Resident Evil is a series that has an interesting identity. Earlier games focused on survival horror (despite some certain B-movie style dialogue) while more recent titles put more action in place of the scares. While fans may argue which game style is better, most fans typically agree that the Nintendo GameCube remake of the original game, dubbed as REmake by most fans, is one of the best games of the franchise. Redoing the entire game and making the dialogue and story more serious in tone, it helped make a place in the hearts of fans worldwide.
Now I admit, even though I own the GameCube remake, I never actually finished it. I did however beat both the PlayStation original as well as the DS port a few years back, so I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the game and the secrets of the Spencer Mansion. Regardless, it has still been a few years since I’ve played the original game, and I have to say…I’m definitely very rusty. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the more recent entries in the series, getting used to quick-time events and more character control options to help get out of situations, but one thing that the original Resident Evil still does well with is make you feel helpless.
Rarely do I play a game where I feel so defenseless that one zombie will cause me to struggle and make me question my next move. Getting grabbed by the arms of the undead and seeing your character getting bitten still becomes a nerve-wracking experience like it was back in 1996, forcing you to want to do everything you can to survive. Not being able to aim your weapons very much outside of down, straight forward, or up, it limits your options and makes luck a valuable asset.
As far as game content goes, this is still the same classic that released on the GameCube back in 2002. Now what is new to this game is the remastered visuals, running in 720p on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and 1080p on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (the version I played), and PC. This isn’t just a filter slapped over the original GameCube game, according to Capcom’s own Brett Elston, every room was given its own special treatment, playing with the lighting, grabbing certain assets and modeling it in 3D, or even adding in reflections that weren’t there before.
The game is still a work in progress, which was evident when I saw a lighting glitch with my one death in my playthrough, where Jill’s head turned green due to a shader registering with the lighting incorrectly. Other than that one glitch, all the lighting and effects were otherwise flawless, making the atmosphere just as spooky as it was 12 years ago. Candles flicker in the corridors, and chandeliers swing slowly and make the shadows dance around the room.
The game is also now playable in 16:9 widescreen, which gives the camera a panning feature as the games assets were originally made for the 4:3 aspect ratio. I was expecting this to be a big issue for me but I honestly didn’t even notice the panning until it occurred to me that I hadn’t noticed, in which case I watched it pan as it had no negative impact on the gameplay. Even then, you are still given the option to play in the original 4:3 aspect ratio. One last thing that was added to the game was a new “modern” control method, allowing the use of the left analog stick to control your character with today’s standards rather than the “classic” or “tank” controls that Resident Evil was originally known for. The older control method is still always available to players by using the D-Pad or by switching them in the settings.
Even though I did my playthrough on the modern setting, I could tell (and Brett confirmed my thoughts on it) that the game really was designed around tank controls. The fixed camera angle changes as you move around and on the modern control setting, this might mean that you’ll be moving around in random directions through each transition, where with the classic controls, moving up on the controls would always move your character forward in the direction they were facing. It’s a bit of a compromise for newcomers to be able to have standardized controls, but it’s not enough to break the experience.
I played the game for about an hour and thanks to the guidance of Mr. Elston, I was able to progress further than many other people that played the demo before me. I got to experience many of the classic moments, like saving S.T.A.R.S. member Richard Aiken from a poisonous death to playing the infamous “Moonlight Sonata” song on the piano. I even got to go up against Yawn and get my second Death Mask before my demo was over, which was quite an experience. This would all be familiar to those that have gone through the GameCube original (or even the Wii port in Resident Evil Archives), but seeing it again in remastered HD with higher quality textures and lighting was a treat.
Resident Evil still has that classic horror experience that series veterans crave, and even though it’s not an entire remake from the ground up, the remastered visuals still look good and make the game even more horrifying. That feeling of hearing footsteps but not being able to see your undead adversary is still a bone-chilling moment. The feeling of safety is quickly drained from you the moment the camera angle changes and you run right into zombified arms. I can’t wait to relive the horror with Resident Evil when it’s released early next year.