Resident Evil is a long-running video game franchise with a dedicated audience that's known even outside gaming circles thanks to a series of (mostly awful) movies starring Milla Jovovich. Resident Evil HD Remaster is a recent remake of a 2002 Nintendo GameCube game, which was a remake of a 1996 game for the original PlayStation, Sega Saturn and PC. There's a lot of history in this title, and it's a very faithful remake that helps highlight just how much the series - and gaming in general - has changed in nearly two decades.
For a game that's based on code that's 13 years old, Resident Evil HD Remaster looks stellar. It might not have the eye candy of remasters of last generation games such as Metro Redux or The Last of Us, but it is significantly better looking than the Resident Evil 4 remaster, which looked just a shade above the GameCube original. Playing on a PC with anti-aliasing enabled further improves the graphics, with the game still being capable of hitting 60 frames per second.
It also brings back the "tank" controls of the series - something that was dropped completely from Resident Evil 6. This control scheme allowed you to either move, or turn - something that was necessitated with a fixed camera system that changed perspectives because of character movement, and compounded by the fact that the original PlayStation did not have analog sticks.
These controls are there in the remaster as well, so you have to stop, then turn, and then move back or forward. Some people will appreciate the authenticity and the added tension these controls create, but we were pleased to see that a modern control scheme that lets you move and turn at the same time using the analog sticks is also there in the options, and it makes the game much more accessible, especially to a newer audience.
There are other signs too that you're playing a classic game. You will frequently have to backtrack through the game's world, navigating through it by rote memorisation. The puzzles are confounding and more often than not you'll find yourself back in the same area you were a while earlier, dealing with vague clues to solve seemingly impossible enigmas.
Most modern games abhor backtracking and the lack of a hint system, Resident Evil HD Remaster is a throwback to a time when 3D had its first impact on game design and production. The end result is one fraught with frustration and the inevitable feeling of success amplified by the sheer obtuseness of the puzzle design that will have you glued to your favourite game walkthrough site as you progress. It's a heady mix that compels you to trudge on.
There's an inventory system that demands you to make the most of each item you come across. Space is limited and this pushes you to choose items wisely. Anything you come across can be placed in storage in the mansion's safe rooms making item management a meta-game in itself, like a survival horror themed game of Tetris. Take the wrong item with you and you'll find yourself trudging back more often than not.
Another throwback to simpler times is the save system. Instead of modern checkpoints that automatically save your game, here you'll find yourself scrounging around drawers and cabinets in search for ink ribbons; these can be used up at typewriters you'll find in different places to save your progress.
This is one part of the game we wish was modernised in the remastered version. The last thing you want is scurrying around with low ammo and walking corpses galore as you search for ink ribbons and a typewriter to save your progress.
If you're not smart with your inventory, this will be a regular occurrence as we soon discovered. All this makes Resident Evil HD Remaster more suited for long hours of play than quick 20-minute bursts, so make sure you have time set aside.
And we highly recommend you do set the time aside. The game itself remains a classic, with a wide array of enemies from rabid zombie dogs to gargantuan spiders, with a liberal sprinkling of the shambling dead that make for survival horror gold. All of this is accentuated by the game's setting, and barring a few additional scenes, very little has changed. The game puts you in the shoes of Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, investigating a series of murders that involve cannibalism. The clues lead them to Spencer Mansion, which is teeming with an assortment of monsters and puzzles galore. The two have their own unique skills - Chris is tougher, while Jill has more ammunition and can pick locks.
The combat heightens the horror. You can't run and shoot as you would in most modern titles - you have to stand still to aim your guns, and that, coupled with perennially low ammunition means you have to pick your fights wisely. Avoiding open firefights is the better choice more often than not.
Resident Evil HD Remaster's design restrictions heighten the game's survival horror feel, proving that less is indeed more. It delivers tension, horror, and fear liberally. In exchange, you have to commit your time to the game, and put up with some seemingly archaic conventions. In today's world of in-app purchase-laden affairs, it's a welcome throwback to when games demanded you, instead of money.
We played a retail copy of Resident Evil HD Remaster on the PlayStation 4. Resident Evil HD Remaster is available on the PC for $19.99 (around Rs. 1300) on Steam; PS3 and PS4 for Rs. 1,664 and Xbox One at Rs. 1,120. Globally it's out on the Xbox 360 as well, but the Indian Xbox 360 digital store did not have it listed last we checked.