I’m going to be honest here, when I think of games I’d like to see Remastered I would pick something like Grim Fandango, something that hasn’t been done before and is hard to find. I would not pick a Remastering of a previous Remastering. Nevertheless, that’s the situation we have with the oddly titled Resident Evil HD Remastered (oddly because everyone but Capcom knows it as the Resident Evil REmake), but I’m fine with that since the GameCube remastering of the original Resident Evil is one of the best remakes ever made. Let me tell you why in 800 words or less.
The first Resident Evil was a game changer, in that it literally changed gaming. While hugely influenced by Alone in the Dark Capcom improved the controls, made everything more straightforward to get into, and kept the scares and puzzles wrapped up in an intriguing story set in a huge mansion. It would spawn an entire genre, the survival horror, but the original aged very fast and Resident Evil 2 seemed far superior. Then in 2002 as part of their deal with Nintendo Capcom released a total remake of the original on GameCube. The graphics were completely overhauled, the now-infamous godawful voice acting was redone, the puzzles and mansion layout were tweaked, and the story slightly reconnected so things were more in line with the current games. It was basically a completely new game, and was and still is the best pre-Resident Evil 4 Resident Evil game.
Let’s carry on being honest: plenty of the things that were impressive in 2002 are now out-of-date or embarrassing. The redone voice acting now sounds almost as bad as the original, and the non-engine prerendered cutscenes look utterly awful. There is a frustrating amount of backtracking and random running about in the mansion, you can’t skip the now-pointless door-opening animations, and if you haven’t played it before you’ll need a pen and paper handy because Capcom doesn’t tell you anything you need to do or where things are. Forgotten where the fake key was to swap for the proper key to avoid that evil trap, or where the weed killer was for those killer weeds? Screw you, keep running around until you learn to remember things better. Oh, and the once-lauded “suspenseful” fixed camera angles are now a straight pain in the arse.
Jill Valentine, back when she was sweet and innocent. Next appearance - short skirt and low-cut top
Nevertheless Resident Evil Remake is still a fantastic game, with plenty of great ideas that Capcom inexplicably never used in other games. The Map for example is wonderful, highlighting places you haven’t been too, areas you’ve explored completely or still need to do things in, and open or locked doors. It’s a shame that the map doesn’t also show which doors require a specific key (something you’ll definitely need to write down), but all that other helpful information? Never appeared again in any other Resident Evil before or since. There’s also the Defensive items like daggers and stun guns that give you a get-out option before you start getting mauled to death, and also never appeared again. The use of Ink Ribbons on typewriters to save was an excellent idea too that’ll shock anyone who hasn’t played a game in the series before RE4.
Then there’s the puzzles, which I bet most people have forgotten about seeing as the series started moving away from them as early as Resident Evil 2. The first Resident Evil however is pretty much an adventure game with zombies thrown in. Some of these wouldn’t seem out of place in Broken Sword or Monkey Island, and they’ve all been rejigged for the remake so expect a completely different Clock puzzle this time. Also expect to be examining and combining items a lot in your inventory, and also to get stuck because you haven’t realised that of course you’re supposed to examine the very edge of the music book to open it and play it on the piano to open a giant door which you need that crest from earlier to keep open and escape with the better-looking crest to use where you got the first one to open a clock! Also expect inventory juggling along with frequent trips to item boxes.
You lose again, fixed camera angles!
The enemies of Resident Evil are the best part though. It’s wonderful to fight against straight zombies again, and in the narrow corridors of the Spencer Mansion with low ammo they’re definitely a threat, even with just one of them. As you progress more creatures get introduced such as undead dogs, murderous crows, poisonous snakes, really really big poisonous snakes, and the occasional boss character or strange one-off creature.
The biggest deal for Remake though was the introduction of the Crimson Head zombies. If you kill a zombie but don’t blow their head off with a shotgun or set them on fire (using a lighter and a canteen full of kerosene) then later in the game they’ll come back as stronger, faster, harder and more terrifying Crimson Heads. This was an absolutely fantastic idea and it still provides an aura of dread while backtracking and an unwillingness to take on zombies in case they return before you can burn them. It baffles me that Capcom never used Crimson Heads in any mainline Resident Evil game again as they’re a highlight. However the one downside is that it’s very difficult to get a headshot as the aiming here is still terrible.
I think you'd call that a murder of crows
So, the big question at last: what has changed for the HD Remastered edition? Well, most obviously it looks nicer, with options for widescreen, 60 FPS, higher resolutions than the GameCube could handle, and slightly improved textures. The biggest optional (but on by default) addition though is a brand new “alternate” control scheme that ditches the tank controls that infected the entire fixed-camera-angles genre (see also Grim Fandango) in favour of a more natural “push in the direction where you want your character to go” control scheme, with all the other buttons mapped like more recent games in the series. While this scheme is a little confusing with the constantly moving camera angles it’s very welcome. Other than these though don’t expect the actual game to be any different from the 2002 GameCube version.
RESIDENT EVIL HD REMASTERED VERDICT
I find it interesting that 2002 Capcom completely remade a beloved title so it felt like a new game, whereas 2015 Capcom just re-releases a 13-year-old remake with a controls, widescreen and texture patch. Nevertheless despite being aged in the voice-acting, aiming, and not-telling-you-anything-you-need-to-remember departments Resident Evil is still a fantastic game. While the fixed camera angles and the adventure-game like puzzles will shock more recent series fans it’s all still enjoyable, and the Crimson Head zombies, the great and ever-surprising design and the atmosphere ensures the remake feels like a unique entry in the series. I haven’t even mentioned the two giant campaigns for Chris and Jill which play completely differently, especially if you finish one before starting the other, so there’s value for money here too. While the “HD Remastered” tag feels a little hollow, if you just consider this a slightly updated re-release of a fantastic game then I can heartily recommend Resident Evil HD Remastered. Just remember to have a notebook and pen handy.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The first time a presumed dead zombie gets up in front of you as a more powerful Crimson Head, and you scream like a little girl. I did and I’ve played the damn game before.
The original remake is still fantastic, and the Crimson Head zombies in particular are amazing.
Improved controls are quite welcome admittedly.
Not a very exciting "HD Remaster" altogether. Prerendered movies in particular haven't been touched at all and look terrible.
Too much to remember, if you're not playing constantly you need a pen and paper handy.