In honor of its nineteenth anniversary (?!?), or maybe for some other equally weird reason, the good people at Capcom have released an HD remake of their classic 1996 survival horror game Resident Evil for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC. But by neither making it a faithful recreation of the original game, which would appeal to nostalgia buffs and old school fans, nor a truly useful upgraded edition, which would be great for those who want to play a modern version of a classic game, those same good people at Capcom have oddly made a game with very limited appeal.
When the Bravo team’s helicopter crashes in the woods outside Raccoon City, and the team loses contact, you and the rest of the S.T.A.R.S. team are sent in to find out what happened. But when you realize that the dead have risen — and they’re not the only creepy crawlies around — you have to use your brain and your trigger finger to (you guessed it) survive this horror.
For fans of the original version, this new edition of Resident Evil is something of a mixed bag. Not only is the gameplay the same, but they even kept the floating door visual intact for when you move from one room to the next, as well as the whole typewriter-as-save device. You can even play it with the original controls and screen size (4:3).
All of which is good if you’re looking to play the game as you remembered it….in 2002. You see, visually, this version of Resident Evil doesn’t have the original graphics. Instead, it has the graphics when the game was ported to the GameCube in 2002, though they’re now in high def. Which is fine for fans of that version, especially since the HD makes this edition look clearer and more detailed than the GameCube one. But if you were hoping for a faithful recreation of the original game, you’re out of luck.
Even worse, if you were hoping for something a bit more modern, well, then you’re boned. While the game does give you the option of playing with a new widescreen view (which you can also do with the original controls), the new “Alternate” controls are oddly almost as clunky as the original ones because they only change how you move, not how you move the camera. Instead, this retains the original’s fixed camera perspective.
As a result, the controls in Resident Evil feel counter-intuitive and awkward regardless of which version you pick. Aiming accurately, for instance, in rather difficult, far too difficult for a highly trained member of law enforcement. And that goes double for when you’re trying to shoot an enemy who isn’t slowly shambling in your general direction.
Ironically, it’s the lack of intuitive or updated controls that actually adds something new to this version of Resident Evil: a sense of malaise. When played with the original controls, I maybe lasted five minutes before I was itching to toss the controller out the window. But while playing with the new control scheme wasn’t as frustrating, they’re still so awkward and counterintuitive that it made playing this game rather tiresome after half an hour or so.
What’s sad about this Resident Evil remake is that, aside from the lack of camera controls, the game still holds up rather well. Having forgotten most of it in the dozen years since I last played it, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was still scary, and still had situation puzzles that were actually puzzling but still fit the situation. Well, if you really buy that someone would build a house where you the key to the bathroom is kept in a book that’s left in an underground passage out in the garden.
But that just made the lack of camera control that much more frustrating because it ruins what could’ve been a cool remake of a still great game. Doubly so because, had they just waited a year until the game’s twentieth anniversary, they could’ve used the extra time to give this a controllable camera.
Of course, if you were hoping for the GameCube edition of Resident Evil, just with those twelve year old graphics presented in HD, then this remake is exactly what you want. But why would you want that? Why would you something that’s frustrating to play when you could have a totally upgraded version of the original game with HD graphics and a more modern (read: intuitive) control scheme? Heck, I’d even take a version that has updated camera controls but the GameCube graphics if that was the only option.
Ultimately, by being neither a faithful recreation of the original, nor an updated edition with modern-style controls, Resident Evil ends up being something that only a handful of people might want. And when you consider that, at some point, the good people at Capcom probably will release a version of the game with modern controls and graphics — though probably not for many years — buying this edition just makes me wonder if the good people at Capcom really are good.