When it launched back in 1996, Resident Evil left an everlasting mark on the still infant survival horror genre. But as technology and visual fidelity rapidly advanced, the game’s visuals became rudimentary fairly quickly. Not only that, but many of its assets, including dialogue and story, were only to benefit from a potential reimagining. And thus, in 2002, one of the most impactful video game remakes released on the GameCube.
For nearly 15 long years, Resident Evil Remake remained a Nintendo exclusive. It was later ported to Nintendo’s highly successful Wii, but my first introduction to the remake, like for many others, was on the Xbox One. Somehow, the developers made a familiar experience feel fresh; characters, scenes and environments were already trodden, and yet you never knew what to expect behind the next corner. It was like eating a freshly baked calzone without knowing the stuffing. Yes, I’m hungry.
Resident Evil HD Remaster, an improved version of the original remake, released shortly after Resident Evil 5 and RE6. Games which, albeit sold well, were not received equally as well by the community. An ever-increasing focus on action left many many players questioning whether this would be the new trademark of the series. To its credit, Capcom listened to the players and tried to experiment with games like Resident Evil 7 biohazard, released in 2017. But I’m willing to bet it’s the well-received HD which inspired the remakes of RE2 and RE3.
Let’s take a look at the Resident Evil HD Remaster, how it significantly improved upon the original and became one of the best horror games ever made.
This House is Dangerous… There’re Terrible Demons… Ouch!
Before we delve into the improvements in the HD version, let’s take a look at what exactly Resident Evil Remake brought to the table (food, goddamnit).
Led by captain Wesker, the S.T.A.R.S. team is sent to investigate a series of mysterious murders. But arriving at the scene, they’re soon ambushed by zombie dogs and forced to retreat into the nearby mansion. And from the moment of taking control of either Chris or Jill, you’re free to explore and uncover its mysteries. Evidently, the basic premise of the original remained true in the remake, including Wesker being a deceitful scumbag.
But while the story didn’t change too much, the dialogue was rewritten and lines which no longer made sense were removed. Some conversations were still cringe-worthy, but overall it was much better. Many segments and conversations were more elaborate, greatly enhancing the plot. And the developers took certain creative liberties to make this return to the Spencer estate a memorable venture.
Starting with the main hall, every room looks familiar and foreign at the same time. In particular, the lighting effects look very impressive. Shadows dance across the walls as you move through the gloomy hallways. Candle flames flicker, and the marble floors beneath you create a gorgeous reflection.
Some new environments – housing new, as well as reimagined, puzzles – were added in for returning players. For instance, the foreboding graveyard section was never featured in the original and there was also no gate behind the stairs in the main hall. This gate leads to another new addition of the remake: Lisa Trevor.
The original Resident Evil didn’t deliver an emotional story in any regard. In fact, the story has never been the series’ strong suit. However, that changed when the story of Lisa, a cut portion from the original game, was included in the remake. Lisa, along with her family, was abducted and exploited as a guinea pig to test new virus specimens.
Her parents were killed early on and Lisa was subject to countless experiments across several decades. Gradually, she turned into a nearly immortal, barely sapient monster and took residence in an abandoned shack slightly beyond the mansion. Encountering her for the first time, especially not knowing about her existence, was frightening.
But finding out the details of Lisa’s thoughts in her journal was even more so. In it, she described her abduction and gradual descent into madness, with the text becoming more erratic with each entry. Resident Evil games often resort to telling similar (like itchy, tasty) stories through diaries found within environments. But not every such story manages to resonate with you as much as this one. Perhaps it’s because we actually got to see the person in the flesh; a person which used to be an innocent child. And in a weird way, this deformed creature was possibly the most human being in the game.
If It’s Not Broken… Make It Better
Resident Evil Remake was already nearly perfect, leaving little room for improvement. So, instead of adding too much “new”, the developer simply opted to bring the best out of what was already there. As per usual, this meant high-definition visuals, a widescreen aspect ratio and improved 5.1 channel sound. The latter is an integral component of any horror game which probably made the phenomenal save room theme sound even better.
Improving such a beautiful game wasn’t easy, but the HD Remaster managed to do so nonetheless. This was achieved with more realistic lighting and shadows, as well as character models and textures which looked visibly sharper. Apart from some relatively basic character models, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the game’s from over a decade ago.
In addition to the improved visual fidelity, however, the Resident Evil HD Remaster added a brand new control scheme. This scheme ditched the customary (and possibly obsolete) tank controls with controls that were more fitting for a modern game. Some might call it an improvement, I call it heresy. But truth be told, as long as both options were available then everyone was happy, including annoying purists like me.
We’ve come a long way since the remake of the original Resident Evil. And likewise, Capcom has come to grips with what its community really craves. It took the company a while to release another remake, but thankfully we’re now only months away from another universally celebrated entry – Resident Evil 3.
The remake of Resident Evil is one of the best in the series and if you haven’t played it then the Resident Evil HD Remaster on Xbox One is the way to go. Or the PlayStation 4, or the Switch, or pretty much anything else that has a screen. It’s probably coming to your Tamagotchi by 2025, with the added feature to feed Jill with sandwiches and witness her unloose the caboose. Now there’s a picture I won’t be able to get out of my head anytime soon.