Resident Evil HD doesn’t perform the same jump scares of titles such as Outcast; it’s more consistent than that. It is instead a master of drawn-out tension with a sprinkling of dread. A prolonged sense of eerie danger and building fear that excels at mild frights whilst inducing unwavering alertness on the player. To play it is to commit yourself to feeling constantly unsafe from the zombies, dogs and other undead and mutated beasts that dwell within, and just outside, the mysterious mansion. It’s an exhausting, powerful, and highly satisfying experience. Indeed, Resident Evil HD superbly balances its puzzle solving, mystery, suspense and fear to draw you into the pinnacle of survival horror experiences.
Choosing to play as either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield from the Bravo S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactical and Rescue Service) team, you find yourself investigating the disappearance of Alpha team near the Spencer Mansion on the outskirts of Racoon City. After finding Alpha team’s downed helicopter, a mutilated body and a pack of rotting, undead, flesh-eating dogs, your team runs for the safety of the mansion. Trapped inside and with some team members now missing, you start searching for your comrades and investigating what exactly is going on in this remote and mysterious location.
Resident Evil HD is not an action game. It’s more akin to a point ‘n click adventure or a ‘room escape’ puzzle, just on a larger scale. The ‘action’ is implemented so there is a tangible threat and struggle to survive against something horrifying. The undead monstrosities are a barrier as you search the labyrinthine mansion and its grounds for items to solve all manner of puzzles. The puzzles themselves offer a variety of simple and more cerebral challenges, as you solve riddles and manipulate mechanisms, or just collect objects and place them in their correct slots. Moreover, through their completion further aspects to the plot and revealed, from collecting diaries and notes that speak of strange experiments, to the art work and layout of the mansion that speak to the owner’s personality and intentions. It’s nuanced and clever.
Furthermore, the restrictions on inventory add an additional quandary and challenge to proceedings. You have a very limited amount of space to carry items, weapons, and equipment, forcing you to frequently manage your inventory and weight decisions on what, if any, health items, weapons, and objects you should be holding at any one time. Additionally, items can only be swapped out from crates found in save rooms, forcing you to trek between them and any items you fancy collecting.
Unexpected events like zombies crashing through windows and filling a hallway previously vacant can make you curse your choice in handgun over shotgun. Meanwhile, wasting the valuable ammo of your grenade launcher on lesser foes can leave you overwhelmed later in the game against stronger enemies. Additionally, you need ink ribbons – an extra concern to item management – in order to save your progress at typewriters placed throughout the course of your adventure. It can get frustrating, but it’s an integral part of the survival experience, and the overall sense of desperation is can cause is absolutely worth it.
Just as inventory management adds to the survival aspect, the fixed camera and awkward movement and aiming mechanics add to the horror. Corridors are more menacing, the lights casting all manner of foreboding shadows across the walls and floor. Corners are frightening, sounds are terrifying: footsteps, growls, moans, rapidly approaching from an unknown angle. The restricted and intractable view of the camera adds a thick atmosphere of fear to every location that a free camera could never do.
Meanwhile, aiming and moving is inaccurate, with the former restricted to digital as opposed to analogue function, making the weakest of enemies considerably more threatening, deadly, and scary. It certainly gets frustrating as you wrestle to line-up shots at the three angels of low, high and hip, or come running down a corridor avoiding a spritely enemy, only to turn the wrong way as the camera switches and your direction gets confused. However, once again it adds to the desperation of survival and the horror of the foes, keeping Resident Evil firmly outside of the action genre.
Depending on the character you choose, the flow of the plot, the location of items, acquisition of weapons, and overall difficulty will be different. Additionally, a handful of different outcomes to choices you make affect the ending, of which there are multiple. You can also unlock weapons, costumes, and cheats by completing the game with different characters and on different difficulties, encouraging replay.
Of course completing the game in the first place is a challenge. Enemies are deadly and numerous, saving is restricted due to the ink ribbon mechanic, and the puzzles can be devious. Making your way through the mansion, even with a map, is confusing, with neat tricks such as the odd degrading door knob adding diversions to your exploration. If you know precisely what you’re doing and where you’re going you could conquer it in five hours, but your initial playthrough is far more likely to enter double digits.
If you played and enjoyed the original 1996 Resident Evil or its director’s cut, then you owe it to yourself to experience the hugely different and almost unrecognisable transformation of this version. Gamecube fans who played this back in 2002 will find new analogue movement, 5.1 surround sound support, and greatly enhanced visuals, but the same excellent experience, and the fact it’s so superb should be more than enough to encourage you to pick this up.
As odd as it sounds to have an HD remastering of a remake, this is a wonderful survival horror experience that looks, sounds, and plays on par with anything on the market currently. The restrictions of inventory, saving, and aiming feel more purposeful to the survival horror experience than they do antiquated, and although the odd line is cheesy and the voice acting disappointing, there’s a great B-movie story here that’s intriguing, charming and highly enjoyable. Resident Evil HD suffers from slightly awkward movement but is otherwise survival horror at its very best.
Thanks to Capcom for supplying TiX with a download code
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