Resident Evil HD Review: The Spencer Mansion Beckons Once Again

out of 5

Capcom has a tendency to re-re-release old games on new systems. They add a new feature here and there, or polish it with an HD upgrade, or even collect a few early games and throw it into a new package. They usually reserve this “honor” for the games that were incredibly popular, or where the new game still has meaning in the greater gaming world. But for Resident Evil, that honor comes from the fact that it was the first — and arguably the greatest — survival horror game ever. And now, Capcom has re-re-re-released it in glorious HD for new-gen, and once again, fans old and new can revisit the Spencer Mansion — and the dark evils it holds — and relive a true horror classic.

Resident Evil HD does everything it is supposed to do. It keeps the awkward controls and fixed camera — though the controls can now be switched up with a less-awkward scheme (though it still has it’s issues as I will get to in a bit), and even offers players new aspect rations (4:3 vs 16:9, your choice) and alternate costumes for the game’s two leads, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. Resident Evil HD even adds a new “easy” mode. And on top of all this retro goodness, they have revamped the entire game in high definition, creating a gorgeous walk down a frightening memory lane.

After almost 20 years, I’ll assume that we all know the story. After a zombie outbreak begins in the forest that surrounds Raccoon City, two teams of special forces — known as S.T.A.R.S. — are sent in. After an accident, the surviving team members find a derelict mansion and seek refuge, and a much larger conspiracy opens up dealing with genetic experiments, bio-weapons, double crosses, and mutated monsters (and plants)…oh, and that shark. Damn that shark.

Building on the incredible 2002 Resident Evil remaster on the Nintendo GameCube, the backgrounds are simply beautiful and the fixed camera really works to create tension. Having had the freedom of an adjustable camera and over the shoulder aiming in the last few RE games, going back to the “old way” means that there are some adjustments that need to be made. And this is a game that I’ve played over 30 times on four different game systems. It didn’t come back to me as quickly as I had hoped, but when it finally did, I was back up to speed for the rest of the game.

The fixed cameras actually affect movement more now than they did with the original “tank” controls. Pressing in the direction you want to run works, until the camera angle shifts, and then the direction you are running shifts as well, meaning pressing up to head north changes to pressing up to head east. And if the room or hallway that you are trying to maneuver through happens to have a Hunter in it, things go bad quick. But all of that amps up the thrills.

Players can also choose between different HD character models for Jill and Chris. The option include the original 1996 outfits and outfits from the most recent Resident Evil 6, complete with BSAA credentials replacing the S.T.A.R.S. badge. But Barry is still wearing that orange vest straight out of Marty McFly’s closet from Back To The Future. And Wesker is still Wesker, which also means that the actor portraying him doesn’t understand how commas work when delivering his lines.

Capcom has also added worldwide leaderboards so seasoned players can be ranked by their fastest speed runs. At this writing, the fastest on the Xbox One, for which this review is based, was at just under two hours. My personal fastest run ever was over three hours. It took me longer this time, as my brain has apparently forgotten how to run from slow zombies. I blame Resident Evil‘s 4-6 for making me think I can just kill anything I come across. But the leaderboards give players incentive to keep trying, to keep surviving and to stop Umbrella from unleashing a terrible hell upon the world.

Resident Evil HD is a wonderful reissue of a bonafide classic, that reminds gamers of where the survival horror genre got its start. It looks simply fantastic, is still scary — even when you know a cerberus dog is about to jump through a hallway window — and truly recaptures that magic that Shinji Mikami created back in 1996 on the Sony Playstation. And thankfully, Capcom realizes that most gamers have played this before and possibly still own it on multiple systems, so they’ve priced it at a sexy $19.99. For $20, Resident Evil HD is well worth the scares.

Resident Evil HD was reviewed on Xbox One using a code provided by Capcom for the purpose of this review. It is available now as a digital download for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Playstation 4.

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