So here you have it ladies and gentlemen: the game you have all been waiting so anxiously for. Finally, a known adventure genre, Capcom's Biohazard (a.k.a. Resident Evil in the States), has come to the Dreamcast to provide a true test of what the system can do. And after playing for a considerable amount of time I must say it looks and plays exactly like you would expect it to. You run around, solve puzzles, kill zombies, and meet interesting characters that reveal bits about the incredibly overused story line. The level design is detailed and beautiful and the music is the best yet, but it seems to me that more could have been done to make the game play in 3-D instead of a large palette of pre-rendered backgrounds.
The game begins with one of many extraordinary FMVs featuring Biohazard's favorite heroin, Claire Redfield getting captured by Umbrella's henchmen. She is sent off to a hidden base desert island right before a huge explosion releases the infamous T-Virus. This makes it possible for Claire to escape from her cell, but also creates an island of flesh-eating zombies. Even the dead are rising forth to feed on the living. You have to move quickly in order to figure out all of the key and lock puzzles in order to attempt to escape. Along the way you will meet other human characters that you know you can't trust even though you may have to.
If you have ever played any of the Biohazard games then you know what to expect. There is a great deal of running back and forth between areas finding different items. Since keys in one area work on locks in the other area across the map, you will have to go back to many areas you have already been. Of course all of the zombies you thought had died have come back hungry for more brains. One bit of advice: sometimes running is the best strategy (especially against the killer worm from Beetlejuice).
I really wish that there was something original about this game that I could focus on. But as far as I can tell the gameplay is exactly the same as all of its predecessors. There is an inventory screen identical to all the other games, the story is just like all of the other ones (even though the locale is different), and even the enemies looks the same. What really disappointed me was the lack of new and different puzzles. How many ID numbers and special keys do I have to figure out before I get challenged? Actually I did come across one difficult puzzler made more difficult because it was in Japanese.
It is really hard to criticize the game too much because if it ain't broke, why try and fix it? The Biohazard games are carefully constructed to create suspense and to make you jump out of your seat. Remember when the dogs jumped in through the windows in the first one? Biohazard on Dreamcast is no different. There are plenty of suspenseful moments that get your blood pumping and your heart racing. There are a few surprises that will make your heart leap into your throat. And an intense soundtrack that would make even John Williams proud underscores all of this action with swelling chords and even vocals.
The graphics and level design of the game are something to be marveled. Even though rotatable 3-D environments would have been cool the expansive level designs and attention to detail make up for it. Some of the images are really horrific namely the amount of cockroaches that crawl out of the rotting corpses. Gross! Not only the bloody images are well depicted, but all of the different environments (and there are a whole bunch) are all given the same respect as the gore. The paintings in the mansion are all original (no duplicates), every room uncovers new items, and even the wall textures change with the environments. It makes you feel like you are really traversing a large area even though you have moved down a couple of rooms.
It seems to me that Capcom mainly wanted to focus on the story and the layout of the game and let the control of the game alone. There is a great deal of attention given to how you move through all of the areas and the timing of important events. Little care has been shown, however, to the fact that you canít move your character while shooting. Nor has anyone bothered to correct the frustrating moments when you are trying to shoot at characters that you cannot see due to the unhelpful camera angles. Still, the game is about being scared and wandering into haunted houses and freaky graveyards and the scare tactics are intact. I guarantee your heart will be pumping right alongside your jump pak.
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