Some people find each Resident Evil title loses its way within the final hours, but not enough attention is given to those masterfully crafted opening moments. They say that if a movie doesn't capture your attention within the first 30 minutes, then viewers generally tend to disengage. For the most part, there's absolutely no chance of that happening if you're playing a Resident Evil game, as each entry often starts with a beautifully orchestrated explosion of terror that keeps you on the edge of your seat - and honestly - we love it.
This all stems from the recently released Resident Evil Village. While I won't go into specifics as to what happens to ruin the surprise of the new entry, I will say that our friend Ethan Winters does not have a good time. His misfortunes echo back to Resident Evil VII, which I still hold as being a horror masterpiece. One of the best parts of that game is the opening hour, which perfectly captures the terror awaiting you in the Baker mansion, and how this is a complete departure from the off-the-rails previous entries.
Even without squeamish body horror and disfigured ghoulies, there's a sense of unease within the first five minutes. Just walking up to the Baker mansion and seeing that decaying structure lay in front of you is enough to encourage a sane man to absolutely 'nope' his way out of there. But in the world of video games, it's an invitation - a calling to the fun house of terrors that the game contains. It starts off as a fairly subdued affair, as any classic horror story does, but quickly descends into chaos. Poor Ethan goes through so much in that opening hour that you can't help but feel for him, but you also can't help but have your eyes glued to the screen, as the game propels you from one terrifying set piece to the next.
But what makes it so effective? I suppose that all depends on how horror affects you, but that first hour propels you straight into the unknown, as each corner is an enticing mystery, and the origins of the horror are yet to be revealed. The dinner table scene with the Baker family will remain etched into my brain for years to come, and while it's a disturbing scene, it also fantastically balances the comedy of such a ridiculous situation with poor Lucas getting his arm sliced off, mildly breaking that tension to provide a memorable moment - it's brilliant.
Resident Evil 2 Remake follows a similar trajectory, as a seemingly abandoned police station slowly unravels to contain something sinister. Those opening hours feel like a balloon, constantly being pumped full of air, until finally - POP! The slow paced beginnings fade away and the sinister Mr X makes his appearance. It's a fantastic reveal, and despite the constant tension of him stalking you through its halls, it feels as though you can finally relax as the horror reaches its crescendo.
It's not just slow building horror that makes the series' opening moments so memorable. Just look back at Resident Evil 4. One moment fans always remember is the first assault in the village, as you face overwhelming odds against a seemingly never-ending wave of undead. You lack resources, you're vulnerable, and your 'fight or flight' instincts immediately take over. It's a set piece that wouldn't feel out of place towards the game's conclusion, but it has the brave audacity to throw you straight into it. Just when you feel you have a handle on the situation, a chainsaw wielding maniac joins the fray. It's a section that feels as though it lasts an eternity, and is a now an iconic moment for the series.
Even last year's Resident Evil 3 Remake provided a bombastic introduction to its main antagonist, Nemesis, as you're pushed through an extended set piece in its first hour. It's feels ripped from an Uncharted game, but here, the terror is different and perfectly demonstrates the power of Nemesis. His undying need to eliminate you by any means necessary pushes you through crumbling buildings, zombie hordes, and an explosive ending involving you driving a car into his body. It's heart-racing, sweat inducing mayhem at its finest, and constantly has you screaming: "Why won't you die!?"
In a world where the Resident Evil series seems to be coming back with a vengeance, it's important to credit the fantastic work Capcom has done to revitalise this series. The talents on display are phenomenal, and each entry's opening moments seem to perfectly showcase just how well the team understands horror. It also understands it in its many forms - being scared, providing laughs, or pushing your way through some thrilling set pieces - there isn't one answer. Each title does something different, placing our poor character in some truly horrifying moments, and no matter what your feelings are on the latter hours of each game, those killer openings are undoubtedly a pièce de résistance.
Have a favourite opening to a Resident Evil game? Let us know in the comments below.