Resident Evil—the original PlayStation game—came out when I was eight years old (1996). It was hard enough to convince my mother to let me play a T-rated game at the time, so there was no chance in hell I would be playing this game any time soon. I once snuck Turok for the N64 past her via a Blockbuster rental (yikes, that is an old sentence), but she caught wind and developed hawk-like abilities when it came to spotting ESRB ratings on game packaging. Fast forward to 2020: There’s a viral pandemic sweeping the world—well, really just sweeping the U.S. at this point—so what better time to play a game in which an evil corporation created a bunch of zombies with a virus while trying to create superhuman, bio-weapon soldiers?
I did eventually play a Resident Evil game, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, sometime around 2008. Honestly, I kind of hated it. It wasn’t a bad game per se, I had just been spoiled by modern controller mechanics and game graphics. The controls felt clunky, the graphics were what should be expected from the first PlayStation, and I wasn’t a fan of the fixed camera mechanics. From what I’ve seen on YouTube, the first game was even worse than the third, and it had some of the worst voice acting I’ve ever heard. Then, in 2001, Nintendo and Capcom struck an exclusivity deal to bring the RE franchise to the then new GameCube, including a remake of the original game. Whether you like it or not, Capcom has continued that trend, releasing an HD remaster of the remake in 2015, and remakes of the second and third games in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
I played the Switch port of the HD remaster, and considering this is a port of a remastered game that came out almost 20 years ago, it’s absolutely phenomenal. The controls can still get a little confusing due to the fixed camera, but they are much smoother than the old Nemesis experience. Plus, the fixed camera works to add a level of dread to the overall ambience of the game. That was always the point, but modern game engines have vastly improved its performance. That coupled with the improved graphics led to some great jump scares involving strategically placed mirrors at the ends of hallways. (The real monster was you, the player, all along!)
Speaking of scares, though, this game does not disappoint. It may not quite reach the level of Dead Space, a game whose ambience and tension teeter near perfection (and honestly probably owes a lot to the RE franchise), but I haven’t been as satisfyingly horrified curled up on the couch in the dark since my first playthrough of that title. (To be fair, survival horror, while enjoyable, is not my forte.) The two games have a lot of similarities: cramped hallways in a seemingly abandoned place—one a derelict spaceship and the other a creepy mansion—plenty of misdirects that get your heart pumping, and piles of reanimated, undead baddies blocking your path to victory.
A few moments stand out to me, ranging from misdirect to imminent threat. I visibly jumped when a window broke and dropped a piece of glass; no obvious enemy, just a broken window. Later, I jumped again when a vine reached through a hole in the floor and grabbed me. It wasn’t even the first time I had encountered that plant; I just forgot about it and paid the price. The last one (that I’ll mention) lies directly in the imminent threat category. Somewhere around the two-thirds mark of the game, players will encounter one of the last rank-and-file members of Umbrella Corporation’s army of freaks. Right after entering the mansion from an exterior corridor, a cutscene will trigger from the point of view of some unknown monster galloping down the very corridor you just exited. A particularly aggressive monster leaps through the window, and its movements suggest it’s far more agile than the zombies you have been dealing with up until now. I didn’t jump, but this was one of a few moments that actually made me want to run away rather than stand, fight, and hope for the best. The moment worsens when two more of the creatures break in when you flee to the next room. It’s times like these that remind you just how scarce the ammo can be in this house of horrors.
I really didn’t have many complaints about this game. From what I could tell, the HD remake improved on almost every single thing it could from the original. I will warn anyone who becomes inspired to play this game for the first time not to save your game too much. This game operates on both an item and location saving mechanic—ink ribbon and old typewriters to be specific. If you don’t have any ink ribbon, the type writer is useless. I actually restarted at one point because I ran out and couldn’t seem to find any more. My other main complaint is a sort of tandem complaint in that the end of the game gets a little puzzle heavy. This isn’t so much a problem in itself, but it means players have to run back and forth between storage locations because of an eight-item inventory cap and no way of exchanging or dropping items on the fly. Unless you get really lucky and happen to have the right items at all the right times, this means a lot of back tracking and item wrangling.
Despite that, I will say that this game is a “should play” (I won’t go so far as to say “must”) for anyone who hasn’t yet. It’s got just enough ham left to come across as a bit of a b-movie-style classic, but it’s well worth the journey. If you’ve played the original games, this is a great way to rekindle the nostalgia while engaging with what those games could have been. If you’ve never played the original games, this is a great place to start, especially with Capcom’s recent remakes of the second and third games, both of which I’m looking forward to playing. For now, I’ll occupy myself by replaying this one. There are multiple endings and other characters to play as, so replay value looks pretty high from here.
Thanks, as always, for reading! Please consider subscribing (Home Page) or donating (below). Anything you think I should review? Drop me a comment below! I can’t promise I’ll be able to get to it unless I can find it on a good sale, but I certainly will try.