The Resident Evil series is one that over the years has reinvented itself time and time again, the results of which have often been something truly fantastic. Resident Evil 7 for example not only proved the series could work as a first-person experience but also stands as one of the best implementations of VR yet. The fourth installment meanwhile finds itself comfortably fitting into any conversation on the best games of all time. And when Capcom isn’t busy extending the mainline series, they’re going back and remaking it.
Revisiting Resident Evil once again left me with mixed feelings. At the time this was – and to some extent still is – one of the better remakes of any game out there. It’s faithful to the original whilst at the same time giving it a much-needed lick of paint and injecting some new extras of its own. Unfortunately, time has not been too kind to this survival horror largely thanks to the improvements the series has made since only further highlighted by the recently released Resident Evil 2 remake. As a result, you’re left with a game that might feel a little jarring to go back especially when compared with other third-person adventure titles of today.
Resident Evil focuses on the S.T.A.R.S Alpha squad as they are sent in search of their Bravo team counterparts who have failed to make contact since their departure. Alpha team’s investigation eventually leads them to a rather creepy mansion on the outskirts of Raccoon City, a monstrous construction they have no choice but to take refuge in after being chased by a pack of zombie dogs. Turns out what awaits within the mansion is far worse than what was outside.
From this point, you’re then able to choose between playing as either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. While the core of these two campaigns remain fairly similar to one another, the characters you meet, areas you visit and even the number of items you’ll be able to hold at any one time do differ slightly (Jill, for example, can store eight items while Chris – arguably the tougher campaign of the two – can only hold six).
The action takes a firm backseat in Resident Evil the focus instead on simply surviving. Zombies are best avoided rather than challenged since ammo is always scarce. When you have to engage in combat the gunplay is very simple, aiming forward, up and down your options – and relatively loose ones at that. Every box of shotgun shells or handgun bullets brings with it a temporary sigh of relief knowing you have – at least for the next encounter – something to defend yourself with. Zombies are your main obstacle to deal with but as you progress you’ll face off against Hunters, giant spiders, and even killer sharks. Boss battles meanwhile are either large in size, grotesque or a combination of the two.
Puzzles play a rather large role with the mansion housing a random mishmash of booby traps, statues that need pushing into place and items that need switching Indiana Jones style. Occasionally head scratching (usually because you’re not exactly sure where to go next), these brain-teasing moments are made all the more tough – and a little frustrating – thanks to the limited inventory space you have at your disposal. Chris’ campaign, in particular, proves especially bothersome to juggle items with only six slots total. Even your guns take up a slot.
Despite originally being a GameCube game, the visuals still hold up rather well largely thanks to the fact that environments are entirely pre-rendered. Every room you explore within the mansion is oozing with eeriness and a general sense of dread. This level of detail does mean however that rather than an over the shoulder camera, the player’s view is restricted to fixed viewpoints that hop around as you move through the mansion. While it certainly adds to the tension – angles hiding potential horrors around a corner for example – it does make controlling Jill and Chris awkward at times. Which brings me onto my next point…
Going back to the original Resident Evil means we’re returning to the ‘tank’ controls that were infamous with the series. This means you’ll need to pivot your character the way you want to move as opposed to simply pushing the control stick in a direction to run anywhere. The game does offer the more modern approach too, however, thanks to the constant switching camera perspectives it can lead to plenty of moments where you’re getting confused as forward then becomes backward and vice versa.
Little else has been changed for this version of the Resident Evil remake and because of that, the cracks are starting to form. While the core experience is still just as chilling and tense as it’s ever been, it’s the little things surrounding it that drag things down. The inventory system, saving system (ink ribbons and all), inability to aim accurately and cringe-inducing dialogue feel dated by today’s standards. Still, it’s because of these dents and dings that Resident Evil has its own flavor. It’s own identity.
A big question a lot of gamers will need to ask themselves is just how much they value the ability to play Resident Evil on the go. At a price of £29.99 ($29.99) for a game that a) is an HD version of a now 15-plus-year-old game and b) can be found much cheaper on other systems it does seem on the high side. As novel as it is being able to play a full-fledged Resident Evil game anywhere, it’s a tough job to justify the inflated amount.
There’s no denying this is a great remake of the PlayStation classic, however, it’s also one where you can feel its limitations and archaic systems creaking along. Going back to the original ways of Resident Evil is a little awkward, sure, but it’s still an enjoyable survival horror experience and one dripping in atmosphere.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Capcom