REVIEW: Resident Evil returns, but you’ve probably played it before

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  • reviewed on PlayStation 4 / Rated M / $19.99 / released January 2015
  • PURCHASE LINK: buy here
  • FINAL: You should TRY this game. 3 out of 5 stars

The original “Resident Evil” has once again climbed out of its grave to menace gamers, in the form of a new remaster of a remake of the original 1996 video game classic. Confused? Yes, “Resident Evil HD Remaster” is essentially the same experience as the 2002 remake, now updated to high definition, so there’s not a lot of new meat on the bone if you played the 2002 version. However, if you’ve never experienced this seminal survival horror adventure, or if you just haven’t seen it since the 1990’s, this nice-price re-re-release is definitely one to try out.

Set inside a ridiculously maze-like mansion, “Resident Evil HD Remaster” follows the story of elite task force operatives investigating a series of mysterious murders. As the game begins, the situation has already gone sideways, with half of the group missing and the remaining members split up. The game focuses on escaping alive, often encouraging you to evade and avoid danger rather than shooting your way through it. “Resident Evil” is famous for sticking the player behind the zombified 8-ball, with very little ammunition, a limited inventory system, and a positively ancient method for saving your progress.

“Resident Evil” is also famous for cheesy dialogue and a threadbare story. Even though this version re-wrote much of the original script, it is still awkwardly presented and acted. Although, compared to the “Resident Evil” games that followed, there’s a certain innocent charm to the simplistic plot and paper doll characters. This is, after all, a 20 year old video game, and the fresh coat of paint is mainly that: paint.

While the bar has been raised for video game scares in the intervening two decades, “Resident Evil” wrote that playbook. Rather than allowing the player to control the camera, “Resident Evil” plays out like you’re walking through static shots from a horror movie. By forcing dramatic angles and purposefully limiting your viewpoint, the game oozes tension. We’re accustomed to video games today providing players with complete control over nearly every aspect of the game’s presentation, so this relic with the eye of a film director still stands out.

The downside of forced camera angles means you can be jumped by enemies that are just out of view. While this adds to the horror vibe, an unexpected death in “Resident Evil” can mean losing a lot of forward progress. There’s no auto-save system (old game, remember?) and your ability to save is limited by the number of typewriter ink ribbons you have collected. For new players, there’s a “very easy” option, where the game is far freer with ink ribbons and bullets and other “Resident Evil” necessities.

For such a dark game, “Resident Evil” shines brightest in atmosphere. The mansion itself is an imposing force, constantly threatening the player with locked doors and echoing hallways. Nobody plays “Resident Evil” for the bizarre puzzles (who would install a secret door that only opens when a specific combination of lights are turned on?), people play it because it creates a beautifully oppressive mood of lurking danger. Modern horror games often miss this Hitchcock-like tension in favor of massive weaponry and ever-grosser enemies. “Resident Evil” created it, and this remaster shows “Resident Evil” is still the master of it.

 This review is based on product supplied by the publisher. Resident Evil HD Remaster” is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC. Image courtesy Capcom.

1 Comment

  • gamesthatiplay

    While the original Resident Evil a classic for both its positives and negatives, I just never liked the original. The HD is turning out to be a more enjoyable experience for me.

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