Resident Evil


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Complete Review & Description

It’s never easy finding new stuff to talk about when the game in question has been around for 19 years, has released on almost every major platform since the original PlayStation, and whose franchise has numerous sequels, spin-offs, movies, and merchandise. The fact that Capcom have come out saying that this re-release, of the GameCube remake no less, has broken their sales records and is officially their fastest selling digital title means there’s probably more people playing it now than ever before.

For those who have managed to sidestep Capcom’s numerous attempts at getting this game in front of you, it’d be easy to take a look at the more recent Resident Evil releases and assume the game that started it was also an action shooter. If you were to go into Resident Evil HD with that in mind, you’re either going to come away disappointed or confused as to how the series is where it currently is.

The original Resident Evil released back in 1996 and was controversial enough that certain aspects had to be censored or remade for the Western audience. It featured amazingly camp FMV (full-motion video) cinematics, B-grade acting, and was essentially a puzzle game with zombies. Pre-rendered backgrounds and static cameras were all the rage on the Playstation at the time as it allowed games to look better than if they were fully 3D. Ammo and saving was limited, controls were thought to be difficult, and the atmosphere was second to none. Resident Evil was the game that coined the term “”survival horror”.

In 2002 Capcom remade Resident Evil exclusively for the GameCube to a very willing audience. CG cinematics and new voice recordings replaced the terrible acting found in the original. Pre-rendered backgrounds had been completely remade and included animated candles and other lighting effects. Character models were rebuilt and it was claimed (by the developers) that each character had more polygons than the entire original game. Not all of the changes were cosmetic though, with Capcom changing the locations of key items, and including a twist on the zombie formula. Players now had the ability to set zombies on fire once they had been taken out. If you didn’t destroy the head of the zombie or set them on fire, there’s a chance that later in the game they’d come back as a Crimson Head: a faster, stronger, and more terrifying foe.

Despite the changes, no alterations were made to the inventory, meaning you still had to micromanage how much Chris or Jill could have on them at any one time. This meant trips to the magical storage box (placing items in one box meant they were available in others) was still something you had to do. Which meant you still had to worry about that one zombie you left alone because you were out of bullets. Which meant that the other zombie you killed an hour ago could now be a Crimson Head.

In fact, despite all of the changes, the game didn’t just feel like the original, it felt better. Some bemoaned the lack of control options, and were forced to return to an outdated mode of controls. However, these “”tank controls”” were something some gamers had gotten used to, and some claimed would be superior to any other control style. With a push forward of the analog stick players move forward in the direction the character is facing. Pushing left rotates them counter-clockwise, and right: clockwise. The only addition to the controls, and a much needed addition at that, was the ability to quickly turn about-face so running was an easier option.

With all of the remastering of games these days, Capcom had a few options to choose from. They could up-res the character’s textures (à la Grim Fandango, Final Fantasy VII), they could rebuild the entire game from the ground up (like Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask on the 3DS), or they could find a nice middle ground. While it hasn’t been completely rebuilt like the 3DS Zelda titles, they’ve done almost all they could to make it feel like it has.

All of the pre-rendered backgrounds and cinematics have been upscaled to a higher resolution, and character models are more detailed than ever before. A 16:9 widescreen mode has also been added and opens the view up, instead of squashing the image to fit (as was the case in Grim Fandango). It may seem like a small change, but to have black bars down the sides of a game like Resident Evil would merely help to detract from the immersion and atmosphere the game is trying to pull you into.

Unlike the GameCube remake a new control scheme has been added. These new controls allow you to simply move the analog stick in a specific direction, and that’s the direction your character will move. While this is great in theory, and it’s how most games work these days, it simply doesn’t work when you have static cameras that switch as you move about the environment.

Suddenly right becomes left, and you’re walking straight back into the section of the mansion you had just moved from. While tank controls may still feel dated, they also feel perfect for the type of game this is. It’s not the action/adventure that the new Resident Evil games have become, it’s a survival horror with puzzles that the first four in the series strived to be.

The atmosphere in Resident Evil is second to none, and it’s something that needs to make a comeback.

I can only imagine this new control scheme was added for new gamers that haven’t experienced the original tank controls of games like Resident Evil, Dino Crisis, and Alone in the Dark. In fact, the addition of selectable skins based off the newer games makes me think that newer gamers might have been pulled out of the experience by using the original skins. This was an addition I didn’t expect to like, but when you’ve already played the game on four different platforms, you start looking for ways to change the experience.

Speaking of which, playing through Resident Evil in 2015 reminds me of one very sobering thought. Most game developers of today don’t know what a true survival horror experience is. There’s something about the way Resident Evil is put together that makes most exploration tense. It’s the lack of music as you walk down a corridor seeing only the silhouette of Jill or Chris shrink into the distance. It’s the flickering light at the bottom of a set of stone steps with only the creaking of chains awaiting you. The atmosphere in Resident Evil is second to none, and it’s something that needs to make a comeback.

Overall the release of Resident Evil HD in 2015 couldn’t have happened at a better time. There’s been a dearth of truly atmospheric horror games over the last two generations, so it’s not surprising that a remake of the original classic is what could bring a new audience to the genre.

My only fear going ahead is that the success of Resident Evil HD won’t inspire Capcom to remaster Resident Evil 0, 2, 3, and Code Veronica, and instead read it as reason to make Resident Evil 7. There’s room in this world for the new-style Resident Evil, but it should never be at the expense of removing classics from the selection.



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