Friday, September 10, 2010

Resident Evil Bash: About Those Zombies...

Today I have a special guest to help me celebrate Resident Evil--my friend Brandy, who is (by all accounts) as big a Zombiephile as I am...and loves Resident Evil.  Which is a prerequisite to being my friend (its on the questionaire).  Brandy is also the one who drew me the lovely button to the right :D

She's going to discuss the mythology of the game version Zombies (since as anyone can tell you I can't make beyond the 'tutorial' mode before the game advises me to just kill myself right then and there) and later in the day I'll be talking about the movie version Zombies!

So without further ado...Here's Brandy!
The year is 1998; welcome to Raccoon City. Or rather, don't accept any welcome invitations to Raccoon City in 1998, as you'll find yourself trapped in the middle of a number of legendary viral outbreaks turning a town's population into the mindless undead and you're probably one of the infected.

Either that, or you're replaying one of the most critically and commercially successful, and the first game to be labeled a "survival horror", Resident Evil (in Japan its known as: Biohazard). Created by Mikami Shinji, the game series is best known for pitting the lone player against a hoard of monsters, most notably a populace infected with the mutagen t-virus created by the Umbrella Corporation.
Although the t-virus infected grunts were later replaced in the core series by other mutated populaces (the El Pueblo citizens in an unspecified village in Spain became Los Ganados enemies in Resident Evil 4 and the Kijuju residents of Africa becoming Majini in Resident Evil 5 were both created by different types of the parasitic bio-organic weapons, Las Plagas), all of them remain more or less faithfully placed in the archetype of "zombies".

While the mythos of the Resident Evil series is long, complex and span numerous media, today I only intend to briefly cover the zombies of the four "core" games (Zero, RE1, RE2, CODE: Veronica and RE3), though it should be noted they appear in quite a few spin-off games, as well as almost all media that tells the Resident Evil story. The aforementioned Ganados and Majini, while still a part of the general zombie grunt mechanic, are infected by a different virus altogether and have a number of traits that differentiate them from the classic Resident Evil zombies. However from a gamers' perspective, they are just as much from to blast with a well-aimed shotgun blast as any, they would deserve their own research and analysis from a plot perspective.

The zombies of Raccoon City are most notably based on George A. Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead (1968), and his presentation (nay, reinvention) on what a zombie was to the human psyche. They exhibit many of the traits we now associate with zombies--the slow, jagged walking, their mindless nature, feral attacking methods, and the fact that they are reanimated corpses (the living dead). They have the ability to spread the infection through contact (such as a carrier attacking a victim), but generally the creation of a zombie comes from exposure to the t-virus by other means. Air, water or even the virus being directed injected (something the antagonists of the series, the Umbrella Corporation, primarily used) are common infected beginnings. It should be noted that this method of infection (viral infection) is closer in resemblance to Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead series, as Romero's zombies didn't have one specific means for reanimation.

Resident Evil zombies, like most of their counterparts, devour human flesh and the flesh of other infected corpses, they don't require any type of feeding to sustain their survival. A common trait (perhaps the most common trait) amongst pop culture zombies is their unsubstantial hunger for the flesh of the living; it is usually depicted as a survival mechanism to sustain their undead lives. While there are theories as to what still drives these zombies to feed, it is worth noting that Resident Evil series zombies are more attracted to living flesh than that of their fallen comrades, and will stop consuming one if a living body is present.

Resident Evil zombies also have developed a number of techniques for hunting down and preying upon their unsuspecting enemies. Besides their passion for common biting and walking around being nuisances, they have a limited capacity for planning. One of their favorite methods is by "playing dead"; laying motionless and mimicking a deceased corpse, only to rise when the victim is in close range. However (game wise), a zombie's gaze will follow its target, usually with noticeable head movement, making them generally easy to spot when searching. Zombies also will use scratching to weaken enemies, as they possess nails sharp enough to rip open flesh (which could also, arguably, make one much more prone to infection). Finally, Resident Evil zombies have a penchant for vomiting on victims; the regurgitated bile has acidic traits strong enough to cause pain and damage if one is hit by it.

To effectively terminate a zombie, as is the case of Romero's zombies and others influenced by his works, one must severe the brain from the contact with the corpse. In the Resident Evil series, one well aimed gunshot to the head will do the job. While common sense (and any zombie survival guide worth its print) will tell you that relying heavily on ammunition is a quick death sentence during a zombie pandemic, the game mechanics of the Resident Evil series allow you, with decent item management and good aim, to not worry about ever running out of ammo.

Using melee weapons, such as the knife in Resident Evil, makes the game difficulty increase substantially, and 'Knife-Only' challenge play-throughs are common. When you do shoot the zombies, it's best to have your headshots perfected, as simply blasting down body parts will only serve to slow them down, but won't stop the pursuit. In fact, Resident Evil zombies require that you either: decapitate them, destroy their brain or burn their bodies. In the Chronicles remakes, failure to commit the final blow even if the zombie stops pursuing will result in them reanimating and become what are known as 'Crimson Heads', or even worse 'Lickers', which are both more dangerous and much more of a pain to deal with.

Next time you want to enjoy the zombie destruction experience with an arguably in-depth and brilliant mythos (not to mention one of the best Capcom villains), give the Resident Evil series a try. While the original games may appear dated in comparison of the graphics of current (and a bit hard to come by), there are a number of remakes to satisfy any zombie fan's delight.

Thank you so much Brandy!  So folks--does this make you want to play the games?  Or are you gonna join my team and hide in the corner waiting for Weskersomeone hot to save you?