Has it really been 13 years since one of the best remakes in the history of videogame remakes hit the Nintendo Gamecube back in 2002 with Resident Evil? What’s even more surreal is that it’s been 19 years since the original Resident Evil was released in 1996! How time flies. Since the golden age of the survival horror genre was at its peak with not only the Resident Evil series, but also with games like Silent Hill, the genre has gone through quite the transformation and not often for the better. In my humble opinion the Resident Evil Gamecube remake has held up quite considerably well against other games of a similar age, but how does the remaster of the remake fair? Let’s find out as we prepare to enter survival horror once more.
Fans of Resident Evil will already be well aware of its story, but for the sake of this review, let’s recap. On July 24th 1998, following a spate of gruesome murders that showed signs of cannibalism on the outskirts of Raccoon City, the Raccoon Police Department sent in the Special Tactics And Rescue Service – S.T.A.R.S- (queue Nemesis impression) to investigate the series of murders. The first team of the S.T.A.R.S division sent to investigate was Bravo Team, but after contact was lost, it was the turn of Alpha Team to investigate. Upon arriving on what they believed to be the scene of the crime, Alpha Team are attacked by the Cerberus dogs (zombie dogs) taking Alpha Team member Joseph Frost as their first victim. Then being the not so fearless pleb that he is, the team’s helicopter pilot (Brad) panics and fly’s away leaving the rest of Alpha Team to seek refuge in what they believed to be an abandoned mansion, which is none other than the Spencer Mansion.
Now it’s all down to the remaining S.T.A.R.S Alpha Team members Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, Barry Burton and Albert Wesker to discover the gruesome truth that lies within the Spencer Mansion, located deep in the heart of Raccoon Forest. Can Alpha Team find a way to escape this horror before it reaches Raccoon City and all hope is lost? It is also worth nothing that with the remake, unlike the original 1996 release, the 2002 remake now involves the back-story of George and Lisa Trevor, William Birkin and Alexia Ashford. But just in case you’ve not played the remake prior to this release, I won’t go into detail for the benefit of avoiding spoilers.
The “Tank Controls” have become synonymous with the series, especially with the very early instalments. Many have said it all adds to the survival horror element and while it was widely accepted back then, I was always well aware of the fact that I would still prefer my character to move a little more freely and I would have loved to have the ability to run and gun. Sadly despite this HD remaster having its control scheme reworked, you still cannot “run and gun.” Though you can now move far more freely, thanks to all the movement actions performed by using the analogue stick. If you wish you can still use the Tank Controls via the D-Pad and then use Square to run. Obviously as it were back in its hay day, the Tank Control does come with its limitations, but it still may remain as your control preference, so it’s nice that those controls are still included.
The new control scheme performed by the analogue stick gives you far more freedom of movement then you could ever had imagined when originally playing this remake back in 2002. While you do not have the utmost precision in movement, you can now almost rotate your character with a 360 turn, which is especially handy for a quick getaway (Tank Control fans can still press down on the D-Pad and Square for a quick turn if you wish). The analogue stick also controls the speed in which you move, from walking to sprinting. Obviously it all comes down to the individual playing on which control scheme you prefer, personally for me, I prefer a mixture of both. The reason I say this, is that both are with their positives and negatives.
One of the elements that we’ve grown accustom too with Resident Evil games of old, is the fixed camera angle. It does still offer its own element of dread, as you could not always see what might be lurking around the next corner, especially if it was one of those deadly crimson zombies. The fixed camera, Tank Controls and fixed camera angle complimented each other quite well back in the day. However that fixed camera angle does come with some disorientation when controlling your character with the analogue stick. Obviously a fixed camera angle means the camera is not free for movement and cannot be manoeuvred in any way.
So when using the analogue stick to move, when the fixed camera changed I found myself running back on myself more times than I can count and it was very disorientating to say the least and incredibly frustrating during some puzzles with a time restraint. This would not happen when using the Tank Controls, after all, this fixed camera and original control scheme were created in tandem. So in a nutshell, the analogue stick will feel far less restricted and it’s very handy for a quick getaway. Yet the Tank Controls will give you less movement, but you’ll feel less disorientated in the process. The best way in which I could make the most out the control limitations/benefits is by using the Tank Controls when exploring the Spencer Mansion, and the analogue controls during the boss battles. Though in saying that, using the analogue controls was a nightmare during the old lecture room puzzle with the enclosing walls, so I found the Tank Controls were marginally better for use instances. But as they say “each to their own”.
While the Tank Controls are still with its limitations, I won’t use that as a negative, because this is a HD remaster after all and not an actual “remake”. This game ultimately is a fan service and as a fan service, Capcom has done a fine job. If they were to completely replace the Tank Controls, there would have been some uproar. So what Capcom has done is acknowledge the Tank Control limitations and offered an alternative with the analogue controls. If however this was a remake, then I would fully expect a control overhaul, but Capcom can save that for their Resident Evil 2 remake (hint hint).
Being a regular player of the Gamecube version, and as already stated, I believe that this Resident Evil remake has held up quite well over the years, especially with its visuals. Obviously if you were to be picky, with the game not being in HD, it could always look better in this day and age. So this is where this remaster comes into play, especially in the visuals department. On the PS3 and Xbox 360, this remaster is at 720p, PS4 and Xbox One at 1080p and the PC being at 4K, with the consoles running at 30fps and 60fps on PC. With a game that has already aged very well, it looks ever so crisper in the gorgeous 1080p resolution and even better should you choose the new 16:9 aspect ratio (you can still choose to have original GameCube’s 4:9 if you wish).
But it’s not just the HD makeover that’s been the improvement in the remaster, as many of the textures and environmental objects have been reworked. For example lightening and shadow effects look even more impressive, especially with the burning flames (slight spoiler alert ahead) located in the tomb with that dreaded crimson zombie locked away in the upper coffin. The flames not only look brighter than ever before, but they also move with more realism and that is quite literally reflected in its shadow effects. Also overlapping and flapping leaves on the trees (rhyming like a true gangster) react more realistically to the blowing wind when exploring the outdoor locations. Even subtleties such as Chris Redfield’s knife pocket on his vest has been reworked and has more of a 3D effect, rather than being flat as it were in the Gamecube version.
If there was one knock in terms of the games visuals, it would be that not all the cutscenes have been converted into HD. Yeah sure the opening cutscene featuring S.T.A.R.S fleeing into the mansion is fine, but I never actually noticed the problem until later on in the game. It was the moment when you venture out into the gardens and you must use the crank to lower the water. When the crank is used, a cutscene is triggered that shows the water lowering, revealing a path for you to cross. It was this cutscene however that looked oddly blurry and it was clearly not in HD. Thankfully this cannot be said for all cutscenes, which perhaps makes it even more odd. This is not the first time that I’ve encountered low-res cutscenes in a Capcom HD remaster, as this problem was also apparent in the original Devil May Cry from the Devil May Cry HD Collection. Did Capcom forget to improve these cutscenes or where they left out due to time constraints? Only the developers at Capcom know the answer to that one.
There’s not a lot that I can say in terms of improvements made to the audio work in this remaster. Whether you love it or hate it, the Resident Evil series is well known for its cheesy dialogue, need I say “Jill Sandwich” While the voice acting is not quite as cheesy as the 1996 original, this was reworked when this remake originally released in 2002, though it did still retain much of its cheesy charm. It is Resident Evil after all. Resident Evil never has or never will reach the well written and acting heights of games such as The Last of Us; in fact the voice acting has always been pretty bad. While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I appreciate this acquired taste to the series, that’s not to say that I would like to see that changed for new instalments to the series, but that’s another time in another review (hopefully). However beneath the Resident Evil cheesiness, there have been improvements made to the audio of this remaster, as this game is now in 5.1 surround sound, which sounds fantastic when using a quality headset.
Despite the early games being singleplayer only (personally always the best way for me), the Resident Evil series has always had its fair share of replay value and Resident Evil HD Remaster is certainly no exception. Obviously you have the various difficulties to take on and by finishing the game on normal (and some just by completing even on the lower difficulty); you will unlock some very special weapons and outfits. There are also some awesome extra modes to unlock too, I won’t reveal what the unlocks are (even though the secrets have been on the internet for years), some of the unlocks will also require finishing the game under a certain time and also completion more than once. What’s new with the HD Remaster is that your times will also be uploaded to the online leaderboards, so you can see how your completion times fair against friends and fellow gamers worldwide.
Just like any HD collection or HD remaster, there unlikely to win over new fans, though they are also a great opportunity for those that missed out originally, to see what all the fuss is about. But ultimately, these kind of games are a fan service, which is why such aspects as the Tank Controls will get a pass here, though new coming fans perhaps won’t be as forgiving. But this is a game for the fans, a chance to relive a much loved classic with some added improvements. With the minor low quality cutscene issue (which isn’t with them all), this is a fantastic fan service and is arguably the best HD Remaster that I’ve played (for the games that I am a fan of), especially at the considerate launch price of £16. It is clear that a lot of love and attention has gone into this remaster and I just hope Capcom fellow suit with a new and improved Resident Evil Zero. In the mean time while we wait for that, you should strongly consider to once again enter the world of survival horror. Good Luck.
+Old school survival horror at its best
+Even without HD upgrade, visually this game has aged well
+Retextured visuals are well done
+Optional extra control scheme helps accommodate new comers
+Improved audio sounds extra crisp when using a good headset or sound system
-Cutscenes are still in low res, which is disappointing
-Fixed camera can cause some disorientation when using analogue controls