The Resident Evil Remake taught me a few important lessons, some about the series itself, and some about gaming in general. Let’s not waste any time and get right down to it.
First off, Resident Evil doesn’t actually suck. People love making fun of the pre-RE4 formula for Resident Evil games. They’ll complain about the cheesy zombies, the tank-like controls, and the obtuse puzzles. And yet none of these things could keep me from enjoying the REmake. I enjoyed having a good brainteaser to solve. I enjoyed blasting away at zombies with a well placed shotgun shell fired in a fairly realistic manner. I like the slow, plodding pace of the game, where survival is the only thing that needs to be on your mind, not time or points or action. And while there may not be an excuse for poor control, it doesn’t take that much practice to get used to steering your character around. In fact, after enough play you shouldn’t be running into zombies at all.
Say that it is too difficult. Say that it just isn’t your style of game. Just don’t say that it isn’t possible to be entertained by it once it all clicks. REmake isn’t the smartest game, but its formula provides a fine blend of puzzles and action.
The important thing to take away from this is that it wasn’t until the REmake that I really discovered how good Resident Evil games could be. It is true that I had tried the original on Playstation years ago, but never got more than ten minutes into it. For once I have to agree with a lot of the hip game writers out there; RE1 was an early Playstation mess. The models really did look horrible, the pre-rendered backgrounds fuzzy and washed out, and the entire setup for the game seemed entirely different due to the horribly cheesy approach Capcom took. It was a lot of cruft resting on top of some good survival horror gameplay.
It is the REmake that removes this cruft and gives the game the polish it has needed. The graphics bring the mansion to life like never before, and to this day only the new Myst games seem able to match its jaw dropping pre-rendered scenes. The script is hugely improved, as are the voice actors, who actually put a little bit of effort into their work. What once was a B-movie zombie story is now a blockbuster zombie story. Still stupid, but told well enough for us to pay attention to it.
The extra content not only helps to flesh out the experience, but will keep veteran players on their toes. In addition to the new areas that no one has seen before, Capcom also went ahead and made some changes to some of the key scenes and locations in RE1. For instance, the infamous hellhound scene has been nicely tweaked to throw off players who try to anticipate it. This is a remake like no other; one that takes a game that has aged horribly and makes it into something that really is a truer, better realization of what the creators had in mind.
It also goes to show just how gullible gamers can be. While we may scoff at how silly RE1 is now, back when it was new many of us were wowed by its “creepy” sights, buckets of blood and mature themes. Even today, I can freely admit that while REmake would eventually make me a fan of Resident Evil, it was the amazing visual overhaul that initially got me re-interested in a series I had left for dead. I won’t be surprised if in ten years I look back at this one with the same contempt as the original. Throw something shiny and new at a gamer, and watch us squeal. Make what you will of that.
REmake also shows us how baffling some of Capcom’s decision making can be. For instance, despite some of the massive improvements made to the game, they never fixed a few of the poorly translated lines in the inventory screen (particularly the one when you try using an item with no current use). Was that purposeful nostalgia or pure negligence? Additionally, REmake is the first Resident Evil game to implement the infamous “Type C” control scheme, which makes navigation much easier by separating forward motion and turning onto separate buttons. None of the subsequent ports of old RE games, or even the original Resident Evil 0 that came afterwards had this scheme as an option. I’m not sure how Capcom chooses what to change and what to leave alone, but at times I wonder if they rely on a dartboard in the office.
Last but not least, I think that with REmake, Capcom finally managed to craft a truly frightening game. Between the intimidating difficulty of hard mode, the chillingly realistic look of the game world, and the deceptive camera angles used to portray each scene, the REmake evokes the very best thrills of a good Hollywood zombie film. There’s nothing quite like leaving a room that was filled with frozen corpses stuffed into body bags and going out into a grimy hallway where a rotting zombie or a swift hunter is waiting around the corner to tear you to pieces.
REmake not only wants to disturb, but for once it actually can. While series like Silent Hill try (and in my opinion, mostly fail) to deliver subtle psychological horror, Resident Evil quite literally goes for the throat. If you’re not playing with the lights off, you’re not playing it right. Fun, frightening and classy in its delivery, REmake is one of the highlights of the Gamecube and without a doubt the best Resident Evil that Capcom would push out before RE4.