Resident Evil HD Remaster  Review

Resident Evil HD Remaster Review

Announced last year to an unwarranted – if, given the spate of recent poor HD re-releases, somewhat understandable – backlash, Resident Evil HD Remaster may be yet another version of Capcom's classic, but it's also not a cash-in either. Maintaining the integrity of the original remake while attempting to make it more palatable to modern audiences, some of its measures misfire, but Resi HD is a superb way to experience the greatest survival horror of all.

In terms of core gameplay, Resi HD Remaster is much the same as it was on the GameCube nearly 13 years ago. Attempts have been made to placate those that don't like the 'tank' controls, adding the option to have Chris and Jill now move in the direction the analogue stick is pushed, but this solution (to something that wasn't actually a problem) creates its own issues. Without the weight and inertia that the tank controls give, the characters feel like they're skating across the environments, lacking an anchor into the world and robbing it of some of its tension.

Better implemented is the new widescreen mode, which incorporates a kind of pan and scan technique to ensure all the detail, originally built for 4:3, is shown in the frame (you can still play in the original format, of course). Worrying in theory, but in practice it works: camera movement is minimal enough to be negligible after a short while.

Of the new features however, it's the remastered visuals that will be under most scrutiny. It's clearly not on the same level, technically, as other new-generation games, and there are issues, complicated by the ageing art and Capcom's approach to modernising it.

Character models have been upgraded, and despite STARS members sometimes looking a little glassy-eyed are generally of a high standard (especially the zombies). The backgrounds, however – the key component on which this remaster lives or dies – are a little more mixed. Some have been rebuilt completely, such as the Crimson Head Elder's lair, to enable Capcom to use contemporary lighting effects rather than the now outdated work-arounds the GameCube release used. Other rooms are also rebuilt or have new features, with geometry (usually in the form of foliage) and lighting effects having been added to replace the now-aged 2002 equivalents.

Some of the environments found in and around the Spencer mansion look glorious. Others fare less well: the move to HD has both shown the finer details of the art while also leaving them with nothing to hide behind. Bloom effects have been added to certain light sources, but there's also a noticeable softening of the image in other places.

Barring a complete re-remake, these issues were always going to crop up, and are easy to swallow as part of the deal. Less acceptable are the backgrounds that are downright abysmal: the room where you find doomed STARS member Richard, brown and hideously low-res with a single blinking light, has got something of the Quake about it. It's a disappointment, especially in comparison to the impressive work that's gone into some of the other areas, and one compounded by the high-res 3D models sometimes clearly looking like they're superimposed over the background. There are also big problems with collision, with zombies and the player often clipping through walls.

For me however, bar the odd moments of (unintentional) horror, none of this really mattered after about three or four rooms. Capcom has brought the game in line with modern expectations seemingly as best it could, but Resident Evil was never about pure pixel counting. Instead, it uses its backdrops as one element in a masterclass of environmental design. Its genius – and longevity – stems from a story told not just in journals and cutscenes, but in hallways and dining rooms, blood-stained bedrooms and ominous picture galleries.

Each room has character, and the cumulative effect is one of grand oppression. Like the common zombies, the mansion slowly yet surely closes in, both psychologically and physically. The backdrops are beautiful in their detailing, but they're also expertly contrived. It owes an obvious debt to classic horror, and Mikami knows that unsettling the audience isn't just having a man running around with Shatner mask and a huge knife. It's in subverted normality, the familiar made alien, something Capcom nailed particularly well with the Lisa Trevor subplot.

It's also in the pacing. Mikami's own Resident Evil 4 is much admired in this regard: 12-14 hours of near-perfect action, constantly evolving its environments, weaponry and enemies to ensure players not only never get bored, but to pull them through the emotional wringer, a gameplay arc encompassing panic, empowerment and adventure that's seldom been bettered. Resi remake has the same qualities, even if they're not as immediately obvious given its slower-paced nature.

As much an old-style adventure game as a horror one, Resident Evil's evocative atmosphere and superb environments not only enthrall, they push players to want to discover what's coming next. From the mansion proper to the residence, to the tunnels and then the finale in the labs, each locale works as both an incentive and reward. Resident Evil may not have overt chapter breaks like later entries, but it doesn't need them: they're built naturally into the experience, skillfully weaved in at times when the player has exhausted their options – and perhaps patience – in their current location.

Everything in Resident Evil unfolds beautifully, each element complementing the next. Unlike later iterations, Resi remake isn't bogged down by lore: it's an old-fashioned mystery with a sci-fi twist, one that places the player directly in the boots of either Chris or Jill. There's no dissonance here, no action movie set-pieces or suplexes or 'Partner Action'. You're in the same situation they are: scared, vulnerable, desperate, trying to make sense of a senseless situation.

Underpinning this is the game's unerring difficulty, compounded by a lack of hand-holding of nearly any form. One mistake can see the player killed, especially upon return to the mansion, and the puzzles, combat, and save system dial into this. There's been much wailing about Ink Ribbons and typewriters since 1996, but the relative difficulty in doing something as simple as saving your game is indicative of – and integral to – the experience. Every save should be a small victory of planning and strategy.

In fact, this is what Resident Evil truly is: a game about the place where logical thinking meets pressurised decision making. The right choice sees you live a little longer. The wrong one sees you potentially die. There's a reason the save room music is so revered, and its echoes are found in other classics such as Dark Souls.

There will be players that despise Resident Evil, of course, decrying its controls and save states. Granted, some of its puzzles can be more than a little obtuse. And its aforementioned graphical issues grate, if only in parts. For me, however, Resident Evil remains a game as odd, unsettling, and unforgettable as its setting. The HD remaster only emphasises this.

Version Tested: PS4.

9 / 10

  • Still as challenging and enjoyable as it was in 2002.
  • Environments can look great...
  • ...but some are atrocious.
  • New control scheme doesn't work that well.

Click above for enlarged Resident Evil HD Remaster Screenshots

14 Comments

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User Comments

dakarli's Avatar

dakarli

Really the kind of games that can be played all night without seeing hours pass, and without getting tired, it really the best resident evil of all time, I suggest to all the fans of the series.


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Posted 12:06 on 17 February 2015
essex1212's Avatar

essex1212@ Ephidel

I actually agree on this sorry guys.

I love the series as well and I would find it hard to be impartial on a game that I loved many years ago.
Posted 11:44 on 29 January 2015
Davyboy's Avatar

Davyboy

Bought this yesterday, told that new control system to ***** off. You need tank controls to keep moving in the right direction through the camera transitions.

I was always miffed about missing out on the remake back in the day, so this is great for me.
Posted 14:06 on 24 January 2015
Ephidel's Avatar

Ephidel

People like to use any excuse they can and rationalise it in order to justify or corroborate their assumptions or irritations.

Worse still, people like to exaggerate in order to exclaim just how "good" or "bad" things are.

This is why they cry about fixed camera angles and controls and state that the game is "unplayable" as a consequence, rather than understanding and accepting that the game is an experience that has been deliberately crafted in a way to both immerse and challenge the player.

I personally preferred Zero btw. Leech Hunter was pretty fun as a precursor to RE4 Mercenaries. And for any people who know, yes, I already know that after the Extra Modes of RE2, RE3 first introduced The Mercenaries, Code Veronica had Battle Mode and Zero had Leech Hunter, all of which were and are indications of Resident Evil's steady transition from traditional Survival Horror to a more Action focused franchise.

Hated how Wesker became a pantomime villain in RE5 as well. Totally ruined the previous 13 years of building his character up.
Posted 06:43 on 21 January 2015
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

People who whine about the controls (every review out there) should shut up and get used to it, they're not that bad at all.
Posted 04:44 on 21 January 2015
Ephidel's Avatar

Ephidel

Really? You let Burns review it?

If it wasn't already obvious enough from his reaction after the mere announcement of this game, following it's release, he loves it.

Yes, "I" think it's a great game and "I" played it to maximum completion on my Gamecube, but surely you'd want someone a bit younger and more impartial to review it.

The consensus when it was released was that it was great. Having someone who played it and loved it at the time isn't the best litmus test for the notably broader gaming audience we have today.

Nothing personal, Burns. I'd just rather have an outsider's opinion on it. Hopefully, when they've resigned themselves to stop whining about the controls and camera angles, we'll see whether they'll actually get in to the game and enjoy it.
Posted 01:53 on 21 January 2015

OnAClearDay

Now, Resi is great, but when are they gonna remake the second game? Or the third? Or any Resi game that isn't the first?
Posted 07:47 on 20 January 2015
BritishWolf's Avatar

BritishWolf

Sounds like I need to get this at some point
Posted 20:42 on 19 January 2015
Patlabor's Avatar

Patlabor

The score seems to be a bit high having read all the critical points raised in the review. In any case as a family man I won't buy games which won't allow me to save at short notice.
Posted 19:40 on 19 January 2015

skidoosh

I love Resi.

This reminds me of when I was thirteen playing it for the first time on the Sega Saturn in the dark on my old 15" Matsui TV and my headphones.

I got to the corridor with the spiders, and was just running away from them when my dad put his hand on my shoulder to tell me he was going to bad.

I jumped out the chair and made a very loud "pa-ma" type noise. He must have thought I was a right meat-helmet!
Posted 19:28 on 19 January 2015

BRAD3NGUNN

Looking forward to playing this, never played it before, hoping it's good as people make it out to be.

Absolutely loved Nemisis, Code Veronica X, 4, 5, and Revelations.
Posted 17:35 on 19 January 2015
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

TESTED ON PS4?? HOW MUCH IS SONY PAYING YOU????
Posted 16:41 on 19 January 2015

Syme

heh heh heh
Posted 16:10 on 19 January 2015

Syme

Only a 9, so not quite as good as The Last of Us right?
Posted 16:10 on 19 January 2015

Game Stats

Resident Evil HD Remaster
9
Out of 10
Resident Evil HD Remaster
  • Still as challenging and enjoyable as it was in 2002.
  • Environments can look great...
  • ...but some are atrocious.
  • New control scheme doesn't work that well.
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 20/01/2015
Platforms: PS4 , Xbox One , Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Survival Horror
Rating: TBC
Site Rank: 325 6
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