Becoming more apparent when you go back and see where it all began. Because aside from a few archaic design decisions, our trip back to Spencer Mansion makes us wish the series would return more to its roots.
A remake of the Gamecube remake, adding the word “Remaster” to the title may be overselling it a tad. It’s a little worrying right from the pre-menu cut scene, as you see a body bag slowly rise before the zombie within gets a bullet to the head, it looks horrific and not in the way it was intended. A blurry mess, it certainly shows that a few shortcuts have been made in getting this to the PS4. That said, despite being two generations past the Gamecube era, graphically the game can still shine in parts. Yes, certain camera angles will reveal some unflattering textures, but then there are moments where light floods through the windows and you’ll be surprised at how good it looks. Then a dog jumps through and eats your face.
It’s amazing really (or distressing depending on your age) that next year the original Resident Evil will hit the grand old age of twenty. Twenty years old! So it’s not too much of a stretch to think that might be some people’s first experience with the game that started it all. Well, if this is you then here’s the basic setup.
Either controlling S.T.A.R.S member Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield (depending on who you choose), you get sent to look for the missing Bravo team who were dispatched to the outskirts of Racoon City to find out the cause of the bizarre acts of cannibalism that have been occurring. Naturally Jill and Chris’ team get into a spot of bother also, and bolt towards the nearest mansion. Then, as the game pleasantly says, “Enter the Survival Horror”.
While there are a number of other characters, really the biggest one is the mansion itself. Some would criticise its lack of believability, but then they would be missing the point. Yes, it may be an architect’s nightmare, make zero sense, and be full of puzzles that would drive the actual occupants insane, but that’s what drives the gameplay and makes the game so good.
Emblems, keys, a dog whistle and even a musical score are items you’ll find scattered around the massive mansion. They all play a part in the puzzles you’ll encounter and best thing about them is that while they do require a lot of thought, they’re not completely obtuse. Notes can also be found and they detail the puzzles you’ll encounter without leading you by the hand. It’s a great thing to go back to a time when answers aren’t spelled out for you. With so many items though comes with it Resident Evil’s most annoying issue.
As Jill you get eight item slots, with Chris a measly six. So there will be a lot of toing and froing from supply boxes that are found throughout the mansion, and handily have magical transporting abilities so items can be collected from any supply box you find. On top of items, there are weapons, ammo and healing herbs that need a space, so there’s a lot of item management needed. Replaying the game and this is really the thing that feels the most archaic. Some would say the save system is also incredibly old fashioned in a day of checkpoints and constant auto-saves. It’s definitely a weird thing going back to using ink ribbons to save at typewriters placed through the mansions, but seeing as ink ribbons are in plentiful supply and even the typewriters themselves aren’t that rare to come across, it’s something that never really affects enjoyment.
Like a lot of old horror movies you may have discovered (and scared you silly) as a child, the horror of Resident Evil does feel diluted as the years have passed and that’s a shame. Having played through it all before there’s only so many times you can see dogs jumping through the window before the jump scare becomes merely a shrug. That’s not to say there aren’t still some surprises though, when a zombie arises once more as a Crimson Head (new super zombies that were added in the remake) it is enough to send you into a frenzy and bolt to the nearest door. Or if you’re brave enough, take them on. Unlike regular zombies, Crimson Heads stagger towards you at an alarming pace. While shooting is very basic (there’s not much room for actual pin point aiming), it does the job.
A new addition for this Remaster is a brand new control scheme that purists may scoff at, but newcomers could rejoice at. Tank controls are no more. No longer do you have to push up to walk forward no matter the direction you are facing, instead it’s the more traditional 3D movement. It makes dodging the zombies, dogs and other creatures easier to handle. At least until the fixed camera angle changes and you become disorientated for a brief second.
While there are elements of Remastered that shout “rush job”, Resident Evil is still, in this day and age, a great, great game and worthy of classic status. Now Capcom, if you’re reading this, how about a new Resident Evil game featuring the item management and combat of RE4, mixed with the exploration and puzzles of RE1? Now that would be the perfect game.