By Yummylee 23 Comments
It's funny to think that the 2002 remake of the 1996 Resident Evil classic is now plenty old enough to be considered a classic in its own right. Almost thirteen years have passed since its original release, two whole generations have flown by, and the Resident Evil series has gone through some rather drastic changes throughout the years. It's safe to say that Resident Evil is barely even recognisable anymore from what it once was, and thus, we have the 2015 Remastering of the Resident
REvil Remake to shine a light on the old ways of the series.
The remake is typically lauded as being one of Resident Evil's best, right alongside other popular contenders Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4, and there's a good reason for that - many in fact! The remake is especially impressive for how it manages to recreate many of the hallmarks of the 1996 original, while still establishing its own identity. To be sure, the remake is so different (yet familiar) that it can easily stand as its own game rather than inciting a constant comparison to the original. As a remake it's undoubtedly one of the best in the entire industry, and as an old school survival horror game it's not too shabby, either.
Now I had already played the remake many times before, and while I admittedly still have much of the game memorised (though not quite as acutely as I do the very original), playing the remake still made for a welcoming return to everything I hold dear with these sorts of games. The remake looked absolutely stunning upon release, and the 1080p facelift has done wonders in allowing its graphical proficiency to grab ahold and smother you within its intoxicating atmosphere.
The Spencer Mansion has become an iconic environment over time, one Resident Evil continually attempts to replicate and imitate. Sometimes it functions as an homage, though other times it can feel akin to blatant pandering and/or a lack of creativity. Nonetheless, the 'spooky mansion' is such a classically archetypal horror setting for a reason, and the remake's is one such standout. All of my time playing the remake throughout the years has actually given the mansion a sort of comforting quality to it. Due to the game's classic survival horror design of requiring an awful lot of backtracking, it's easy to become accustomed with the many hallways and bedrooms of the building. All of the different pathways to get here or there, with many shortcuts to discover, introduces many opportunities to strategise and weigh between which route is the best one to take to get where you need to go. No other Resident Evil game has featured an environment quite as well designed or open to exploration as the Spencer Mansion.
The proceeding environments such as the Residential Building and the Umbrella Laboratory are a little more linear in how you'll progress via the dally of key items you need to continue the story, but even still the exploratory aspect of the remake still stands as one of its biggest strengths. The exploration is of course what then leads into the game's mix of puzzle solving and combat. Both of such elements aren't especially involved, however, and the older Resident Evil games instead peppered the combat and puzzle solving around to compliment the game's atmosphere. Nonetheless, while the puzzles aren't especially taxing, they require just enough brainpower to still feel satisfying to figure out and execute, while also making for a change of pace from the combat.
The combat is perhaps why the older entries of the series have become so divisive throughout the years. While the remake still carries certainly similarities to the latter day entries, specifically Resident Evil 4, with its (default) tank control settings and your inability to move & shoot, they're still wholly different games. Resident Evil 4 is of course a third-person shooter, and a damn innovative one at that. The act of shooting everything in sight and gradually increasing the power of your ever expanding armoury differs greatly from the older games of the series. The remake may also involve a lot of you shooting stuff, but that still doesn't necessarily make it a shooter.
The classic camera angles that are still in place serves to both accentuate the atmosphere and provide you with a noticeable handicap within the confines of the game's combat. However, due to the limited cache of supplies on hand, you are to thusly choose your battles wisely. The camera angles may also obfuscate your view of enemies, but, as I elaborated further in a previous write up, every enemy has a tell to let you know they're close by. You also by default have auto-aim, so even if you yourself can't see the creature, your character will be sure to let you know when there's something available to shoot in the face. The combat of the game due to the aforementioned constrictions is thusly a rather simple affair, and the crux of it all is instead centred on the player deciding whether or not it's worth actually choosing to kill whatever you find is trying to maul face off or not.
This sort of design has been the same throughout all of the mainline series up until Resident Evil 4, though it's undoubtedly at its best in the remake. Rather than simply blasting your way through everything, the openness of the Spencer Mansion goes hand-in-hand with your theoretically limited cache of ammunition to ward away the monsters. It forces you to actually think about how to proceed, about whether it's worth clearing out this longer pathway with lesser enemies, or braving the shorter one that may have more enemies to kill and/or potentially avoid. You must also weigh between whether it's worth using your handgun to kill this zombie, which will likely around 8-10 bullets, or instead choose to use the shotgun which could potentially kill it in a single shot. Or perhaps both, where you manage to knock a zombie down to the ground, and then use your handgun to finish it off... Or you could even intentionally have the zombie grab your leg whilst it's residing on the floor, inflicting a bit of damage, but also resulting in an insta-kill that shows your character destroying the zombie's head completely with their boot.
Exclusive to the remake are Self-Defence Items now, too. These are situated within their own inventory space, and with one equipped will allow you to escape the grasp of an enemy and deal some damage at the same time. This then throws in another layer of strategy at your fingertips, as you may intentionally decide to get bitten to be able to use a self-defence item to save on ammunition for your other weaponry.
Avoiding enemies is of course a valid tactic, too. Due to the tight corridors that populate the mansion, however, this may prove tricky. Nonetheless, the fan-coined ''wall hug'' is as effective as ever, and because the zombies you'll encounter are as dim-witted and sluggish as you can expect, environments that are slightly more open allow you to more easily escape from their grasp.
Due to the element of backtracking, this involves a lot of you returning to previous areas where enemies you may have avoided still reside. However the game has a decent sense of progression, as you slowly acquire more ammunition and better weaponry. Avoiding an enemy at one moment may be an easy dispatch should you return later on after locating some more ammunition. As you yourself begin ramping up your bevy of weaponry, however, so do the monsters themselves in a sense. At roughly the midway point, the zombies are replaced by the iconically terrifying 'Hunters'. These are much faster and considerably more dangerous, complete with an insta-kill attack they will liberally attempt to commit should your character's health be in the 'Caution' state or lower. The Hunters as such make for a deviously fantastic means of subduing the confidence you're likely to build as you acquire more supplies and weaponry.
Then, then there's the Crimson Heads. Perhaps one of the most ingenious inclusions the remake saw for the series, Crimson Heads are the horrifying 'revival' of the already undead corpses you'll kill. After downing a zombie, you'll notice its corpse will still reside within the area, when they would ordinarily vanish upon returning. This signifies that it's undergoing the Crimson Head transformation, and will then eventually reawaken into something much more ferocious. No longer content in slowly shambling towards you, Crimson Heads will rush at you at roughly the same speed as your own character, and now have access to claws that give them a slight increase of their range of attack. They retain the same amount of health as a regular zombie, although their aggressiveness can certainly change your tune all the same even should you have the ammo to spare. The only means to halt a Crimson Head transformation is to burn the corpse, if not manage to kill the zombie by destroying the head. You'll soon come upon the necessary tools for cremating the undead, however as you would expect the kerosene required is of a very limited quantity. The concept of Crimson Heads thusly add another angle to consider to killing the creature in front of you, and in turn can make the act of backtracking surprisingly anxious.
Even before the transition to a third-person shooter, the Resident Evil series still featured a cavalcade of grotesque boss monsters to fight. Within a design that's supposed to give you the freedom to go about combat encounters your own way, mandatory boss encounters that you're required to kill admittedly flies in the face of what those older games were about. However as such, bosses are actually rather rudimentary as far as attack patterns and tactics go. Most simply require you to shoot, run away, shoot, and so on. They exist more so for spectacle really, and as a means to force you to give up some of your ammunition that you may have otherwise been able to successfully stockpile. Even still, the spectacle allows the many boss monsters to stay with you longer after you've finished it. The undead shark--coined Neptune--encounter still resides as one of the most stressful video game moments of all time personally speaking.
For this 2015 Remastering, Capcom have implemented a few new options to make it accessible for a more modern audience. There now exists a modern day analogue control scheme to coexist alongside the classic tank controls. Results may vary, but I personally much prefer the tank controls, as they feel inline with how the game was designed. The alternate controls are plagued with the same issue that games such as the original Devil May Cry suffered from, being the mixture of camera angles and analogue control. Whereas tank controls would mean Up always meant you would move forward, the alternate control scheme could involve you switching angles and then accidentally finding yourself running in the opposite direction. The lack of animations for how your character moves within this control scheme just looks plain jerky, too. It's appreciative that they're there, and I'm sure for some they're a significant improvement, but for myself I can still play the remake with the original scheme and still manage to feel completely in control of my actions. There's a surprising fluidity to your movement that lends itself well to escaping enemy encounters and rushing past, even with the tank controls.
The other most notary addition is a 'Very Easy' mode. The remake's Easy mode I would feel is accessible enough as it is, but the Very Easy mode likely assures now that just about anyone who's interested in the game, but is put off by the combat, will be able to see it to the end.
Unfortunately, and this perhaps makes for my one sole criticism, that's basically all there is that's new here. While Capcom have done their due diligence in appealing to a newer audience with the game's Very Easy mode and alternate modern control scheme additions, there's unfortunately nothing new here to celebrate for the veterans. No additional difficulty settings or anything of the sort. There is at least a new costume for both Chris and Jill, being their BSAA character models from Resident Evil 5, which is an appreciative gesture. However for veterans such as myself, the static nature of the game has thusly made it to be rather easy. I chose the highest difficulty available (which by default is only its Normal mode) as Chris Redfield, who is also home to the more difficult of playthroughs between he and fellow protagonist Jill Valentine. And still did I get through the game mostly issue-free. I still enjoyed reliving it all, and I did still admittedly die the one time, but that there's no mode that would at least rearrange the key items around, or randomise the enemy locations, is rather disappointing. Especially when you consider the number of alterations the Director's Cut and Deadly Silence saw with the very 1996 original.
The graphical upgrade the remake has seen still makes for reason enough to see it through again all the same, however. As mentioned before, the remake looked pretty damn breathtaking upon release, and to this day the original GameCube version holds up surprisingly well. The added bells & whistles thusly make an already superb looking game all the more effective. The remake is now all the more of a beautifully haunting skirmish, with exquisite detail contained within every single room. The dark, gloomy corridors and lighting-laden windows, paired with the perpetually ominous and sometimes penetrating soundtrack, do wonders in cementing the remake as a truly effective horror game.
Jump scares are abound, but not overly so to feel gimmicky or worn out. The jump scares are spread around enough to compliment the atmosphere rather than dominate and dilute it. While this element perhaps doesn't ring as true after so long, but the way the remake explicitly preyed on the expectations of fans of the original strengthened the potential for frights. The classic camera angles do an outstanding job at creating a surgically precise gallery of visages and this 2015 Remastering does a great job in reinvigorating the merit of camera angles for the benefit of atmosphere. The new widescreen option also seamlessly allows the game to better show off its graphical prowess, all at the small cost of the game occasionally having to pan up or down within certain environments.
In a weird twist, if there is one thing that I feel the original still performs better than the remake, it's the voice acting. The voice acting of the original is notorious for how impossibly and hilariously awful it is. It has lead to many a classic quote that still rings throughout video game culture in general, and while the voice acting and dialogue of the remake is still rather hammy, it's not nearly as unintentionally memorable nor as gut bursting. That the story takes itself a little more seriously also makes the many leaps in logic of certain characters all the weirder. Of course, such 'Engrish' as seen in the original can never be manufactured and has to happen via sheer serendipity, so with their superior localisation team there's nothing that Capcom have done to recreate such magic as Gerbil Sandwiches and Masters of Unlocking.
Regardless, I am positively elated that this game can exist in this format. The expansion of its accessibility, with how it's now available on just about everything, has allowed it to flourish for a completely new audience. Whether this new audience will take to this game or not is difficult to guess, however it's beneficial that more people are at least aware of one of Resident Evil's best. Could this lead into more survival horror Resident Evil? One would hope the remake may open Capcom's eyes to the reality that such a fanbase exists, though let's not get our hopes up too much. The remake remastering, and not to mention Resident Evil 4's PC version, primarily exists as a peace offering to make up for the shameful display Resident Evil flaunted back in 2012. The less beloved Resident Evil Zero is at least assured to go under a similar treatment, but whether they'll cut it short there or somehow attempt to give games such as Resident Evil 2 and Nemesis the highest of defined love is another question entirely. With Revelations 2 on the horizon, with its many The Last of Us inspirations in tow, leaving me cautiously... curious, Resident Evil looks like it may very well be on the up and up. And even should Resident Evil once again suddenly crash and burn, we can at least take solace that Capcom were able to give the REmake the honour and degree of modern day polish it deserves.