In this week’s DLC, Graham McCann remembers how his mom’s housework schedule helped him avoid missing out one of gaming’s milestones
This is an origin story of a sort; the beginning of my love for Resident Evil. I got a PlayStation for Christmas in 1998 and it was amongst the best of times. The new console opened the door to a whole library of games that before I could only longingly look at on the shelves in retail and rental stores. For a 12-year-old gaming fanatic, that’s a good Christmas.
The summer of that year I was told of the wonders of Resident Evil 2 by someone at a friend’s birthday party. I loved zombies and the arcade classic The House of the Dead, and that’s how I envisioned the gameplay of Resident Evil when he was explaining it to me.
So, after buying my first games for the console – Forsaken (which I liked on my N64 but was disappointed that it was so different on the PS1), and one of my favorite games, Medievil – I went to Blockbuster on New Year’s Eve. Resident Evil 2 was at the top of my list because of the enthusiastic praise about it that I had received earlier.
I rented it, got home, turned it on, and got ready to play. The opening voiceover was cool and set the tone. Then the opening cutscene blew me away with its awesome graphics (for the time) and unique atmosphere. It pulled me in right away.
Then, it was time to actually play and it was there I was stalled in my tracks. It wasn’t the House of the Dead-like game that I had envisioned and the tank controls were like a foreign language. The zombies came at me along that burning street and I had no idea how to defend myself. At least I was quickly treated to that unique You Died screen while Leon is getting chewed on by zombies.
I shut off the game and went upstairs to where my mom was vacuuming. I asked her if we could go back to Blockbuster to exchange the rental, but she said she was too busy. That was a good thing because if she had let me return the game, I would not have had the chance to be properly accustomed to the controls of what I consider to be one of the greatest video games ever. I might not have even given a chance to another one of the greatest games, Silent Hill, which came out a month or so later, because it was Konami’s answer to Resident Evil.
That night, New Year’s Eve, I was waiting for the midnight countdown to 1999 while playing Resident Evil 2 alone in my cozy basement. I am not one for jump-scares – not because they scare me but because they are cheap. However, this game had one of the most effective jump scares I’ve ever experienced. While sitting in my chair, exploring the police station filled with creepy ambience, I thought I’d reached a quiet point in the game, BAM, zombie arms crashed through the window and grabbed Leon. I nearly jumped out of my chair.
On New Years Day, many people came over for a party including two of my cousins. One of them also loved Resident Evil 2 and eventually all the kids gathered around the TV to watch him play through the game. He got as far as the underground research centre around the time the emergency alarm goes off.
This was a great part of my fondest winter break and it showed me how to properly play the game. Now, if someone argues against tank controls, my rebuttal is that they didn’t try hard enough.
I have loved Resident Evil ever since, and this is why I hope dearly that Resident Evil may get a great reboot and return to its slower and creepier survival-horror roots.
Follow Graham on Twitter: @GrahamSMcCann