Before the Resident Evil series came out guns blazing, the games were pioneers of the survival-horror genre. Scarce ammo meant that careful consideration was to be made about how to take down the next foe, and specific camera angles provided heart-pounding suspense by not knowing what was around the next corner. While 2017 sees the release of the quasi-return-to-form title, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the high-definition remasters of its predecessors proved that there was still a demand for those mid-90s to early 2000s classics. Resident Evil HD Remaster ultimately throws on a fresh coat of paint, but it ends up shining just as bright as it did so many years ago.
The first Resident Evil tells the tale of S.T.A.R.S. — a special law enforcement team from Raccoon City — and their fight for survival after taking shelter in a creepy mansion. With a choice of picking between characters Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, it’s up to the player to find any survivors and escape unscathed. For those who are well-seasoned veterans of the franchise, there won’t be too many surprises here, but for the rookies, they’ll be thrown into intricate puzzles, unforgivable gameplay on the higher difficulties, and a life without a run button. With all the backtracking, locked doors, and potential for some seriously frustrating moments, it’s easy for someone to get turned off by what Resident Evil does best here, but the payoff is well worth it.
Coming into contact with enemies is just plain fun — whether it’s a monster, a creature, or a giant boss — and the fact that it’s still downright terrifying when the undead approach is a testament to how well the game holds up. Even if you’re wielding a gun or a knife — survival is never guaranteed. However, the main strategy of the game still remains: it’s all about item management and making sure that you’ll have enough medicine or ammunition to make it through the next round of living hell — but if you end up not finishing off a zombie properly, there’s potential for them to make an appearance the next time you waltz back through that area again.
Though the title of this game makes it sound like it was revamped entirely for current-gen consoles, that’s not exactly the case. This is actually an HD version of the remake that was made for Nintendo GameCube way back in 2002, so there aren’t as many improvements and crazy differences that someone may initially expect. Luckily, what did get improved is the control scheme, which lets the player decide whether to roll with the classic ‘tank controls’ or a more free-flowing movement pattern — the latter being much more suited for this remaster.
Of course, the game still excels visually — it did on the GameCube, and it’s certainly sharper now in high-definition. With the fixed camera angles in place, settings like certain rooms are just downright gorgeous, and lighting effects affect the character models, too. At times, it does suffer from some muddy textures when something is zoomed up close, but the atmosphere that’s created overall is immersive enough to let something like that slide. There’s just something special about venturing into a room, hearing the music ramp up to a dramatic level, and not being sure as to what that music is hinting at. It’s a tactic done masterfully in Resident Evil, and they’ve made that kind of suspense their calling card for well over a decade.
Still, the game is heavily rooted in the 90s — it isn’t exactly the best story in the horror genre, and the voice acting is, at times, ridiculously cheesy. Regardless, Resident Evil HD Remaster is a fantastic choice to pick up and play, and it doesn’t really matter if it’s for a fresh experience or just simply for the nostalgia factor. The most important part is that they’re timeless, and hopefully the success of these remakes — and the new Resident Evil 7 — will show Capcom that sticking to their roots is the best choice for the series’ future.
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