Formats Tested – Xbox One and PC
I was just a little boy when Resident Evil hit shelves. Just a wee boy who wasn’t terrified of zombies. Note the use of past tense.
My Mum was always very careful about what she let me watch, or play. I’d never officially gotten to kill very much of anything besides the robots that encase innocent woodlands creatures in Sonic games. I still remember being frozen stiff by the iconic introduction to the inhabitants of Spencer Mansion. That cutscene still freaks me out, but it’s a damn good feeling.
So here we are, 19 years later, exploring gaming’s most well-known haunted house all over again. It’s the remake of the remake, but the spirit is the same. It’s a spooky game that expects you to keep track of your health, ammunition, puzzle items and even the mansion’s layout at all times. It’s a game with a world you’ll soon know like the back of your hand if you manage to get anywhere in it. It’s a glorious old bastard and I never knew how much I missed it.
I said that The Evil Within was a wakeup call to the industry, that trends in survival horror had killed off both the survival and the horror, and it works here too. Resident Evil HD isn’t just LIKE the olden days, it IS the olden days. Diving into it is like stepping through a time machine and being chucked out in an era of gaming that is about as different from the current as it could possibly be.
I’ll assume you’re new to the series from here on in. Resident Evil is a survival horror title that has you kicking about an abandoned mansion solving puzzles to unlock new areas which also unlocks new puzzles to unlock new areas and so on and so on. None of your modern “puzzles”, mind. We’re not talking “use the lockpick to open the door” we’re talking “slot four disfigured masks onto the appropriately disfigured statues to release a deadly beast and also a key”.
This is the kind of family security system that’s designed by a complete lunatic and it’s your job to pick your way through it, avoiding or blowing chunks off of zombies, dogs and worse as you go.
Mind and remember that evasion is actually an option too, especially if you play on anything other than “easy”. Helpful items like ammo and healing green herbs are thin on the ground and you have to make each and every one count. Every moment you’ll spend playing this game will have you going over your inventory in the back of your mind.
Even saving is a limited resource, with the only way to save your progress being to cart your arse over to the nearest safe room with a typewriter in it. Then you need an ink ribbon. Which is an extremely limited resource. That’s right, you can reach a point where you are no longer able to save your game. At all. No autosave or checkpoints here, ladies and gents. It’s all you.
So do you head back and use one of your two remaining ink ribbons to save your game before venturing into a new area? What if you run through that door and right into one of the game’s spooky bosses, like the giant snake Yawn or the enormous spider? What a fool you’ll look if you decide against saving and then end up spiderling food. There goes every second of progress you made since your last save. But are you willing to get so close to running out of saves? It’s a game of choices.
What really makes the game shine, though, is its atmosphere. The Spencer Mansion is not a pleasant place to be. Even if it wasn’t stuffed with things that want to eat you, this place would still be oppressive. It’s a cold and unwelcoming place. Throw that in with the fantastic audio tracks that play over you walking nervously down dark, narrow hallways and you’ve got a damned creepy game. There’s some great little scares too as windows and doors give way to angry creatures.
One of the most controversial aspects of this game is actually something that adds a great deal to the experience, and that is the control system. The remake held on to the original game’s tank-style movement controls. They make movement feel difficult and imprecise, adding an extra layer of difficulty as well as enhancing the fear factor of encounters. Trying to reorient your character to face a door is a terrifying proposition when a Crimson Head is batting you across the bonce with his clawed fingers.
Capcom have heard the cries of those who hate this control scheme, though, and decided to add an alternative. Using the new control scheme basically means that the player characters move in the direction that the left stick is tilted. I’ve heard some people reporting that it can be a bit awkward when mixed with the game’s fixed camera angles, but there’s not much that can be done about that. The scheme should make it easier to avoid enemies in a pinch thanks to a great deal more manoeuvrability.
Although, personally, I think it’s blasphemous.
Speaking of blasphemy, the lines that almost gained more fame than the game itself due to hilarious bad translations were fixed for the Gamecube release of the remake, and remain fixed here. No more Jill sandwiches. Gone is Jill’s title of ‘Master of Unlocking’. A shame to see them go, although people who pick it up on the PC will be happy to know that modders are already hard at work forcing the old awful dialogue back in there.
On one final note: many PC users reported low framerates in instances of the game changing camera angle or beginning a cutscene. Thanks to the game’s complete lack of frame skipping this just means the visual side of the game slows down, while the audio keeps on going as usual, desynchronising cutscenes. It’s not an issue that all users have to put up with, but if you snap it up on PC and find your cutscenes and desynching, you can try turning off vsync in-game and enabling adaptive vsync on your graphic’s card’s driver frontend.
The Good Stuff
- Solid atmosphere
- Uses restrictive design to boost the spookiness
- Zombies will still shit you right up
- Hard as hell (provided you’re not playing on baby’s first video game mode)
- Differences between character stories extends replayability
The Bad Stuff
- Might seem like a complete nightmare to play if you’ve never touched an old survival horror game before
- They removed the INCREDIBLE bad voice acting and replaced it with plain old bad voice acting
So what’s to be said for Resident Evil HD? It’s a tense, scary, engaging, hilarious and ridiculously unforgiving by today’s standards. Does it hold up? Fuck yes. Should you buy it? Fuck yes. It’s a game that students of game design should be forced to play through to understand how horror can be built upon using things like character control and visiblity rather than simply spooky noises and lots of gore. If you’ve been itching for a go at some proper survival horror then here’s your chance to do it in glorious HD.