Is Resident Evil good? That’s a question you’re almost definitely not asking yourself while reading the opening sentence of the opening paragraph of this review. Because you already know the answer. Everybody knows the answer. Resident Evil is good, very good in fact, so good that people still waste their money on pish such as Resident Evil 6 in the naive hope that the series will return to the quality of its glory days. Developer Capcom doesn’t seem capable of doing that, though, so following the recent remastering of Resident Evil 4 we’re now being treated to another remaster of the original game in the franchise for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
The first Resident Evil has been remastered before, in the form of the glorious 2002 GameCube remake, but Capcom has decided to take another shot at it and bring the game to the world of high-definition. While Resident Evil is never not enjoyable to play, I have rapidly become disillusioned when it comes to remakes and remasters, so the announcement of a fourth version of a game released in ‘97 didn’t exactly set my world on fire.
This is a game I’ve played a lot, after all, and if Capcom had their heart set on remaking one of their classic titles I’d have preferred to experience Resident Evil 2 again, a game which has somehow managed to avoid being on the receiving end of a visual upgrade over all these years. But what’s done is done, and Resident Evil HD Remaster is the game we’re left with. But is it worth buying for those who have already played the original or its superior GameCube remake?
There are two key differences in this version of Resident Evil, the first of which is its high-def polish. I remember the GameCube version of the game blowing my mind back in ‘02 with its visuals, bringing to life the Spencer Mansion in a way that the blocky polygonal graphics of the original PlayStation never could.
While Resident Evil HD isn’t as much of a radical step up in this department, it’s (obviously) the best-looking version of the game to date. Its newly enhanced lighting makes the game’s foreboding setting even more unnerving, with the flames on lit candles flickering in their candelabras and each room coated in shadows. Its labyrinthine series of rooms are more distinguishable from one another than ever before thanks to the improved textures and overall increased level of detail and polish.
In my review of the “Ultimate HD Edition” of Resident Evil 4 I complained about how Capcom had only implemented the most basic upscaling techniques when it came to its graphics, but that isn’t the case with Resident Evil HD. Everything from its environment through to the character models of the shuffling undead look markedly improved here, bringing it up to speed with the current console generation.
The next major addition to the game is its new alternate control method. The so-called “tank” controls employed in the original game and its GameCube remake, which do not allow the player free control over their movement and instead requires that they must spin on the spot before heading in a certain direction, may be conducive to the overall level of tension in the game, but they’re certainly not for everyone. Capcom has realized this, with Resident Evil HD’s alternative control method allowing the player to move with giddy abandon using the analog stick. If you begin a playthrough with the alternative control method but find yourself wanting to revert back to the tank controls, there's no need to worry; the original control method is still made available with the D-Pad.
Aside from these improvements, this is still the same Resident Evil you know and love, with it holding up surprisingly well given the drastic changes made to the survival-horror genre over the years. The undead still shuffle slowly around its corridors, groaning when greeted by your presence. The ravenous zombie dogs are still as terrifying as ever, while its puzzles can leave you scratching your head in frustration if you don’t remember them by heart, which will likely be the case for many of you.
I was surprised by how effective the horror aspect of the original Resident Evil still is, and even though the alternate controls certainly make escaping the undead an easier task, it didn’t dampen my experience with the game. While the control method has been simplified, there will undoubtedly be a few naysayers who claim that the game’s save system, which requires players to collect ink ribbons before making their way to a typewriter, should’ve been removed in favor of a checkpointing system.
Those people are wrong, of course, because while its old-fashioned save system may be frustrating, there is no terror to be found in a game which allows you to save your progress at every turn. If you don’t like the idea of potentially losing hours of progress if you fail to play it smart with your ink ribbons, then Resident Evil HD isn’t for you. But you likely knew that anyway.
So in conclusion, yes, Resident Evil HD is yet another remaster. In fact, it’s a remaster of a remaster. However, it’s clear that a lot more effort has been put into it than Capcom’s “Ultimate HD Edition” of Resident Evil 4, and fans will relish the opportunity to explore this classic game all over again with all its new improvements. If you’ve never played the first Resident Evil, then purchasing its HD remaster is a no-brainer. However, there’s enough here to convince old-timers to explore the Spencer Mansion once again. Now where’s my Resident Evil 2 HD, Capcom?