By – Matt Camp

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I first encountered Resident Evil almost 20 years ago during its original release on the Playstation in 1996. I remember watching my brother as he played from start to finish. While I tried to play Resident Evil back then, I was never able to get to grips with the Alone In The Dark style control scheme. This tank-like control method which saw up moving the character in the direction they faced, while left and right rotated the character accordingly, was too fiddly for me. This was further compounded by the abstract camera angles, which were also inspired by Alone In The Dark. The result was that I never knew which way to turn. Like all the other games at the time which employed this movement style, I soon abandoned attempts to play Resident Evil.

The release of Resident Evil HD REMASTER brings with it an optional alternate control scheme that has made accessing the game far easier. This alternative method is based on movement relative to the camera and not the direction the character is facing. Pushing up moves you away from the camera and down towards it, with left and right now allowing travel in the respective direction instead of rotating. The direction the character is moving in remains constant when changing to a new viewpoint. This can result in occasions where the player runs in circles when there are rapid switches in cameras while changing direction. While not a huge problem most of the time, it did cause significant frustration during one of the timed puzzles. There were a few close shaves too when it happened near an enemy. I ended up letting go of the direction controls when the view changed angles to reduce the number of times I circled on the spot. Resident Evil HD REMASTER can be played with either keyboard or a controller, the former of which can be fully customized. However, I found playing with a controller to not only be more comfortable, but also experienced less cases of circling.

In addition to keyboard support, Resident Evil HD REMASTER offers a range of PC specific options. These include a number of resolution choices, windowed mode, V-Sync, anti-aliasing, and both shadow and texture quality. Resident Evil HD REMASTER can also be played at either 30 or 60 FPS, and this is set independently of V-Sync. The display set up offers a choice of either the original 4:3 aspect ratio or 16:9 widescreen one. The volume sliders are disappointing though. Only 0, 50, and 100% are clearly marked, meaning guess work is required if you wish to set the volume to somewhere in between. The volume controls on my G510 keyboard also do not work while the system focus is on Resident Evil HD REMASTER, thus I often had to alt-tab to the desktop in order to fine tune the volume. Despite all the PC settings provided, the system mouse pointer is not hidden when playing full screen. Having to move this out of the way every time the game is launched does get annoying.

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Starting a new game of Resident Evil HD REMASTER presents the player with a choice of three initial difficulty levels given in the form of a question with vaguely worded answers. Option one is “Normal difficulty” and the last “Very Easy”. A new game plus mode, titled “Once again…” is made available after loading a Cleared Data save file. When starting a new game in this fashion the choice of difficulty is presented more clearly and includes an unlocked “Hard” mode. As would be expected, difficulty determines damage taken, placement and strength of enemies and availability of ammunition and health items. However, it also determines the number of times a player can save their game.

Saving in Resident Evil HD REMASTER is only possible at a Typewriter while the player is carrying an ink ribbon. For the easiest game mode each ink ribbon allows the player to save six times. This is reduced to three times for the other difficulties. The gameplay experience is further defined by the choice of character. Playing as Jill grants eight inventory slots and starts you with a survival knife, handgun and a lock pick used to gain access to some rooms throughout the mansion in which Resident Evil HD REMASTER is set.

Selecting Chris limits your inventory to six slots and only gives access to a survival knife and a lighter. In addition, there is a need to collect old keys to unlock the same rooms that Jill uses the lockpick on. Some of the additional weapons found throughout the game will differ depending on who you play as. Chris also seemed to have better weapon accuracy and higher health than Jill. While the overall story remains identical regardless of the character you choose, some of the details, such as your partner and tasks relating to them, will change.

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Although Resident Evil HD REMASTER is billed as the game that defined the survival-horror genre, it still retains elements found in adventure games. During your exploration of the mansion, progress will often be hindered by a puzzle. At many stages throughout Resident Evil HD REMASTER, I found the focus was more on overcoming an obstacle than on fighting or avoiding an enemy. While many of the puzzles are simple in nature, they require the use of one or more inventory objects in order to solve them. Some puzzles also had me reaching for a pen and paper in order to keep track of the solution. It was these ones, such as the mixing of chemicals, that I found more fulfilling. Advancement is also hindered by a number of locked doors; each requiring a specific key to open them. Attempting to open a locked door will inform you of which key is required.

Due to the limited number of items that each character can carry at a time, inventory management becomes the biggest puzzle of Resident Evil HD REMASTER. There is a constant need to juggle space between weapons, ammunition, keys, health objects, and the miscellaneous items used throughout the game. Item boxes can be found at several locations, usually near a save point. These can be used to store items until later or to rid yourself of items that are not necessarily required in your current play-through. In most of the game modes available  these item boxes are linked to each other.

Thus storing an item in one box will allow you to access it at another. However, even with the item boxes and helpful messages informing you when an item can be safely discarded, there is a large amount of backtracking. As with the original Resident Evil, a short cut-scene plays every time you move to a new room. At the time of the original release, such sequences were likely necessary in order to mask behind the scenes loading of locations. However, they now serve no purpose other than to slow down gameplay. Like the limited saves, I had hoped for settings that made these optional.

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The Resident Evil franchise may be known for its use of zombies, but they will usually be the least of your worries. Alone, a zombie should be little trouble. Although you’ll want to try and dispatch of them either with a headshot or by burning them. Failure to do so will allow a more deadly foe to spawn in their place later. Resident Evil HD REMASTER does provide some defensive items that can be used against enemies that grab you as a last ditch attempt at not losing health. It is possible to set these to be used manually or automatically in the menu. Unlike main weapons, these do not take up inventory slots. The player has four health states and these are shown on the inventory screen. Body language is also used to help players identify when they are in trouble. For example, Jill will hold her stomach to indicate damage or that she has been poisoned. Not all of the enemies or bosses found in Resident Evil HD REMASTER are eliminated through force alone. For example, there is a killer shark in the Aqua Ring area which is dealt with by solving a puzzle. This is a minor change to the original Resident Evil, in addition to the inclusion of areas that were cut from that release.

True to the original, Resident Evil HD REMASTER still uses pre-rendered backgrounds and real-time models for everything else. In addition, post-processing effects not available in 1996 have been added to further bring the environments to life. For example, dust speckles drift in shards of moonlight. This is complimented with a variety of different clunks and thuds as each door is opened and closed, as well as the creaking of floorboards. The range of noises made by the various enemies often punctuate the scene long before the player sees their foe. The moaning of the zombies and squawking of the crows in particular would put me on edge. Suitably eerie short musical tracks also accompany gameplay at fitting moments to enhance tension. The result is highly atmospheric. Some of the cut-scenes however were disappointing due to being of noticeably lower quality. My overall experience with Resident Evil HD REMASTER was smooth. I had a consistent frame rate and no game breaking bugs. However, I did have regular crashes on exit, requiring termination via the Task Manager.

Although Resident Evil HD REMASTER is primarily linear in nature, there is a lot of replayability. Not only does the gameplay experience differ depending on which character you play, they each have four endings. Further, there are also a range of costumes to unlock for each character. Resident Evil HD REMASTER also lends itself to speed running. If you manage to complete a play-through in under 3 or 5 hours, a special weapon will be awarded respectively. While Resident Evil HD REMASTER also features Steam leaderboards based on time taken, these have been flooded by cheaters and Capcom has not addressed this. Finally, there are several other game modes, such as the Invisible Enemy mode, which are unlocked by meeting certain criteria.

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Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

Despite the original Resident Evil releasing in 1996, the core gameplay still remains solid today. There is no doubt that the key exploration, puzzle solving, and survival elements have aged well. The same cannot be said of the save system or the constant door opening cutscenes, which feel outdated and unnecessary. Settings to make these optional would have been welcomed. Regardless of its few flaws, this is the perfect chance for a younger generation of players to experience one of the original survival horror greats.

Resident Evil HD REMASTER – Technical Summary:

  • Time Played – 22 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – Several
  • DRM – Steamworks
  • System Specs – i7-3770K @3.50 GHz, 8GB RAM, 4GB GeForce GTX 670
  • Control Scheme – M/KB or controller; controller recommended
  • Saved Game Location –Steam\userdata\\304240\remote
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam
  • Demo – No
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  • trincetto

    So, it’s a decent port with some minor problems? I’ve been wanting to try the Resident Evil remake, having only briefly played the original years ago. By the way, there’s a mod here to remove the unnecessary door opening sequence.

    • Matt C

      It’s a very good port. If you’re living in a region where the price is equivalent to $19.99, I’d say it’s worth every cent of the full asking price. The alternate control scheme really helps in my opinion.

      Thanks for the info about the mods. I had seen one posted on the Steam forums, but a patch was deployed shortly after which broke it. Hopefully, that’s not the case any more.