Resident Evil HD Remastered Review

Resident Evil still holds up as a timeless horror classic. Here's Joe's review of Resident Evil Remastered.

Release Date: January 20, 2015Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PCDeveloper: CapcomPublisher: CapcomGenre: Survival Horror

Remakes seem to be all the rage this season. Whether it’s resurrecting obscure titles from the 90s or releasing a “definitive” version of your game that just came out a year ago, more and more of these industry classics are now being repurposed for broader audiences like never before. But then there are other games, like Resident Evil, which actually deserve to be remade, again and again, for as many times that it takes to make them accessible to future generations.

Resident Evil Remastered is really a remake of a remake, building off the 2002 GameCube iteration rather than the 1996 PlayStation edition. And I’ll be honest: it’s been a very long time since I first played the original Resident Evil game. So long, in fact, that I wasn’t even sure how well I would be able to recognize and differentiate between the new additions and the way I distantly remembered it. But as I stepped back into the shoes of Chris Redfield, and then Jill Valentine, after all this time, it all started coming back to me: the mansion, the puzzles, the unmistakable voice acting. There was more than mere nostalgia at play here.

For all intents and purposes, Resident Evil Remastered plays it safe. Make no mistake, this is still very much the same game we fell in love with all those years ago, only now with a much shinier and smoother appearance. The graphics are pretty on par with a modern release in 2015, and the action moves along at a constant and breezy framerate. There are only a handful of giveaways in the gameplay department that betray Resident Evil’s true age, like the now near-extinct fixed camera and the still infuriatingly limited inventory. Without these, there’s no question that RE Remastered could pass for a brand new release.

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These same dated gameplay mechanics also manage to serve as a much needed breath of fresh air, kind of like a reminder of an old friend in a world of autosaves and regenerating health bars. You’ll need to be extremely selective in what items you bring with you at all times. For instance, will you head out with more bullets in favor of medicinal herbs? Will this leave you high and dry when you have to stumble back to the safe room to heal yourself? The same goes for actually saving your game. Ink ribbons can be very limited, and you can only use them to save at a few sparse designated locations. Again, this amounts to more thrilling decisions: save now, or clear out a few more rooms first, knowing full well you may not survive and risk losing that last hour of progress.

A small part of me was almost hoping for Capcom to throw in a few new twists and turns to keep seasoned Resident Evil players on their toes, but a larger part of me is glad they kept the game’s legacy intact. However, this loyalty to the source content also means that a few of the game’s more notorious quirks make a triumphant return as well. The controls and camera changes can still be incredibly wonky when moving through rooms, while the ominous close-ups on doors while the game loads are fuel for a good laugh or two. If there’s one thing that really could have used some tweaking, my vote would be for the combat, as I constantly found myself comically slashing at the air, only to have my neck horribly bitten by the undead a few seconds later. But even so, aren’t these eccentricities all just a part of what makes Resident Evil so iconic and great in the first place?

Resident Evil is, was, and always has been a spectacular game. The pacing is flawless, its puzzles inventive and well-placed throughout the mansion and outlying areas, and the way that all of these elements so smartly intersect as you progress in the story represents a sheer pinnacle in game design. What’s more, the alternating perspectives of Chris and Jill’s journeys offer new experiences beyond a single playthrough. Throw in some costumes to unlock and a few extra game modes to conquer, like the dastardly “invisible enemies” mode, and the overall replay value really starts to bulk up.

It becomes remarkably clear from playing Resident Evil Remastered that Capcom’s survival horror masterpiece has not only managed to stand the test of time for twenty years, but that it will continue to do so for more decades to come. Combing through the dark and frightening mansion and methodically unlocking new areas to explore still feels so inherently rewarding, even if you already know the layout by heart, and this is only matched by the moments of euphoria that hit when you finally figure out what to do with that one item you’ve been lugging around for the last hour or so.

For longtime fans of the series, Resident Evil Remastered absolutely warrants another run-through of the game that set the stage for the entire horror genre at large. For those who never got a chance to experience the first outings of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, there has never been a better time to do so. This is required gaming in every sense of the word.

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4.5 out of 5