Bio Hazard (1996, PS)

By dead_assassin / October 6, 2011

Biohazard, aka Resident Evil. It has certainly become a household name over the years. With the upcoming release of Operation Raccoon City, and the re-release of Code: Veronica and Biohazard 4 on the PlayStation Network, the series is perhaps at its highest point of popularity. Also spawning four successful movie titles and confirmation of a fifth, the whole series is recognizable as one of the greatest survival horror games of all time. But I am taking a trip back to memory lane, where it all began, with the original Bio Hazard (the original Japanese title spelled as two words, instead of the one-word convection used from the sequel and onward). I remember the first time I played this game. A friend of mine had it, and I was intrigued by the cover and the name "Resident Evil". I thought, "Wow! This game looks awesome, wonder what it's like!", and I told my friend I wanted to check it out. Not long after I started the game up, my mind was already blown. The opening movie was fantastic. Seeing the S.T.A.R.S. members, in beautiful detail, walking through a creepy field, covered in just enough fog to make things freaky. The whole black and white film made the intro totally amazing and terrifying. I was freaked out when I heard the dogs, then I caught my first glimpse of them as they chased the team relentlessly. I admit it, I was scared... I was on the edge of my seat at the time I first saw this. The suspense was high, watching them being chased into a large mansion. This was more of a horror movie than a game, and I felt it could only get better.

   After the whole nightmarish scene, we are in the mansion, minus several characters. Our team is limited down to three people, but not long afterwards, we hear a gunshot. We figure things are not looking good at all for the team. Our first thought (after obvious fear) is to investigate, find out what the heck is happening here and where the rest of the team is. The mansion is huge, and quite creepy-looking. Upon exiting the dining room, we are faced with our first enemy. A zombie. And when I say zombie, I mean a true to life zombie. Not a maniac running at us swinging a shovel or rake. No, this, in my opinion, is what a zombie should be. A rotting decomposing pale figure, slowly walking toward us, with no intelligence left but its primal desire to feed. This is exactly what made the series for me, and exactly what had drawn me to the whole game and the whole series in general. The detail, the mannerisms, everything was amazing. Then the zombie latched on and bit the hell out of my character, and the blood sprayed in graphic detail. I was in awe. No game before this had amazed me in such a way. I was instantly hooked.
   From that point, the game only got better and better, the longer I played. More enemies appeared, from zombie dogs, crows, a giant snake... my jaw totally dropped. The puzzles in the game were fun and not insanely hard to figure out. It was a matter of finding an item in a location and bringing it to where it belonged to open a door. The enemies got progressively harder to deal with as the game went on. The mansion layout itself also got creepier, going from an opulent palatial home to an underground laboratory. You eventually figure out why you are in the mansion in the first place and what the whole situation is that has been going on behind the scenes. The whole storyline is great and totally caught me off guard the first time I played through the game. It was perhaps one of the best storylines in a game I had encountered, making it an all-time classic by the then prevailing standards.
   The graphics were very appealing. The starting movie was breathtaking and beautiful. The character design was done quite well, as was the whole mansion layout. The sounds were even better: the zombies grunting, the crows cawing, the dogs lunging at you, everything was done quite wonderfully. And the suspenseful music added to the whole element of fear. The music at the time was so popular that I remember people sharing it on P2P networks. It was all beautifully orchestrated and fit the scene and atmosphere exceptionally well. The voice acting was goofy, sounding at times like people reading from a script for the first time, with no rehearsing. But it got better as the game went on, along with everything else that kept getting better and better. Though not terrifying to the same extent as the much later Silent Hill, the game was scary and suspenseful. The recent sequels lacked this element, and failed to even get a jump out of me. They lacked any kind of fear element and if asked to describe them in one word, I'd say "fun".
   Challenge was just right, not too hard, not too easy. Practice your aim, nail some headshots on zombies, kill the crows in midair and take full advantage of lock-on targeting. The puzzles at times took a bit of figuring out, and there was some backtracking that needed to be done to get items where they needed to be. But I played through the game without any help or guides and beat it in enough time to unlock the rocket launcher, and I am no expert gamer and no expert at the series.
   If you haven't already done so, play this game. I honestly can't comprehend anybody that's a fan of survival horror not having played this game by now. This is where it all began, this is the true classic. Its follow-up was a decent game, but I honestly hate Leon. Claire was awesome, and it was nice to play as a female character again who has her own arsenal of weapons, like the bow-gun. And the third game was truly amazing. Playing once again as Jill Valentine, trying to escape the city before nuclear annihilation. Not only that, but being stalked by the ultimate BOW, Nemesis. But for those of you who are fans of the newer games and have only played those, check this game out. Learn what survival horror really is, and play what is still one of the genre's finest examples.

Bio Hazard is Insomnia's 1996 Game of the Year.