The long-awaited remake of Resident Evil 2 comes out in two days, so I decided to look back at a controller that was designed specifically for Resident Evil games.
The Biohazard Dedicated Controller (released internationally as the Resident Evil Pad) was released in 1998 as a limited-edition item alongside Resident Evil 2 (known as Biohazard 2 in Japan). It was developed by ASCII and advertised to be compatible with the original Resident Evil, Resident Evil: Director’s Cut, and the then newcomer Resident Evil 2.
You might be thinking “uh, what am I looking at?”
The first thing that might strike you as odd is the grips–they don’t match! Believe it or not, the mold of the grips is meant to emulate the handles of a knife and a gun.
In the Resident Evil games, you are often given two basic weapons to start off with—a handgun and a knife. The handgun is typically the weakest of the firearms available to you while the knife is an absolute-last-resort weapon that may come in handy if you’ve somehow depleted all available ammunition.
The “knife-grip” is on the left, beneath the D-pad. Notice that this controller lacks analog sticks. Resident Evil 2 released in January 1998, several months before the North American introduction of PlayStation’s Dualshock analog-stick controllers in May 1998. Japan would have already had Dualshocks by the time the Resident Evil Pad was released, but it is likely that development of this controller began before their introduction.
The “gun-grip” is on the right-hand side of the controller. On the back, it features a trigger button that lets you shoot after pressing R1 to aim. This is an interesting inversion of the usual button layout for these games—where a player would hold a shoulder button to aim, then press a face button to fire. Speaking of which, you may notice that the controller has the R1 button mixed in with three of the PlayStation’s trademark face buttons–Circle, Triangle, and X (or “Cross” depending on who you ask). If the lack of a Square button is giving you some anxiety, don’t fret. The trigger on the back is the stand-in for that.
The center of the controller features four more buttons that stand in for the shoulder buttons, which this controller lacks. There’s another R1 button there for some reason.
Their placement is peculiar to say the least, but this was likely done because the original Resident Evil and its first sequel did not necessitate the use of the shoulder buttons beyond using R1 to aim. This, of course, would change and not just because shoulder buttons later became the standard for aiming and shooting in many action games. More on that in a moment.
One last comment on the button layout–there is a toggle for turbo above the main face buttons. Turning this on gives you “auto-fire” when you decides to aim and shoot, but given that Resident Evil incentivizes ammo conservation I think it’s better to choose when to shoot and not rely on automatic fire.
Using the Resident Evil Pad with Resident Evil Games
Earlier, I wrote that the Resident Evil Pad could be used with Resident Evil, its Director’s Cut edition, as well as its sequel. It would be a real tragedy if the controller’s compatibility ended there. Fortunately, it does not.
The introduction of PlayStation’s Dualshock controllers inspired Capcom to release updated versions of Resident Evil: Director’s Cut and Resident Evil 2. These are simply referred to as the “Dualshock Versions” and they allow players to control the game’s characters with the left analog stick, but if they want they can still use the D-pad, which means this controller still had some use.
But the fun doesn’t stop there! For a surprising length of time, Resident Evil games on both the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 continued to give players the option of controlling their characters with the D-pad as well as an analog stick. The reason why is likely because the development teams continued to implement so-called “tank controls” for character movement. In addition, the series did not deviate much from the first game’s button configuration for several years. Spin-offs would add little tweaks, but otherwise a player could move, shoot, solve puzzles, and explore the world of Resident Evil with more-or-less the same controls.
But does the Resident Evil Pad work well with these more recent titles? It is difficult for me to say, as I have no hands-on experience using this controller. However, since its D-pad is unchanged from the ones found on first-party PlayStation controllers, it is easy for me to theorize how well it could work. What I can say confidently is that as more changes were made to the series’ controls, the layout of the other buttons on the Resident Evil Pad would likely frustrate someone trying to use it.
Direct follow-ups like Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil: Code: Veronica X used the exact same control scheme as the first two Resident Evil games, so this controller would work fine. The spin-offs Resident Evil: Survivor and Resident Evil: Dead Aim would be a little trickier. While moving and shooting can still be done with the same buttons, the execution in those cases are much different as they implemented first-person shooting rather than third-person. In addition, Dead Aim’s controls are noticeably clunky, even compared to the tank controls of its parent series. In other words, using the Resident Evil Pad would not be optimal.
Resident Evil: Outbreak and its sequel are somewhat better suited to D-pad control, but the characters do not truly move in a tank-like manner. It is clear that that they were meant to be controlled with the analog stick and yet they can be moved with the D-pad for veteran players I assume. Furthermore, Outbreak introduced a crazy amount of new features that necessitates the use of practically the entire controller. The shoulder buttons in particular were commonly used, so having them on the face of the controller would make the game frustrating.
Lastly, there is the PlayStation 2 version of Resident Evil 4. Here, again, the character can be controlled using the D-pad, but now things are much different. For one thing, the aiming and shooting has changed significantly from older titles and the shoulder buttons are a must, especially if you want to use your knife. Without analog sticks, you wouldn’t be able to manipulate the camera, which isn’t a huge detriment if you’re in one of the game’s more cramped environments. I’m trying to imagine how it would work, and all I can picture is disaster. But again, I have no hands-on experience using the Resident Evil Pad. Someday, I’ll have to try it out.
In theory, the Resident Evil Pad could be used with other games on the PlayStation or PlayStation 2, so long as they don’t absolutely require the Dualshock analog sticks. (Sorry, Ape Escape…) I say “in theory” because of the aforementioned button layout. It may be fun for a get-together with friends to have the Square button be a trigger or to have the shoulder buttons all clumped in the center, but it may not be fun to use it seriously with games outside of the Resident Evil series. I suppose it was called the “Biohazard Dedicated Controller” in Japan for a reason.
Given all I have seen about this controller, I don’t think I could recommend it for anyone besides a diehard Resident Evil fan and one with some cash lying around at that–as this is a collector’s item.
Thanks for reading.