Resident Evil HD Remaster

0 4 out of 5 stars
PC, Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date:

Since Resident Evil 4 appeared in 2005, Resident Evil has been an action/horror series where players slaughter zombies with an arsenal of guns and plentiful ammo. However, for the first few entries in the franchise, the mechanics and interface were distinctly different. The original Resident Evil was deliberately filled with unintuitive and needlessly difficult design choices intended to make players feel confused, vulnerable, and anxious. Now, 19 years after the original Resident Evil game arrived, it has a new HD Remastered edition that introduces a new generation of players to true survival horror.

Resident Evil HD Remaster is not actually a recreation of the original game. Rather, it's a remaster of the 2002 Gamecube remake. The 2002 "RE-Make" followed the story and level design of the original game from 1996, but it added in a substantial amount of new locations, puzzles, and features. It was the apex of the classic survival horror formula, and the best game in the franchise until RE4 came along.

The ongoing storyline for the series has spun out of control over the years, but it all started with a simple "House In The Woods" premise. Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine are part of an elite police unit in Raccoon City, and their team becomes trapped in a mysterious mansion that's overrun with zombies and other monsters. Since then, Chris, Jill, and their numerous friends have joined other organizations and had adventures all over the world, but this game has a readily digestible plot and is an excellent choice for new players to try the series.

Players who only know the recent Resident Evil titles will be surprised by the gameplay of Resident Evil HD Remaster. The designers want to frighten players, so they strictly limit ammunition and healing supplies, and players can only save their progress by using an in-game typewriter at designated spots.

In 1996 when the original Resident Evil came out, a typewriter was a standard piece of office equipment, and the use of "Save Points" was quite common in games. However, the game added in an extra level of difficulty because, even when the player finds a typewriter, he or she needs to have a typewriter ink ribbon in their inventory to actually use the typewriter. There is also a limited number of ink ribbons in the game, so this mean that players will not only worry about dying between save points, but also whether or not they're wasting ribbons by saving too often.

Even more nerve-wracking for the player is the fact that the characters have extremely limited inventory space. Every item takes up an Inventory Slot, and one of the characters has a mere six slots. Using "Video Game Logic" the size or weight of the objects don't matter; a tiny key takes up a full slot, just the same as a huge rocket launcher. A single round of ammunition takes up a full slot, as does a magazine with thirty rounds.

Resident Evil is heavily inspired by mid-'90s adventure games. Jill and Chris have to run back and forth all over the mansion, filling up their limited inventory with keys and puzzle objects, then hauling them around to find the right place to use them. It has the same sort of bizarre reasoning that was rampant in adventure games back then: “Surely this enormous bag of weed killer will come in handy eventually.” 

This was done to force players to backtrack through levels and fight new enemies that would suddenly spawn in previously cleared areas. It successfully makes the mansion a scary place, but the relentless inventory management is also very irritating, especially for modern players who are accustomed to more forgiving inventory systems. Nothing is more frustrating than having an empty gun in Jill’s hand and a magazine full of ammunition lying at her feet, but she’s unable to pick up the magazine and stick it in her gun because she doesn’t have a free inventory slot!

The original game was often remembered for its “Tank Controls” in which the characters had to be slowly turned like tanks when the player wanted to change directions. In Resident Evil HD Remaster, the controls have been updated to work like a modern third person game; just push in the direction the player wants to go (and the classic control scheme is still an option too).

The new controls can be exploited, though. It’s easy to slash with the knife, then quickly step away from a zombie. The slow-moving zombies can be easily dodged, and this gives players a notable advantage in early parts of the game when ammunition is particularly scarce.

The original controls also made players hold down the right shoulder button to aim, then press a thumb button to fire. This was so counter-intuitive that there was actually a special Resident Evil controller for the PlayStation 1 that did little more than switch these two buttons so that the player could fire his or her gun by pulling the trigger. Mercifully, the new remaster uses a conventional aiming system where the left trigger makes the character aim, and the right trigger fires. On PC, the keyboard and mouse set-up in tolerable-yet-unwieldy and a gamepad is strongly recommended.

Nonetheless, Resident Evil HD Remaster is the best example of the classic Resident Evil formula from the old days. It is a significant graphical improvement over the Gamecube edition, and is more inviting to novice players. After a decade of the "New" action/horror format, this remastered classic feels surprisingly fresh and innovated. Players who never tried the older games will find it to be an accessible history lesson that doesn't involve setting up a dusty old console. Middle-aged players who remember it from the first time around will have fun retracing their steps through the familiar old mansion—lugging those implausible puzzle items with them every step of the way.

Resident Evil HD Remaster is available in North America starting January 20th, 2015 on PC, Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360 and PS3.