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.

Game Corner: The Evil Within 2 (Xbox One)

Released: 13 October 2017
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Also Available For: PC and PlayStation 4

The Background:
After a long and illustrious career at Capcom in which he created and spearheaded the Resident Evil franchise (Capcom/Various, 1996 to present), Shinji Mikami left to help found Tango Gameworks in a bid to develop new properties and titles, such as The Evil Within (Tango Gameworks, 2014). Although critical reception of the game was somewhat mixed, The Evil Within sold well enough to justify a sequel, which began development shortly after Mikami’s team had finished up working on the first game’s downloadable content (DLC). In response to some of the criticisms regarding the first game’s convoluted plot, the team sought to make The Evil Within 2 more comprehensible while also placing greater emphasis on psychological horror elements. Despite a much shorter production period and some notable technical hiccups, The Evil Within 2 fared much better with critics than its predecessor and was generally regarded to be an improvement over the original.

The Plot.
Three years after the events of the first game, Sebastian Castellanos has left the Krimson City Police Department and continues to be haunted by his experiences. Driving to alcoholism by the death of his child, Lily, and the break-up of his marriage, he reluctantly agrees to re-enter the nightmarish world that plagues his dreams when it is revealed that Lily was actually being used as the Core for a new STEM system.

Gameplay:
The Evil Within 2 is, fundamentally, extremely similar to the first game but also noticeably different in many ways. Where the first game really emphasised a twisted, nightmarish world where anything was possible and that was populated by a variety of gruesome creatures and restricted your resources to keep you constantly fighting for survival, The Evil Within 2 is much more linear and action-orientated title. The difficulty setting you pick for your playthrough will determine how much ammo and damage you can take, which is pretty standard, but even on the “Normal” difficulty, “Survival”, there’s quite a bit of ammo, crafting items, and opportunities to replenish your health through the game, certainly more than in the first game.

The game’s controls are largely the same as before but tweaked for the better.

Control wise, however, the game is basically exactly the same; you can aim your weapon with LT, shoot with RT, and reload with X, and interact with your environment with A but, this time around, your melee attack is also mapped to RT and Y brings out your Communicator, which allows you to lock on to signals and help lead you towards objectives and objects of interest. Thankfully, you no longer need to worry about burning bodies so, rather than tossing matches with B, B activates your flashlight (Sebastian is no longer hampered by a large lantern this time around), though you can still sprint by pressing in the left analogue stick.

Stay low and sneak around to avoid detection and perform an instant kill move.

Like before, stealth and taking cover is a big part of the gameplay; you can snap to nearby cover by pressing the Right Bumper and shift from cover to cover by pressing up on the left stick. Pressing in the right analogue stick will see you crouch down and sneak around and, when enemies are nearby, you’ll again see the return of the eye-themed “Enemy Alertness” icon that will help you to know when you’ve been spotted. This time around, though, it is much easier to spring away from enemies and out of sight to keep them from pursuing you and there are far ore opportunities for you to sneak up behind enemies and perform a one-hit Sneak Kill, and you’re also given the option to enable or disable an “aim assist” that is super helpful in targeting enemies but combat is much more fluid and far less awkward this time around even without this.

Save areas have now been expanded into two locations to allow you to heal up and upgrade you attributes.

Interestingly, the game also offers the option to enable a first-person perspective; I didn’t play with this as first-person games aren’t really my thing but there was a point in the story that forced you into this perspective and it’s unusual to see this feature included in a game, so it’s interesting, if nothing else. There are far opportunities available to you to heal and craft resources; by exploring your environments, you’ll find Weapons Parts, gunpowder, fuses, and other items that can all be used in workbenches in “Safe Houses” to craft ammo and upgrade your weapons. In these Safe Houses, you’ll usually find similar resources to top up your inventory and will always find a coffee maker, which will fully refill your health with one soothing sip. You can’t abuse this mechanic, however, as it takes time for the machine to refill but you can warp through a cracked mirror like in the last game. This takes you to Sebastian’s office, where you can view documents, slides, access another workbench, and upgrade Sebastian’s other abilities (such as health and stealth) using the torture chair from the last game. In both Safe Houses and Sebastian’s office, you’ll find a terminal for you to insert your Communicator and save but, like before, the game is pretty generous with autosave points.

The addition of a Communicator, map, and waypoints makes navigation a breeze this time around.

The Communicator is a pretty big addition to the game and, yet, paradoxically not that integral at the same time. At a number of key moments in the story, you’ll have to hold X to tune into a frequency that will lead you to your next story-based objective and Sebastian will often stop (or continue walking) to chat with the game’s various non-playable characters (NPCs) and expand the story. Perhaps the best addition to the game is the inclusion of a map, which is accessed from the inventory menu; from here, you can see a simple to understand layout of the immediate area, key locations like Safe Houses, and set up a waypoint marker that allows you to easily navigate towards any location. It’s amazing how much of a difference this makes, though it is slightly unnecessary as the game is far more linear than the first game despite the fact that you’re often exploring much larger and more open areas this time around.

Access your weapons on the fly without fear of attack and chat with NPCs for side quests and exposition.

The heads-up display (HUD) remains very similar to the last game and is noticeably sparse to help with your immersion in the game but, this time, you can completely disable it (and all onscreen indicators) from the game’s settings. When you access the “Arsenal Menu” with the Left Bumper, the game actually pauses to allow you to time to select weapons or map them to the directional pad for quick access, which is super helpful. Later on, you can also craft ammo on the go from this menu as well, though it costs you more Weapon Parts to do this on the go as opposed to at a workbench. When talking to NPCs, you’ll often be given a number of different dialogue options that allow you to learn a bit more about these characters, the world around them, and activate side missions. Thankfully, you can skip through or ignore these entirely if you want and the game’s plot and ending don’t really change based on your choices.

Puzzles are few and far between and extremely simple, even when compared to the first game.

The first game was often littered with traps, many of which would kill you in a heartbeat, but the same isn’t true for The Evil Within 2. There are only a handful of moments where explosive trap wires will dog your progress (this time around, you can’t disable them and must simply duck under them or trick enemies into tripping them on your behalf) and absolutely no instant death traps, which is nice but also removes a lot of the tension and trial and error. The most consistent trap you’ll have to navigate is a series of electrified wires that require you to duck under and inch around to reach your target but one area that did slightly stand out was when you were forced to don a gas mask and forgo the use of your firearms to avoid causing a fatal explosion. There are also a few more instances where you’ll be asked to mask buttons (usually just A) to open doors, pull levers, or turn cranks or rotate the analogue sticks to line up frequency waves to open doors but puzzles are generally extremely simple (even more so than the last game) and boil down to maybe finding a key, flicking switches in the correct order, using a door’s markings to decode a cipher, or shooting a Shock Bolt at a fuse box to open a door.

The game is much more linear but there are still opportunities for exploration..

Gameplay is broken up a little bit but has far less variety than in the first game; alongside the aforementioned brief first-person sequence, there is one moment where you and Esmeralda Torres have to hold out against waves of enemies but you’re never asked to take the controls of a mounted machine gun or battle enemies on a moving vehicle or distract larger enemies with bodies this time around. Instead, the emphasis is largely more on exploration; there are numerous instances where you must access a computer and travel through “The Marrow” (which is a sparse, poor attempt at masking a loading screen) to access an underground bunker and different areas of the town of Unity and you’re generally given free reign to explore, which can lead to you partially completing side quests without realising it. As you explore, you’ll get notified whenever your Communicator picks up a signal, which can lead you to viewing “Residual Memories” to understand a bit more about STEM, Mobius, and Unity and the usual documents, newspaper clippings, and diaries will also help flesh things out but it can’t be denied that the story is much less complex this time around.

Graphics and Sound:
Honestly, The Evil Within 2 doesn’t look that much different to its predecessor; character models are really well done and lifelike (though Sebastian remains a visually uninspiring character) but, despite areas being much bigger, the game’s environments lack much of the foreboding atmosphere and horrific imagery of the first game.

While surreal imagery is still prominent, it’s not as visually interesting or macabre as before.

Unity is quite an uninspiring town; though the influence of the game’s first antagonist, Stefano Valentini, is often felt through the presence of disturbing pictures, a giant camera eye lens in the sky, and murdered Mobius agents frozen in time and staged as “art”, the more bizarre aspects of STEM (twisted hallways, crumbling cities and landscapes, and macabre, nightmarish locations) are downplayed in favour of more sterile locations. The game progressively gets more warped and strange as you progress, though, and by the time you reach the final chapter you’ll be wandering around Unity as it collapses around or and through a desolate limbo trying to rescue Sebastian’s wife but I have to say that I miss the emphasis on gore and disgusting, disconcerting imagery over The Evil Within 2’s more subdued and cerebral presentation.

Graphically, the game doesn’t seem much better than its predecessor and is arguably worse in a lot of ways.

The enemies also suffer a bit because of this; before, they were twisted, terrifying creatures that drew inspiration from a wide variety of media and came in all different variants but here they’re mainly just moaning zombies or flaming brutes. That’s not to say that there aren’t some disturbing enemies and locations in the game (the Obscura and Anima are two of the more horrific enemies and the stronghold of the game’s true antagonist, Father Theodore Wallace, is like a Lovecraftian cathedral) but the problem is that they’re just not as prevalent or as immediately creepy as in the last game. It’s telling, to me, that the finale sees Sebastian forced to relive a few key encounters from the first game and seeing the return of the Keeper enemy only served to reinforce how the sequel’s creature designs are somewhat lacking compared to the original. Add to that the fact that I glitched through some steps once, that there was occasionally a delay in textures loading and graphics popping up around me, and the fact that the game flat out soft locked on me once right before I was about he save and The Evil Within 2 seems like a bit of a step back in terms of its presentation despite appearing to be bigger and the gameplay largely being much more fluid and enjoyable.

Enemies and Bosses:
The enemies in The Evil Within 2 are known as “The Lost” and, as mentioned previously, are far less visually interesting than in the last game, where the looked like weird Cenobite/zombie hybrids that had crawled out of some nightmarish fever dream. Shambling, zombie-like creatures, the Lost shuffle about and are generally found tearing into corpses, wandering around, or rising from apparent death. They were charge at you if they spot you, throw you to the ground, attack with knifes or axes, and like to try and take a bite out of your neck but, as also mentioned, it’s pretty easy to outrun them, stealth kill them, and take out large numbers using explosive barrels, setting fire to oil pools, or electrocuting them by shooting Shock Bolts into pools of water.

Enemies, while still horrific at times, seem much more generic and predictable compared to their predecessors.

While many of the game’s creatures leave a lot to be desire, there are some interesting and disturbing enemies on offer here: Spawn are gruesome, scuttling corpses that leap at you with their huge jaws full of sharp fangs; Hysterics attack you with knives; the bulbous Glutton creatures will explode when they reach you or are attacked; and the Disciples cause additional damage thanks to their flaming bodies. You’ll also occasionally be tormented by the onryō-like Anima who, similar to Ruvik in the last game, appears every now and then and is completely immune to your attacks; she also drains your health if she gets close to you and forces you to crouch and dash through an ever-shifting maze and you’ll also have to sneak around the glob-like Watcher at one point (or risk trying to kill it by shooting it in the face).

The monstrous Guardian is a nightmareish mish-mash of linbs and giggling heads with a buzz saw for a hand!

Similar to the last game, the game only really features a handful of bosses, many of which function more like sub bosses and return as regular enemies after being defeated. The first of these you’ll encounter is the abominable Guardian, a gruesome miss-match or bodies and limbs that wields a buzz saw for a hand and pursues you relentlessly at the beginning of the game. Later, you’ll be forced to battle one outside of Cit Hall but, while there’s lots of ammo, health, and places to get a reprieve nearby, you can also dart down an alley way and cause it to be damage by trap wire traps as you escape into the building through a side door. Similarly, you’ll battle the flamethrower-wielding Harbinger first as a boss (where you can shoot at the fuel tank on its back to disable its weapon and set it alight and use nearby levers to douse its flames with the sprinklers overheard) and then as regular enemies out in the streets.

It’s a shame more of the game’s enemies aren’t as disturbing as these bosses…

The aforementioned Obscura also appears more than once; this demonic creature is one of the game’s most striking and memorable monsters in the game and resembles a weird, mangled corpse with an old style camera for a head! It scuttles about on the ceiling in the first encounter and you’re forced to hold it off and survive while waiting for an emitter machine to activate and, if you’re caught in its camera flash, time will slow to a crawl, allowing it to grab at you and attack you. Later, you’ll also encounter the monstrous Effigy, which merges with a nearby telephone pole and tries to smash you with both the pole and its claw-like hands.

After getting past Stefano, you’ll be tasked with fending off some familiar faces from the first game.

When you finally confront Stefano, the battle is one of the more subdued in the game in its first phase, which sees him teleport around his gallery in a puff of smoke and slashing at you with his knife. Once enough damage has been done to him, though, he’ll distort the area into a hellscape and get backup from his gigantic camera eye. Later, during your pursuit of Theodore, you’ll be forced to battle the chainsaw-wielding berserker (more of an interactive cutscene where you simple press A to slice him in two), three of the Keepers (easily dispatched with your more powerful weapons), and even Laura from the first game. This latter battle takes place in the furnace as before but, by that point, you’ll have access to a flamethrower than can make short work of her, too.

Myra’s horrific final form is a much more difficult finale compared to the simplistic battle against Ruvik.

Battling the Effigy is basically a taster of the game’s final battle against Sebastian’s corrupted with, Myra, who transforms into a similar gigantic creature for the finale. Unlike the final fight against Ruvik, this actually requires you to use your own weapons and ammo and a far greater degree of skill as you have to dodge her massive arms and shoot at her stomach to expose her first weak spot. Destroy this and you’ll have to stomp a load of spiders (which will drop ammo and resources) before blasting her arm fro her torso. When this severed limb grabs you, you’ll have to shoot its glowing stump in slow motion before blasting the glowing weak spot in her head. Compared to Ruvik, it’s a much tougher and more involved boss battle but, even then, the game drags out its ending to an uncomfortable degree, featuring a number of long-winded cutscenes and even a brief sequence where you take control of Juli Kidman to shoot down some Mobius agents.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Like before, The Evil Within 2’s locations contain a great deal of resources for you to find by interacting with the environment and smashing wooden crates. Syringes and medical kits will restore your health and you can also find ammo, new weapons in special cases, and both the returning Green Gel and the brand new Red Gel. These can also be earned when, soon into the game, a shooting gallery becomes accessible from Sebastian’s office that places you in a simplisic recreation of areas from the first game and tasks you with hitting high scores to earn Green Gel, Weapon Parts, and other resources. Sebastian’s office also allows you to sit in the familiar torture chair and use your Green Gel to upgrade his abilities; this will increase your maximum health and stamina, your ability to recover both of these, and a number of new abilities. For example, you can upgrade to break free of an enemy’s grip with a bottle if you have one in your inventory, dodge out of the way of enemy attacks, perform Sneak Kills under cover of your Smoke Bolts, or Ambush Kills by stealthily approaching from cover. The Red Gel is used in this skill tree to unlock additional skill levels, which seems a little pointless but it gives you something else to look out for, I guess.

Weapons can be upgraded at workbenches at the cost of Weapon Parts.

From the chair, you can also use the keys you find by smashing special statues to once again open up lockers for additional resources. Many of the weapons Sebastian has access to return, or are very similar, to those from the previous game; he carries a knife for melee combat but can instantly kill enemies if he grabs a one-use axe or distract them by throwing bottles, which can now be stacked in your inventory. Very soon, you’ll get hold of a handgun and, in time, acquire such familiar weapons as a shotgun, sniper rifle (which I had very little use for), assault rifle, and the returning crossbow (now called the Warden Crossbow and capable of firing only explosive, smoke, shock, freeze, or harpoon rounds). Later, you’ll also grab a flamethrower and, after completing the game, gain access to the magnum but you can also find better versions of the handgun and shotgun by exploring your environments. Each weapon can be upgraded from a workbench using Weapon Parts; this allows you to increase their ammo capacity, firepower, and reloaded rate, among others, and this skill tree is similarly expanded with High Grade Weapon Parts. You can also find ammo pouches of certain corpses to increase your ammo capacity and, while pipebombs are missing, the Warden Crossbow is much more accurate and wieldy this time around.

Additional Features:
There are fifty-one Achievements available in The Evil Within 2, the majority of which are earned by simply playing through and completing chapters of the story mode. You’ll also earn Achievements for defeating a certain number of enemies (both in general and in certain ways, like with Stealth Kills and your crossbow bolts), upgrading weapons, and finding collectibles. There are a number of special items you can find that will appear in Sebastian’s office, which are tied to Achievements, and you’ll also earn them for clearing certain sections in certain ways, which will require you to reload a previous save point to pop them in one go.

A few unlockables and bonus content add a little replay value but there’s no additional story DLC this time.

Right off the bat, there are free difficulty levels to choose from; when you clear the game, you’ll unlock another, access to the magnum, 40,000 Green Gel points, and a number of skins for Sebastian (which, while nothing too groundbreaking, help to mix up subsequent playthroughs). By signing up for a Bethesda account, and depending on how you purchase the game, you can also access additional perks, such as the “Last Chance Pack” code, which adds a bunch of bonus items to your inventory but, most usefully, the ability to toggle on one-hit kills, infinite stamina, and infinite health. As you’re not penalised for using these “cheats”, the game is made a complete cakewalk with these activated and means you can stack Achievements by just ploughing through on the hardest difficulty without fear of being killed. Also accessible after clearing the game is “New Game Plus”, which carries over all of your upgrades and unlocks and skins and such to a new save file. Unfortunately, you can’t upscale the difficulty when playing New Game Plus and must, instead, start a new file to play on a harder difficulty. There is also no other downloadable content to expand the game’s story or add in new modes like in the last game, no unlockable rocket launcher, and, worst of all, you can no longer freely jump to the game’s chapters, which means that you’ll have to play through the game from the start to mop up any missing Achievements.

The Summary:
In many ways, I preferred The Evil Within 2 over the original; just the inclusion of a map and waypoint system makes it a much more user-friendly experience and the combat has been tweaked just enough so that you’re not hesitating to engage with enemies. The story, which focuses much more on Sebastian and makes him a far more proactive figure, is also far less convoluted (at least until the ending) and the options available for combat make it much more interesting to play. However, it’s undeniably a much more linear game despite how big the locations are and lacks a lot of the features that make The Evil Within interesting and horrific; enemies and environments are rather drab and uninspired, the puzzles are simple and barely a factor, gameplay variety leaves a lot to be desired, and it’s just far less disturbing than the original. Interestingly, while I found the first game frustrating at times, I didn’t consider it to be so hard that it needed cheats for infinite health and stamina and, while I appreciated these inclusions, making it so that you can finish the game and get all the Achievements with these activated really renders any tension redundant and I simply ran around melee attacking enemies and killing them in one hit to complete alleviate the survival aspects of the game as much as the developers eliminated the horror elements by toning down the macabre, disturbing visuals.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think to The Evil Within 2? Do you think it was better, worse, or just as good as the original? What did you think to the change in presentation, mechanics, and tone? Were you disappointed with the enemy designs and presentation like I was or did you find it just as disturbing as before? What did you think to the story and the new antagonists? Did you play the game with the cheats activated; if not, what did you think to the game’s difficulty? Would you like to see another entry in this franchise or do you think it’s best left alone now? Whatever your thoughts on The Evil Within games, feel free to drop a comment below.

Game Corner: The Evil Within (Xbox One)

Released: 14 October 2014
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Also Available For: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360

The Background:
Shinji Mikami joined Capcom in 1990 and worked on a number of successful handheld, 8- and 16-bit titles during his first six years with the company. In 1996, though, Mikami developed the first Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996) videogame, which not only popularised the “survival-horror” subgenre but was an incredible success upon release. Since then, Mikami spearheaded or was heavily involved in Resident Evil’s sequels and spin-offs, including taking over as director of Resident Evil 4 (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2005) and changing the direction of the franchise. However, by 2010, Mikami had left Capcom to develop new properties and titles under Tango Gameworks; the first of these was The Evil Within (known as Psycho Break in Japan), a title which Mikami aimed to return to the roots of the survival-horror genre, which had become increasingly actionorientated over the years. Despite some criticism regarding technical issues, The Evil Within was received rather favourably; while some struggled with the game’s difficulty and convoluted plot, the atmosphere and horror elements were notably praised. The game was also the second-best selling game in the United Kingdom upon release and earned an even more highly regarded sequel in 2017.

The Plot:
After arriving at a brutal massacre, Detective Sebastian Castellanos is pulled into a distorted world full of nightmarish locations and horrid creatures after pursuing a mysterious, seemingly supernatural hooded figure known as Ruvik. Trapped with limited resources and relentlessly hunted, Sebastian is left to fight for his survival and uncover the mystery of Ruvik and the horrific world Sebastian’s found himself trapped in.

Gameplay:
The Evil Within is a survival-horror videogame very much in the style of Resident Evil 4 in many ways; my experience with the Silent Hill franchise (Konami/Various, 1999 to 2014) is sadly limited but, from the bit I’ve played of the first game, The Evil Within is clearly heavily borrowing from the more nightmarish and twisted reality of Silent Hill than the virus-heavy narrative of the Resident Evil franchise. Like in Resident Evil 4, you have full 3600 control of your character and the camera rather than being restricted by tank controls and set camera angles, and you’re also given much more options in terms of combat. You can melee attack with Y using your fists or bottles, interact with the environment with A, burn bodies and pools of gasoline with your limited supply of matches with B, aim with LT and shoot your weapons with RT, reload with X, and spring with LB. you can’t hold the sprint trigger down for too long, though, as you’re hampered by a stamina meter and Sebastian will be left vulnerable and out of breath if you run for too long.

Sneak past enemies or creep up behind them to pull off an instant kill move.

One of the big mechanics of The Evil Within is the sneaking and stealth-based gameplay that is pushed as a big thing in the first few chapters of the game’s story and then all but vanishes for the bulk of the gameplay as you’re given more ammo and weapons, before rearing up again near the finale of the game. You can use RB to sneak around when enemies are nearby and a helpful eye-themed “Enemy Alertness” icon will let you know when enemies are unaware of you or actively searching for you. When the eye widens, you should sprint out of site or hide inside a nearby locker or wardrobe until the danger has passed but be careful as enemies will pull you out of your hiding place if they see you try to hide. Still, if you manage to sneak up behind enemies, you’ll be able to pull off an instant kill move with a press of the A button but I found enemies become very aware of your presence even when you’re being super stealthy so this was often quite tricky to pull off. As much of the game is seeped in an unsettling darkness, you can also use your lantern by pressing in the left analogue stick to light the way but this will also attract nearby enemies (though, again, this becomes less of an issue hen you gain more resources).

Set your weapons and healing items to the D-pad for quick use and take advantage of any NPC backup you get.

Like all great survival-horror titles, The Evil Within excels in building a horrific, foreboding atmosphere thanks to its unsettling, often gruesome visuals and twisted, reality-bending narrative. To help with this, the heads-up display (HUD) is extremely sparse to increase your immersion in the game’s horrifying locations and narrative. You’ll see your health, stamina, and currently-equipped weapon and ammo and that’s about it unless you’re joined by one of Sebastian’s partners, like Joseph Oda, who often help you out with some additional firepower. If they’re attacked, you can fend off their attackers and heal them by holding down A (which helpfully doesn’t waste your own healing resources). You can set your weapons and healing items to the directional pad (D-pad), which helps you to quickly switch weapons or replenish your health without going into the inventory wheel, which slows the in-game action to a crawl but doesn’t pause it completely and can thus leave you vulnerable.

Puzzles are few and far between in The Evil Within but are suitably macabre (and a bit unfair, at times).

Interestingly, The Evil Within is surprisingly light on puzzles, labyrinthine environments, and the use of keys and other items to progress. Occasionally, you’ll have to acquire a key to open a door or work your way through a grim and grimy location avoiding instant death traps, fending off enemies, and running from Ruvik as you try to open a central door, but these moments are few and far between. Instead, The Evil Within is a much more linear game than its forefathers, meaning that you’re not afforded a map this time around. For the most part, this isn’t an issue but it wouldn’t have hurt to have a map available since a lot of the environments are a bit grey, dark, and look alike so it can be easy to get turned around sometimes. As a result, though, you never really have to worry about pushing statues or getting a bunch of extraneous items or combining them together and, instead, will be more focused on blasting enemies or bashing their heads in than worrying about jewels. However, when puzzles do crop up, they’re fittingly gruesome: you’ll have to insert probes into brains while looking at nearby diagrams and listening to audio tapes, press the right buttons on surgery tables to avoid being skewered and reveal a hidden exit, sneak past wire traps and rush through spiked traps, and shut off valves of steam or activate flames to get past certain areas, and turn a few dials here and there in order to progress, take out enemies, or free your comrades.

You’ll need to constantly be on your guard for traps and hazrads that threaten to skewer or explode you.

During Chapter 11, though. you’ll also have to shoot down corpses hanging above the flooded streets in order to distract and swim past a monstrous creature, which can get pretty tense as your window of opportunity is very small, and you’ll also be chased by chainsaw-wielding berserker’s and suddenly ensnared in traps that you must shoot or run out of or face a grisly end. Indeed, traps and hazards such as these are one of the most recurring dangers in the game; these are dotted around every location, springing up on you when you least expect it and often skewing you or blowing you into bloody chunks with little warning. Many of these will result in instant death, requiring you to retry from your last save point, but others can be disarmed by holding A, sneaking up on them, or pressing A at the right time in a small mini game. Disarming traps such as these will net you additional junk (which you can also acquire by smashing crates and such), which is used in the game’s (thankfully) extremely limited crafting system to create ammo for your “Agony Bolt” crossbow. You’ll also find Green Gel in jars and bubbling on the floor after you defeat enemies; be sure to grab this whenever you see it as you’ll need it to upgrade Sebastian’s abilities and weapons in the game’s haunting save areas.

Graphics and Sound:
Honestly, The Evil Within is quite a bland game in many ways; much of the environments take place in such uninspired locations as a hospital, sewer, grimy caverns, and gothic laboratories, meaning that a lot of the colours are subdued and feature a lot of black, grey, and brown. However, the game excels in the use of lighting and a perverse, macabre atmosphere that really adds to the sense of dread and tension in every area. Things may look perfectly normal one minute and then, very quickly, become warped either by Ruvik, Sebastian’s apparently fragmenting mental state, or the presence of certain enemies.

Environments are forboding and ominous, if a bit drab and interchangeable at times.

Bodies, bloodstains, and gore are in abundance in almost every area you visit; you’ll find dismembered corpses, flickering lights, smashed up areas and some truly disturbing labs and operating theatres that more closely resemble torture chambers or slaughter houses. Sebastian’s journey takes him through a variety of locations, all of which are generally seeped in a thick, ominous darkness or carry an menacing sense of dread thanks to the carnage that surrounds him or the use of screams and ambient sounds (mostly haunting, almost taunting voices). There’s also some cool weather effects on display; rain splatters on the screen, wind blows through trees and grass, and environments twist and change as Ruvik bends them to his will with often devastating effects.

Much of the game draws visual inspiration from Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and other horror franchises.

When The Evil Within breaks free from restrictive corridors filled with barbed wire, wreckage, and corpses, it really starts to feel much more unique amongst other survival-horror videogames; you’ll wander through the castle-like ruins of weird mish-mash of cultures, venture through a city that is constantly shifting and changing and collapsing around you like something out of Inception (Nolan, 2010), but you’ll also recognise a number of the tropes and references to Resident Evil along the way. The hospital and laboratories of the game, for example, are very reminiscent of Umbrella’s facilities, as is the mansion you eventually explore; you’ll also spot a few familiar typewriters but the game also evokes imagery from Silent Hill through its narrative and horror franchises like The Ring (Various, 1991 to 2019) and Hellraiser (Various, 1987 to present) in its enemy designs.

Sebestian might not be the most compelling character but he’s thrust into some horrific situations.

While the game’s use of music and ambient sounds is pretty good, if uninspiring at times, it’s the lapses in sound and use of ominous groaning or wails of some unspeakable eldritch abomination that really add to the game’s unsettlingly atmosphere. The voice acting is okay, for the most part, but kind of reminds me of the B-movie delivery of games like The House of the Dead (SEGA AM1, 1996) and even the original Resident Evil while still treating the events of the game with a grim seriousness that further emphasises that its meant to be unsettling and disturbing rather than thrilling or cheesy. Sadly, thanks to the nature of the game’s narrative, the plot is all over the place; much of the narrative is focused on Sebastian trying to figure out the mystery of Ruvik while the world literally falls apart around him and questioning his sanity but it turns out to be this weird, pseudo-virtual reality environment of sorts that really isn’t elaborate don all that much in the game’s cutscenes or dialogue. Instead, you’ll have to root through the many mysterious and ominous documents and the comments of non-playable characters (NPCs) around you to get a better idea of what the hell is actually going on which, while creating a bit of a disconnect between me and Sebastian’s plight, I found did lend to the nightmarish appeal of the game as it was literally like playing through some ghastly nightmare where nothing makes sense and the world is full of shrieking, gabbling zombie-like creatures and unspeakable horrors and gore.

Enemies and Bosses:
As you desperately plough your way through the game and try to figure out just what the hell is going on, you’ll find yourself besieged by a number of grisly creatures that literally come to life before your eyes as corpses stagger upwards, seemingly innocent blood stains burst free with screaming ghouls, and enemies burst apart into freakish abominations. The most common types of enemy you’ll encounter are known as “The Haunted”; these dishevelled reanimated corpses are like a cross between zombies, Cenobites, and the Las Plagas enemies of Resident Evil 4 and will stagger and rush at you in a blind fury looking to take a bite out of your neck. They’re also capable of attacking as a group and with weapons such as knives, crossbows, and even guns, and will eventually don body armour and wield machine guns, shotguns, Molotov cocktails, and can even activate traps by pulling levers. Thankfully, they go down relatively easily, especially after a few shots to the head, but you’re also encouraged to burn their bodies upon defeat to avoid them springing to life once more.

Ghastly, zombie-like enemies will rush at you and attack using edged weapons, explosives, and even firearms!

The haunted come in all shapes and sizes, including much bigger and more rotund enemies who can tank your shots, ones who rush at you in a suicide run, and even ones that appear invisible until the moment before they strike. You’ll also have to contend with some disturbing little baby versions of the Haunted that seep out through walls and drop from the ceilings, but these are easily dispatched with your melee attacks. You’ll also encounter far larger versions (who are best avoided rather than tackling directly unless you have some heavier weaponry on hand) and the disgusting AlterEgo variants who shamble about the place, take far more damage to defeat, and puke up viscera onto you when they got close to you!

The game’s bigger, more dangerous sub bosses will require your more powerful weapons to put down.

Such larger, more grotesque enemies serve as The Evil Within’s mini bosses; the first enemy you encounter, for example, is the chainsaw-wielding Sadist who cannot be harmed. Instead, you have to frantically run from him and sneak around him to avoid being sliced in two but, later in the game, you’ll encounter these brutes as mini bosses in increasingly confined areas; thankfully, by then you’ll be packing a shotgun and some explosive weaponry so they’re not too difficult to put down as long as you keep away from the wild swing of their chainsaws. Similarly, while exploring Cedar Hill Church, you’ll have to fight past the misshapen, monstrous formally conjoined twins Neun and Zehn, who rush at you and try to smash you into a bloody puddle in a confined area. Luckily, Joseph is on hand to offer support with a sniper rifle and you can use your more powerful weapons to slow them and finish them off one at a time.

The Keepers are similar to Pyramid Head but are much easier to put down…with the right weapons…

Another prominent sub boss, of sorts, is the Keeper; these hulking creatures wield meat cleavers and pursue you with a screen-distorting effect and dropping barbed wire mine traps on the floor. Because their heads are protected by a metal safe, the only way to kill these bastards is to aim for the ample chests but, quite often, killing one will simply cause another to spawn out of nearby safes, which can also spring to life and attempt to attach to your face. As a result, a mixture of stealth and tactics are advised when facing the Keepers, which can often be avoided altogether and mainly serve as a formidable distraction while you try to shut off steam valves and progress further.

The Amalgam Alpha was a horrendous boss figh, especially when it enters its second phase and eats you!

As you might expect from the man behind Resident Evil, you’ll also have to battle a number of bizarre and monstrous creatures to progress; one, the Sentinel, is a giant wolf-like creature transformed into a hideous monstrosity and which likes to hide in nearby bushes before pouncing on you and trying to bite your face off. Another is Quell, a massive octopus-like creature that attacks you in the sewers and likes to hide in pipes and grab you with its tentacles; when it does, you have a small window to shoot its face to damage it and save yourself from a gruesome end. Easily the most prevalent and annoying, however, is the Amalgam Alpha creature, which appears to be an eldritch, nightmarish spider/scorpion hybrid that rampages through an underground car park and was, easily, the toughest and most annoying boss fight of the game. This thing is really big and its weak point (an eye on either its tail or within its gaping mouth) can be really tricky to hit; luckily, the car park is full of ammo and other resources but you’ll have to be quick on your feet to avoid its super frustrating instant kill move.

Laura is a shrieking, persistent threat best staved off with fire and avoided lest she pummel you to death!

As Ruvik remains elusive for most of the game, the most prominent antagonist you’ll face for most of the game is Laura, an onryō-like girl who emerges, shrieking and wailing, from bubbling bloodstains in certain parts of specific chapters and scuttles after you like a spider, instantly smashing your head in if she gets a hold of you. You’ll encounter Laura three times over the course of the game and she gets more aggressive and difficult to face each time: in the first encounter, you simply have to run around a corner and set alight a pool of gasoline to scare her off but you’re then forced to battle her in an incinerator room. Here, she demonstrates her ability to teleport and emerge from nearby corpses so you’ll have to make sure that you burn these and arm yourself with nearby torches to stave her off but the only way you’ll defeat her is to trick her into spawning inside of one of the incinerators and pulling the lever. The last battle against her is even worse as it has multiple stages that see you fending her off by shoot levers on pipes to spew fire at her and desperately making your way towards an elevator before she can grab you. While it is possible to do her in using nearby flame traps and your conventional weapons, it’s worth coming back after you’ve unlocked the rocket launcher to make these fights easier as she’s basically indestructible otherwise.

You’ll battle Ruvik’s monstrous final form without fear of exhausting your precious resources.

Finally, there’s the primary antagonist himself, the mysterious Ruvik, who is apparently the mastermind behind all of the game’s events. Occasionally, Ruvik will spawn into a location and begin to chase you; if this happens, my advice is to run as fast as you can and hide in a wardrobe or under a bed until he disappears as he’ll explode you into bloody chunks otherwise. Later, you’ll encounter Haunted who assume his guise, who can be easily put down without much trouble, and the entire final chapter of the game is dedicated towards making your way to a final confrontation with Ruvik. Here, he merges with the Amalgam Alpha to become the Amalgam, a Lovecraftian beast that you must run from as it chases you up the side of a building before commandeering a machine gun and a rocket launcher to finish him off for good. In this final boss fight, you don’t need to worry about expending your ammo or running around in a panic; you simply have to move to the left or right to avoid his claws, aim for his head, and try not to miss withy our rockets. Eventually, you’re given a split second to shoot the final bullet at Ruvik’s exposed head but it’s okay if you miss as the autosave point is right before this section so take your time and put an end to him for good by stomping on his exposed brain.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you explore the many nightmarish environments of The Evil Within, you’ll find a lot of junk and helpful items to pick up, especially if you smash open crates and open up any drawers or cupboards. You’ll acquire syringes and medical kits to restore your health (these latter will also briefly extend your health at the cost of a few seconds of disorientation), ammo for your weapons, matches, and Green Gel. You’ll want to grab as much of these as you can (be sure to reload your weapons and cycle through your Agony Bolt variants to stockpile as much ammo as possible) in order to have the best chance of success in combat.

In addition to the usual firearms, your Agony Bolt can fire a number of different arrows.

Sebastian is afforded all the usual weapons you should expect from a survival-horror videogame; begins with a simple pistol but soon acquires a shotgun, the aforementioned Agony Bolt, a sniper rifle, and even a magnum as the game progresses. These can usually be found in attaché briefcases so be sure to explore your environments fully to get your hands on more weapons and ammo, and Sebastian can also make use of nearby bottles to throw at and bash enemies with, pipebombs, and explosive barrels (which he can also awkwardly kick around to best destroy enemies). In addition, the Agony Bolt can shoot multiple different types of arrows, from explosives to freezing blasts to stun shots, all of which can be either found in the environment or crafted with a simple press of a button from the inventory menu.

Find Green Gel to upgrade Sebastian’s abilities, ammo, and weapons.

At numerous points throughout each chapter, you’ll find mysterious cracked mirrors that transport you to the save room. Here, you can use any keys you find from breaking special statues to open up lockers and access some extra ammo and also use your Green Gel in a very ominous looking chair. This allows you to upgrade Sebastian’s abilities, such as his maximum health and stamina and melee damage output, and weapons, allowing you to increase your maximum ammo capacity, reload time, accuracy, and overall effectiveness for each weapon. It’s worth stockpiling Green Gel and spreading it wisely to increase Sebastian’s health and the amount of matches he can carry while also focusing on each weapon at a time; I favoured upgraded the shotgun and saved that for the more troublesome enemies but you may prefer to upgrade the Agony Bolt or sniper rifle.

Additional Features:
There are forty-one Achievements on offer in The Evil Within, many of which require a bit more strategy to unlock than simply clearing every chapter. Indeed, almost every chapter of the game has a specific requirement to unlock an Achievement, such as defeating a Sadist with a stealth kill, surviving an onslaught of enemies without Joseph being hurt, or killing Laura rather than simply outrunning her. You’ll also get Achievements for more mundane things, such as stealth killing five enemies in a row without being discovered, upgrading weapons and skills, or killing a certain number of enemies in specific ways, as well as finishing the game on higher difficulties or without any Green Gel upgrades.

Clear the game to unlock bonus weapons, new difficulty levels, or purchase the DLC for extra story content.

The game has four difficulty settings, with two available right from the start; while you can lower the difficulty at any time, you can’t raise it and, after finishing the game, you’ll unlock additional weapons to use in the ‘New Game+’ mode, which allows you to replay any chapter on the difficulty you cleared it on. You’re also given 50,000 Green Gel points to spend and unlock a model viewer but, annoyingly, your rocket launcher and machine gun have limited ammo, meaning you can’t just plough through the game’s chapters willy-nilly. Still, it does give you the edge in tracking down any statue key, map pieces, and documents you missed the first time through and working toward 100% completion. There are also a couple of expansion packs available to download that add an extra thirty Achievements to the game in addition to expanding upon the story with new playable characters and enemies to battle. I haven’t actually bought this, however, so it’s not my place to comment upon it but the game was appealing enough that I may explore this extra content later down the line (or if there’s a sale on).

The Summary:
The Evil Within certainly was a disturbing head-trip of a videogame; very little about it makes sense as you play it, with the events appearing to be the result of Sebastian slowly going insane but eventually being revealed to be the results of some bizarre experiment that, even now, I’m a bit unclear on. The result is a very unpredictable and gameplay experience full of unsettling imagery and enemies, gore, and ghastly creatures of all shapes and sizes that pull from a variety of other media and horror elements and mash them together in a truly nightmarish and ominous videogame that maintains a constant sense of dread and anticipation as you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next as Sebastian is battered and tossed all over the place through a constantly shifting nightmare world.

While it can be annoying and tedious, the game does a great job of conveying a macabre and ominous dread.

Having said that, though, there were a few flaws in the game. It’s not always immediately clear where you need to go as environments tend to look the same (especially in chapters set within the hospital or similar locations), some of the boss battles and enemies were ridiculously unfair thanks to them having one-hit kill moves in their arsenal (something I’m always frustrated by), and expanding Resident Evil’s save rooms out to a whole area was a bit laborious at times when I just wanted to quickly save without having to trudge about in the slowly-dilapidating hospital foyer. Still, it was a harrowing experience, one that really conveyed a tangible sense of dread and horror; Sebastian might not be the most compelling or dynamic character but his “Everyman” persona worked well with the increasingly insane and macabre things he was faced with and it was nice to feel that sense of foreboding menace once again, even if the game does veer more towards action than survival-horror thanks to you have just enough ammo and resources to get through each chapter rather than having to constantly worry about inventory management.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Are you a fan of The Evil Within? Did you enjoy the game’s ominous atmosphere and mind trip of a story or was it too derivative for you? What did you think of Sebastian as a protagonist, his supporting cast, and Ruvik as the main antagonist? Did you enjoy all the allusions and references to other survival-horror videogames and horror media or do you feel like that got in the way of the game’s more unique qualities? Would you like to see more from the Evil Within franchise? Which survival-horror videogame or franchise is your favourite and why? Whatever your thoughts on The Evil Within, or survival-horror in general, drop a comment down below.

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: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (Xbox 360)

Released: 20 March 2002
Developer: Slant Six Games/Capcom
Also Available For: PC and PlayStation 3

The Background:
By 2012, the Resident Evil series (Capcom/Various, 1996 to present) had undergone many changes since debuting as a cheesy survival/horror title hampered by “tank controls”; Resident Evil 4 (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2005) famously switched the game to a more action-orientated, over-the-shoulder third-person perspective, which had been expanded upon greatly in Resident Evil 5 (Capcom, 2005) and would basically transform the series into an action-heavy shooter by Resident Evil 6 (ibid, 2012). In the midst of this transition into a more action-orientated franchise, developers Slant Six Games worked alongside Capcom on a spin-off, a squad-based shooter that reinterpreted events from the franchise’s early days. Despite selling over two million copies and being considered by Capcom to be a success, the game was met with mixed reviews perhaps in a reflection of the backlash against Resident Evil’s new direction; some praised the gameplay and mechanics while others criticised it as being inferior to other, similar videogames.

The Plot:
In a retelling of the events before and during the zombie outbreak in Raccoon City, an Umbrella Security Service (USS) strike team, under the command of HUNK, attempts to secure the G-Virus sample from Doctor William Birkin. However, they are soon forced to battle against Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service (UBCS) mercenaries, flesh-eating reanimated corpses,  and the malevolent Umbrella Corporation’s many Bio-Organic Weapons (B.O.W.s), and faced with death and betrayal that cause them to question their orders.

Gameplay:
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a third-person, squad-based shooter in which players can pick from six members of the Umbrella Security Service (U.S.S.) Delta team (known as “Wolfpack”): Vector, Lupo, Beltway, Spectre, Bertha, and Four Eyes. Once you’ve selected your character, you must then select three others to assist you in the game’s missions to be controlled either by other human players using the game’s online function or assigned to the relatively competent A.I.

Form a four-man squad from a selection of six characters to tackle the game’s missions.

No matter which character you select, the controls remain the same and will be instantly recognisable to players of similar third-person shooters: press in the left stick to run and then press A to dive ahead, press the Right Trigger to fire and the Left Trigger to aim, B executes a melee attack, you can switch weapons with the Left Bumper, toss grenades and other explosives with the Right Bumper, and press X to reload. The directional pad (D-Pad) also factors into gameplay; you can select from the different grenades available by pressing right, use a First Aid Spray by pressing left, use an Antiviral Spray by pressing down, and toggle through various vision modes by pressing up.

Each character has different abilities that can be used to give you an edge in combat.

Each character does, however, have access to several different abilities, which you can activate with Y for a variety of temporary effects. Vector specialises in reconnaissance and moves much faster, can become undetectable to enemy radar, mimic other characters, and become completely invisible; Lupo focus more on combat and is able to wear stronger body armour, reload faster, and utilise more versatile ammunition; Beltway is the explosive expert and is able to better resist explosions, disarm mines and traps, and utilise a wider variety of explosives; Spectre is all about detection and mapping and is able to expand upon the mini map and detect nearby items and enemies using different vision modes; Bertha is the team’s medic and can carry more healing items, use them more effectively, and reduce the amount of damage taken; and Four Eyes, being more of a virologist, can carry more Antiviral Sprays, detect infected individuals, and both infect and command infected targets.

The game can be very dark at times, which is great for the atmosphere but not so much for gameplay.

Similar to the more action-orientated Resident Evil titles, much of the game is focused more on combat rather than exploration and puzzle solving; as a result, you will automatically snap to cover when you’re near walls, barriers, or other objects and must often clear a room of enemies in order to progress. The game is surprisingly dark, however, so I recommend increasing the “Gamma” settings in the options to bring a bit of illumination to the darker areas, though the use of darkness is used to create a sense of ambience and dread to the proceedings.

The better you play, the more XP you’ll get and the faster you can upgrade weapons and abilities.

As you defeat enemies, find Raccoon City Mascots and data, destroy well-hidden security cameras, pick up Intel and send it using laptops, and complete missions, you’ll gain experience points (XP); XP is then used to purchase new weapons and unlock and upgrade each character’s Passive and Active abilities. While any character can use any of the weapons you unlock, once again you can only carry two weapons at a time, so you’ll most likely be dropping weapons and liberating new ones from your defeated foes, and you’ll need a great deal of XP to unlock and upgrade everything the game has to offer for its six characters.

In addition to worrying about your health, you also have to avoid being infected.

As is the standard for Resident Evil titles, you can pick up First Aid Sprays to fully refill your health and use green herbs to restore a little bit of health; if you come across a green herb, though, it cannot be stored in your inventory. Unlike most other Resident Evil videogames, though, you can actually become infected with the Tyrant Virus (T-Virus) and, unless you use an Antiviral Spray, will become a zombie and attack your team mates after a short period of time. Additionally, you can be afflicted with a “bleeding” status that will attract (and spawn in) all nearby enemies (though you can also inflict this status on human enemies to zombies attack them as well). Note, however, that while you can pick up First Aid Sprays, Antiviral Sprays, and additional weapons and explosives, you’ll lose all your new held items if you die during a mission.

Take advantage of the stashes of ammo to help stave off the swarms of zombies.

The A.I. is relatively competent in a firefight; if they get downed during combat, you can press A to revive them but you may find that they often wander around aimlessly and tend to shoot through doors and walls before enemies even spawn in. Your mission objectives generally involve holding out against wave upon wave of enemies, reaching a specific destination, and clearing out all enemies but you’ll also be tasked with destroying or locating certain items and objects. Other times, generally during boss battles, you’ll have to hold out until doors are opened, or open them yourself, and the battle becomes much more about survival as you desperately try to stay alive while a seemingly endless wave of enemies attack you. Despite the fact that the environments are littered with an abundance of ammo creates and plenty of ammo and weapons, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, which can lead to some frustrating moments that are probably made a lot easier when playing with another human.

Graphics and Sound:
Resident Evil: Operation Racoon City mostly holds up pretty well; thanks to many of the characters having their faces obscured by helmets and masks, the character models largely avoid resembling action figures and, when popular and recognisable Resident Evil characters do appear, they shine all the better for it. However, I did notice quite a few instances of slowdown and jitteriness when there were a lot of enemies and characters onscreen at any one time and more than a few clipping errors where characters would walk through parts of the environment.

Gore and creepy, recognisable locations are plentiful, if a bit dark at times.

The game’s environments are decent enough; they’re dark and creepy and fully of the usual Resident Evil ambiance, featuring flickering lights, blood trails, and an abundance of gore to punctuate the game’s action-orientated approach. There are a lot of little details here and there (though the dark lightning can make a lot of them difficult to make out) and, once you finally escape from the drab, grey corridors, you’ll get to fight through the ravaged streets of Raccoon City (which was a notable highlight). Other environments include the dark, maze-like offices of City Hall, a creepy cemetery, as well as recognisable locations from Resident Evil 2 (ibid, 1998) and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (ibid, 1999) such as the police station (including Chief Irons’ office) and the prerequisite Umbrella laboratories and facilities.

Cutscenes generally use in-game graphics to allow your teams to be loaded in accordingly.

Despite the presence of a number of high-quality cinematics, the game’s cutscenes largely utilise the in-game graphics, primarily to ensure that your chosen character and team mates are properly loaded into each scene. This adds a degree of variety and replayability to the game as different characters have different dialogue in cutscenes, though it does seem as though the game recycles a lot of sounds from Resident Evil 5.

Enemies and Bosses:
As you might expect, one of the most common enemies you’ll encounter in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City are zombies; zombies are slow, shambling corpses who go down quite easily but generally attack in large groups and will lunge and grab at you to try and take a bite out of you. In these situations, you can frantically wiggle the left stick to try and shake them off and you better make sure you do this as they can infect you or cause you to bleed otherwise. Dead bodies in the nearby area will often pop up as surprise zombies, who can also power-up and return to life as the much faster, tougher, and more aggressive Crimson Heads so make sure you take them out with a good old head shot before they get the chance to do this.

Zombies, dogs, and spider-like Parasites are desperate to take a bite out of you!

Similarly, you’ll also encounter the odd Cerberus; these infected dogs like to pounce at you out of nowhere to give you a good scare and you’ll also have to shake off their bite and have a good aim to take them out because of how fast they can be. You’ll also come up against spider-like Parasites that quickly scuttle across the environment and can also be difficult to hit. These become doubly annoying when they join with a zombie as not only will Parasite Zombies be faster and more dangerous thanks to the Parasite’s extra limbs but you’ll also have to kill the Parasite after taking out the zombie host.

Lickers and Hunters are as formidable a threat as ever thanks to their superior strength.

You’ll also come up against some of Resident Evil’s most notorious B.O.W.s, such as the Lickers and the Hunters; Lickers scramble all over the walls and ceilings, popping out from vents and grabbing at you with their long tongues. Fast and difficult to hit, it’s best to target their exposed brains but they can easily overwhelm with their sheer numbers and ferocity. Similarly, Hunters will often drop from the sky in torpedo-like capsules and attack with an unmatched viciousness; leaping and charging across the place, they attack with large, deadly claws and take a great deal of punishment before going down so you’ll definitely need your more powerful weapons to make short work of them.

Take cover to exchange fire with the U.B.C.S. mercenaries.

Apparently because B.O.W.s aren’t interesting and dangerous enough, you’ll have toe exchange gunfire with a variety of living, human enemies; soldiers from the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service (U.B.C.S.) will fire at you from behind cover and other barricades, often to provide support for series staples such as Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, and are surprisingly durable and difficult to spot. You’re encouraged to inflict them with the bleeding status to send nearby zombies into a frenzy and tear them apart but this can just as easily be bad news for you, too, as the U.B.C.S.’ bullets can cause you to bleed and the final mission of the game is notably frustrating because you end up caught in a crossfire between the well-equipped U.B.C.S. and an endless swarm of zombies.

Keep your distance from the invincible “G” to avoid his swings and hold him at bay.

If you’ve played Resident Evil 2 and 3, you’ll instantly recognise the bosses and larger B.O.W.s included in the game; given that your first mission is to retrieve the Golgotha Virus (G-Virus) samples from Birkin’s laboratory, the first boss you’ll encounter is Birkin in his monstrous “G” form. “G” can’t be killed, however, making this a tense chase down a very narrow corridor as you desperately avoid “G”’s wild swings and slow him down by shooting nearby explosive barrels and pipes. If you linger around too long or get too close to him, it’s stupidly easy to get caught up and glitched on his hit box and the nearby environment so just turn around and run and save your ammo and efforts for when the game tells you to hold him at bay.

Mr. X is bad enough by itself but is accompanied by other enemies and another Tyrant!

Another recognisable B.O.W. you’ll encounter more than once is the T-103 Tyrant known as Mr. X; this massive, hulking figure has a tendency to attack and damage other B.O.W.s in its path and can be briefly controlled by Four Eyes but, for the most part, is indestructible when you first encounter it, leaving you to desperately run around taking out zombies and Parasites as you retrieve key cards to escape the area. In a later mission, two of the damn things attack you at once and you must take them out in order to progress. They’re incredibly strong, leaping and charging at you, pounding you into the ground and squeezing the life out of you with each so it’s best to keep your distance, focus on one at a time, and always aim for the head.

It’d be a lot easier to weaken Nemesis without endless swarms of enemies tearing you to shreds.

One of the most troublesome and frustrating missions of the game sees you staving off wave after wave of zombies and U.B.C.S. soldiers while trying to bring down the Nemesis-T Type, an intimidating creature by itself without all the additional enemies swarming the area. After numerous deaths and failures, I found it was much easy to quickly take out any nearby zombies, grab some restorative sprays, and camp out by the ammo crate and take pot shots at Nemesis until it finally dropped to the ground, taking advantage of the explosive barrels wherever possible. Even then, it can rear up and keep ticking along, all while you’re getting shot to shit and desperately trying to bring it down so you can inject it with the NE-α parasite.

Concentrate your fire on the Super Tyrant’s exposed heart to take it out quickly.

As in Resident Evil 2, you’ll have to do battle with Mr. X’s final form onboard an elevator; again, like Nemesis, the Super Tyrant is powerful and formidable enough without the battle being made more strenuous by the presence of Lickers, flame jets, and being a gauntlet that you must complete without any checkpoints mid-way through. To take out the Super Tyrant, it’s best to camp out by the ammo crate, stay away from it, and shoot at its exposed heart with everything you’ve got. If it’s close enough to the elevator edge, you can knock it off pretty quickly in the first phase of the battle and, as long as you can pick off the Lickers and avoid being roasted alive, you can repeat this strategy for the second phase of the fight where the B.O.W. is much faster and more aggressive.

Claire, Leon, and swarms of soldiers and zombies await you in the final mission of the game.

In a change of pace, however, the final challenges of the game have you taking on Claire and Leon in separate missions; Claire awaits you in an infested train yard and likes to take pot shots at you with a grenade launcher but tags out before you get to make her pay for her insolence. When you get to the end of the train yard, Leon camps out up top and snipes at you while being protected by U.B.C.S. soldiers behind a fortified barricade and zombies roam the immediate area. This, without a doubt, was the toughest and most frustrating part of the game at that point and, in the end, I was reduced to simply tanking damage and running the barricade to reach the ladder and trigger the cutscene that led to the game’s final mission.

You’ll get different endings depending on whether you choose to kill or defend Leon.

Here, you’re given two options: one sees you spare Leon and the other sees you kill him as per your orders. If you kill him, you’ll have to take out a couple of your team mates before you can get to Leon, who blasts at you from behind cover and can cut you down with ease unless you bring along or get your hands on the sniper rifle. If you spare him, it’s the same thing but, this time, you’re defending him from your team mates and it’s a far easier fight but, if you want to get all of the game’s Achievements, you’ll need to slog through this final mission at least twice.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As mentioned above, you have a variety of restorative items available to you in the game; green herbs offer a quick, one use pick-me-up, First Aid Sprays can be stocked and refill more of your health, and Antiviral Sprays will cure you from infection if needed. Unlike a lot of third-person shooters, your health won’t replenish over time so it’s best to keep a First Aid Spray in your inventory and to keep your team mates nearby so they can revive you as checkpoints are often lacking mid-way through the more frustrating missions.

Use XP to purchase new weapons and be sure to shoot open weapon crates whenever you see them.

Each character has a variety of unique Passive and Active abilities; Active abilities also come with a cooldown period so you can’t spam their use over and over and some are, honestly, more useful than others; the mechanics are definitely geared towards human players working together and using each character’s abilities to the best of their advantage and you’ll be grinding and replaying missions quite a bit to unlock everything and make life easier for yourself. Of course, the main power-ups you’ll pick up are the wide variety of weapons; pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and heavier weapons like grenade and rocket launchers are all available if you have enough XP but you’ll also be able to liberate them from dead U.B.C.S. soldiers and grab better weapons from weapon creates scattered throughout the environments (you’ll need to shoot the locks off these first, though). You’ll also be able to use familiar weapons from the franchise, such as the Samurai Edge and Barry Burton’s magnum, and three different types of grenades (frag, flashbang, and incendiary). Thankfully, you don’t need to use XP to upgrade the proficiency of the weapons and, once you unlock them, any character can use them but you’ll still need a lot of XP to unlock everything.

Additional Features:
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City has fifty Achievements for you to earn; many of these are tied to simply clearing the single player missions but you’ll also get Achievements for purchasing weapons and upgrades, healing a certain amount of times, and killing a certain amount of enemies. Some are much trickier to get and require you to finish he game on harder difficulty modes, purchase and upgrade every ability, and kill enemies in specific ways.

There’s a fair amount of multiplayer and DLC options available if you want more content.

Many of the rest are tied towards the game’s many multiplayer modes; the game’s single player campaign can be played in co-op and it also features a variety of competitive modes, from traditional deathmatches to a survival mode and one that has you searching out G-Virus samples, and the Xbox 360 version also has an exclusive “Nemesis Mode” that allows one player to take control of the Nemesis and hunt down and kill the other players. Unfortunately, I never got to experience any of Operation Racoon City’s multiplayer options as they game cannot be played locally, which is always frustrating and mind-boggling for me, meaning I couldn’t even 100% all of the Achievements even if I wanted to. Operation Raccoon City isn’t an especially long game (I finished it on “Normal” mode in around eight hours), even in its most frustrating moments, but you can extend the game’s playtime by purchasing the “Spec Ops” downloadable content (DLC), which adds six more playable characters, a number of additional campaigns and Achievements, and more recognisable characters from the series to expand upon the game’s unique retelling of the second and third games.

The Summary:
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a decent enough title for a spin-off of the main series; it takes many familiar characters and concepts from the franchise and reimagines them, fully embracing its more action-orientated mechanics and being a relatively inoffensive third-person shooter. It’s not much compared to the Gears of War franchise (Various, 2006 to present) and lacks a lot of the appeal of main series titles like Resident Evil 4 but, had Capcom kept the more action-orientated, third-person mechanics confined to a side series such as this, Resident Evil 6 might have turned out a little less disappointing. However as great as it is to battle the franchise’s gruesome B.O.W.s with more freedom and more detailed graphics compared to the original PlayStation releases, Operation Raccoon City has a lot of flaws and bugs and frustrating parts that really drag it down; the clipping and frame rate issues were noticeable, the lack of checkpoints and losing all of your inventory after dying can make bosses and the survival missions needlessly exasperating, and the sudden, anti-climatic end of the game really derails what little story is on offer. Overall, it’s a decent enough experience that should satisfy fans of the series, especially the more action-heavy titles like Resident Evil 5, but fans of third-person shooters can definitely find better options on the market.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and how do you think it holds up as a third-person shooter and spin-off of the main series? Which of the playable characters was your preferred choice? What did you think to the game’s minor retelling of the main story and the encounters with recognisable Resident Evil characters and monsters? Did you choose to kill or defend Leon at the conclusion of the game? Did you ever play the game’s multiplayer and, if so, what was it like? Which Resident Evil videogame, character, monster, or spin-off is your favourite, and would you like to see a return to the more action-orientated style the games adopted during this time? Whatever you think, feel free to leave your thoughts down 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

BackIssues
REF&I3Title

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.

REF&I3Traps
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.

REF&I3Door
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!

REF&I3Licker
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).

REF&I3Plot
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.

REF&I3Tyrant
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.

REF&I3Tyrant3
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.

REF&I3Art
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

BackIssues
REF&I2Title

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.

REF&I2Raquel
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.

REF&I2Puzzle
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.

REF&I2Lab
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.

REF&I2Brady
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.

REF&I2Callbacks
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.

REF&I2Art
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.

REF&I1Title

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.

REF&I1CharlieTeam
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.

REF&I1Brady
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.

REF&I1Intros
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.

REF&I1Umbrella
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.

REF&I1Raquel2
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).

REF&I1Cliffhanger
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.

REF&I1Action
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.