I want to bring you back to 1997; a 14-year-old Luvva was playing ‘Resident Evil’ in his friend’s house until 7am. Drenched in sweat that came from equal parts tension, fear, excitement and far too much coca-cola. ‘Resident Evil’ was a superb horror title that was beautiful as it was terrifying – it quickly became my favourite game ever and I could not get enough of it.
In the late 90s/early 2000s Capcom took full advantage of the game’s popularity and released no less than three different versions (of which I own them all), the most recent of which was the 2002 Gamecube remaster; it wasn’t just great, it was the definitive version…
I’m sure you all know this; but it’s the done thing in reviews (the synopsis); so here it goes. In ‘Resident Evil’ you are part of a crack military team, sent to investigate the disappearance of their comrades and they wind up in a monster infested mansion.
The Gamecube version changed a lot from its PSOne edition – firstly the graphics were a huge upgrade, so much so, it looked like a new game – it also sounded like a new game with the enhanced sound effects and completely reworked voice acting (gone is “Jill sandwich”). It also felt like a new game because Capcom changed item locations, descriptions and uses; they also tinkered the game map – added new areas and refined old ones – there was also new side stories and collectibles. The Gamecube version was the perfect iteration of the classic ‘Resident Evil’ formula and I was glad to see that this formed the basis of this HD remaster.
And in typical modern fashion, this update is an ok one! Lets start with the good – there is a widescreen option which means the graphics will fill your TV/Monitor and it is a good thing because they are beautiful! Firstly the pre-rendered backgrounds have had a texture upgrade; in fact it’s probably not an upgrade at all they are just not compressed to fit the NGCs mini-DVD discs – and they look amazing! The detail that is in those backgrounds is staggering at times; and the way that they interact with the enhanced lighting is often mind-blowing – inside the mansion there are countless background fixtures, but the level of detail continues to the outside area.
The character models are all outstanding; yes the faces show their age a little but the texture level of the uniforms and creature skins are really high quality, it tricks you into thinking this is a modern game. On a graphical level it is almost impossible to fault the effort that has went into this; except for the FMVs that are dotted throughout the story. Unfortunately though Capcom didn’t think it necessary to upgrade these (except the opening and closing cinematics) as a result they are grainy, low resolution and in the 16:4 aspect ratio, it is jarring and reminds you that this game is 13 years old. Why they are in this state I do not know, but it is immersion breaking and really shouldn’t be in that state.
I hope Capcom don’t make the same mistake for Zero.
All things considered though ‘Resident Evil HD’ is one pretty game and this upgrade is not only for aesthetics, it really does make the game more frightening and foreboding.
The sound has also been upgraded to full 5.1 surround option; which again increases the level of dread you get as a player, and it sounds glorious. The moans of zombies surround you, the scratching of the dogs seeps into your ears and fills you with dread, swinging lights create ambient noise and the crack of lightning all combine to make an atmosphere that is almost unparalleled in survival horror. The wood is an area in particular that this sound upgrade is obvious and is used incredibly effectively!
Everything else is old-skool. The puzzles have been remastered (and in some cases fixed) but they are still obtuse (although once you get into the swing of the game there is an internal logic), the controls are still iffy (although control scheme C fixes this somewhat) and saving is still handled in designated rooms with typewriters and ink ribbon, dying is still frequent as even on the easiest difficulty 3 hits will kill you. This all may sound negative but it is here that the games greatest strength is highlighted.
‘Resident Evil HD’ is what every remaster wants to be. It knows that we reminisce about 1997 and allows us to play the version of the game that our brain remembers. It’s marriage of modern and retro is one that is an unbridled success. Sure there’s a lot of trekking to and fro each individual wing of the mansion and yes some of the puzzles have layers that are nearly impossible to fathom to new players but this is what ‘Resident Evil’ is; this is why I love the game. It is uncompromising in its systems, yet has updated them without alienating new and old fans alike – here we have a museum piece that not only can we touch, but we can experience as if it was new.
A true great of the genre has been given an almost perfect iteration. This is truly the definitive version of ‘Resident Evil’.