When Resident Evil first came out in 1996, it was an instant classic. Zombies and monsters were certainly nothing new to games at the time, but what Capcom achieved with RE is of great significance to gaming history. By striking the perfect balance of atmosphere, camera usage, and limited resources, storage space and save opportunities, they gave us the genre we now know as Survival Horror. Twenty years later, it has five true sequels with a sixth due out next January, one prequel, several side stories and a few multiplayer games. With the much-anticipated seventh installment due out early next year, Capcom is currently remastering most of its titles in the franchise for current-gen systems.
Arguably the best version of the first game, the GameCube remake expanded on the iconic Raccoon City mansion’s layout and encounters, bringing a familiar-yet-foreign feel to the household title. Luckily for us, the HD remaster (currently available for $19.99 on PSN and XBL) follows this format. With more lore and the infamous Crimson Head zombies, this is truly the version you want to experience whether you’re new to the series or wanting to get your fix of nostalgia. With updated graphics and some vanity options, “the mansion incident” never looked or felt so good.
Often times, the gaming community tends to get caught up on the word “remaster” when they’re given an updated version of their favorite games. Make no mistake, this is a very polished version of a very old game, but don’t expect anything mind-blowing in the graphics department. The character models look fantastic, and, indeed, you’re offered the option to choose the BSAA version of Chris and Jill. Enemies and certain items are also in tip-top shape. But, for better or worse, the environment and cut scenes have a gritty feel to them, though they are improved a bit. This actually gives the game a pretty cool feel, in my opinion. You get the crisp characters and enemies against a grainy backdrop and it creates a pretty neat vintage horror movie feel.
The cut scenes are all of GameCube quality, so don’t expect Blizzard-quality movies. Again, I personally love this decision. Watching the opening cinematic took me right back to my college days, playing the game in my messy room on a tiny CRT TV. That actually has a gives the game a lot of added value for us old guys. You can’t really put a price on that first time you experienced one of your favorite games for the first time, and that goes double for older titles.
Being that this is a remaster and not a remake, you can expect the same sort of gameplay that you did so many years ago. Yes, this includes awkward camera angles and clunky gunplay. “Death by camera angle” was a big complaint of the very first game, and while it doesn’t necessarily plague this version, it’s still there. Sometimes you have to walk a few steps to get to the next camera, and suddenly you have a couple of seconds to react to a zombie in your face. This does lend itself to a more genuine“survival horror” feel, but it also feels very antiquated by today’s standards.
The combat isn’t exactly fast and furious, but it can be stressful at times. Ammunition isn’t exactly plentiful, and sometimes you’ll have to decide whether or not to blow a defensive item (if you find daggers or flash bang grenades, you can let an enemy attack you so you can use one for pretty good damage), so you will be faced with a whole lot of critical decision making in very small spaces of time. This on top of deciding what kind of guns and ammunition to carry in your tiny inventory space makes for some pretty stressful play-throughs.
Speaking of inventory, you will constantly be challenged with difficult choices due to limited space in your bags (6 and 8 slots for Chris and Jill, respectively). Do you keep a safety herb on you, or do you carry a second gun? It may not seem like a difficult decision, but these are the literal life-and-death choices that you’ll be faced with from beginning to end. Speaking of, you’ll also have to manage your ink ribbons throughout your journey, as they’re the key to saving your game. That’s right, newbies…you can’t just save to your heart’s content, so be careful.
Lastly, there is an “alternative” control scheme that brings a bit of modernity to an old title. No longer will you have to press a button to run, if you don’t want to. Just hit up on the analog stick and you will move at maximum speed. You also just need to tap down on the right analog stick and you can do a 180 degree turn, though this sounds more useful than it actually is.
We’re in 2016, and we’re still talking about the first Resident Evil game. That should really say something, especially to the nay-sayers. It’s become a major brand that has transcended gaming, and the fact that it has been released yet again is a huge testament to its resilience. In a genre that has been revitalized by other titles in recent years, the original still stands strong with its fists up, ready to take on challengers. That’s why I love Resident Evil. Not only did it start this whole “Survival Horror” thing, but it constantly reinvents itself both literally and figuratively. I, for one, can’t wait to see what the future holds. Look out for Resident Evil 7 next January.
Gamers Pantheon Score: 90%
- You get to play through the first true survival horror game
- Classic story featuring iconic characters and story arcs
- Revamped graphics and character models
- Old school approach to overall decision-making
- ALL the nostalgia for returning RE vets
- It’s completely worth the price
- Alternative control scheme for improved mobility
- Death by camera angle is still a thing
- Having to burn an inventory spot on necessary weapons
- Some of the cheesiest dialogue you’ll find
- Some of the weirdest journal entries you’ll read