Resident Evil is without a doubt one of the most iconic names in gaming. Since its appearance into the world back in 1996, the series has sold hundreds of millions of copies and spawned even more fans. Sadly, most of the fans of the originals aren’t too happy with the turn the series has taken in the past few entries, myself included. That’s why when I caught wind that Capcom was planning a remastered version of the 2002 Gamecube the remake of the original, I was overjoyed to say the least. The ‘Remake’, as it’s come to be known as, is arguably the best title in the entire Resident Evil series, and while it is in fact my personal favourite, does this re-remake do it justice?
We start our story by choosing one of two Special Tactics and Rescue Squad or S.T.A.R.S., members. S.T.A.R.S. bravo team is an elite group of specialists sent into the mountains that outskirt Raccoon City on a mission to find and extract alpha team. Alpha team was recently sent to investigate the forests and mansion just outside of the city after a wave a cannibalistic attacks began taking place. Soon after they entered the Arklay Mountains, contact was cut-off. After choosing to play as either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, each with his or her own perks and drawbacks, you find yourself trapped in a strange mansion separated from the rest of your team. So now you’re stuck in a massive, spooky, and down-right deadly mansion, filled with zombies and other monsters of science. You’ll have to use your wits to solve puzzles, fight off monsters, and survive in order to escape from this place and maybe, if you’re lucky, even save your fellow team members.
The game looks and feels alive. With fantastic pre-rendered backgrounds mixed with dynamic lighting and animated foreground effects, the game has some of the best atmosphere of any video game I’ve played. Each room, hallway, or stairwell feels ominous and foreboding. While some backgrounds do have some blurry textures and are noticeably lower quality than others, the game still looks incredible and without re-doing the entire game, it looks about as good as possible, but don’t let the occasional blurry texture make you think any less of the game; trust me, it looks fantastic. The little bits of dust in the light beams, the moths fluttering around light bulbs, these are the little details that bring the environment to life.
The game has been up-scaled to wide screen of course, and it even has an option to play in the original 4:3 ratio for the hardcore fans. A nice touch to the wide screen is the movement of foreground pre-renders as the player moves along the area. While this is a nice touch, and I can tell they put some effort into it, at times, it can add a bit of a ‘bob’ to the camera when entering a new area, and that can sometimes be extremely distracting. Of course, this can be turned off in the options menu as well.
The character and item models have all been re-done and it most certainly shows. Jill and Chris look straight out of my dreams. They are as sharp and detailed as they looked in the more modern games. They even threw in a couple of outfits from Resident Evil 5 as a bonus, and surprisingly, they don’t seem out of place. The items are sharp and well modelled, and some guns have even been re-detailed down to the serial numbers. Needless to say, this is visually the absolute best version of the game.
Audio work is masterfully done as well. Wood creaks, snarls and groans from zombies, and the booming thunderstorm outside meld together to create a wonderfully tense environment for the player to trek through. The music fits perfectly and creates just the right touch of cinematic tension throughout the horror. While the audio is pleasing to the ear, it’s also very useful as a game mechanic. Several times I found myself listening for that tale-tale sign of a zombie, or even worse, a hunter, waiting around a corner. With hunters having the ability to insta-kill, sound effects saved my life more than once.
The game play is survival horror at its purest: Limited inventory slots, keys and puzzles galore, and ammo conservation. Saving bullets, avoiding fights and planning your item storage are all key to success, unlike the newer RE titles, in which spamming the melee button is enough to get you out of nearly every situation. If your only experience with Resident Evil is that of the later titles, then prepare for a rude awakening. Or you could just play on the newly added ‘Very Easy’ difficulty, as it seems this mode was created for people who let their pet gorilla play, rather than themselves. Okay fine, I’m being a bit sarcastic, but this new difficulty setting is extremely easy to the point of breaking the game, but I suppose it is a novel option for players new to the series, and it certainly makes for a much calmer game experience. If you’re feeling a bit bold, you can change the settings to easy, normal, hard or even true survival mode for a real challenge. After completing the game on normal, you also unlock a mode titled ‘invisible enemy’ which is exactly what you think it would be.
Additionally, they have also added a new 3D control style to go along with the classic, but hated by modern gamers, tank controls. These new controls function almost exactly like the latest Resident Evil controls do. While it is a nice touch for people who dislike the control schemes of yesteryear, there are times when you’ll find yourself disoriented and frustrated and this game and its fixed camera angles are obviously not meant to be played with 3D controls.
This game encapsulates everything that Resident Evil ever did right. The addition of a worst case scenario defence weapon, and the ever frightening Crimson Heads mechanic, the game just utterly bleeds tension. Defensive items include a flash grenade, dagger, or stun gun and can be used when grabbed by enemies. This can be life-saving when snatched by the more dangerous of foes, or when running low on health. You’ll need these to fend off the Crimson Heads as well. Crimson Heads are zombies which you have disabled, but did not burn or destroy the head. Well unluckily for you, after some time passes, they come back to life significantly faster, and much more deadly than before. Mix that with a limited supply of kerosene for burning and a limited inventory, and you’ve just been dealt a whole new layer of strategy.
The puzzles aren’t exactly on the same level as some featured in the first few Silent Hill games, long-time rival of the series, but they are a far cry from what Resident Evil 5 or 6 considered to be puzzling. The game is chock-full of secrets, lore, notes, interesting items, and unlockables. I myself played the game to completion five times before writing this review, and I could easily have another go. It’s been so long since a game has truly rewarded a player for beating difficulties other than the basic trophy here and there. My first completion time was thirteen hours, and my last was just under two. It’s a game where you truly get better each time you play it.
In the end, this is the definitive Resident Evil title to experience. It was, and still is, one of the best and first survival horror titles ever made. The remastered version looks, plays, and sounds spectacular. If you are a hardcore Resident Evil fan or have even the mildest of interest in the series, buy this release. You will not regret it. Hopefully, Capcom has finally smartened up and is bringing Resident Evil back to its glory days.