Resident Evil is a survival horror video game developed and released by Capcom originally for the PlayStation in 1996, and is the first game in the Resident Evil series. The game’s plot follows Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, members of an elite task force known as S.T.A.R.S., as they investigate the outskirts of Raccoon City following the disappearance of their team members. They soon become trapped in a mansion infested with zombies and other monsters. The player, having selected to play as Chris or Jill at the start of the game, must explore the mansion to uncover its secrets.
First conceived by producer Tokuro Fujiwara as a remake of his earlier horror game Sweet Home (1989), the development of Resident Evil was led by Shinji Mikami. It went through several redesigns, initially conceived as a Super NES game in 1993, then as a fully 3D first-person PlayStation game in 1994, and then finally a third-person game with pre-rendered backdrops. Gameplay consists largely of third-person action with added emphasis on inventory management, exploration, and puzzle solving. Resident Evil establishes many conventions seen later in the series, including the control scheme, inventory system, save system, and use of 3D models superimposed over pre-rendered backgrounds.
Resident Evil was very well received critically and commercially, and is often credited for defining the survival horror genre. It received praise for its graphics, gameplay, sound, and atmosphere, although it received some criticism for its voice acting. Beyond video games, Resident Evil has been credited with re-popularising zombies in mainstream popular culture from the late 1990s onwards (along with The House of the Dead), leading to a renewed interest in zombie films during the 2000s. Resident Evil has since been hailed as one of the most influential and greatest video games of all time. Its success has spawned a multimedia franchise including video games, films, comics, novels, and other merchandise. The game has received dedicated ports to the Sega Saturn, Windows, and Nintendo DS. In 2002, a remake of the same name was released for the GameCube featuring updated graphics, sound, and changes to the gameplay and story. A high-definition remaster of the GameCube game was released in 2015 for modern platforms. A sequel, Resident Evil 2, was released in 1998, and a prequel, Resident Evil Zero, in 2002.
The player’s character is a member of a special law enforcement task force who is trapped in a mansion populated by dangerous mutated creatures. The objective of the game is to uncover the mystery of the mansion and ultimately escape alive. The game’s graphics consist of real-time 3D polygonal characters and objects, superimposed over pre-rendered backdrops with fixed camera angles. The player controls the character by pushing the D-pad or analog stick left or right to rotate the character and then move the character forward or backwards by pushing the d-pad up or down (tank controls).
To fulfill the game’s objective, the player uncovers various documents that provide exposition about the game’s narrative, as well as clues that help them solve various puzzles within the mansion. Key items are also available that give the player access to other items or new areas. The player can arm their character with weapons to defend themselves from enemies, although the ammunition available for each firearm is limited and the player must learn to conserve the ammunition they have for situations where they will really need it. To restore the character’s health, the player uses first-aid sprays or three types of healing herbs that can be mixed together in different combinations for different healing effects. The carrying capacity of the player is limited depending on the character and items that the player does not wish to carry at the moment can be stored into an item box to be retrieved for later use. To save their progress, the player must pick up an ink ribbon and use it on any of the typewriters scattered through key locations in the game. However, the supply of ink ribbons the player can acquire is limited much like the player’s ammo and healing supplies. Players will encounter and fight various infected creatures such as flesh-eating zombies and zombie dogs, giant spiders, sharks, and other monsters. Player character will also be assisted by another character (Rebecca Chambers or Barry Burton) throughout the game.
A series of bizarre murders have occurred on the outskirts of Raccoon City, with signs of cannibalism on the victims’ remains. The Raccoon Police Department’s Special Tactics And Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) are assigned to investigate the murders. S.T.A.R.S. is divided into two teams: Alpha and Bravo. Bravo Team is sent first, but after contact with them is lost, Alpha Team is sent to investigate their disappearance.
Players can choose between the two Alpha Team members Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, each with their own unique differential abilities. Jill has more firepower and possesses a lock-pick that enables her to access areas and items easily, as well as an inventory large enough to hold up to eight items, while Chris has limited firepower but is more durable in terms of taking damage from enemies, and a smaller inventory that can hold only six items.
The game’s supporting characters include Barry Burton, Alpha team’s weapons expert who provides Jill with additional firepower; Rebecca Chambers, a surviving member of Bravo team who supports Chris with her medical expertise; Albert Wesker, the captain of S.T.A.R.S. and leader of Alpha team; and Brad Vickers, the helicopter pilot who sends transmissions to them as he tries to find them in the helicopter.
The other members of S.T.A.R.S. include Joseph Frost, the sixth member of Alpha team whose sudden death sets the story into motion, Enrico Marini, the leader of Bravo team who gives the player the game’s most critical plot twist, Richard Aiken, who gives the player a radio used to receive Brad’s transmissions, Kenneth J. Sullivan, a member of Bravo team killed just after Alpha team arrives, and Forest Speyer, whose corpse is found on the balcony by the player.
On July 24, 1998, when a series of bizarre murders occur on the outskirts of the fictional Midwestern town of Raccoon City, the Raccoon City Police Department’s S.T.A.R.S. team are assigned to investigate. After contact with Bravo Team is lost, Alpha Team is sent to investigate their disappearance. Alpha Team locates Bravo Team’s crashed helicopter and land at the site, where they are suddenly attacked by a pack of monstrous dogs, killing team member Joseph Frost. After Alpha Team’s helicopter pilot, Brad Vickers, panics and takes off alone, the remaining members of the team (Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker, and Barry Burton) are forced to seek refuge in a nearby abandoned mansion.
Depending on which character the player assumes control of, either Chris or Barry are separated from the rest of the team during the chase and do not make it to the mansion. At this point, the team decides to split up to investigate. Over the course of the game, the player character may encounter several members of Bravo Team, including Enrico Marini, the captain of the Bravo Team, who reveals that one of Alpha Team’s members is a traitor before being shot and killed by an unseen assailant. The player character eventually learns that a series of illegal experiments were being undertaken by a clandestine research team under the authority and supervision of biomedical company Umbrella Corporation. The creatures roaming the mansion and its surrounding areas are the results of these experiments, which have exposed the mansion’s personnel and various animals and insects to a highly contagious and mutagenic biological agent known as the T-virus.
Eventually, the player character discovers a secret underground laboratory containing Umbrella’s experiments. In the lab, the player encounters Wesker, who reveals that he is a double agent working for Umbrella, and plans to use the Tyrant, a giant humanoid supersoldier, to kill the remaining S.T.A.R.S. members. However, in the ensuing confrontation, Wesker is supposedly killed, and the player character defeats the Tyrant. After activating the lab’s self-destruct system, the player character reaches the heliport and manages to contact Brad for extraction, at which point the player may be confronted by Tyrant one last time. The game features multiple endings depending on the player’s actions at key points over the course of the game.
Each character has four endings, with the outcome being determined on whether they rescued the other two S.T.A.R.S. survivors or not. The character who is not chosen by the player will be imprisoned in a solitary cell in the mansion’s underground lab. In order to access the cell, the player must collect a set of MO Discs distributed within the mansion and use them in different decoding devices to unlock the door. To get the best ending, the player must rescue the other protagonist in addition to their assigned partner.
The best ending has Chris and Jill escaping the mansion alongside a third S.T.A.R.S. member (Rebecca or Barry, depending on who is the player character) after defeating the Tyrant and destroying the mansion.
The second best ending has the player character (Chris or Jill) escaping with his or her partner (Rebecca or Barry) after defeating the Tyrant and destroying the mansion.
The second worst ending has Jill and Chris escaping as the two only survivors, with the mansion still intact and the Tyrant set loose on the forest.
The worst ending has the player character as the sole survivor, with the mansion still intact and the Tyrant set loose on the forest.
The Sega Saturn version added an unlockable battle mode in which the player must traverse through a series of rooms from the main game and eliminate all enemies within them with the weapons selected by the player. It features two exclusive enemies not in the main game: a zombie version of Wesker and a gold-colored Tyrant. The player’s performance in the battle mode is graded at the end. The game’s backgrounds were touched up to include more detail in this version. The Japanese version is the most gore-laden of all the platforms; after decapitating a crawling zombie with a kick, the head remains on the floor, and Plant 42 can cut the character before the game over screen. The Saturn version also features exclusive enemy monsters, such as a re-skinned breed of Hunters known as Ticks and a second Tyrant prior to the game’s final battle. Exclusive outfits for Jill and Chris were added as well.
This version was published in Europe by Sega instead of Capcom’s usual European publisher, Virgin.