There was a time when developers counted on gamers’ intellect. There were no waypoints, no quick-time events, no handholding. Regardless of the genre, experimentation and critical thinking were key. Today, many games just rely on quick reflexes and following glowing on-screen objective markers. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part game design has been streamlined and dumbed down to appeal to the masses. It’s refreshing then to revisit a classic that tosses most modern gaming trends out the window. Resident Evil HD, even with all its technical enhancements, still remains an old fashioned survival experience in the purest sense. While the visual improvements are nothing more than sharpened and stretched out assets from the Wii version (which was already a Gamecube remaster), the gameplay refinements alone are worth another playthrough.
The survival horror genre is finally making a comeback. With games like Alien: Isolation, The Evil Within, Outlast, Amnesia, Slender and Zombie U, the new generation is finally heeding gamers’ cries for more horror games. But even with all the fantastic recent entries, few experiences can mimic the original Resident Evil. It’s not just the scares or atmosphere that make RE so special, it’s the sense of mystery and uncertainty that set it apart. Every room holds a secret and a puzzle. Every enemy encounter is deadly and challenging.
"Resident Evil HD, even with all its technical enhancements, still remains an old fashioned survival experience in the purest sense."
Resident Evil HD is a love letter to those who grew up with Capcom’s classic, but modern gamers may not appreciate certain old fashioned gameplay elements. Static backgrounds, limited item inventory, no checkpoints, slow movement and imprecise shooting may not sound like positives in modern gaming, but it’s these restrictions and limitations that make the adventure so terrifying and satisfying. How about limited save points? Using them strategically is imperative to progress as death oftentimes results in a lot of backtracking and replaying big sections of the game. Making a deadly mistake doesn’t reset your character to the most recent checkpoint, instead you’re forced to load your last save. When was the last time a modern title emphasized planning your saves?
"The 1080p resolution, crisper and more defined character models and improved lighting are all notable enhancements, but everything else looks like it’s been processed through a Photoshop sharpening filter."
The archaic tank controls are now replaced by more conventional movement mechanics. The old control scheme is still available, but the enhanced setup feels more natural. The smoother animations and higher frame rate also help with combat, although the lack of shooting precision remains cumbersome when fending against fast moving enemies. The clunkiness may be part of RE’s charm and challenge, but it takes getting used to if you’re new to classic RE, or haven’t played it for a long time.
Graphically, Resident Evil HD isn’t much of an improvement over its Wii and Gamecube remakes. The 1080p resolution, crisper and more defined character models and improved lighting are all notable enhancements, but everything else looks like it’s been processed through a Photoshop sharpening filter. Instead of retexturing areas, Capcom decided to stretch and sharpen old assets and slap an HD label on them. That’s not to say the game looks bad. Quite the contrary, it’s beautiful, atmospheric and expertly designed. But the game already looked good when it was remade on the Gamecube a decade ago. In a way, the sharpening of low resolution textures makes many areas appear worse in 1080p. But to be fair, Resident Evil HD is just that, and HD version of a classic, not a complete remake.
"If there’ one thing Capcom can learn from this re-re-release, it’s that the horror genre is far from dead."
Resident Evil HD is undoubtedly the definitive version of the original. While visual refinements are minimal, the gameplay is smoother and more enjoyable. RE still remains one of the greatest survival horror games of all time, and this is a great way to experience the classic horror on new consoles. If there’ one thing Capcom can learn from this re-re-release, it’s that the horror genre is far from dead. Let’s hope Resident Evil 7 returns to the franchise’s roots, and, doesn't end up like another Gears of War clone.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4