I’m going to date myself here, but stick with me.
In 1996, I was 12 years old, and back then the local video rental place would actually allow you to rent entire consoles. I remember begging my parents until they finally allowed me to rent a PlayStation and Resident Evil, and spent the majority of a weekend with my best friend, scaring the crap out of ourselves as we dealt with zombies up until the very moment we had to return the system. Eight years later, my friends and I played through the game again when it released on the Gamecube. Now, in 2015, I’m running through the Resident Evil HD mansion again with yet another shiny coat of paint slapped on it. And while the game definitely shows its age with horribly outdated mechanics, what they say is true: there’s no place like home.
It’s hard for me to fathom that in 2015 there are still people who haven’t experienced Resident Evil, but all the same I’ll give a brief synopsis here. You’ll play as either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, members of the Raccoon City’s S.T.A.R.S. unit, who have set out to discover what happened to the previous team and find themselves stuck in a mansion filled with zombies, mysteries, and all sorts of ways to die. Resident Evil HD is a remake of the Gamecube’s version of the game, so some of the mechanics have been tweaked a bit from the original release and the “new” enemies have made the jump as well.
The first thing players will notice is that, unlike later games in the series, Resident Evil likes to double down on the horror aspects. Ammo is sparse and the tempo is slow, so expect to be on edge, never quite knowing where the next attack is going to come from. The game also relies heavily on puzzle elements in which you’ll have to pick up an item from one area and bring it to another at the right time. This can become annoying thanks to the game’s limited inventory system, since you’ll often find an item that you won’t have to use for another hour or so, and will end up having to either stash it in your inventory box or hold off on picking it up until its use is apparent.
In 2015, the scariest thing about Resident Evil HD isn’t the fact that you’re stuck in a mansion crawling with zombies, but that a lot of the game’s mechanics are simply outdated and borderline archaic at this point. Saving is something modern gamers take for granted, especially PC gamers who are used to being able to quicksave without second thought. Unfortunately, Resident Evil HD brings back the days of not only being limited in when you can save, but how often as well.
Unless you happen to have an ink ribbon in your inventory, you’re pretty much SOL. The good news is that ink ribbons are fairly plentiful, but you’re more than likely going to store them in your inventory box as opposed to on your person. This means walking across the room, waiting for the box to open, getting out a ribbon, going to the typewriter, saving, going back to the box, waiting for it to open again and depositing your leftover ribbons. It’s certainly not the end of the world, and at the time it was actually considered a fairly novel mechanic. Now, however, it’s just time consuming and annoying.
The locked cameras were also fantastic at the time, and really helped make the game feel special since you were locked in a horror film. Today though, they just seem limiting. You’re going to find yourself shooting at zombies that are off the screen in hopes that you’re aimed on them. I wouldn’t even dream of them changing this, and I’m not going to knock off any points due to this specifically being a part of what is now a retro game, but if you’ve never played a Resident Evil HD game in the past, it’s going to be a bit jarring.
Since we reviewed the game on PC, we do need to talk about the technical aspects a bit. It’s definitely not the worst port we’ve ever seen, but there are a few issues. The most glaring is the lack of support for higher resolution monitors. It seems that the developers capped resolutions at 1920 X 1200, which is a definite annoyance for those of us rocking 1440p, ultra wide screen, or even 4K capable monitors. If I had to hazard a guess, I would assume it had something to do with scaling issues or the game simply not holding up on average rigs above the standard 1080p resolutions, but I can’t help but to think that the choice should have been left up to the user.
A much more damning issue was the return of the ERRO8 crash. If at any time we had to alt-tab or switch monitor focus while playing Resident Evil HD, the game would simply crash back to the desktop. While this is annoying enough to begin with, coupled with the now archaic save feature, this ended up being a huge pain in the ass until we were able to narrow down what exactly was causing it. This issue has plagued previous titles in the series, and the suggestion seems to be lowering the texture quality. However, we noticed that if we just left the damn thing alone and didn’t try to do anything else, we were generally pretty safe on our test rig. Still, it’s a shame that this issue continues to exist.
On the positive end, the game does play fantastically. Our test rig is a bit overpowered, running a 295×2 GPU and a 4770k CPU, but we never noticed any drops from 60 FPS at a 1920 X 1200 resolution. Sure, we’re talking about a game that’s almost 20 years old at this point, but since a lot of modern developers are failing to hit what really is the bare minimum, it’s always nice to see.
On the control end, keyboard support does seem fairly complete, and you do have the ability to remap every key should you desire. Frankly, this is the type of game that just feels better on a controller, and we’d highly recommend you plug in whichever one tickles your fancy, but keyboard only warriors should have very little to complain about here.
Visually, the title looks great. It’s hard to explain, but when I remember playing this game in the past, I remember it looking brilliant. Of course, a decade hasn’t been kind to the GameCube, and it most certainly doesn’t hold up very well anymore. With Resident Evil HD, I’m seeing the game just as clear and impressive as the memories I have of it.
Honestly, the hardest part of this review process has been trying to figure out the basis on which to judge this retro classic. In the year 2015, sitting through a mini cutscene every time I have to open a door and parse out my saves feels downright archaic. The idea that I can’t control the camera and have to assume I’m aimed at my target in a tight corridor before pulling the trigger also seems obscene. However, Resident Evil HD isn’t being sold as a new AAA game, but is instead a 20 year-old title being brought to new light. If you’ve already run through the mansion countless times, I don’t know if yet another shiny coat of paint will be enough to merit purchasing it again. However, if this is your first chance to play through the game that really brought the survival horror genre to light, it’s past time for you to experience one of the best titles of the 90s.
This review is based on a PC version of the game, which was given to us for review purposes.
Those who've visited Resident Evil's iconic mansion countless times over the last twenty years will be safe to pass on this remaster. However, if you're interested in going through it for the first time, then Resident Evil HD is the version to buy.