Plot: Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine lead a team of STARs into an abandoned mansion in search of their missing team. They soon split up and have to get to the bottom of the mystery on their own.
We are getting to the stage in gaming culture, where it is painfully aware that certain games are being left behind, in an industry that is so progressive, amazing graphics can look surprisingly poor three years later. Remasters are ways around that and we have already seen some decent ones. Last of Us and Tomb Raider got a next-gen polishing and the biggest remaster success story has to be the first person addition to GTA V. However, what about the older games, the classics of PS1 that are sadly turning into whispered gaming greats, but only played by the gaming veterans among us. Resident Evil is one of those such games and it is fantastic that the PS4 and Xbox One have gotten around to revamping it, boosting the graphics and allowing players to descend into the nightmare once again.
The first thing to comment on is the graphics. It is the biggest problem with replaying the original. The pixelated figures shuffling towards your character hardly equates to gut-wrenching terror anymore. However, Capcom’s re-release changes all of that, so the nightmarish horror of the mansion is brought into vivid detail. The moment you are thrown into the control of either Jill or Chris, you are taken aback by how gorgeous the mansion is. The plush red carpets, the age-old oak banisters… it helps make that thick tension pulse throughout the levels. The graphics aren’t up there with Farcry 4 or Last of Us standards, but it does the job well enough. The characters now emote, and while they are still stuck with terrible dialogue and voice acting, they feel real. Rebecca is the terrified girl, inches from her resolve crumbling away. Chris is determined but out of his depths, as each new monstrosity lumbers into view. The animation gets shakier as you hit the tunnel levels, the gloomier set-pieces harder to restore, but on the whole, Resident Evil looks gorgeous. It is easy to immerse yourself into the adventure, a must for any horror game that claims to be the best in the world. However, there are moments when you wish that the animation was back to pixel format: some of the monsters are terrified. My arachnophobia hit its peak, when faced with the T-Virus’s answer to spiders, pulsating, hairy giants that scuttle on the walls and spit poison at the player. Certain under-cooked moments from the first are finally done justice. Neptune is incredible, the man-eating shark mutation, as you can feel the hate from the boss, as he tries to get through to you. Yes, that’s right: emotion in a shark! Best of all is Lisa, the wretched experiment that is made invincible and cursed with eternal suffering. Her haunted figure scraping across the floor to come and get you is one of the high points in the game, when it comes to pure, unadulterated terror. When it comes to the fear factor, Resident Evil is finally able to fulfil that promise of scaring the living daylights out of you.
It’s not a stroke-for-stroke copy though. There are certain details that the Remaster cannot help but change. Certain cult moments are altered slightly to give the fan base something to chuckle over. Sometimes, it is shifting the better jump scares a few moments later on in the game, so it gets you when you are not expecting it. Sometimes it is extending the back story, so it references later games as well as the current one. The key change is at the start. Anyone that has played the original knows that you can try to leave the mansion through the front door, triggering a short cut-scene where one of the zombie dogs comes for you. Knowing that anyone playing the remaster would try and relive that moment out of interest, the game has a deadly surprise waiting for you. Opening the door does not trigger a cut-scene, but has one of the dogs break into the main hall and attack you. You physically have to fight it, potentially before you have even picked up your first weapon. It is a delicious little treat waiting for the players. However, it does beg the question: why wasn’t more changed? The annoying flaws that mildly irritated me are stronger now, because they could have been fixed in the upgrade. The lack of notifications would have been an easy thing to add, yet Capcom refuse to help the player out at all. Worse, why didn’t the makers scrap the dodgy voice acting and get a new cast in? Perhaps some fans will disagree with me, treating the cheesy lines and rote acting as one of the things that makes Resident Evil so enjoyable, but, for me, it seems like a wasted opportunity at making the story much more hard-hitting. Cut-scenes could do with a re-write too. I accidentally spoiled the twist for myself, because I rescued Jill too early and she told me who the traitor was, before that certain fact was meant to be known. I knew who it was anyway, from playing the original (as well as the fact the traitor goes on to become one of the most iconic bad guys in a video game), but I felt that it would be a disappointing spoiler for newcomers to stumble across.
Final Verdict: The remaster makes Resident Evil both scary and beautiful again, although a handful of flaws remain untouched.