Arts & CultureVideo Games

Berg: ‘Resident Evil’ remaster leaves disappointing impressions

Resident Evil is a franchise often criticized for “straying from its roots.” Ever since the structural reboot of Resident Evil 4, which brought the franchise near-universal critical acclaim, the franchise’s hardcore fans have stuck up their noses at any subsequent releases. They claim nothing since that seminal release has ever held up to the level of quality, atmosphere or outright terror as the original game, instead replaced by generic action movie heroics. While I’m not one to stand up for most of the modern Resident Evil catalog, I am one of the biggest fans of RE4 around. I’ve beat the game several games and hold it closely as among the greatest works of entertainment.

But as a result, my experience with this franchise has always come from a sheltered perspective. RE4 was my first and everything I’ve played of the franchise has come since that dramatic redesign in gameplay (which focuses more on combat over puzzles and moves the camera closer for an over-the-shoulder perspective). So in a state of curiosity, I picked up the recent HD remaster of the PlayStation 1 classic of the original Resident Evil. What followed was a handful of hours that toed the line between enjoyable challenge, maddening frustration and genuine terror.

While Resident Evil may be nearly 20 years old (originally released on March 22, 1996), the level of visual polish Capcom has applied to this most recent release is genuinely stunning. Highly detailed character models and backgrounds could fool just about anyone into thinking this was a brand new release. Unfortunately, the illusion is quickly shattered the moment you take control of your character. Regardless of your choice between Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, both control like Soviet tanks made in the heat of the Cold War. It’s made all the worse by the game’s trademark fixed-camera system, which regularly switches between angles that throwback to classic ’80s horror. Every time you cross one of a thousand invisible lines on the floor, the camera abruptly shifts and takes the perspective of control with it. You’re meant to move from the player’s perspective, rather than the character’s, resulting in countless moments where crossing into a hallway leaves you scrambling to regain orientation, often with a zombie in hot pursuit.

This also crosses into the game’s combat, which is a headache all its own. If you think walking in a straight line is tricky with this camera, you’ll be delighted to find that aiming a gun at a lumbering zombie’s head is more difficult by many multiples.

Combined with constantly low ammo and ever decreasing inventory space, you’ll need to count every shot and think very carefully about heading into any area with enemies afoot. It’s a genuinely pulse-pounding experience, but for all the wrong reasons. Death in Resident Evil is to be avoided, primarily because doing so means returning back to your last save, which thanks to the save system (representing the ability to save progress as an in-game consumable), may have been hours ago. I spent most of my time with Resident Evil trying to micromanage every element, following an unseen script that represented the “right” way to achieve success. Puzzles that are engaging on first exposure become rote by the sixth pass. Eventually, it was this relentless save system that would prove my undoing with Resident Evil.

You may have noticed that I distinctly avoided the word “review” in this bit of impressions. This is because, despite my best efforts – I was unable to finish the game. With no saves left on my character, I completed multiple hours of the game’s third act, constantly searching for just a single reprieve – a single chance to nail down the past three hours of my life into permanence. Resident Evil gave me no such niceties, delivering Jill a swift death and forcing me to set down the controller for the sake of my own sanity.

Resident Evil HD Remaster is available on XBox ONE, PS4, PS3, XBox 360.

Follow Chris Berg on Twitter @Mushroomer25

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Chris Berg

Chris Berg