By Bryan Smith on January 22, 2015 at 11:59am
Somewhat popular opinion time: “Resident Evil Remake” for the Nintendo GameCube is one of my favorite games of all time. So when Capcom announced that the remake would be getting an HD touch-up to PlayStation 4/Xbox One/PC, I was excited and optimistic. Does the remake of one of video gaming’s most iconic horror series hold up today? For the most part, yeah. “"Resident Evil HD Remaster” is a great way to enjoy one of the best remakes of a video game ever made.
Same Good Ol' Gameplay, Some New Bells and Whistles
“"Resident Evil HD Remaster” is about a police force called S.T.A.R.S. going into the Arklay Mountains to investigate grisly murders. We soon discover that the murderers are zombies! The game then spirals into what caused people to become zombies and why this is all happening.
Once inside the Spencer Mansion, players who have played the original on the GameCube will find themselves extremely comfortable, as most of the gameplay mechanics are virtually the same. However, there are two game function layout options. There is the original layout, which has the tank controls mapped to the arrow buttons/directional pad and actions on the face buttons. Aiming is still done with L1 (or left bumper) and attacking with R1 (or right bumper).
Alternate controls, on the flipside, let you move Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield freely without any need of pressing a button to run with the left stick. Using the stick to run and move feels more organic and nice - a neat feature for those who like to speed things along without tank controls. It should be noted that these controls take some getting used to, as the new movement doesn’t necessarily keep in mind that screen transitions may disorient players with a completely new direction. Tank controls are still there for those who prefer, which is also nice.
Aside from a few new control options, the game plays just like it did when it released for the GameCube. The port is extremely faithful with the controls and everything is still the same, whether it's the puzzles, layout of key items, or the zombies that come back as Crimson Heads. The additional content is also there, with the aforementioned Crimson Head zombies, the gruesome new monster simply named Lisa Trevor, and harder modes that make enemies invisible. There's even a mode that straps a zombie full of explosions that kills you instantly should you attack it. One Dangerous Zombie indeed.
The Graphics and Atmosphere Are Simply Divine
One the best parts of “"Resident Evil HD Remaster” is how much attention to detail was put into the atmosphere. The lighting effects, coupled with the lightning flashes, are drop dead gorgeous, something I haven’t seen replicated in horror in years (minus the recent “Alien Isolation”). Being in this giant mansion legitimately feels lonely as thunder crashes outside and the one grandfather clock ticks and tocks.
An extremely important part of keeping the atmosphere alive is having the music/sound match the sensation. Other horror games, including later “Resident Evil” titles, are guilty of having constant music to alert that a threat or enemy is in the room. “"Resident Evil HD Remaster” only gives some audio clues that SOMETHING is with you, but that doesn’t give enough to say what that something could be. Ignoring that little groan or pitter-patter can easily cost your life. Sure, the game throws in a few parts were the music suddenly appears, but those are for scripted encounters, which doesn’t really hurt the experience.
Survival Means Surviving, Not Killing Everything
One thing that many, many people forget about “Resident Evil,” or hell, any survival horror game, is that surviving is the key element. Being able to mass-genocide the enemy threat with ammo to spare isn’t gripping or terrifying. It may be fun for those who just want to gun down everything, but that’s not the point in horror. Being able to get out of a life-threatening situation, like fending off a giant, venomous snake with very little to defend yourself, is what made “Resident Evil Remake,” along with the original title, special.
Horror is defined by not knowing if you can make it through a situation. Take “Resident Evil 5” or “Resident Evil 6” for instance. I know I’ll be okay because most threats can’t outright kill me. My AI partner or co-op friend can save me if it isn’t instant death. In the previous “Resident Evils,” going back from “RE4,” anything can and will kill me without so much as a notice.
“Resident Evil Remake” has several monsters that don’t look moderately threatening (or to a seasoned player who’s seen them before anyways). Take the Hunters for example. They just look like mutant frogmen. You so much as let them get in close, you risk getting your head served on a platter with an instant decapitation. There isn't any warning other than a scream by the Hunter that could also be for a standard swipe attack. The hero in me no longer says, “I can take him on with one hand tied behind my back” but instead says, “Nope. I'd rather tango with the zombies. Ciao,” as I run for the nearest door. Especially if that Hunter is rocking a buddy or two.
Charm and the "Wow"... Seem to Have Wandered Off
Yes, if there’s one thing that I look for in a game is how effective it makes me emote. While the atmosphere and graphics are still wonderful as ever, something about the remake rubs me the wrong way. I think it’s the way the game loads and saves data and the added menus. It’s extremely noticeable that they were added in just to show that something is happening for the sake of it, like the game saving with the blood splatter. With the PlayStation 4 version (at least), it doesn’t make the game feel all that special when it loads with the typical PlayStation loading box, something I felt loosened the special charm the PlayStation 3 did with all of its saving and loading.
The lack of charm doesn’t come from the game itself, don’t get me wrong. Everything that was eerie, cheesy, and what-have-you is still there from the original remake. I’m just saying that the HD ports gave the game a formality that doesn’t settle right.
Another thing missing is the wow factor. This isn’t due to anyone who ported this- this is just an unfortunate thing that comes with porting an existing game with better HD graphics. Let’s rewind back to 2002. The first “Resident Evil” was still seen as the PlayStation title with aged graphics that only has nostalgic charm to it and so awful dialog that it’s awesome. Capcom then reveals the remake. The transition is just mind-boggling to see such an improvement in every little detail. I argue that the original “Resident Evil Remake” is the single best remake for this very reason.
Now we have this port. Sure, it adds a few control options, some nicer graphics, and costumes from “Resident Evil 5.” But the wow… just isn’t there. I think the same thing happened when “Resident Evil 2 & 3” got ported to the GameCube and not remade like the first game. People didn’t care as they could easily play the originals on their PlayStations. There really isn’t anything special or unique other than having “Resident Evil Remake” on newer consoles (as of this writing).
Fantastic Game... Though Not Too Much New
My only fear going into this HD port was the port itself being sloppy. I was greatly pleased to find that everything still checks out great. I also knew going in that this HD port couldn’t give me that brand new experience I first had on the GameCube. Nostalgic feelings or not, the sense of absolute amazement has gone. As someone who has played a large majority of the “Resident Evil” games, this is a must own game in either of its versions. Considering the HD port is only twenty dollars, I’d say this is definitely worth playing if you’re into survival horror.
I’m hoping that this iteration of “Resident Evil” does well so Capcom goes back to “Resident Evil 2 & 3” and remakes them in the same way they did with the first game. Originally, I heard that the game on the GameCube didn’t sell great, which probably killed the idea to remake the other two. With the amount of effort put into “Resident Evil Remake,” one can only imagine what the potential the other two games have with their remakes…