Remasters are a funny thing. They rely on nostalgia for the original game, feeding off that sense of wonder we felt when experiencing it the first time around. Some manage this successfully, upgrading everything that made the original great and ironing out any lingering flaws, while others attempt a half-arsed rehash that at best looks only nominally better and at worst comes out more broken than its predecessor.
Thankfully for fans of traditional survival horror everywhere, Resident Evil HD Remaster is the former.
Technically a remaster of a remaster, Resident Evil HD Remaster takes the GameCube version of Resident Evil – itself a massively overhauled version of the original game which came out on the PlayStation in 1996 – and adds a new graphical sheen and updated controls to what was already a horror classic.
Resident Evil introduces series mainstays Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine as members of an elite task force known as S.T.A.R.S. You choose which of the two you want to play as at the start of the game and begin investigating the disappearance of their fellow team members on the outskirts of the fictional American town of Raccoon City. After finding the team’s crashed helicopter and being set upon by mutated pooches, Chris, Jill, Barry and their captain, Wesker, take refuge in an old mansion infested with the undead. As players explore the mysterious mansion, they uncover clues and solve puzzles, battling the various monsters along the way. Depending on the player’s actions, the game ends with different outcomes.
Everything in the game is instantly recognisable, even if you missed the GameCube version and have only played the original. From the iconic mansion setting to the enemies and characters, the game looks absolutely gorgeous. The lighting effects are particularly impressive, all ominous glows and creeping shadows that cast a creepy haze over an already sinister locale.
From the iconic mansion setting to the enemies and characters, the game looks absolutely gorgeous.
The mansion itself has always been as much a character as any of the human mainstays, and this is more true than ever here thanks to the overhauled graphics. Hints at the mansion’s true, horrific purpose lie in every room, from the curious paintings and statues to the out-of-place iconography – shackles may belong in a millionaire’s sex dungeon but you certainly wouldn’t expect to see them in a corridor (Charlie Sheen’s mansion not withstanding). It’s these odd, out of place little touches that make you not only curious of what’s to come but also unsettled and wary of it. Sure, the building is full of zombified humans, dogs and even a particularly irate shark, but in an age where the sky is practically raining zombie stories it’s become easy to get desensitized to the shuffling little blighters.
The Joy Of Movement
The game has benefited massively from a revamped control scheme that takes inspiration from the more recent games, allowing you to use the left analogue stick to move in any direction at will. It sounds like such a basic thing but the original game’s characters controlled with all the ease and fluidity of a lorry trying to drive through a tar pit. The original option is still there for those who want it, but avoiding enemies and dodging around them during combat is made by so much easier by the introduction of this new system that the scariest thing about Resident Evil is no longer its controls.
It’s still just as challenging as you remember and makes you realise just how forgiving a lot of modern horror games have become.
It’s still just as challenging as you remember and makes you realise just how forgiving a lot of modern horror games have become. The amount of inventory space given to you at the start of the game is painfully sparse. By the time you’ve picked up a gun, some ammo and a puzzle-solving item your inventory is practically full. You won’t be able to pick up everything as you go and that means prioritising. Do you pick up that green herb that lets you replenish your health, or the ammo for the gun you’ve almost bled dry? Such choices alone can be incredibly tense and the difference between life and death. It can also be incredibly infuriating, particularly when you pick up a key item needed to solve a puzzle that occupies your last inventory square only to realise after considerable amount of time spent running around searching that you have no idea what its purpose is, and that you should have picked up something else instead so that you can solve a different puzzle.
There are no autosaves here, either. Instead there are typewriters placed around the mansion and a finite amount of ribbons you can find to use in them to save your progress. Save too often and you’ll run out of ribbons and who knows when you’ll find the next one. Again, it’s often frustrating and doesn’t sit well with modern gaming practices. Newcomers to the series or those accustomed only to the later Resident Evil games will find it particularly jarring.[yt_video id=”IjxFtFwY6jk”][/yt_video]
All of this goes toward creating that tense atmosphere the game is so well known for, though, and the remastered edition adds to this with some of the most tension-building camera angles you’ll ever see. In some sections the camera is in close and personal, refusing to track along with you and switching to another view only when your character moves completely out of shot. In others it hangs back at an angle, giving you a wide enough view that you can’t easily see over or around your character at what lies at the end of the corridor you’re in. Every shot seems carefully planned out to best evoke a sense of claustrophobia that really does add to the feeling of being trapped in a mansion full of suspense and horror at every turn.
There’s a wonderful simplicity to the game’s story compared to the series’ later entries. That’s not to say it’s simplistic by any means – there are betrayals, plot twists and suspenseful moments aplently – but it manages to avoid getting itself into the narrative tangles that tripped up some of the later games.
Still Itchy, Still Tasty
Despite its few flaws, Resident Evil holds up remarkably well as horror game even now, some 20 years after it was first released, and provides a welcome reminder of what made one of gaming’s biggest heavy hitter franchises so great. Horror fans everywhere owe it to themselves to pick this one up.