Its been 19 years since the original Resident Evil released, and in my case a staggering 18 since I last played it. This fact not only makes me feel old, but made Resident Evil HD Remaster a game I knew I absolutely needed to play.
I’ve spent the past few days venturing through an experience that I had forgotten with the passing of time, but one that is part of the reason video games are such a big part of my life. Though, it came with several modern improvements. The question is, was the soul of Resident Evil intact?
True to the Spirit
What’s important to understand is that Resident Evil HD Remaster isn’t a whole new product. Instead, it’s an HD version of the GameCube’s Resident Evil remake that released in 2002. So, you can accurately label it a remaster of a remake. If nothing else, that’s a testament to how great of a game Resident Evil was.
If you’re familiar with the remaster on GameCube, then you won’t be surprised by the quality here. Capcom has been careful not to tamper with what made Resident Evil the first true survival horror game. It still invokes paranoia with its minimalist soundtrack and creepy atmosphere where you feel like there’s always something watching you. It also comes with the same writing of the original, which is delivered in notoriously memorable corny B-list fashion.
The mansion that most of Resident Evil‘s adventure takes place in might be better looking than ever before, but it’s structured just as you remember it. You’ll find yourself exploring its halls and chambers with no assistance other than a few baseline tutorials, putting memories together piece-by-piece of your first time playing it—assuming you’ve played it before. What you might not remember is that most of the entertainment value comes from problem solving, where you’re constantly challenged to figure out where to go next based on subtle hints—think Myst. Because of this, there’s a lot of backtracking, but that’s just how games were back in the 90’s.
Capcom has been careful not to tamper with what made Resident Evil the first true survival horror game.
As with the original incarnation, Resident Evil HD Remaster is a puzzle-bound game. Some of its puzzles are clever, although many of them are as simple as matching objects within the game world with the location they need to be placed, or examining items. As much as Resident Evil is known for its prevalence of zombies, the game’s cast of enemies exists primarily to create tension while you seek solutions to the game’s long list of objectives. Well, outside of the frightening bosses, that is.
Pushing it One Step Further
If you’re revisiting this aged game, chances are it’s because you’re looking to experience classic Resident Evil with the perks of modern gaming. On that front, the game succeeds with flying colors.
A new control scheme makes navigation far less cumbersome than the original. You’re able to control Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield by moving the analog stick in the direction you want to travel. Additionally, run is on by default, so you don’t have to hold a button to get where you want to go quickly. Then, when it’s time to face an enemy, you’ll be glad to see that the game auto-faces the nearest enemy, making combat less strenuous than with the classic controls.
The new control scheme is much easier to handle, but doesn’t mesh well with the game’s static camera angles. When transitioning between locations, you’ll have to re-adjust your analog stick placement to avoid heading back to the last room by accident. Considering how often the camera angle changes, this is a small issue that appears frequently, but can be overcome with practice. If you decide that it’s affecting your experience too much, you can quickly switch over to classic controls, which are sure to bring evoke nostalgia.
Resident Evil HD Remaster’s presentation is where the game clearly identifies the advantages of new hardware. Put simply, this is a beautiful remaster. The 3D environments impact gameplay in a significant way, in addition to make the game much more visually pleasing. Also, the lighting system creates great atmosphere, especially when light sources are moving (i.e. a swaying chandelier).
The cutscenes from the GameCube’s remake have come along for the ride. They stand out as peculiar when compared to the drastic improvements of the gameplay areas, but are still much better than what was included in the original.
Put simply, this is a beautiful remaster.
The presentation isn’t perfect, though. Loading times haven’t improved much in the past 19 years, so you’ll find yourself frequently visiting loading screens where you watch a door opened slowly before you move through it. With the amount of backtracking that the game has, this is by far the single biggest nuisance of the journey.
Many regard Resident Evil as the first successful survival horror video game. Surprisingly, since 19 years ago the genre hasn’t progressed as far as one would have hoped. Resident Evil HD Remaster makes that particularly evident with its experience that, without nostalgia, would still pass as a far better than average survival horror game in 2015.
Much of my enjoyment was derived from re-experiencing something that had tremendous impact on me as a child, and I have a strong feeling that newcomers won’t enjoy it as much as I did. That said, this is a survival horror game that fans of the genre owe it to themselves to play, and with this new release priced at $20 price tag, there’s no excuse to miss it.
Jonathan Leack is the Gaming Editor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @jleack.
Xbox One and PC copy provided by publisher. Resident Evil HD Remaster is available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, and PC.