Blood! Jill, see if you can find anymore clues. I’ll be examining this… I hope this is not CHRIS’ blood!
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: January 20, 2015
Copy provided by publisher
Capcom announced a rerelease of Resident Evil three days after I made a joke about Capcom taking too long to rerelease Resident Evil. As if to pile punchline upon punchline, their announcement confirmed that the latest generation of consoles would be getting the GameCube remake (dubbed REmake by fans) with retouched visuals and gameplay improvements, thus giving us a remaster of a remake. Capcom’s love of double-dipping is notorious and shameless, but this triple-dip is a rare treat, and it’s hard not to be bitterly amused by the industry’s continued need to plunder its own history in lieu of creating anything new. The amount of mileage Capcom’s gotten out of Resident Evil by now has reached ludicrous proportions, and it appears the gas tank isn’t even close to empty.
That said, it’s hard not to be part of the problem and get excited over a modernized version of one of the best remade games out there. The REmake was a particularly excellent exercise in updating a classic release, with new content, gameplay, and visuals that worked together to present more than a simple retread. It was something both nostalgic and fresh, instantly familiar but teeming with macabre surprises and twists, keeping veterans guessing while giving newcomers a terrific reason to dive into the Spencer Mansion for the very first time. Everything that made the original Resident Evil a success was kept in, while almost all of the dated elements were overhauled and improved. It’s good enough that Capcom can actually get away with remastering it and only earn sideways glances from yours truly – and that’s saying something.
This ReREmake preserves everything that made the original remake great, and what a world we live in where “original remake” can be a valid term. In fact, I’m going to tell you right now that this is one of the most pointless reviews in existence – everybody should know already where they stand on this one. Either you squared the money away the day this was announced, or you’ll never play it. The PlayStation original needs no explanation, while the GameCube version is almost equally notorious. None of you reading this needs me to tell you if it’s worth your cash. The most I could do is let you know whether or not I encountered any game-breaking bugs. Let me do that right now…
No. No, I did not encounter any game-breaking bugs. Apart from some lengthy loading when I started the game for the very first time, everything was smooth, ran well, and my experience was a morbid pleasure. There. Job done. It was a terrific game in 1996, it was a terrific game in 2002, and it’s a terrific game in 2015.
Yet still, we’re all here. I’m writing this unnecessary drivel, and you’re reading it. Sod it, let’s just talk for a while about why Resident Evil is such a beautiful game.
There are many reasons why this game essentially codified survival horror and is credited as the genre’s greatest inspiration. For me, it was the mansion itself that stood the test of time. These days, with huge open worlds and a growing stigma against backtracking, we’ve lost the concept of an environment that we get to know and adore over a prolonged experience. Like Shadow Moses in Metal Gear Solid, the Spencer Mansion of Resident Evil is a tiny place compared to huge modern game worlds, and there’s a significant amount of running back and forth through the same sets of corridors and rooms. Released brand new today, Resident Evil could very well risk a critical mauling for forcing players to backtrack, as we’ve collectively forgotten how much a sense of intimacy with one’s surroundings can positively impact a game experience. Now, I’m actually none too fond of some of the ways in which Capcom cheaply increased the amount of required back-and-forth (screw that shortcut door with the breakable handle!), but I can still respect exactly how much playtime Capcom got out of one main building and a few connected areas.
What first introduces itself as a sprawling, intimidating maze soon feels like home. A deadly home crawling with zombies and other biological atrocities, but a home nonetheless. Continued exposure to familiar hallways instills a navigational expertise in the player, as they soon learn the best shortcuts, the safest routes from room to room, the faster and more efficient methods of navigating their world. Unlike many modern games, players were given time in a place just the right size, and drip-fed new areas as and when required, rather than shunted around a vast open sandbox with barely a moment to take in the scale. This method of environmental design was a mainstay of old adventure games, expanded upon with Metroidvania style titles, and produced a number of unforgettable PlayStation-era action releases. The word “unforgettable” is important. I will never forget Resident Evil. I won’t forget its lavish entrance hall, its eerily silent barroom, its crow-infested gallery, or the relief I felt every time I reached its stairwell safe rooms. I can’t tell you about a single memorable place in Far Cry 4.
The mansion isn’t the only thing, either. For my money, Resident Evil still boasts the scariest zombies a videogame’s ever offered. Rather than the snarling, stylized undead found in more recent entertainment, these were zombies as they ought to be. With wet, squishing footsteps and skin-crawling groans, these monsters lunge toward the player with a dehumanized disregard that made them that much more distressing. It’s hard to capture the truly alienating lack of humanity essential to crafting a suitable zombie, but these things still give me the creeps, even when they’re not presenting too much of a threat. They’re not disposable fodder, and they’re not designed to be “cool” for our pop culture sensibilities. Here, the REmake adds an extra level – the horrific Crimson Heads, powerful and vicious evolutions of zombies you kill without completely destroying. This added threat made the simple act of shooting a zombie a carefully considered problem, as without the tools on-hand to burn the corpse, you’re just creating scarier problems for later.
I’m not a fan of every “classic” feature in Resident Evil, and some of my gripes may not please other fans. I have no particular love for the game’s restricted inventory allowances. Being able to only carry six to eight items (depending on whether you play Chris or Jill) is a limitation that only ever serves to annoy me. Having to trudge back to a storage chest to put down an item so one can trudge back and retrieve something important isn’t exactly difficult, and it’s certainly not scary, it’s just a pain in the arse. Many is the time I’ve fought my way to an area and found myself having to fight back to get something I left behind and couldn’t predict the need for, or gained a plot-crucial object and been unable to take it because I’ve got a handful of bullets in my pocket. I’d rather be concerned with solving puzzles and avoiding flesh-eating monsters, but Resident Evil tries to make one far more concerned with whether or not they have too much stuff in their hands. Similarly, I’ve never been a particular fan of the need for ink ribbons to save one’s progress – don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely against them, but I never thought they added this brilliant sense of fear that some folk claim. I always found it to be little more than a mild threat of inconvenience – which let’s not forget was Capcom’s very intention, since ink ribbons were retooled in the Western version of Resident Evil to spite anybody who rented instead of bought it.
Again, though, these gripes are things people have debated over for decades, and you ought to know by now if they’re a big problem for you or not. This review is thoroughly pointless from the standpoint of informing potential customers anything, but that’s okay. We got to rant about environmental design and zombies for a little while, and that has to be worth something. Minor annoyances aside with some of Resident Evil‘s more dated structural choices, it was a nostalgic blast to go through the ReREmake, to the point where I’m now merrily playing Resident Evil 2 on my PlayStation Vita because I’ve gotten back in the mood for Capcom’s spookily camp brand of schlock horror scares.
Speaking of which, let’s get a Resident Evil 2 remake on the cards, guys. I know you can sit on your holes and pump out rerelease after rerelease of the first one and make bank, but if you can do for Leon and Claire’s adventure what you did for Chris and Jill’s, I’m sure there are many of us who’ll line up with our damp wallets gaping wide open.