evil story.

Her deployment to the space station is her first official B.S.A.A. assignment and she immediately lives up to her reputation by dispatching a Licker with her “shotgun pistol” that fires special “flechette loads” to keep her from accidentally depressurising the space station with an errant shot. Investigating the space station further, Mina confirms that the space station has suffered an outbreak of the T-Virus after they conducted experiments by exposing “Cnidaria” samples to the virus and that they launched satellites containing a G-Virus sample down to Earth before the station went offline. The danger to her is still very present, however, as not only do zombies roam the station but a monstrous, tentacled creature is also looming within, absorbing everything it touches, being completely immune to her gunfire, and Mina postulates that the creatures (and the virus) will evolve and mutate further thanks to the lack of gravity. This, apparently, rules out sucking the creatures into space so Mina fights her way past the zombies and escapes into space (and the safety of the space shuttle) after setting the space station to explode.  

Maybe if Holiday spent less time quoting philosophy he wouldn’t have lost his team…

The story also follows the B.S.A.A. Alpha Team, lead by Holiday Sugarman (a Barry Burton lookalike of sorts with an annoying penchant for quoting the literary greats and historical figures) who are dispatched to the hostile territory of Grezbekistan to contain a B.O.W. outbreak caused by one of these satellites. When the team are suddenly over-run with what appear to be Las Plagas, Holiday has no choice but to kill his own team after they are eviscerated by the creatures. This leaves him alone against the rampant creatures and hunted by a larger alpha who more closely resembles Doctor William Birkin’s “G” form. Holiday conveniently stumbles upon a weapon cache when trying to outrun the creatures which, even more conveniently, also includes a rocket launcher that allows him to hurt the “G” creature. Figuring out that all of the lesser B.O.W.s feel the pain of the Alpha, Holiday leaps in and stabs it repeatedly in its exposed brain with his trusty knife and causes all of his pursuers to die as a result. As his evacuation team flies in to retrieve him, he ensures that the mission wasn’t in vain by busting out a flamethrower and destroying all traces of the infected in the area.

While neither are happy about their partnership, it’s clear that they both need each other’s expertise.

Holiday doesn’t get much time to rest on his laurels, though, as he’s told that Giesel Industries made the satellite and is ordered to head to Übelandia, partner with Mina, and investigate further. Holiday is unimpressed with the assignment, believing it’s a waste of his time and is even more perturbed at the nothing of partnering with a “little [girl] who [has] no business in the field”. In Übelandia, Mina and her partner, Cruz, find a lone survivor, a terrified young girl, in a village on the way to Fritz Giesel’s estate and are summarily attacked by a hoard of zombies. Luckily, though, the three manage to fight their way to a jeep and escape without injury rather than trying to fight them all off but Mina’s insult at being assigned a partner after how capably she performed without one on the space station quickly takes a back seat in terms of priorities when the little girl suddenly attacks Cruz, biting him on the arm before she’s executed by Mina. This incident is used by her commanding officer, Espinoza, to emphasise how Mina is inexperienced and that partnering with Holiday, despite his rough and pig-headed demeanour, will help her to gain valuable experience. On his way to rendezvous with Mina, Holiday’s internal monologue reveals that much of his demeanour comes from the death of his daughter, Summer, who has many similarities to Mina. The exact specifics of his backstory are further elaborated on in a short, two-page backup story, which reveals that he gave up his former life as a teacher to become something of a mercenary before settling down with his wife and daughter in Raccoon City. The zombie outbreak took their lives and saw him return to action as a member of the B.S.A.A.; angered that men like Giesel caused the death of his daughter, Holiday made a vow to bring all of those responsible to justice.

Despite some obstacles and disagreements, the two reach Giesel’s estate and meet his supposed nephew.

Upon the two meeting, they immediately air their grievances at being partnered with a “greenie” and a “babysitter”, respectively, but the two are able to fill in the gaps in each other’s knowledge (Mina has intel on the local area, the unrest between Übelandia and Urador, and the use of viral agents in the region and Holiday has more combat and field experience, not to mention being more seasoned overall). When their jeep is suddenly ambushed by zombies, Holiday thins out much of the infected heard by blowing up the vehicle with a grenade launcher (or, more specifically, a “tank buster” that fires a “depleted uranium armor piercing casing with a high-energy explosive core on a short delay”). Impressed by the weapon, Holiday quickly switches to plan B when Mina’s request for an air evacuation is denied and the group salvage what they can and prepare to make their way on foot instead. Upon reaching Giesel’s estate, Holiday and Mina disagree on how to get past Giesel’s massive armoured doors; Holiday wants to blow them with C4 but Mina manages to talk their way in more peacefully by stating their intentions to Giesel’s nephew, Neurmann (or “Neu” for short). Neu takes the team on a tour throughout his uncle’s elaborate estate, which more than resembles the Spencer Mansion from the first game and the various estates from Resident Evil 4 (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2005). Impressing with his eccentric demeanour, Neu leads the team into Giesel’s greenhouse where they are attacked by mutated plants, zombies, and infected apes, much to Neu’s giddy pleasure.

Although suffering heavy losses from B.O.W.s, Mina takes out the Tyrant using a knife and a grenade.

While a number of their team are skewered and dismembered by the plant or ripped to shreds by the apes, Holiday and Mina manage to lead themselves and the few survivors to safety and, under Holiday’s supervision, immediately set about setting up a narrow kill zone to fight their way out using the remainder of their resources in clever combination with the supplies in the surrounding environment. This plan works but, again, Neu is more excited by their victory than troubled since he also has a Tyrant (the Ubersoldat prototype) at his command! Holiday’s improvised “fertiliser bomb” only causes the Tyrant to mutate into a more monstrous form but Mina proves her worth and her ingenuity by having the team distract the creature with gunfire so she can slice it open and blow it apart with a grenade. Still undeterred by these events, Neu watches the team through a series of monitors and prepares to send more B.O.W.s their way. Still, despite being beset by more infected apes and even Hunters, the team are able to shoot their way to Neu’s control room…only to helplessly watch he fly away to safety on a biplane. Thanks to Mina’s hacking skills, though, the team are able to locate a B.O.W. manufacturing depot that is, of course, hidden beneath a Ziggurat pyramid in Urador and that the local villages were attacked by B.O.W.s as a demonstration for the local fascist dictator, Del Valle. As the entire area has been overrun with zombies and B.O.W.s, Espinoza is unable to spare a helicopter or any backup for Holiday and his team but authorises them to pursue Neu by any means necessary.

While Holiday struggles against Giesel, Mina and the others place explosives while fending off B.O.W.s.

While searching for more intel, Mina discovers that Neu has used T-Virus-based gene therapy to enhance his “metabolic function [and increase his] regenerative capabilities” and that Neu is Fritz Giesel but enhanced and restored to the prime of his life. The team take what they can salvage and head out on an armour-plated truck to rendezvous with a supply drop; along the way, Mina explains that the B.O.W.s have been fitted with an explosive charge to execute them if they ever become a threat to their masters. Loading up with heavy ordinance, the team begin a co-ordinate attack strategy on the pyramid (which is guarded by Hunters and Cerberuses) and manage to sneak in using a combination of sniper rifles and stealth. Inside, the team splits up; Holiday follows Del Valle in a bid to get to Giesel and Mina leads the rest of the team in planting explosive charges throughout the facility, which greatly resembles the hi-tech laboratories and facilitates from Resident Evil 5. Holiday is surprised by Giesel, who sets his Überhund B.O.W.s (basically albino Cerberuses that don’t appear to be much of a threat compared to the Hunters or Tyrants) against his team while he personally deals with Holiday. Absorbing bullets like they were nothing and exhibiting superhuman strength, Giesel easily overwhelms Holiday and has him at his mercy while Mina and the others place the remainder of their charges (ensuring that the finale as the trademark final countdown that accompanies basically all Resident Evil videogames) and fend off the Überhund.

Thanks to his enhancements and mutations, Giesel keeps coming but is finally defeated by Holiday.

Although Holiday is able to incapacitate and then execute Giesel using an “infrasonic weapon” that causes his organs to explode from the inside out, Mina discovers that Giesel planted B.O.W.s all across Übelandia and rigged them to remotely activate if the facility were destroyed. While Holiday guards the door, Mina works to disable the “No Go” signal before the explosives detonate; while the two are injured in the explosion, she is successfully able to cause the implants to detonate rather than activate, stopping the B.O.W.s from being unleashed across the country. However, Giesel suddenly returns, now mutated into a “G”-like Tyrant and attacks Holiday; although he shrugs off their bullets and instantly regenerates from even a shotgun blast to the head, he is finally put down for good when Holiday uses his trusty knife to slice his head off. In the aftermath, while Mina recovers from her concussion, Holiday reveals that the documents they recovered from the facility show that Neu was a clone of Giesel and that the real Giesel is not only alive and well but publically absolved of any involvement in the events of the story. However, it’s not a total loss; Del Valle was summarily executed by the Uradorian military and the entire experience sees Holiday and Mina forge a strong bond, partnership, and friendship.

The Summary:
If there’s one area where Resident Evil excels, especially compared to Fire and Ice, it’s in the artwork; the art is much more in line with WildStorm’s first Resident Evil comic book series, with Holiday featuring a bulky build similar to Chris Redfield’s from Resident Evil 5 and Mina (and the other females) being very curvy and sexy but still bad-ass in their demeanour and ability, like Claire Redfield and Jill Valentine. Sadly, zombies and other B.O.W.s don’t benefit from the comic’s otherwise impressive art style as they take a backseat in the narrative. When zombies, Las Plagas, and other B.O.W.s do show up in a mindless hoard to be gunned and knifed down while ripping chunks of flesh from their prey, which is where the art fails to properly do them justice. When the more monstrous B.O.W.s like the Lickers, Hunters, and Tyrants appear, however, they are used sparingly and with dramatic effect but are still reduced to slightly tougher cannon fodder like in WildStorm’s other efforts. I’ve never really understood this; you’d think in a comic released to coincide with the more action-orientated Resident Evil 5 that the B.O.W.s would make more of an impact or be a bit more formidable but it really doesn’t take much for Holiday or Mina to survive a Tyrant’s attack and put them down using heavy weapons or even just their knives and grenades.

Holiday and Mina might be one-note characters but at least they have names and some personality.

The story is also a little weak; it’s great that it focuses on Mina and Holiday but, even with their little backup stories, they’re largely one-note characters given a bit more personality through their frosty relationship but even this is largely put to one side as the two work together to reach the same goal. They are surrounded by numerous other characters, very few of which are named; even those that avoid being eaten or killed and actually play a more pivotal role in the story largely go unnamed and are just there to provide backup or be killed. Again, I find it very odd that these comics always leans towards a squad as the games generally only focus on two or maybe four characters in a survival situation and I think this story might have benefitted more from Mina and Holiday being the lone survivors after their team is wiped out at Giesel’s hands in, say, issue two. Speaking of Giesel, he’s this really elaborate, over the top German, a mad scientist type whose motivations are geared more towards his own self-interests (and amusement) and lust for power and superiority rather than anything else. He’s kind of an amalgamation of Birkin and Albert Wesker but, for all his eccentricities, is a shadow of those more iconic villains; for one thing, he’s dispatched stupidly easily, even in his Tyrant form, and he wastes time gloating and toying wit his prey rather than actually being a significant threat. One thing that is really underdeveloped is that he seems to have a vendetta against Holiday, specifically, but it’s not really shown why; sure, Holiday is actively hunting him and opposing him but so is Mina and the rest of their team but Giesel remains fixated on Holiday alone.

It’s bloody and action-packed but still doesn’t do much with the license and misses the mark at times.

In the end, it was a pretty good story; way better than Fire and Ice and more coherent than the anthology format seen in Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine but let down byfocusing a little bit too much on trying to inject some life and personality into these characters rather than some good, old-fashioned gory zombie action. A resident Evil comic seems like it’d be really easy to do; you tell stories of ordinary people trying (and, possibly, failing) to survive against zombies and B.O.W.s or follow iconic characters as they clear out a facility and battle one or two super tough B.O.W.s that require a bit more than a few bullets or one shot to put down, or maybe even follow ordinary Umbrella scientists as they experiment on animals and humans. And, yet, WildStorm’s efforts always seem to miss the mark just a little bit; it’s not quite horror, it’s not quite action, it’s not quite a mystery, it’s not quite a battle for survival, and it does very little to really add to the lore of the Resident Evil mythos. This particular comic actually doesn’t do that bad a job of expanding upon the world seen in Resident Evil 5, which is dramatically different to that seen in the first game, but I think maybe tying into that game with a story involving Chris, Jill, and Wesker and the development of the viral outbreak seen in that game might have been better and more enjoyable.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Did you ever read Resident Evil? If so, what did you think to it and how do you feel it holds up compared to WildStorm’s other Resident Evil comics? What did you think to the new characters and villains introduced in this story? Did you like the art work and the use of B.O.W.s or do you think the comic could have emphasised these elements, and others from the videogames, a bit better? What is your favourite piece of Resident Evil media apart from the videogames and do you think a Resident Evil comic book could work in a different format? Whatever you think, feel free to leave a comment below.

Game Corner: Ōkami HD (Xbox One)

GameCorner

Released: 12 December 2017
Originally Released: 20 April 2006
Developer: Capcom/HexaDrive
Original Developer: Clover Studio
Also Available For: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 (HD) and Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2 (Original)

The Background:
Originally released for the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 2 back in 2006, Ōkami was the result of many combined ideas from the staff at Clover Studio. However, it was Hideki Kamiya, best know for developing Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996), who pushed for the game to focus on nature before the gameplay was eventually refined and the game’s unique visual presentation settled upon. Though sales were considered to be somewhat poor and resulted in the closure of Clover Studios, Ōkami won (and was nominated for) several awards and enjoyed widespread critical acclaim, with critics praising the game’s length, use of the Wii’s motion controls, and attention to detail. However, many of these same reviews also pointed out some flaws in the game’s lengthy dialogue scenes and getting the game to register control inputs. Regardless, a HD remaster was later released, which received equally high praise and is generally considered to be the definitive version of the title.

The Plot:
One hundred years ago, in the land of Nippon, the feared white wolf Shiranui and renowned swordsman Nagi fought and sealed the eight-headed demon Orochi, giving their lives in the process. When Orochi returns, the sun goddess Amaterasu takes Shiranui’s form and, alongside a lewd, fairy-like artist named Issun, travels far and wide to rid the land of Orochi’s curse and the darkness that threatens to devour Nippon and all its inhabitants.

Gameplay:
Ōkami is a narrative-heavy, semi-open-world action/adventure game; while it does have some elements of role-playing games (RPGs), the action and gameplay mechanics are very much like the Legend of Zelda series (Various, 1986 to present), with much of the game’s central concept being very similar to the wolf-based gameplay seen in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo EAD, 2006). I’m obviously not the first to make that comparison but it still rings true, though the difference here is that you play as a wolf from start to finish whereas Link would transform to and from a wolf throughout Twilight Princess, which remained primarily a classic 3D Zelda title that focused on swordplay and other mechanics rather than solely on the wolf.

Amaterasu acts very much like a wolf, often for comedic effect.

In Ōkami, you are (eventually…) put in control of the white wolf Amaterasu who, for all her intelligence and sentience, looks, acts, animates, and controls very close to how a wolf or dog would, generally for comedic effect. This means that she can not only run along on all four paws, leaving a trail of blossoming flowers in her wake as her speed increases, but will also whimper, howl, and curl up into a ball when left idle. Amaterasu’s main form of attack is to tackle enemies head on with a press of the X button (which also functions as a ground and mid-air dash), bark with the B button (which doesn’t really seem to do anything but spook non-playable characters (NPCs)), jump (and wall jump) with A (and automatically jump over small objects as she runs at them, like Link in his 3D adventures, though Amaterasu doesn’t have to worry about taking fall damage), and dig up treasures and other objects with the Y button.

Amaterasu has a bit of trouble swimming but is perfectly happy to bite NPCs…

Amaterasu can also perform a doggy paddle when in water but will, eventually, run out of stamina and be dropped back on the last piece of dry land she stood on, though you can eventually earn techniques and abilities to make traversing water far easier. You can also bite with the Y button, which allows you to pick up objects (such as keys or other key items) to unlock doors or complete side quests; you can also bite NPCs or other animals for a laugh, if you like.

Issun acts as your guide and seeks to learn the thirteen brush techniques alongside you.

Amaterasu is not alone in her quest; she’s joined by the lewd travelling artist and swordsman Issun. Issun functions a lot like Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (ibid, 1998) in that he will constantly interrupt your progress and gameplay to spout dialogue and exposition and occasionally point you in the right direction or towards objects of interest but differs not only through his womanising ways and blunt sense of humour but also by actually aiding you in combat somewhat. Amaterasu is in possession of the “Celestial Brush”, an enchanted paint brush that allows players to solve puzzles, gain new combat techniques, and attack enemies by holding down the RB button and drawing with X.

Battles take place within a magically-enclosed arena and mostly boil down to button mashing.

As you explore the various different overworlds of Nippon, you’ll encounter floating, ominous Demon Scrolls; though these can, largely, be easily avoided, they will chase after you if you get to close and, upon touching you, lock you into a magically-enclosed arena to battle a number of enemies. When fighting in these arenas, your controls change slightly; now, you can attack with one of two different equippable weapons (or “Divine Instruments) which allow you to strike, defend, or unleash a ranged or combination attack with a variety of Reflectors, Rosaries, and Glaives and deal either massive damage or a finishing blow with the Celestial Brush (easier said than done thanks to the game’s odd idea of perspective). If you don’t feel like battling, you can attack the mystical barrier to open a hole to allow you to escape, avoid the Demon Scrolls, or slash at them with you Celestial Brush to make it easier to get around them. However, I’d advise battling every enemy at every opportunity as it’s a great way to earn rewards since you’re evaluated after each battle and earn additional Yen for finishing fights quickly and without taking damage.

Stay out of Cursed Zones and dispel them by destroying Devil Gates.

There’s no escaping from boss battles or Devil Gates, though, and, when you enter new areas, you’ll find they’ve been cursed with a life-sapping black fog that can only be cleared by destroying a number of Devil Gates dotted around the area. Passing into one of these Devil Gates forces you to battle a number of enemies that are, generally, a little tougher than the average minions but defeating them is still pretty easy thanks to the breadth of the game’s simple, but effective, combat and victory will restore the land to its natural beauty and allow you to hunt for goodies.

Earn Praise to increase Amaterasu’s health, ink pots, Astral Pouch, and purse.

As a God, Amaterasu can earn Praise by performing a number of tasks and side quests; these range from using the Celestial Brush to blossom and bloom withered trees, freeing areas from the cursed fog, feeding the myriad of wild animals you’ll encounter, helping out NPCs, and defeating bosses. Praise can then be used to upgrade Amaterasu’s maximum health, ink pots (using the Celestial Brush consumes ink, which automatically regenerates over time), Astral Pouch (when filled with the various food you can find throughout Nippon, this allows Amaterasu to resurrect from death if defeated), and her purse. As you upgrade each, the amount of Praise needed to upgrade further will increase so it’s recommended that you do anything and everything you can to gain even a small amount of praise. Honestly, though, the game isn’t really that difficult so you might not need all of these upgrades to succeed; I never died once in my playthrough and never seemed to be in danger of reaching the limit of my purse so I’m not entirely sure why you need to increase its capacity.

Purchase items, weapons, and equip Holy Artefacts to gain additional abilities and power-ups.

Like many RPGs and adventure games, Ōkami, sadly, doesn’t feature an autosave feature; instead, you must manually save at various Origin Mirrors (which also fully restore your health and ink) scattered across Nippon or after clearing the game’s dungeon (be sure to make at least one extra save file in case you get stuck or blunder into the game’s final dungeon with unfinished business still to do as you won’t be able to get back to the overworld otherwise). As you defeat enemies, break pots, dig up treasure chests, and generally play the game, you can collect various items to help you in your quest; ink pots will refill your ink, Solar Energy refills a portion of your health, food fills up your Astral Pouch, various treasures can be sold, items aid you in battle (different sizes of bones for health, Inkfinity tags to grant temporary infinite ink, buffs for your attack and defence and so forth), and Yen to purchase new weapons, items, and to pay to learn new techniques from the Onigiri-Sensei. You can also find Demon Fangs, which can be traded for Holy Artefacts; you can equip up to three of these to walk on water, safely cross lava, keep Demon Scrolls away, or attract collectables, among other things. Stray Beads can also be collected to earn both an Achievement and an extremely powerful Holy Artefact that basically makes you unstoppable. It’s one of those games where there’s a lot to see, do, and collect and many different ways to upgrade your abilities without the traditional use of experience points as you can also find and purchase Gold Dust to strengthen your Divine Instruments.

I struggled a bit with the camera, which made drawing vines far more difficult than necessary.

While you are given full 360-degree camera control, you may find that the camera is still less than helpful at some points as it can stutter, get stuck behind objects, and automatically snaps back to its default position every time you leave or enter an area or finish a cutscene, which is annoying as I much prefer the more zoomed out perspective. You can also hold LB to enter a first-person perspective to get a better view of your surroundings and both Amaterasu and the environment will turn transparent to help you spot platforms, areas, or Konohana Blossoms but, often, I found it awkward to actually direct Amaterasu and her brush, especially in certain boss battles and situations.

The brush techniques are simple to do but the game often struggles to register the correct input.

This is because it’s never entirely clear where your drawing will appear on the screen: sometimes, you’ll draw a straight line to slash open a rock and just bloom some flowers on the ground; other times, you’ll try to bloom a tree only to cause the sun to rise or a wind to pick up. This is because the thirteen different Celestial Brush techniques you acquire are all extremely simple in execution (generally one or more lines or a swirl of ink) but the game sometimes seems to get confused about wheat you’re doing, meaning you can waste ink performing the game’s more costly techniques or be needlessly frustrated by something as simple as drawing a line from point A to point B thanks to the dodgy camera and perspective.

I noticed a bit of pop-up and slowdown at times.

Perhaps as a hold over from its time as a Wii and PlayStation 2 game, Ōkami features a fair amount of pop-up; Demon Scrolls, pots, boulders, and certain other landmarks will fade in and out of existence as you explore and I, personally, encountered a lot of annoying slowdown upon loading up my save file or when battling large groups of enemies. There are some benefits to this, though; Demon Scrolls don’t respawn until you leave the area you are in, for one thing, but pots do so it’s pretty easy to stock up on health, ink, and Yen as long as you can be bothered to keep breaking these items open.

There’s a lot to see and do in Ōkami so you’ll always be kept busy, at least.

Ōkami is a pretty exhausting experience, to be honest; I was expecting maybe a ten to twelve hour game but my final playthrough clocked in at more like fifty hours. There is a lot to see and do and a fair amount of backtracking required once you learn new techniques, as well as many side quests and distractions to keep you busy. The game features numerous towns spread across a wide, open field, with new areas (such as a swamp, bustling city, beach front, and frozen region) being equally large and full of things to do, as well as ten dungeons that vary in length and difficulty. Many of these dungeons revolve around a specific gimmick (the vine or wind technique, for example) and might be as simple as collecting a key from one area to unlock a door, learning a new technique, and then battling a boss to manipulating the game’s day/night cycle to raise or lower water levels.

Objectives and puzzles are generally simple but can be a bit vague at times.

Thankfully, the game has an extensive menu on offer that allows you to view, use, and equip items, review your objectives, read up on enemies and bosses you’ve faced, and keep track of any pending quests. The downside, however, is that many of these objectives and side quests, like the game’s puzzles, can be annoyingly vague at times; the map, while helpful, doesn’t display the names of everywhere you’ve visited (this only happens when you’re fast travelling, which is annoying) and Issun is more likely to berate you for taking too long to figure stuff out than help you actually solve puzzles, which range from pushing spheres either down a simple, narrow corridor or through a treacherous bit of quicksand and onto weighted switches (which can be tricky as Amaterasu doesn’t have opposable thumbs!), desperately trying to attach vines to a log (against a time limit) as it speeds through a raging stream, gathering ingredients or acquiring a mask to sneak past enemies, draining water, activating lifts, blasting open walls with cannons to reach new areas, or using your various brush techniques to cross chasms or navigate the dungeon.

Graphics and Sound:
Similar to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (ibid, 2002), Ōkami is presented in a gorgeous cel-shaded style that causes everything, from NPCs to environmental objects to Amaterasu, to pop out at you. Unlike that game, though, where everything kind of blended together to resemble a cartoon, Ōkami draws its inspiration more from the Ukiyo-e style of Japanese watercolour and wood carving art. Indeed, the game is heavily (and unapologetically) steeped in both Japanese cultural, mythology, and folklore; the result is a game with a distinct visual, artistic, and narrative identity and, while the Zelda comparisons are many, I found myself more reminded of Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (Konami Computer Entertainment Osaka, 1997), a similarly bonkers action/adventure title full of weirdly hilarious and crude humour, eccentricities, and heavily influenced Japanese cultural and folklore.

Ōkami has many beautiful locations, each distinct from each other.

Functionally, there’s not much here you haven’t seen before, particularly if you’ve played any of the 3D Zelda titles; Amaterasu travels to little towns and across wide, open plains, visiting dank dungeons, sunken ships, bustling cities, frozen wastelands, and even shrinking down to meet the pixie-like Poncles. Thanks to the game’s unique visual presentation, though, every area feels like a fresh and distinct take on clichés such as the water- or wind-based temples. The miniature village of Ponc’tan stood out for me quite a bit as it was a surreal, magical little mushroom kingdom that was a far cry from the ostentatious reality of Sei’an City or the quiet simplicity of Sasa Sanctuary.

The cel-shaded graphics really add to the game’s character and help it stand out.

Each place you visit has something new to see and a distinct flavour to it; the aforementioned Sasa Sanctuary is populated exclusively by the Sparrow Clan, for example, while frozen village of Wep’keer is home to the shape-shifting Oina tribe. Even the lands that surround these areas are teeming with life and NPCs, from merchants and blacksmiths to deities and talking dogs, moles who want to play hide and seek, the lethargic Susano, a bear who is particularly fond of balancing on spheres, the unfriendly and demonic Mr and Mrs Cutter, and Yoichi, who professes to Nippon’s greatest archer. Each of these NPCs, and others, needs Amaterasu’s help in some way and is given a little introduction so you know who they are and brought to life through the game’s unique visual style and a number of quirky characteristics.

Cutscenes are a mixture of in-game graphics and motion comic cinematics.

Being an action/adventure game in the spiritual style of a 3D Zelda title, Ōkami features an abundance of cutscenes and dialogue; thankfully, you can skip these, though you’ll miss out on a lot of the game’s lore and information vital to your progression if you do. These cutscenes are rendered using both the in-game graphics and, at times, a kind of motion comic presentation where the narrator explains what’s going on as images are drawn onto a scroll. When characters do speak in the game, it’s largely through a combination of text boxes, pantomime, and a Banjo-Kazooie-like (Rare, 1998) gibberish, which I find endlessly charming, though it can be laborious having to constantly press A to advance the text. Worst of all is that, all-too-often, NPCs will waffle on and then finish talking, only for the game to indicate (though the presence of a green triangle over the NPC’s head) that the NPC has more to say; because of this, I’d advise pressing B rather than A so you don’t have to worry about accidentally jumping rather than continuing the conversation.

The game mixes charming gibberish with a suitably Japanese soundtrack and aesthetic.

In keeping with its heavily Japanese presentation, Ōkami also features a soundtrack that is distinctly Japanese; inspired by classical Japanese works, the game features a blending of traditional and modern Japanese musical sensibilities to create a suitably whimsical and magical sense of awe and scope to the game’s proceedings. However, while it’s functional enough and serves to bring life to the various areas and situations you find yourself in, I can’t say that it was particularly catchy or memorable.

Enemies and Bosses:
In keeping with the game’s off the wall visual style and influence from Japanese folklore and mythology, Ōkami is populated by a wide variety of demonic creatures and weird and wacky monsters for you to fight. While their appearances may change as you progress, and their attacks and ability to absorb damage may become more aggressive and formidable, respectively, you are pretty much taught the fundamentals of how to handle the majority of the game’s enemies in the first few hours of gameplay.

Battling the different Imps will teach you the basics of tackling the majority of Ōkami’s enemies.

The first types of enemies you’ll encounter are the Imps, which can either be Green, Red, Blue, Yellow, or Black; each one is slightly different, with the Blue Imps gliding in the air and needing to be slashed down, the Yellow Imps burrowing underground, and the Black Imps attack using the skulls of their victims. When you later encounter the Guardians, Namahage and Clay Army, you’ll find that these enemies are, essentially, stronger variants of the Imps and the same tactics can be used to defeat them regardless of how much tougher these later enemies are.

The game’s tougher enemies will require a more strategic approach on your part.

That’s not to say that the game doesn’t feature some pretty tough enemies; flying enemies like the Crow Tengu and Dead Fish can be troublesome since they like to block your attacks, the Wheel enemies require you to use your elemental brush techniques to make them vulnerable to attack (which can be difficult if you’re low on ink), and many of the larger enemies, such as the Ogres, are completely resistant to your attacks until you knock off their giant stone masks. Similarly, the Bud Ogre and Igloo Turtle will require your elemental brush techniques to get through their defences and, often (especially later in the game), you’ll be tasked with fighting a number of different types of enemies all at once, which requires a surprising amount of strategy at times.

Get used to battling these bastard giant spiders!

As you enter new areas and explore Nippon and the game’s dungeons, you’ll encounter new enemies and many of the bigger/tougher ones could be classed as sub-bosses. Each of Ōkami’s dungeons is, of course, capped off by a boss battle, each of which is unique in its execution. The first boss of the game, the Spider Queen, is actually one of the most annoying and frustrating bosses you’ll encounter as the only way to damage her is to use the vine technique to attach three vines from nearby Konohana Blossoms to the hooks on her butt. This will fell her and cause her abdomen to open up like a flower, allowing you a short window of time to attack the eye-like globs that act as her sole weak point. You better get used to this piece of shit battle, though, since you’ll fight three Bandit Spiders in the game’s hidden Devil Gate Trials and the Spider Queen as part of the Ark of Yamato’s boss rush.

You’ll need to snuff out the Crimson Helm’s flames to deal actual damage.

In comparison, the Crimson Helm is a veritable walk in the park, especially later when you have even more elemental powers at your disposal. This minotaur-like oaf charges at you wielding giant swords and covered in armour but you can lure him into crashing into pillars and attack him to break his armour off, and then use the wind technique to put out his flames and deal actual damage. Since you don’t need to worry about fighting the damn camera to expose the Crimson Helm’s weak point, this boss battle is actually enjoyable.

Stun Orochi with Sake to destroy its bell and leave its heads vulnerable.

After reaching the Moon Cave, you’ll battle the resurrected Orochi, the eight-headed dragon that has cursed the land and is the subject of such terror and legend. Though large and imposing, Orochi is pretty simple to put down as long as you’re patient and clever about it; to start with, Orochi is invulnerable thanks to his golden armour so you have to use Amaterasu’s water-bending technique to direct some Sake-infused water into three of Orochi’s heads until it collapses, which allows you to attack a bell on its back. Once you whittle the bell’s health down, Orochi will be vulnerable and you must contend with the different elemental and physical attacks of each head, stunning them with the same Sake-tainted water and destroying each in turn. Though tedious, it’s stupidly easy to avoid Orochi’s attacks, so the battle’s difficulty comes from having the patience to destroy Orochi’s heads and the skill and timing to complete an annoying quick-time event (QTE) that follows the main fight, which sees Susano deliver the final blow to Orochi.

True Orochi is supposed to be Orochi’s peak form but it’s defeated just as easily as before.

This isn’t, however, where the game ends; nor is it the last time you fight Orochi. When you briefly take a trip to a hundred years in the past, you’ll battle “True” Orochi, which is supposed to be Orochi at the peak of his powers…but it’s exactly the same as the previous battle, with the same level of difficulty and the same tactics, with the only difference being that the legendary warrior Nagi delivers the killing blow. You’ll also have to defeat Orochi one last time in the Ark of Yamato’s boss rush but you don’t have to complete the QTE that time, which is great since the game has a bit of trouble recognising that you’ve cut Orochi’s heads during these sequences.

Blight’s speed is easily neutralised to leave it vulnerable to your charged attacks.

After besting Orochi, the game’s bigger, far more expansive second half begins. The first boss of this next stage of the game is Blight, a possessed sword and suit of armour that is quite possibly the easiest boss in the game. Thanks to Amaterasu’s time-slowing “Veil of Mist” technique, you can slow Blight to a crawl for a few seconds, allowing you to dodge its attacks and attack it until its weak point, the possessed blade Goldnail, which can be easily dispatched using charged Glaive attacks.

Some bosses can drain your ink or both block and counter your attacks.

When you explore the sunken ship and the waters around Ryoshima Coast, you’ll encounter the gigantic Water Dragon, which cannot be defeated and must be fled from and then entered to retrieve a key item. While inside of the Water Dragon, you’ll battle the Tube Foxes and an evil form of one of your allies, Rao; the Tube Foxes exhibit a decent amount of agility and can drain your ink, which can be bothersome, while you’ll need to reflect Evil Rao’s daggers back at her and attack when she’s vulnerable on the ground. Neither are particularly difficult though Evil Rao reappears in one of the game’s more frustrating Devil Gate Trials where you have to not only fight multiple versions of Evil Rao but also the similarly-sword-wielding Wakka.

You’ll need to direct lightning to Ninetails’ sword and destroy its spirits to deefat it.

The final boss of the game’s second portion is Ninetails, a large, nine-tailed kitsune who can only be harmed by directing lightning to its sword; this splits Ninetails into nine ghostly humanoids who attack Amaterasu incessantly. As you weather their attacks and destroy them, you’ll reduce Ninetails’ tails; do this enough times and Ninetails will be reduced to a normal, one-tailed fox and be vulnerable to your attacks but it’s still best to deliver massive damage with Amaterasu’s Thunderstrike technique. Though big and able to copy many of Amaterasu’s, and even cancel out any brush techniques you use, the hardest thing about this boss is dealing with all of the spirits that Ninetails splits into since they don’t flinch after being attacked.

Amaterasu battles Nechku and Lechku alongside other wolf allies.

When you reach the conclusion of the Waku Shrine, the game’s final (and biggest) dungeon, you’ll battle the giant mechanical owl Nechku; this fight is relatively simple since Shiranui, Amaterasu’s past self who is significantly more powerful, does the majority of the leg work for you. After defeating Nechku, you travel deeper into the dungeon and battle it again, this time as Amaterasu and alongside another of her friendly rivals, the shape-changing Oki, and Nechku is joined by its twin, Lechku. In this case, you need to use your Celestial Brush to interact with one of the many different items the two whip out in order to stun them and then grab Oki and fire him like an arrow to deal greater damage. Having two bosses to contend with makes this one of the more challenging boss battles but it’s still far from difficult, especially since you can slow things down with the Veil of Mists, and neither Nechku or Lechku appear in the Ark of Yamato’s boss rush.

Yami’s design is a bit underwhelming after all the mental shit we’ve seen up to this point…

Speaking of which, be sure to save before you board the Ark of Yamato as you won’t be able to return once you enter. Inside, you’ll have to battle the Spider Queen, the Crimson Helm, Blight, Ninetails, and Orochi again one after the other (though you can rest up and save between each battle) in order to confront the game’s true final boss, Yami. Yami (which is just a giant, glowing sphere, which is a bit underwhelming after everything you’ve seen and fought up to that point) strips you of all of your abilities and you must attack it, dealing with its five different forms to regain your abilities. In its first form, it tries to smash you with either a hammer of its spherical body, causing holes to form in the floor of the arena (if you fall down them, you respawn in the arena but take damage) and attacking it restores your Rejuvenation, Power Slash, and Greensporout techniques, which allow you to crack open the sphere at deal actual damage to Yami’s core.

Yami has multiple forms and attacks, each of which require your restored brush techniques.

Yami’s second form sees it engulf itself in fire and split into platforms, launching flaming parts of itself at you and forcing you to do some tricky platforming or jumping to damage the core and restore your Cherry Bomb, Waterspout, and Crescent techniques. Its third form sees it launch fireballs and freezing ice blocks at you and forces you to attack a slot machine to conjure these attacks, missiles, and even health and ink pots. Its fourth form sees Yami sprout legs and tentacles, which whip at you and form into swords for you to use Thunderstrike on, and is the toughest of Yami’s base forms since it takes a little more to expose the core, which can absorb quite a lot of damage.

Yami’s final form doesn’t hold back but it’s still not much of a challenge for your many abilities.

For its final form, Yami sprouts a claw hand to protect its core, which constantly shields itself from your brush techniques. The only way to damage this final form is to use Sunrise to dispel the darkness in the arena, reflect missiles back at it, and attack the core when it busts out its massive laser. You can also deal damage by attacking Yami’s hand, which is easy enough to dodge, and its spherical shell to, eventually, stun it and expose the core to your more powerful attacks. This was the first time in the entire game I actually bothered to use items to increase my attack power as Yami can take quite a beating but, otherwise, this boss is tedious and long-winded but far from difficult.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Amaterasu has many options available to her to power-up her attacks and abilities; as mentioned, Gold Dust can increase the power of each of the Divine Instruments, which you can acquire after beating bosses, from weapons shops, or in treasure chests hidden throughout Nippon. You can also find and buy various Steel Fist Sake or Steel Soul Sake to increase your attack and defence, respectively.

The Onigiri-Sensei will teach you all kinds of new attacks, like shitting to annoy your enemies…

As you explore, you’ll be able to pay an extortionate amount of money to the Onigiri-Sensei to upgrade and learn new attacks and techniques. This allows you to add additional attacks and build greater combos, dodge (and counter attack after a dodge), double jump, increase your attack power by equipping two of the same type of Divine Instrument and, of course, piss or shit in the middle of battle to insult enemies and force them to drop Demon Fangs!

Use your elemental brush techniques to solve puzzles and damage enemies.

One of the main objectives Amaterasu has, beyond restoring peace to Nippon, is the awakening of the thirteen Celestrial Brush Gods and re-learning their brush techniques. Most of these are elemental based, allowing you to conjure and manipulate fire, water, and wind, while others are tied to nature, allowing you to blossom withered trees. You can use the different brush techniques to open doors, repair broken bridges, cause platforms and paths to appear, and to attack enemies, with certain enemies being vulnerable to certain elements.

Slow down time, conjure bombs, and then spend a whole bunch of Yen upgrading your techniques.

You can also use these techniques to slow down time, blow open cracked walls and floors with bombs, scale walls using cat statues, and freeze objects. You can perform multiple brush attacks at once but not in the same moment; so, if you want to do a Power Slash, draw a Cherry Bomb, and direct lightning to an enemy, you need to press and hold RB and draw with X in three separate instances rather than in one. By tossing an exorbitant amount of Yen into three Divine Springs, you can upgrade some of these abilities to make them stronger or allow you to draw more objects on screen at once.

Additional Features:
Ōkami has fifty-one Achievements for you to earn, the majority of which are worth a mere 10G each, even some of the more time-consuming and long-winded ones, and are directly tied to story-based events so they can’t be missed. Technically, the only ones you can potentially miss are the “No Furball on the Menu” Achievement (which requires you to quickly draw yourself a lily pad and then use an Inkfinity Stone to relentlessly conjure wind to quickly carry you safely to shore before the Water Dragon can eat you) and the “From Imps to Demons” Achievement since the Fire Doom Mirror can only be fought during one mission in the game. The others can be achieved with enough patience by earning loads of Praise and Yen to max out all of your abilities and attacks and making sure that you defeat every enemy you see and don’t die (which is pretty easy to do).

Hunt down monsters and compete in races to earn Praise and Achievements.

As you might imagine, there are a whole host of side quests to keep you busy as you play, with many of them resulting in you earning Praise, Yen, and an Achievement. One has four NPCs ask you to hunt down and destroy certain monsters, which is easy enough to do (simply interact with every Demon Scroll in the surrounding area and they’ll eventually crop up), while another has you winning races against three different opponents (well, I see “win” but you only really need to win one of these races; the others just require you to catch up to your opponent and tackle them in three separate, increasingly-difficult challenges).

I can’t say that I was a fan of either of these mini games…

There are also a few mini games to eat up your play time; one has you tackling moles for rewards and is optional but the other two, the digging and fishing mini games, are required to complete to progress the story and to earn all of the game’s Achievements. I struggled a bit with the fishing mini games at first since the game didn’t seem to want to register my brush strokes but then I must have either gotten better or the game decided to play along and let me draw the line and slash the fish without much issue. The digging mini games are a lot of trial and error that have you digging, bashing, slashing, and exploding rocks against a time limit while an NPC follows along, walking into spikes and needing to be guided to a specific point to unearth a treasure.

The Kusa 5 are, apparently, even tougher than Orochi and must be fought in waves.

There are also a couple of optional boss battles, of sorts; as part of the story, you have to find and recruit the five Canine Warriors and, after finishing Oni Island, you can return to the Gale Shrine to battle these five dogs once more. Known as the Kusa 5, you must fight them in both groups and waves. As in the initial battles against the dogs, they like to dash, jump, and tackle you, dig holes to bury you and hurt you with the dirt, and leave explosive turds to damage you. In this battle, they are said to be more powerful than Orochi and, while that’s certainly true, they’re actually slightly less bothersome to fight since they can be damaged without jumping through a bunch of hoops and you can always use the Veil of Mist technique for an advantage.

You won’t last long in the Devil Gate Trials if you come unprepared.

You can also learn a more powerful dig move to unearth three secret Devil Gate Trials; at first, these chasms are guarded by three Bandit Spiders but, when you return, you’ll have to pass through ten Devil Gates in succession, defeating wave upon wave of the game’s toughest and most annoying enemies. If you leave the area at any point, you’ll have to start all over again, so it’s best to stock up on items and equip the Wood Mat (which restores your health, at the cost of some Yen, when you leave Amaterasu idle) to heal up between gates. This, and the Kusa 5, are easily the most challenging parts of the game but challenging in a way that is tedious and annoying rather than necessarily difficult as, as long as you spam the Veil of Mist and equip the right Divine Instruments, you should be able to best each trial with the skills you’ve mastered.

Upon completion, you’ll unlock a gallery and some skins to use in New Game+.

After you defeat Yami and complete the game, you receive both a final evaluation and a number of awards, unlocking a gallery and such from the main menu and some skins to utilise in the game’s “New Game+” mode. When you play New Game+, you retain all of the progress you made in your first playthrough except for the brush techniques, some weapons, and a few Holy Artefacts and other items. This means that it’s pretty easy to finish upgrading any of Amaterasu’s abilities you missed the first time around and to make short work of the game’s earlier enemies but I’d recommend creating a save point before you enter the Ark of Yamato so you don’t have to play through the entirety of the game from the start to finish your Bestiary or treasure tome.

The Summary:
Ōkami is certainly a beautiful game to look at and play through and I can see why many praise its visual presentation and narrative; it’s a long, sprawling adventure that sees you exploring a unique and quirky fictional land, meeting and battling all kinds of characters and monsters, and certainly stands out against other games of its type. However, as lovely as it is to look at and as fun as it can be to play, I was often frustrated by a lot of little annoyances; the day/night cycle, for one thing, the camera’s jerkiness and clumsiness (especially in boss battles), for another, and the game’s unreliable nature when it comes to registering brush strokes. The platforming and jumping aspects can also be needlessly annoying and, at times, the hints and directions you get are far too vague. While this opens the game up to exploration and experimentation, it can be annoying to be stuck in a room or area with no idea of how to proceed and the map is less than helpful in this regard. Still, overall, it’s a solid title with some intense and engaging boss battles, a rich and intriguing lore, and plenty of side quests and distractions to constantly keep you busy.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you ever played Ōkami? If so, did you play the original version or, like me, have you only experienced the HD version of the game? If you’ve played both, how do you find the HD version holds up compared to the original? What did you think to Ōkami’s unique world, characters, and lore? Did you find the game to be a bit too long and convoluted and the brush and camera to be less than reliable or were you engrossed in the game’s complex story and pleased with the game’s controls and mechanics? Which of the game’s areas, dungeons, bosses, and/or characters was your favourite and why? Would you like to see more from Ōkami or do you feel its best that it was one and done and how would you compare the game to others in its genre, like the Zelda series? Whatever your thoughts on Ōkami, feel free to leave a comment below.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Devil May Cry 4 (Xbox 360)

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Released: January 2008
Developer: Capcom
Also Available For: Mobile, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 (Remaster), Xbox One (Remaster)

A Brief Background:
Long before the God of War franchise (Various, 2005 to present) cornered the market when it came to hack and slash videogames, Capcom released a trilogy of titles that saw you cutting demons and angels alike into pieces with a giant sword and blasting them apart with pistols. After the success of Resident Evil 2 (Capcom, 1998), famed Resident Evil (ibid, 1996) director Hideki Kamiya began development on a new Resident Evil title for the PlayStation 2.

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Devil May Cry is one of the quintessential hack and slash videogame franchises.

However, when the game’s development began to veer further and further away from Resident Evil’s survival-horror aesthetics, Kamiya embraced this new direction and created an entirely new franchise with Devil May Cry (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2001). I’d been aware of the series for some time and, being a fan of hack and slash videogames, was eager to experience the games once I bought a PlayStation 3. I remember enjoying the title but ultimately being turned off by the repetitive nature of the game’s missions and boss battles, which are basically identically for both of the game’s playable characters. When I bought my Xbox 360 earlier this year, it coincidentally came with a copy of Devil May Cry 4 so, eager to snag a few additional Achievements, I attempted to rush through it again and see if it was still as enjoyable as before.

First Impressions:
Unlike previous games in the Devil May Cry series, Devil May Cry 4 begins with you not assuming the role of iconic series protagonist Dante but that of newcomer Nero. Functionally, Nero looks, acts, and even controls very similar to Dante (kind of making you question why Capcom bothered to make a new character in the first place…); Nero can attack enemies with his impossibly-large sword, the Red Queen, or stun them with his revolver, the Blue Rose. The more you mash the attack buttons, the higher a combo you’ll begin to build up; the better your combo, the better your grade. Additionally, if you successfully manage to complete missions and puzzles without using healing or recovery items, in a decent time, and with a consistently high style grade, you’ll receive better mission grades and therefore better rewards.

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Nero’s demonic arm separates him from Dante.

What separates Nero from Dante is his Devil Bringer; a demonic arm that stretches out and allows him to cover large distances and grab, grapple, slam, and throw enemies and objects at his enemies. Eventually, he also gains access to the Devil Trigger, a state that allows him to charge his sword to unleash more powerful, flaming attacks, or explode into a demonic state for a short time to unleash stronger attacks.

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Power up before and after missions and go for an S ranking!

As you destroy enemies and certain parts of your environment, you’ll collect a bevy of Red Orbs; destroying enemies, bosses, and clearing missions also earns you Proud Souls, both of which can be used in the game’s Power Up menu. Here, you can trade Red Orbs for healing and recovery items to help you in the game’s more difficult missions or spend Proud Souls upgrading Nero’s abilities, unlocking new combos, faster moving speeds (a definite must), more powerful charged shots, and other similar power-ups. Unfortunately, every time you buy a recovery item, that item’s price shoots up, meaning you can’t just stockpile healing items as you’ll run out of Red Orbs pretty fast; occasionally, though, you can find these items hidden in the game’s missions. Devil May Cry 4’s story is told through in-game and pre-rendered cutscenes; these are pretty decent and full of frenetic, over-the-top action and dialogue and the story is pretty out there, with both Nero and Dante appearing to be infallible and superhuman in cutscenes which, unfortunately, doesn’t translate to their gameplay.

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Bosses are big and impressive but often more frustrating than fun..

The in-game action is fast and frantic but if you don’t properly lock-on and focus on your enemies, or dodge and switch up your attack style accordingly, you can be pummelled into oblivion pretty easily, which can be frustrating. Fortunately, the game’s bosses are large and complex; they’re actually quite fun, despite some of them being frustrating and cumbersome. Bael and Dagon stand out as one of the game’s tougher bosses, for me; this horrific cross between a toad and an anglerfish hides in the snowy shadows, bursting out and swallowing you up to deal massive damage, and its tendency to enter an aggressive final stage is a theme you’ll find from all of the game’s bosses. You’ll hack away, draining their stupidly long health bar and desperately trying to avoid damage, and then they just freak out and throw everything they have at you, making already annoying and difficult battles like the one against Angelo Credo extremely aggravating.

My Progression:
I was quite enjoying Devil May Cry 4 for the most part; I chose to play on “Devil Hunter” mode (which is basically the game’s Hard mode) and the game’s difficulty increases steadily as you play. Initially, enemies aren’t much of an issue; there can be a lot of them and they take quite a beating before actually going down but, generally, they weren’t much of an issue. Then I noticed that they were respawning and that I was encountering far tougher enemies, such as the cloaked Mephisto, the ice-plated Frosts, and the always infuriating Angelos.

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Devil May Cry 4 has a map…it’s just not that great and it’s easy to get lost.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the game’s map leaves a lot to be desired; it’s functional and shows you where areas of interest, doors, and your last exit are and can be expanded similar to the maps in Resident Evil but, quite often, I would clear a room, solve a puzzle, or defeat a boss and then be left clueless as to where I was supposed to be going and what I was supposed to be doing. Just having an area light up on the map and a directional arrow appear would have been super helpful, or even a brief objective in the pause screen.

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Mission 10 culminates in a battle against Dante but I’m not sure I’ll reach this fight.

Anyway, I was fully expecting to clear the game with only a few annoying roadblocks; however, once I limped through a particularly trying boss battle against Angelo Agnus (a hovering, insect like monstrosity that spawns fireballs, flies into a razor-sharp whirlwind, and drains your health to replenish its own), I found myself faced with an exasperating trek back through the suitably gothic and nightmarish environment. Here I was faced with Faust, a more powerful form of the Mephisto enemies, and way too many armoured Angelo enemies; considering I was trying to be mindful of saving my recovery items for the game’s increasingly challenging boss battles and the game’s restrictive checkpoint and save system, I found myself basically rage quitting (though it was more like annoyed quitting) after a few failed attempts. I am so very close to the end of Nero’s story, though, and I know I have done it before so I am tempted to try and push through but, the moment the game becomes more annoying than fun, I know it’s time to take a bit of a break.

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Mission 10. Mission 10 out of 11 missions. Once I clear the eleventh mission, the game begins over from Dante’s perspective but getting there is proving more frustrating than enjoyable; plus, I still remember enough of the game’s massive, Lovecraftian final boss to know that things don’t get any easier. I haven’t checked if it’s possible but it might be better to notch the game’s difficulty down, or simply use a recovery item and hope that I earn enough Red Orbs to buy new ones for later use.

What did you think about Devil May Cry 4? Where do you rate it in the hierarchy of the Devil May Cry series? What do you think of newcomer Nero and the direction the game took? Whatever you think about Devil May Cry 4, or Devil May Cry in general, feel free to leave a comment.

Back Issues: Resident Evil: Fire and Ice #4

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Well, we’re in the last week of October and Halloween is this weekend. If you’ve been following my blog this month, you’ll know that, as a means to generate some fitting content for the season, I’ve been taking a look back at Resident Evil: Fire and Ice, a four-issue comic book series published by WildStorm between 2000 and 2001. This series was a follow-up to their previous five-issue mini series, Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, and focused on an entirely new group of characters, the hitherto-unknown Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Charlie team, rather than telling interludes, side stories, or truncated versions of the first two videogames. Charlie team was made up of a bunch of one-dimensional, impractically attired characters who looked like they had just stepped out of the worst comics of the nineties: led by the muscle-bound Falcon, who looks and acts like an extra from Predator (McTiernan, 1987), the team consists of newcomer and munitions expert Raquel Fields (who is hiding a mysterious infection following a zombie attack), the shady hacker Jesse Alcorn, Patrick Brady (a former zoo keeper able to sense G-Virus monsters), the anti-authority Australian Quan Williamson, and the Mexican quasi-Native American Rosa Cardenas (whom it is implied Quan has a crush on but who actually has feelings for Brady…).

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Quan fixes up a means to save his team mates from Whitlam’s clutches.

This final issue rejoins Quan in the Alaskan mountains (Charlie team split into two sub-teams to investigate two Umbrella laboratories and run into a few troubles, to say the least, almost immediately upon arrival); he discovers the remains of an Umbrella surveillance minicopter, which he uses to spy on Dexter Whitlam, Klaus, and Mr. Venk, the Umbrella scientists and operatives who have captured Rosa and Brady and are preparing to subject them to Whitlam’s experimental new X-Virus.

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And that’s it for Dexter Whitlam. What a waste of time and effort.

Whitlam, who we first met as a misguided youth who stole a sample of Umbrella’s G-Virus, transformed himself into a violent “G”-type monster, and was summarily recruited to Umbrella by Klaus after (somehow) being cured, is now all grown up and has transformed into a semi-cybernetic mad scientist. He was one of WildStorm’s more interesting and layered original characters, an insight into the type of person Umbrella likes to have on staff and put to work on their experiments. So, of course, he is incinerated on page three by the exploding minicopter, bringing him to a sudden (if impressive) end.

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Though saved, Brady and Rosa are revealed to have been infected with the X-Virus.

Free from their captivity, Rosa and Brady are reunited with Quan and immediately get their asses handed to them by Mr. Venk. Venk actually puts up more of a fight and gets a better showing than popular Resident Evil creatures like the Lickers and the Tyrant but, in the end, he is dispatched with a judo throw that ends with him impaled on the bloody stump of Klaus’ hand. However, as they make their mistake, Brady reveals that Whitlam succeeded in infecting them with some of his X-Virus, leaving a gloomy shadow over their otherwise joyous reunion. Back in Mexico, Falcon, Jesse, and Raquel take a jeep to a helicopter, where they spot the cactus plants arranged in a biohazard symbol. In a further nod to the series’ original Japanese name, they mention that the facility’s computer labelled their new virus as “Biohazard” and, dropping in for a closer look, discover that Umbrella placed a vial of the antidote into one of the cacti plant…because of course that was where you would leave the antidote to a deadly virus!

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After dispatching their pursuers, the team begin their long flight from Mexico to Alaska.

As he is lifting her back into the chopper, Jesse again acts a little shady, insisting that Raquel hands her the antidote and, in the brief scuffle, spills half of it. Just as Raquel expresses her concerns over Jesse’ competency, they are set upon by an Umbrella attack ‘copter; however, Raquel makes short work of it with her handy-dandy rocket launcher and the team prepare to fly to Alaska.

From Mexico.

They’re going to fly from Mexico to Alaska in a helicopter! That’s over 3,500 miles! Most choppers are only good for about 400 miles before needing to refuel and, if you’re thinking they flew to an airport to refuel or switch vehicles, you’re wrong because they show up a few panels later to rescue their team mates and, judging by the background, it’s still the same day!

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The other team arrives and they desperately try to subdue their mutated allies.

Speaking of the other team, Quan is forced to stop when, part-way through their trek back to the helipad, Brady begins to undergo a dramatic and painful metamorphosis into a really lame looking Mr. X/Tyrant-like creature. Falcon’s team arrives just in time to stun Brady with a crossbow (yeah…a crossbow, perhaps the weakest and most useful weapon in the Resident Evil series) but Rosa suddenly transforms into a similar, hulking creature and the team tries to subdue them non-fatally so that they can be administered with the antidote.

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Jesse reveals his true colours…and then immediately dies.

Raquel manages to tie up Brady with some bolas and Falcon puts down Rosa using the snowmobile but, right as they’re about to get the antidote, Jesse reveals his true colours and, holding the two at gunpoint, reveals that he’s actually a deep cover mole placed in S.T.A.R.S. by Umbrella. This might have been surprising if the last two issues hadn’t made it abundantly clear that there was something very fishy about Jesse and it’s rendered completely redundant as Jesse is immediately skewered and killed by the monstrous Brady.

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Brady is put down and Rosa is, apparently, cured. It’s hard to really tell.

Raquel injects the antidote into Rosa but Brady wakes up before he can receive it and Falcon is forced to put him down with a single shot to the head; on the plus side, the antidote takes hold in Rosa and returns her to normal (though we don’t actually see this on panel). Just as it seems like our heroes have survived, however, it is revealed that yet another shady Umbrella operative (or…maybe it’s Klaus? It’s not really made clear) who monologues that, actually, everything went almost exactly according to Umbrella’s plan as Charlie team eliminated “the rogue agent Dexter Whitlam”, killed one of their own, and Raquel’s infection will ensure that the whole team is dead before they ever get a chance to land and the issue just…ends.

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None of Brady’s potential or plot threads are capitalised on.

So…what was the point of that sub-plot about Brady being able to sense the G-Virus as a result of being cured of the virus? That literally doesn’t crop up once throughout the entirety of Fire and Ice when it really could have been a useful feature that made him a relevant part of the team, or perhaps helped him to resist the X-Virus. Instead, he has this ability but does nothing with it, wields a massive, bad-ass electric cannon and is stated to be a formidable fighter (despite being nothing more than a zoo security guard), falls and hits his head, and then gets turned into a sasquatch-like thing, and summarily shot in the head. Nothing even comes of the poorly executed hint that Rosa is attracted to Brady.

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The two labs seem to be working on different things? Or the same things? I can’t tell!

It all just comes crashing to the ground in this final issue; since when was Whitlam a “rogue agent”? He was directly recruited by Umbrella and was using their existing viruses and resources to fashion a new, more powerful and deadly virus; that definitely sounds like something they would do, and want, but then it doesn’t even pay off as I’m not seeing anything in the mutations Brady and Rosa undergo that makes the X-Virus better than the G-Virus or even the Tyrant-Virus (T-Virus). Neither seem anywhere near as vicious or resilient as the Tyrants or the “G” monstrosities of the videogames; I know that WildStorm liked to really neuter Umbrella’s monstrosities, with even Mr. X and William Birkin’s “G” being put down with disappointing ease, but these X-Virus creatures are even more of a joke. Not only that, issue one made it sound as though the Alaskan and Mexico laboratories were working on two separate projects and viruses. Instead, apparently, their “rogue agent” was working on the X-Virus in Alaska, which was also known as “Biohazard” in Mexico (…for some reason) and also produced an antidote…that was also in Mexico. Unless “Biohazard” is supposed to be the antidote? The issue isn’t written to support this, though, and instead it seems like Whitlam developed one virus with two names and stashed the antidote thousands of miles away for no real reason. If the X-Virus was really supposed to be the successor t the T- and G-Viruses, why even make an antidote in the first place?

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Raquel’s mutation only matters when the plot says it does.

And then there’s Raquel. All throughout Fire and Ice, a big deal is made of her mysterious infection (which, I assume, she got from her brief appearance at the start of issue one and is a result of her being infected with the G-Virus) but, again, nothing comes from it. Her skin changes colour, taking on a strange green hue, she grows a bony protrusion that she immediately cuts off, she suffers from headaches (but only when it’s dramatically appropriate), and then the series winds up with the threat that she’s going to transform into…something…and kill her team mates. I was expecting her to mutate into something and battle with the X-Virus monsters but…she doesn’t and, as a result, this whole plot point is a giant waste of time that adds nothing to the story, is never resolved, and leaves more questions than answers. Say what you will about Alice (Milla Jovovich) in Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil movies (2002 to 2016), at least her mutation actually factors into the plot and the movie’s action sequences.

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None of the characters really stood out for me.

Jesse’s heel turn is as obvious as the nose on your face and immediately amounts to nothing as he is killed right away; it’s not like he destroys the antidote and forces Charlie team to kill both Brady and Rosa, he just stands in the way for a moment and then gets stabbed from behind. Neither Falcon or Quan end up becoming fully-developing characters, but then this is par for the course of Fire and Ice. When I reviewed Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, I talked about how I wanted to see WildStorm focus more on telling a continuous story issue by issue rather than a whole bunch of vignettes and half-assed adaptations but, man, was I wrong. Their writers were no better at telling a month by month story with their own original characters than they were with Resident Evil’s more recognisable characters and, as I mentioned before, this time there’s no impressive, gory artwork to save the series. As a companion piece to Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, I guess Fire and Ice works well enough at fleshing out (or, at least, putting more of a spotlight on) some of WildStorm’s minor characters and maybe the team were planning on publishing a third mini series to wrap up all their loose ends but it definitely doesn’t read or seem that way. Instead, WildStorm again squandered their pages and efforts on one-dimensional, action, horror, and move clichés and archetypes, and somehow manages to tell a four-issue story without ever really getting into who these characters are, what their motivations are (besides being angry and quick to violence), or actually crafting a story that made logical sense.

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It’s pretty cool how the covers all form one giant picture, though.

Like Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, Fire and Ice was eventually collected into a trade paperback which, like Resident Evil: Collection One (Various, 1999), is currently out of print but, unlike that collection, generally sells for about £40 to £60 rather than £60 to £200. They also returned to the franchise and published a prequel to Resident Evil 5 (Capcom, 2009) between 2009 and 2011 but, after reading Fire and Ice, I can’t say I’m too excited about covering more of their Resident Evil comics later down the line. If WildStorm ever re-released their original Resident Evil comics, including Fire and Ice, into one affordable collection then maybe, maybe, as one complete package these comics might hold up slightly better but, as is, I wouldn’t worry about trying to add these to your Resident Evil collection, no matter how big a fan you are, as there’s really nothing on offer here.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you ever read Fire and Ice? What did you think of Charlie team and WildStorm’s original characters? Do you agree that the artwork in these issues is a massive step down from WildStorm’s earlier efforts, and that WildStorm bungled their time with the franchise, or do you have fonder memories of their efforts than I do? Which piece of ancillary Resident Evil media is your favourite? Thanks for coming back each week for my review of Fire and Ice; are there any other Resident Evil games or adaptations you’d like to see me cover? Whatever you think, leave a comment below and have a great Halloween.

Back Issues: Resident Evil: Fire and Ice #3

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It’s October and Halloween is right around the corner and what better way to mark the occasion and bring some extra views of any self-respecting content creator’s blog than by taking a look back at Resident Evil: Fire and Ice, a four-part comic book series published by WildStorm between 2000 and 2001. WildStorm had previously published a five-issue mini series that told interludes, heavily truncated recaps of the first two Resident Evil videogames, and introduced a whole slew of minor characters and original creators to what was, at the time, a far less complex lore. The Fire and Ice comics continue with this premise, ditching the anthology format to follow the hitherto-unknown Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Charlie team, consisting of the heavily muscled team leader Falcon, newcomer and munitions expert Raquel Fields, and a whole bunch of one-dimensional nineties throwbacks with more diversity than you can shake a stick at: we’ve got the anti-authority Australian Quan Williamson, Patrick Brady (a former zoo keeper now endowed with minor superpowers), Mexican quasi-Native American Rosa Cardenas (whom it is implied Quan has a crush on but who actually has feelings for Brady…), and the somewhat unhinged tech-savvy Jesse Alcorn.

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Falcon’s team runs afoul of traps as sophisticated as quicksand and some darts!

After splitting into two sub-teams, issue three rejoins Falcon’s team in Mexico where, you may remember, Falcon, Raquel, and Jesse managed to track down an Umbrella laboratory in Mexico. As they approach the pyramid-like structure, however, they fall victim to some of the oldest, most clichéd desert-based traps in the business: quicksand and darts! All that was missing was a pit of spikes with skewered skeletons and a rolling boulder and the writers would have nailed every cliché in the book.

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Who needs a hacker anyway?

Narrowly escaping, Jesse states that he’s unable to crack the code on the entrance because of the sheer number of possibilities; he reckons it would take his computer “days” to break into the facility, which Raquel gives him some grief about. And rightfully so; I mean, what good is a damn computer hacker when they can’t even do the one job you bring them along for? Luckily, Raquel actually remembers that she’s good with explosives in this issue and simply blows the door open; if only that was an option in the videogames!

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WildStorm deals the Licker a short hand once again.

Upon entering the pyramid, Jesse is immediately attacked by a Licker, further cementing himself as perhaps the most useless member of Charlie team so far. In true WildStorm fashion, the Licker is barely shown and easily dispatched by Jesse’s far more competent team mates and the three make their way deeper into the facility, where they not only discover Umbrella’s scientists cooking up new horrors in giant, gunk-filled tubes but also, inexplicably, spot Rosa and Brady held in captivity (this is presumably on some kind of monitor but, like last issue, the art isn’t very clear and makes it seem as though Falcon spots the two in the next room).

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Whitlam has created a newer, better virus…but you can’t see it yet!

Back in Alaska, Rosa and Brady are being held captive in a dungeon-like cell after the events of the previous issue saw them attacked and captured by Umbrella agents Klaus and Mr. Venk in Alaska and Quan alone out in the frozen wastes of the Alaskan mountains. Quan rushes back to their last known location and finds only a radio transceiver that fell from Brady’s pocket in the last issue and allows him to listen in as the now grown-up (and, apparently, somewhat cybernetic) Dexter Whitlam monologues to Rosa and Brady about his evil plan. Building upon the work of William Birkin and refining the best aspects of both the Tyrant-Virus (T-Virus) and G-Virus, Whitlam reveals (much to Klaus’ chagrin) that he has crafted a new virus, the X-Virus, which he claims represents “a quantum leap in killing power” and boosts the victims strength, ferocity, augments their “natural fighting ability”, and renders them virtually unstoppable. He also reveals that, up until this point, the characters haven’t yet encountered anything actually infected with the X-Virus; the G-creatures were merely created to find suitable subjects for the X-Virus and, as Rosa and Brady were, somehow, the only two test subjects to not only survive but also kill two of the G-creatures, Whitlam believes that they will make ideal candidates for a dose of X-Virus.

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A Tyrant breaks free and goes on a brief rampage.

Back in Mexico, and spurned on by the impending threat to the lives of their team-mates, Falcon’s team renders all of the Umbrella scientists unconscious with a gas bomb and moves to retrieve the data from their computers (assuming Jesse can hack in, of course) but, somehow, a Tyrant breaks free from its captivity and goes on a rampage. Partially stunned by the pain from her mysterious infection, Raquel is easily tossed aside and, with Jesse cowering under a table, this leaves Falcon to face the beast alone with only his shotgun. This is WildStorm, though, and they have never quite been able to portray Umbrella’s fearsome bio-organic weapons as the formidable threats they are in the videogames, particularly the Tyrant, and this is no different. It simply walks towards Falcon, who unloads shot after shot until he blasts a hole through its head and then fires a few more shots just to be on the safe side, proving once again that, in these comics, a Tyrant is a mere inconvenience more than a life-threatening menace.

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At least time it took a rocket launcher to finally put the Tyrant down…

While attempting to locate an antidote to the X-Virus on the lab’s computer, Jesse accidentally activates the obligatory self-destruct sequence and the three barely make it out alive. The Tyrant emerges from the flames but, again, it’s just an inconvenience as Raquel has all the time in the world to load up a rocket launcher and blast it to pieces while barely breaking a sweat.

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What is it with this art? Why does the Tyrant look so bad?

The issue ends with the sub-team stranded in the desert, surrounded by cactus plants shaped in a biohazard symbol, with no way to reach their comrades. It also ends with a dangling plot thread as, when Falcon admonishes Jesse for risking their lives, Jesse acts very shifty and claims that the self-destruct was merely an unavoidable accident. Like the last issue, the artwork really lets this issue down. The whole series, so far, has lacked the polish and visceral gore of Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, which suffered from similar writing issues and problems with the portrayal of recognisable Resident Evil characters, creatures, and tropes but at least had some decent gore to look at. Here, though, everything is so bland and simple and dull; even the Tyrant looks like a cheaply-drawn knock-off and there’s even less sense of threat or danger even with the inclusion of a Tyrant and the compulsory ticking clock that has become a staple of the Resident Evil series.

REF&I3Characters
Fire and Ice‘s characters are a bland bunch of one-dimensional clichés.

Again, it doesn’t help that there’s very little to really keep us invested in WildStorm’s original characters; I can’t say that Fire and Ice would be better if the likes of Jill valentine, Barry Burton, and Chris Redfield replaced Charlie team but at least we’d be able to fill in the gaps about their personality and backstory. Here, we don’t really know anything about these characters beyond a quick introduction in issue one and some one-dimensional characterisation in these subsequent issues. It’s nice that WildStorm were able to give some of their minor characters more of a spotlight but Whitlam is just the clichéd mad scientist archetype, Falcon looks and acts like he stepped right off the set of Predator (McTiernan, 1987), and the rest of them are just a bunch of holdovers from the “Dark Ages” of nineties comic books. The next issue is the last in this series and it feels like I’ve learned very little to nothing about these characters and nothing of any real note has actually happened, and that’s a shame considering how WildStorm fumbled their last Resident Evil comic series.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Do you agree or do you feel I’m being too harsh on WildStorm and the Fire and Ice series? Do any of the characters stand out to you? Which Resident Evil character is your favourite, either from the games, comics, books, or movies? Which piece of ancillary Resident Evil media is your favourite or would you like to see produced? Drop a comment down below and come back next Tuesday for my review of the fourth and final issue of WildStorm’s Fire and Ice miniseries.

Back Issues: Resident Evil: Fire and Ice #2

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It’s October, which means it’s Halloween and it’s the duty of every content creator to do some kind of horror-themed content. As a result, I’m taking a look back at WildStorm’s second series of Resident Evil comic books, the four-issue Fire and Ice series published between 2000 and 2001. This time around, WildStorm have ditched the anthology format in favour of a continuous, original story revolving around a bunch of original characters, the hitherto-unknown Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Charlie team. Last issue, Falcon’s Charlie team made short work of a circus full of infected zombies and were introduced to a new team member, munitions expert Raquel Fields, who is hiding a hideous mutation on her arm. Having recovered a disk naming two Umbrella facilities (one in Alaska and one in Mexico), the team has split into two and the last issue ended with Falcon’s sub-team face-to-face with a literal Day of the Dead south of the border…

REF&I2Dissension
There’s a bit of dissension in the Alaska team…

Issue two opens in Alaska with the second sub-team (the knife-wielding Australian Quan Williamson, former zoo security guard turned semi-superhuman bad-ass Patrick Brady, and team leader Rosa Cardenas) riding snowmobiles down the frigid mountains of Alaska. There’s a little bit of dissension in the early going as Quan, whom we were informed through a few dialogue boxes and brief snippets of his backstory has a bit of a problem with authority, takes umbrage with Rosa’s orders. However, a stern word from her is enough to quell that and he heads out while a monstrous bear watches on.

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Raquel lops off her bony growth, which is clearly the best solution…

The story then jumps back to Mexico where Falcon’s team (including newcomer Raquel and tech-savvy Jesse Alcorn) open fire on the legions of zombies in an ironic perversion of the Day of the Dead festival. Oddly, despite Raquel being the munitions expert, it is Jesse who prepares a bomb while Raquel covers him; however, while doing so, she discovers a strange, bony growth coming out of her arm and decides the best way to deal with it is to chop it off with a meat cleaver! Meanwhile, back in Alaska, Brady tries to allay Rosa’s concerns over Quan’s absence by theorising that he has a crush on her; she dismisses this, however, and suggests, in a near-inaudible whisper, that she would be more interested if Brady had a crush on her. We’re only on the second issue, guys, are we really doing this sort of thing? I guess it’s an easy, cliché, artificial way of creating some kind of investment in these characters so we care more when their lives are in jeopardy or they get infected or die but it just kind of comes out of nowhere as I’m not really seeing anything that suggests any kind of sexual tension or attraction between any of these characters.

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Once again WildStorm awkwardly shoe-horns in the puzzle aspects of the videogames.

Anyway, they are interrupted by some kind of flying creature; it’s not really revealed what it is but it’s apparently threatening enough for the two to rush back to their snowmobiles to get their weapons. However, they are stopped in their tracks when they find they are surrounded by large, monstrous bears and bipedal walruses whales, and even a particularly fearsome looking penguin! Back in Mexico, Raquel blows the explosives but gets into it with Jesse when he inexplicable runs towards the explosion rather than staying clear (honestly, the artwork doesn’t make it massively clear what’s going on in these panels). Falcon quells the dissension and gets the team back on track towards their primary goal (…pretty sure we just saw that with the other sub-team…). Raquel draws Falcon’s attention to a particular piece of artwork in one of the ruined houses that bares a set of runes that Falcon says match up with those identified by Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield from the Spenser Mansion. This despite the impossibility of even spotting such a small, insignificant set of etchings and Jesse scoffing at the importance of the painting.

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They couldn’t have just driven straight there?

The clue leads the team to Umbrella’s laboratory, a temple-like structure somewhere in Mexico, and while I like the attempt to call back to the puzzle solving elements of the videogames…the team had a disk of data that led them to Alaska and Mexico. They acquired it from Umbrella so why were they just knobbing around in town rather than going directly to the lab? Why did they need to find an obscure clue to lead them to the obviously ominous structure? It just feels like they could have driven through the Day of the Dead festival and fought those zombies on the way to the lab and weaved the puzzle elements in some other way, like opening the entrance or something.

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Brady knocks out a monstrous whale and then stupidly trips and knocks himself out!

The story jumps back to Alaska, where Quan has just finished setting up the “evac helipad” (which just looks like some lights stuffed into the snow) when he gets called back to assist Rosa and Brady with their situation. It turns out that whatever has infected these animals hasn’t just allowed whales and walruses to walk on land but also allows penguins to fly (so I guess the thing that flew at them earlier was a penguin, then…). Thankfully, my earlier criticisms regarding Brady’s suitability as a S.T.A.R.S team member comes to the forefront here as, though he’s able to blow the leg off a mutated wolf…thing and knock out a whale with the butt of his gun, he stupidly trips and falls in an effort to save Rosa from being beaten and skewered to death by a bear and walrus. As he falls, he smashes his face on an ice-hard rock but it only stuns him; in other comics and media (and in real life) this would probably kill him but I guess Raccoon City puts a lot of funding and effort into training and toughening up their zoo security guards.

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Klaus and Venk return from WidStorm’s previous mini series.

Luckily, a mysterious individual and his sharp-shooting comrade, Mr. Venk, tranquilise the creatures and load them, and the S.T.A.R.S. team members, into their van to transport them back to preserve Whitlam’s research. If you’ve read WildStorm’s original Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, or my weekly reviews of each issue of that series, you’ll recognise the names and faces being tossed around in these last few panels: the unnamed, monocle-wearing man is Klaus; he and Mr. Venk appeared in WildStorm’s original comic series where they recruited the troubled youth Dexter Whitlam (who had transformed to and from a “G”-like creature using a stolen sample of Umbrella’s G-Virus) to Umbrella in issue five.

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This issue’s art is bland and lacking the gore that made the first mini series bearable.

I quite enjoy how this series allows WildStorm to expand upon the roles of the original characters they created to fit into the Resident Evil lore; as I mentioned last week, none of these characters are particularly engaging or visually interesting thanks to them holding on to a lot of the worst one-dimensional clichés of comic books of the nineties (bulging muscles, a disdain for authority, and a penchant for leather and violence) but I’d much rather see these minor characters getting a bit more of the spotlight than WildStorm creating even more uninspired original characters. What lets this issue down, though, is the artwork; the art wasn’t particularly striking in the first issue but it’s even worse here. While Lee Bermejo (who would go on to much bigger and better things at DC Comics) and Shawn Crystal make decent use of shadows and lighting, the creatures are bland, boring, and rendered very gloomy; it’s not always clear what’s attacking the characters or what is going on, and everything looks painfully simple and dull. It also doesn’t help that the issue doesn’t really have any of the blood, guts, and gore that the original mini series showcased; the macabre spectacle tends to salvage the lacklustre writing of WildStorm’s Resident Evil comics and, without it, we’re left with these clichéd, one-dimensional characters who are trying way too hard to look, sound, and act tough rather than exuding the effortless cool and charisma of Resident Evil’s most popular characters.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Are you familiar with WildStorm’s Fire and Ice Resident Evil comic books? What are your thoughts on the plot and characters so far? Which obscure or forgotten Resident Evil videogame or character would you like to see expanded upon in other media? Do you have a favourite piece of ancillary Resident Evil media? Drop a comment down below and come back next Tuesday for my review of issue three.

Back Issues: Resident Evil: Fire and Ice #1

BackIssues

Earlier this year, in a shameless attempt to grab more views around the release of the slightly disappointing Resident Evil 3 remake (Capcom, 2020), I did a weekly review of a five-issue comic series based on Capcom’s popular survival horror franchise which was published between 1998 and 1999. Given that, at the time, there were only two Resident Evil titles to work from, with the third still in production, Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine didn’t have a lot of material to work with and, whether through a direct mandate from Capcom or a conscious decision on the part of its creative team, largely decided against including direct adaptations of the source material and, instead, preferred to tell spin-offs, side stories, and interludes. Most of these, honestly, didn’t really add much, if anything, to the series lore; we saw what happened in the diner moments before Claire Redfield arrived in Raccoon City, for example, and follow Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, and Barry Burton on a zombie slaughtering tour across Europe and Leon S. Kennedy fight giant, mutated bat creatures but a lot of it fell far from the mark.

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Honestly, Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine was at its best when it was telling recapped, truncated, or heavily modified adaptations of the first two games and was saved from mediocrity by some truly stunning and gory artwork. Although the series was short-lived, WildStorm revisited the Resident Evil franchise with a four-issue follow-up series published between 2000 and 2001 that, as it’s Halloween this month, I’ll be looking into. The Fire and Ice series focused entirely on original characters, some of whom even return from Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, and featured many of the same writers and artists as that first five-issue series, so it’ll be interesting to see if WildStorm have better success this time around with their original characters and stories than they did last time or if they’ll spew out more drivel like Jill inexplicably battling with a werewolf.

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Fire and Ice introduces us to a third S.T.A.R.S. arm, Charlie team.

Issue one opens up with the hitherto-unknown Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Charlie team battling against circus freaks infected with the Umbrella Corporation’s infamous G-Virus. The team, led by Falcon, consists of the knife-wielding Australian Quan Williamson, the high-kicking Rosa Cardenas, the tech-geek Jesse Alcorn, and Patrick Brady, who lugs around a comically large energy blasting bazooka.

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From simple security guard to highly-train, semi-superhuman S.T.A.R.S. member.

If Brady sounds familiar, it’s because he appeared in Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine where he was a simple security guard at the Raccoon City Zoo; although he managed to survive against a hoard of infected zoo animals, he was bitten by an infected prairie dog and exposed to the G-Virus. Luckily, he was saved by Leon (…because of course he was) and a S.T.A.R.S medical team were able to reverse the G-Virus effects (…despite the fact that they had failed in every other attempt). Somehow, as a side effect, Brady could also “sense the presence of the G-Virus” which, alongside his “natural fighting skills” (I mean, he was a security guard so I guess he had some training but I doubt it’s anything like Leon or Chris’s. Plus, I remember him panicking and running a lot in his first appearance…) got him a spot on Charlie team.

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Charlie team is…colourful, if nothing else.

After filling us in on Brady’s story, the comic then spends the next few pages introducing us to the rest of the team: Falcon, a muscle-bound archetypal action hero who seems like Terry Crews before Terry Crews was a thing and also briefly appeared in Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, is a former Army Ranger who was betrayed by his superiors and framed for an unexplained “international incident” before being inexplicably recruited by S.T.A.R.S. Rosa Cardenas is a bad-ass goth chick; a Mexican raised on a Hopi Indian reserve who is proficient in “tracking skills” who has a personal grudge against Umbrella and their experiments after her mother was killed in the aforementioned diner during the Raccoon City outbreak. Quan Williamson is not only Australian but also of “Thai descent” who left behind his promising academic career and his love of vehicles and machinery because of his natural aversion to authority and his desire to form a band, though his life was forever changed after he witnessed Leon’s fight against the aforementioned bat-men. The violent and slightly unhinged Jesse Alcorn also has a disdain for authority bordering on the psychotic as he used his “amazing computer skills” to hack in NORAD and nearly caused a nuclear war, after which he was given a choice: life in prison or join the S.T.A.R.S. Charlie team.

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Falcon is angered that Umbrella were waiting for them and specifically name him.

By this point, you might have noticed a common thread being weaved throughout the members of Charlie team: not only are they somewhat reminiscent of Task Force X (known by their more colourful title as the Suicide Squad) from DC Comics, each of them has either briefly featured on WildStorm’s previous Resident Evil comic series or has some link, however tenuous, with an existing and popular Resident Evil character. This reminds me very much of the way Paul W. S. Anderson would rope in popular Resident Evil characters like Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), Claire and Chris Redfield (Ali Larter and Wentworth Miller), and Leon Kennedy (Johann Urb) into his later Resident Evil movies (2002 to 2016) simply to give their approval to Alice (Milla Jovovich), the all-action star of his film series. As in those films, this association does very little to endear me to these original characters as all it does is make me wish I was watching (or reading about) the actual Resident Evil characters rather than these knock-offs. Frustrated by the onslaught of circus freaks and animals looking to tear their throats out, Falcon gives the order for the team to deploy a series of bombs and blow the whole circus to cinders. In the aftermath, they discover a mortally wounded Umbrella employee who, with his dying breath, not only hints that Umbrella were aware and prepared specifically for Charlie team’s arrival but also drops Falcon’s name, sending him into a rage.

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Raquel is assigned to a sub-team but is hiding a mysterious infection.

Back at their headquarters, Falcon introduces the team to their newest member, munitions export Raquel Fields, who essentially acts as the audience surrogate for the remainder of the issue as Falcon gives a brief introduction to his team members and then delves into a full-two page spread recapping the events of the first two Resident Evil games and detailing Charlie team’s overall mission goal: to track down, and put down, Umbrella once and for all. Although she claims to have missed the opening mission due to being knocked out in a training session, it turns out that Raquel is undergoing a severe mutation from a wound she sustained that she is going to great lengths to keep hidden from her team-mates. Having acquired a disk from the Umbrella agents at the circus, the team is then split into two sub-teams to investigate Umbrella’s laboratories in Alaska and Mexico, where they are apparently working on developing new viral strains. Rosa is placed in charge of Quan and Patrick in Alaska while Jesse, Raquel, and Falcon head south of the border; it’s this scene that really hammers home just how militaristic S.T.A.R.S. actually is; this was briefly shown in Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine but, generally, especially in the original Resident Evil videogames, the team always seemed to be more like a black ops arm of the Raccoon City police department rather than an extension of the U.S. military (even though they clearly had ties to the military).

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The issue ends on a cliffhanger with a literal Day of the Dead!

The issue ends on a cliffhanger as, when Falcon and the others arrive in Mexico, they discover that the annual Day of the Dead festival has become a literal Day of the Dead as the townsfolk are actually flesh hungry zombies! The final page of the issue is a teaser for issue two (which hints at a Tyrant but…well, we’ll see) and a quick blurb from editor Jeff Mariotte introducing readers to this new mini series.

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The action is loud and bloody…when it actually happens.

Disappointingly, the first issue of Resident Evil: Fire and Ice contains more exposition than action; it reminds me of the first issue of Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, which was more interested in retelling events than actually showing us them directly and creating tenuous links to characters we know and love from the videogames. However, when the action does kick in, it’s just as bloody and explosive as ever and the artwork is decent enough, for the most part, but the character designs are extremely derivative and very nineties for a comic released in 2000. Each character is decked out in bulging muscles or impractical leather and buckle-clad outfits, wielding massive weapons and sporting such impractical accessories as eye goggles and a Mohawk. Visually, it allows you to easily tell each character apart, which is especially helpful when you’re dealing with original characters, but none of them exude the simple aesthetic of the earlier Resident Evil characters who didn’t need anything more lavish than practical, military-grade hardware and gear.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you read Fire and Ice when it first released? If so, what did you think of Charlie team? Did you ever read the earlier Resident Evil comics published by WildStorm? Which Resident Evil videogame or character would you like to see a comic book series about? Do you have a favourite piece of ancillary Resident Evil media? Drop a comment down below and be sure to check out my review of issue two.

Game Corner: Resident Evil (2002; Xbox One)

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Released: 2015
Originally Released: March 2002
Developer: Capcom
Original Developer: Capcom Production Studio 4
Also Available For: GameCube, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Xbox 360

The Background:
I mean…you’ve heard of Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996), right? It was one of the seminal titles for Sony’s burgeoning PlayStation and, through its atmospheric horror and stringent emphasis on conserving resources, practically invented (if not massively popularised) the “survival-horror” subgenre. Yet, for everything the game does right, it can’t be denied that the original Resident Evil has seen better days; graphics that were once groundbreaking and innovative have since become embarrassingly blocky and clunky, to say nothing of the dodgy, B-/porn-movie level voice acting peppered through the original release. Thus, in 2002, Capcom developed a complete remake of their iconic horror title as part of a deal to release new Resident Evil titles exclusively on the GameCube. This remake overhauled the graphics and voice acting considerably but also added a whole bunch of new areas to explore and enemies to encounter.

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In 2002, Capcom created a complete remake of Resident Evil exclusively for the GameCube.

Yet, despite improving on its predecessor (and many of its sequels) in almost every way, being one of the most atmospheric and terrifying entries in the series, and being critically praised upon its release, the Resident Evil remake sold comparatively poorly and was one of the many reasons why Capcom would go on to adopt a more action-orientated approach to their popular franchise. I never owned a PlayStation back in the day, though I do recall playing the original Resident Evil here and there, so my first real exposure to the franchise was the amazing port of Resident Evil 2 (Capcom, 1998) for the Nintendo 64. After opting for a GameCube over the PlayStation 2, I went out of my way to pick up the Resident Evil remake and loved it but, at the time, couldn’t really give it the focus and attention such an immersive game required. However, sometime before I reviewed pretty much every single Resident Evil title for the Xbox One, I was gifted the Resident Evil: Origins Collection (ibid, 2016) and put a lot of time into this under-rated remake. I recently returned to the game to sweep up some missing Achievements and decided to make up for not posting a review of it then.

The Plot:
When a series of mysterious and violent deaths occur in the Arklay Mountains outside of Raccoon City, the Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Bravo team are dispatched to investigate. However, when all contact with Bravo team is lost, Alpha team heads in to find them, only to be attacked by mutated dogs and driven into a sinister mansion where they are soon separated and attacked by hoards of flesh-eating zombies!

Gameplay:
Resident Evil is a traditional survival-horror videogame that sees players choosing between two playable characters: Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield. While both ostensibly play the same, they do have specific strengths and weaknesses (Jill can carry more items but Chris can take more damage, for example; Jill can also open certain doors and drawers with her lock pick while Chris always carries a lighter to solve certain puzzles) and encounter different characters and use different weapons over the course of the game.

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Your controls and perspective are limited for increased tension.

Like all mainline Resident Evil titles at the time, Resident Evil employs a restrictive control scheme; however, the “tank controls” of the original game have, thankfully, been tweaked so that characters can freely explore their fully-rendered surroundings with far more freedom of movement. Your perspective is still limited by a series of dynamic and atmospheric camera angles, meaning that you won’t see any two areas from the same viewpoint; this is great for building tension and enabling the game’s jump scares but somewhat intrusive when, in the heat of desperately trying to escape from an enemy, the camera perspective suddenly switches on you and your controls become effectively reversed, meaning that it’s always best to plan ahead for a possible escape route.

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Inventory management is key to your survival.

This foresight is most emphasised in the game’s stringent inventory system; as was the standard for Resident Evil titles at the time, characters can only carry a certain number of items before their inventory is maxed out and learning how best to manage your inventory is the key to your survival. Many items (herbs, mostly) can be combined together to take up less inventory space while others must be examined to find another item (usually an elaborate key of some kind). If your inventory is full, you can deposit your items into one of the many fourth-dimensional Item Boxes scattered throughout the game’s many locations to be retrieved at a later date. To help you navigate the game’s maze-like areas, you can also find a series of maps that helpfully display locked doors, whether areas have any items you need, and where typewriters and Item Boxes are located. You can also pick-up defensive items (daggers, tasers, and flash grenades) that will either instantly kill or severely incapacitate any zombie that tries to take a bite out of you and also use your fuel canteen and lighter to ignite corpses and stop them returning as Crimson Heads. Story is a huge part of Resident Evil; as you progress, cutscenes will reveal more of the mysteries behind the mansion and Umbrella but you’ll also pick up files and documents as you play that further flesh out the story, the history of the mansion, the specifics of Umbrella’s bizarre experiments, and even provide hints towards the game’s puzzles.

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Combat is often a case of fight or flight.

Combat in the remake is smoother than in the original but still far chunkier and restrictive compared to the Capcom’s more action-orientated titles, primarily because tackling foes head on is generally discouraged even if you do have ample supplies of ammo. Zombies (and the other Bio-Organic Weapons (BOWs) created by the malevolent Umbrella Corporation) absorb your bullets like a sponge and, even if they do go down for the count, will return after a certain amount of in-game time has elapsed faster and stronger than ever. Even if this doesn’t happen, they are largely replaced by the deadly Hunters later in the game that will require more than your standard pistol ammo to put down so conserving your resources is paramount to your ability to survive. When attacked, your character’s health and current status is displayed through an EKG-like display. When it turns yellow or red, falling into “Caution” or “Danger” status, or a blue-purple for the “Poisoned” status, your odds of survival will decrease dramatically; your character will begin to limp and hobble around, severely reducing your mobility, and it is highly advised that you make use of the herbs and first-aid sprays to replenish your health and return your status to “Fine”. In keeping with the style of the series at the time, your progress can only be saved by using an Ink Ribbon at one of the many typewriters you’ll find across the game’s locations; if you die, you’ll have to re-load your last save point and try again but be warned because your final score takes into consideration how many saves you make across a playthrough so, if you want the best results, it’s encouraged that you limit your saves.

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You may need help escaping the game’s many death traps.

Some enemies deal more damage than others, some are even capable of killing you in one swipe of their claws, and the game’s many environments are also filled with instant-death traps that require you to solve puzzles in a certain way or make certain choices so that you can be saved by one of the game’s supporting characters. These characters will also provide you with better weapons and helpful items; one, Rebecca Chambers, even becomes playable at a key moment to help Chris synthesis concoctions that normally only Jill can produce. Rebecca, and Barry Burton, also help out by solving puzzles and defeating certain bosses for you if you make the right decisions, which can be extremely useful for conserving your resources and aiding a speedrun. Resident Evil is chock full of puzzles, traps, and elaborate areas to explore; the bulk of your game time is spent exploring the disturbing Spencer Mansion, whose doors are locked behind themed keys and rooms are filled with ornate statues and lavish decorations, but you’ll also explore a neighbouring graveyard, an underwater passageway, an Aqua Ring, and, of course, a high-tech laboratory filled with Umbrella’s bizarre experiments. In each area, you’ll have to solve puzzles either by interacting with them or bringing items with you; these may be a key, or a battery to power a lift, or intricate medallions to access hidden walkways, meaning that no item you find will ever be completely useless.

Graphics and Sound:
Even now, some twenty years after it was originally released for the GameCube, the Resident Evil remake holds up fantastically well; while the original became dated very quickly, the remake still looks gorgeous and up to the standards of even Capcom’s recent efforts. Environments are fully-rendered and bathed in a variety of lighting; most areas are swamped in shadow or lit only by the suitably dramatic lightning from outside the mansion, while others are fully lit so you can bask in the ornate decorations and Gothic aesthetic of your surroundings.

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Resident Evil‘s various Gothic and twisted locations are all rendered beautifully.

As you explore further, you’ll venture out into the wind- and rain-swept areas outside of the mansion, explore a creepy, dilapidated cabin and a disgusting semi-flooded passageway beneath it, and even a dank tomb reminiscent of something out of a Bram Stoker novel. These elaborate locations are offset by the more clinical, high-tech areas created by Umbrella; the Aqua Ring and laboratory have been wrecked by the corporation’s experiments, juxtaposing Umbrella’s fiendish modern technology with the lavish, almost supernatural qualities of the mansion and its surroundings.

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The cutscenes propel the game’s elaborate narrative forward.

Unlike the original, which spliced cringe-worthy live-action sequences in with its equally cringey dialogue, the remake opts for fully-rendered computer-generated cutscenes to tell its story (which, thankfully, is just as over-the-top as ever). The script has been entirely overhauled, meaning that the game makes far more sense and the narrative is played far more seriously this time around, which only adds to the feeling of dread inspired as you skulk around the dark, tight, winding corridors of the mansion. Music is sparse and used (or omitted) to create tension or inform the player that they are in a safe (or dangerous) area; subdued and melancholy, you’re far more likely to hear the rustling of footsteps, the chattering shrieks of some unseen creature, or the soft moans of a zombie waiting just off-screen than anything else. When the jump-scares happen, they are often punctuated by the sudden introduction of a heart-pounding tune that keeps you constantly on edge even when revisiting areas you know have been cleared of enemies.

Enemies and Bosses:
The main obstacle you’ll encounter in your desperate fight to survive will be the many zombies that populate your surroundings; the most common enemy, zombies will slowly shuffle towards you, moaning and groaning, and will try to take a bite out of you at any opportunity. A few well-placed shots will put them down but, to destroy them for good, it’s best to whip out the shotgun and tilt your aim towards their heads, blow them to pieces with the grenade launcher, or hope that your pistol gets a lucky headshot. You’ll also encounter one of the most annoying reoccurring enemies in the entire franchise, the zombified dogs known as Cerberus. These little bastards are fast and agile, leaping at you, pinning you down, and chomping at your arm and are always a bastard to get a good shot at. Ravenous crows can also be found in certain areas but these will generally just sit there, cawing ominously, and won’t attack you unless provoked. To mix things up a bit in the remake and add even more tension to your gameplay, the developers introduced a mechanic whereby any zombie that hasn’t had its head blown off or burned to a charred corpse will return to undead life as a faster, far more vicious and deadly Crimson Head after enough time has passed. This adds another layer to the game as you must choose between dodging the slower, weaker zombies or taking the time to burn up their corpses rather than risking your health and ammo on their supped-up evolution.

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Spiders may poison you but the Hunters will rip your head off!

As you venture outside of the mansion, you’ll also have to contend with snakes dropping on you and hissing at your feet, giant spiders that can poison you, and voracious mutated sharks just waiting to chomp you in two. Once you return from this side quest, most of the zombies in the mansion will have been replaced with the ferocious Hunters; these dangerous frog-like creatures leap and run at you, swiping with their claws, can kill you in one hit, and you’ll even encounter a sturdier variant that can also poison you. Once you delve into Umbrella’s secret laboratory, you’ll also have to battle the nightmarish Chimera creatures, weird little human/insect hybrids that skitter along the floors and ceilings just waiting to take your head off!

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Umbrella’s experiments have mutated animals to monstrous sizes!

Umbrella’s experiments also give birth to some gigantic and horrific bosses; you’ll encounter the giant snake, Yawn, a couple of times, a monstrous tarantula, a colossal acid-spewing plant, and the prototype of the Crimson Heads down in a tomb. Interestingly, a lot of these bosses can either be avoided entirely or destroyed by solving a puzzle or the intervention of a supporting character. Plant 42, for example, can be destroyed by mixing a chemical compound to kill its roots; the aforementioned giant tarantula can be avoided entirely and you destroy the massive shark in the Aqua Ring by electrocuting it with a nearby control panel. The remake introduces a new recurring boss to the story as well, the immortal and unkillable Lisa Trevor. As the prototype for many of Umbrella’s later, more monstrous experiments, Lisa is a deformed, shambling mess who is completely resistant to all forms of gunfire. When you hear the rattling of hear chains and the low, despairing moans, all you can do is run and desperately try to avoid her incredibly powerful blows. Unlike Mr. X or Nemesis, Lisa doesn’t stalk you around the mansion, which is helpful, and your encounters with her pretty much all take place in an area that allows you to easily dodge past her and stay out of her reach. When the time comes to finally confront her, Barry or Albert Wesker will provide cover fire, allowing you to push four stones down a pit, uncovering the corpse of Lisa’s mother and driving the poor girl to leap to her death.

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Hold out long enough and you’ll get the chance to put the Tyrant down for good.

After exploring the length and breadth of Umbrella’s hidden laboratory, Wesker, your commander in chief, reveals himself to be a traitor and unleashes Umbrella’s most powerful BOW: the grotesque Tyrant, which quickly skewers Wesker and seemingly ending his threat forever. You’re then left to deal with the Tyrant yourself, which can be tricky given the creature’s massive reach and damage-inducing claws but, thanks to the layout of the laboratory, you can easily run circles around it, shooting at it whenever you can, and putting it down through a mixture of perseverance and patience. Depending on how you played the game and which characters have survived, you may have to battle the Tyrant once more as the now-obligatory self-destruct countdown takes place and you wait to be rescued from a helipad. This time, the Tyrant is much faster, dashing at you from afar and stabbing and slashing at you with its claws but, after enough damage has been dealt and/or time has past, you’ll soon acquire a rocket launcher to blow the creature to smithereens and make your dramatic escape.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Unlike later Resident Evil titles, there’s no way for you to increase your inventory capacity or upgrade your weapons or ammo with add-ons and elaborate combinations. However, as you explore your surroundings, you will find better and more powerful weapons, some of which are exclusive to each character; Chris, for example, gets his hands on a good, old-fashioned shotgun while Jill opts for a grenade launcher.

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You’ll have to jump through a few hoops to get the game’s most powerful weapons.

To get the game’s most powerful weapons, though, you’ll need to solve certain puzzles, meet certain criteria, or beat the game within a certain time limit on different difficulty settings. Bring a certain medallion with you on the way to Lisa’s cabin or allow Barry to die at Lisa’s hands, for example, and you can acquire a super-powerful Magnum and the way that you handle fellow S.T.A.R.S. agent Richard Aiken can net you a powerful assault shotgun.

Additional Features:
As you might expect, the Xbox One version of the game has quite a few Achievements linked to it that you can get. Most of these are story-based and therefore unmissable but others test your skills in increasingly challenging ways; there’s Achievements tied to saving (or not saving) your fellow S.T.A.R.S. team mates, one for finding 100% of the items across the game’s many locations, two tied to speed runs, one for acquiring every weapon, and even one that asks you to beat the game using only a knife to kill enemies and bosses.

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Beat the game fast enough and you’ll earn infinite weapons.

Beating the game allows you to option to replay it on one of four difficulties, ranging from “Very Easy” to “Hard”, each of which places different items, amounts of ammo and Ink Ribbons, and even enemies across the game. As is the style of Resident Evil titles, you are rewarded for how fast you complete the game, how many saves and deaths you have, and for finishing the game on higher difficulty levels. Beating the game quickly enough or “Normal” or higher can net you the Samurai Edge or even the infinite rocket launcher, both of which will make subsequent playthroughs and absolute breeze. You can also unlock different costumes for your characters, allowing you to play using skins from later Resident Evil titles, and even a couple of new game modes. “Real Survival” is basically Hard mode but you can no longer access all of your items from every Item Box, “Invisible Enemy” mode turns all of the game’s enemies invisible, and beating the game with both characters on “Normal” finds you hounded throughout every subsequent playthrough by one dangerous zombie strapped with game-ending grenades!

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The Summary:
The Resident Evil remake is still a fantastic gaming experience; it took everything that worked from its blocky, cringe-inducing original and ramped it up to eleven. Arguably, Resident Evil has never looked better thanks to the game’s gorgeously-rendered environments, atmospheric use of lighting, and impressive in-game cutscenes and this remake still stands as the last true example of a traditional survival-horror Resident Evil title thanks to the way it incorporates the restrictive controls and camera angles of the franchise’s early days but tweaks and refines them with a more modern finish. Honestly, back when this game came out, I fully expected Capcom to use the same engine to remake Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (ibid, 1999) and I would have perfectly happy with that given how well this worked for not only the remake but also Resident Evil Zero (ibid, 2002). They didn’t, of course, and the closest we’ve gotten to something akin to the Resident Evil remake was Resident Evil 5’s (ibid, 2009) “Lost in Nightmares” downloadable content. As much as I like the remakes Capcom have produced and the way the franchise is heading back towards creepy, atmospheric, almost claustrophobic horror, I can’t help but be saddened that they don’t continue to tweak and refine the game engine they crafted for this remake as it really does deliver the definitive version of Resident Evil.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What did you think of the Resident Evil remake? How do you think it compares to the remakes Capcom have recently produced, or even to the original? Do you prefer the original over the remake? Would you have liked to see more Resident Evil titles adopt the game engine used here or do you prefer the more action-orientated style of even the recent remakes? Either way, feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.