After the missteps that were Resident Evil 5 and 6; Capcom has gone back to its roots with an(other) remake of the original; guest writer Vertical Sprite takes a look to see if the classic has held up…
The original Resident Evil was revolutionary for its time. But can the core gameplay mechanics hold up to today’s standards?
Special Tactics and Rescue Service or S.T.A.R.S for short are looking for Alpha team who disappeared in the Arklay Mountains area in the middle of their last mission. After selecting to play as Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine you’re tasked with exploring the Spencer Mansion looking for Alpha Team and a means to escape. Resident Evil is equal parts shooter and puzzler, viewed from fixed camera angles with 3D character models on a pre rendered 2D background. While this first may feel out-of-place by today’s standards it literally forces you to “face your fears”, often having to walk forward to activate another perspective in the room, things are made worse by the shuffling or moaning of an enemy out of sight. Seeing a shadow at the end of a hallway or knowing there is someone or something between you and the exit can be unnerving and regardless of what weapon you’re using, the tension is made worse by every bullet being precious. You will never want to waste ammo as although it can be found strewn around its almost always scarce. The simple act of planning a route through the mansion can mean pulling up a map to see which rooms you have cleared to avoid any unwanted confrontation. Playing as Jill only gives you 8 inventory slots or six as Chris meaning do you take first aid kits, guns and ammo? Or leave room in your inventory while you search for that all important key to unlock more areas of the mansion? And if you don’t have a spare slot and can’t risk forgetting where that all important crest is then you may find yourself resorting to pen and paper taking notes. No hint system, no waypoint…. good old-fashioned pen and paper.
There is zero hand holding save for a few hints in the opening moments of the game. Within minutes you are free to explore as best you can, solving puzzles and killing zombified humans and creatures along the way. Resident Evil is a reminder of how hard yet rewarding games can be. Always challenging and just the right side of frustrating and always eerily atmospheric. The Spencer Mansion as a building also deserves praise. You will be backtracking and solving puzzles to such a degree, eventually you will have a mental map and almost be able to navigate with your eyes closed. Learning routes to shortcuts you have opened or which doors have not been unlocked yet. All of this while listening to a haunting score that can put you on edge.
Things are made easier by the various chests that you can place your items into. Clearing inventory space with no fear of ever filling the chest up. But nothing in Resident Evil is free. If you want to so much as save your game you have to find an “ink ribbon” which also uses up an inventory slot. This allows you to save your game a limited number of times at any typewriter. If you want more saves then find more ink ribbons. Although odd at first glance not only does this stop quick saving tactics, robbing the game of its survival charm, but makes the act of saving your game a conscious choice instead of an atmosphere sapping checkpoint system. Very few games make you pause right before entering a room, genuinely weighing the risks based on what’s in your inventory or your ability to fight. It’s surprising to see that all of this was present in the original version, but in 2002, the GameCube version added a lot more. It not only added new areas and bosses but also new enemy types, cutscenes and a terrifying test subject called Lisa. These new areas being expertly woven into the original even managing to integrate puzzles making new ones along the way, changing how you solve certain problems. Remember that room with the snake? Well that’s a statue puzzle now, and that key that opened that door? Well that won’t work this time. Backgrounds are no longer static, your character can cast shadows, lights can be seen swinging or dust glimmering in the moonlight adding to what is already an incredible experience. Item placement and puzzles have been mixed up and in some cases totally changed meaning veterans of the original will find reason to play this version. Crimson Heads which could match your pace made their debut in 2002 which needed a flash grenade or setting alight with a lighter to stay down. All of this while trying to avoid a disfigured woman whose story is told through collectible notes throughout the game. It was a bold move and was met with a positive response when HD remakes weren’t that common.
But don’t expect any changes in this 2015 Resident Evil Remastered version. Very little has been altered. The same backdrops are used, door opening animations are still present with no option to skip them and no new areas are added. Certain cutscenes are woefully low resolution which is a shame because at its core Resident Evil is still a great game, yet on certain platforms reports of random slowdown after saving are common. There are token updates, extra costumes and the ability to view it in its original 4:3 mode, or play with a new control scheme (Hint : don’t) If you have played the GameCube version then this really offers nothing new but if you have yet to suffer the booby-trapped, corny scripted Spencer Mansion adventure then Resident Evil is an essential purchase. For the rest of us can we have Resident Evil 2 Remastered now please?
+ Classic Resident Evil
+ Puzzle Design
+ Perfectly Paced
– Low Quality Cutscenes
Read it? Why not check out the video review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjTC7WvkSMs
You can find video reviews from Vertical Sprite here: https://www.youtube.com/VerticalSprite