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Resident Evil HD Remaster Review

by Kyle Hanson
Resident Evil Origins Collection

The original Resident Evil is one of those rare releases that reshaped the gaming landscape. While others had featured survival horror elements before, Resident Evil truly codified the disparate elements of the genre, resulting in a formula that was copied and mimicked for years to come. However, like so many other early 3D titles, it didn’t age particularly well. The graphics were blocky, the textures were blurry, and the voice acting was frankly awful. This was all gloriously fixed with the 2002 Gamecube remake, which was a near total reworking of the original game. Unfortunately, due to its Gamecube exclusivity, many didn’t get to play this new survival horror classic. This is no longer a problem thanks to the release of Resident Evil HD Remaster, which takes the Gamecube remake, adds a few modern elements, and upgrades the visuals to match today’s standards. All of this remaking and remastering results in a game that features old-school survival horror gameplay with a gorgeous coat of HD paint layered on top.

Resident Evil HD Remaster is, at its core, the same game that came out in 1996 for the PlayStation 1. You choose between Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, two members of Raccoon City’s S.T.A.R.S. unit, as they investigate mysterious deaths in the surrounding countryside. Your mission quickly goes south as vicious dogs trap you and the surviving members of your team in a mansion that seems to hold even worse horrors than those outside. You will do battle with zombies and other monsters as you solve various puzzles in order to unlock the mystery of the mansion and the disturbing events that seem to have occurred there.

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The gameplay of Resident Evil is quite different from anything found in the later entries in the series. As either Jill or Chris you slowly explore the mansion and its surrounding area, spending more time solving puzzles than fighting enemies. Combat is present, but it is best avoided, and nearly all of your resources are scarce and should be conserved whenever possible. The initial character choice might seem small, but it actually mixes up the story and gameplay a little bit, resulting in two playthroughs with just enough difference to feel worthwhile.

If you are a Resident Evil fan and never got a chance to play this excellent remake…then Resident Evil HD Remaster is a must own title

The 2002 Gamecube REmake took this basic story and gameplay and totally revamp it, creating a game that improved on the original in almost every way. Not only were the graphics redone entirely from the ground up, but the gameplay, story, and the infamous voice acting were also updated. Capcom knew going in that the Resident Evil mansion had become such an iconic gaming location that many players had the entire floor plan memorized. Thus, it was mixed up just enough to add back a sense of unfamiliarity, while adding in cut areas that flesh out the story and add a few extra hours of gameplay. Smaller changes, like characters reacting to their health state, the use of defensive weapons, and the Crimson Head zombies, which force you to burn defeated zombies or face their resurrected wrath, all make the Resident Evil REmake a major improvement on an already fantastic game. If you are a Resident Evil fan and never got a chance to play this excellent remake when it was originally released for the Gamecube then Resident Evil HD Remaster is a must own title as it carries over all of the exemplary work from the REmake with a few key retouches.

Those retouches of course include the graphics, which have been upgraded to 1080p on PC, PS4, and Xbox One  and 720p for PS3 and Xbox 360, but also a new control scheme and widescreen support. Unfortunately these last two are where arguments might start among longtime fans. The controls of Resident Evil are a bit of a hot topic, as some enjoyed them and others felt that they totally ruined the experience. Essentially, in Resident Evil you control your character as though they were a tank, pushing forward makes them always move forward in relation to themselves. The camera angle has nothing to do with which way you should point the control stick. This can be very frustrating if you have trouble getting your head around how it works, and even the most proficient Resident Evil fan can get into some trouble in more frenetic areas. Resident Evil HD Remaster tries to fix this by adding in a more traditional control scheme, where directions are determined by the camera angle, instead of your character’s subjective point-of-view.

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However, this brings with it a few problems, which was probably why the original designers went with the tank controls in the first place. Camera angles in Resident Evil HD Remaster are static, they will shift as you move around the environment, but only to another pre-determined location and viewpoint. With the tank controls you can walk down a hallway just by holding forward, making your character continue down the hall despite shifting camera angles. With the new control scheme this still works, but you eventually end up pointing in the wrong direction, and any shift results in you having the re-center and adjust for the new angle. For those that hated the original tank controls this will probably be a small price to pay for not having to deal with the frustration, but veterans of the series will likely prefer the original.

As far as the basic HD remastering is concerned, Capcom has done a great job of updating and improving on the Gamecube release

Likewise, the visuals offer additional options as well, but are similarly held back by the design of the original. Being on the Gamecube, the Resident Evil REmake was made with 4:3 televisions in mind. Of course most TVs and monitors now are in the 16:9 widescreen format. You can choose between these two options in Resident Evil HD Remaster, but since the backgrounds in the game are static and can’t be rendered in widescreen, you end up with chopped off top and bottom sections of the screen. This too will come down to individual player preference, as the 4:3 version offers more visual information, but the 16:9 fills the whole screen. Thankfully neither the visual nor control changes are a bad thing, even if you hate the newly added options, as the older options are readily available, and can be switched to at any time in-game.

As far as the basic HD remastering is concerned, Capcom has done a great job of updating and improving on the Gamecube release. Those who played the REmake when it released in 2002 will likely not immediately notice any major improvements, but that is simply due to nostalgia clouding their memory. If one were to go back and actually play the original title they would immediately see the stark difference in color, clarity, and overall sharpness. Capcom has taken a game that many would argue still looks good today, and made it truly stand out as one of the best looking HD remasters available. Aside from a few of the more dated elements it would be fairly simple to convince a new player that Resident Evil HD Remaster was a completely new creation.

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This is not true however of the gameplay. Whether good or bad, aside from the few aforementioned alterations, the gameplay of the original 1996 Resident Evil is still present in Resident Evil HD Remaster. Combat is slow and is best avoided whenever possible, inventory management is a major element of frustration, and it can be easy to get lost within the labyrinth of the mansion, running back and forth trying to spot the small item or key that you neglected to pick up on your first trip through. Fans of the genre will likely be pleased with this, as modern survival horror, even within the Resident Evil series, has largely become too action-heavy for their tastes. However, for those that haven’t dove into earlier installments in the genre, it can be a bit jarring and might feel dated to the more casual fan. For those who have trouble adjusting to the older gameplay elements Resident Evil HD Remaster adds in a Very Easy mode, which will let you enjoy all the atmosphere and fear without the frustration.

If you can look past this, or even enjoy it, then Resident Evil HD Remaster is a true treat of a game. Despite having played through the original game and the REmake more times than I can count, I quickly found myself sucked back into the dark and ominous world of Resident Evil. Exploring the mansion still offers that same strange mix of fun and creepy that pulled in millions of fans over the last two decades. The jump scares are still both effective and earned thanks to the amazing atmospheric feeling brought on by the visuals and sound. And the overall experience is still one that will haunt and delight players both old and new.

The Verdict

Resident Evil HD Remaster might not offer as many deep changes as the 2002 Gamecube REmake, but it takes the work done there and puts it together into a more modern package. Anyone who hasn’t played the REmake and has a passing interest in the survival horror genre needs to play this game as it offers classic gameplay combined with some of the best visuals in the genre. For those that have played the Gamecube release, this version offers little more than modernized visuals and a questionably updated control scheme, but if you don’t want to drag out your Gamecube (or Wii) to experience the classic once again then this is an upgrade that is definitely worth your attention.

"loved"
loved

  • Available On: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
  • Published By: Capcom
  • Developed By: Capcom
  • Genre: Survival Horror
  • US Release Date: January 20th, 2015
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "Resident Evil HD Remaster takes the fantastic REmake from the Gamecube and bumps it up to modern standards with improved visuals, new difficulty settings and a new control scheme. Fans of the genre should pick it up immediately, but more casual players might have trouble with the older gameplay style."
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