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Resident Evil HD review: Digging up old graves

Hayden Dingman | Jan. 21, 2015
I'm going to go ahead and split my review of Resident Evil HD into two reviews--one for those who are really nostalgic about either the 1996 or 2002 versions of the original Resident Evil, and one review for those who've never played before.

So far, so good.

Capcom's done a fantastic job on the graphics overhaul, too. There are a few blurry textures, but they only stand out because 95 percent of the game is rendered in such beautiful detail you'd never guess this game originally came out in 1996. Not from looking at it, at least.

Playing Resident Evil HD is a different matter. It is quite obviously a game from a specific time — from the fixed camera angles to the limited inventory to the three-second door-open transitions (originally used to mask load times) to the amount of hand-holding the game does (none), this game could only have been made when it was originally made.

And some of what made Resident Evil a classic worthy of an HD update twenty years later is still apparent.

The iconic mansion is a treat. Unlocking new rooms, slowly uncovering the mysteries of the mansion and its past — this holds up wonderfully. Few modern games come close to reaching the same sense of atmosphere as Resident Evil, and remember I'm saying this as someone who'd never completed the game before this week. This isn't nostalgia talking. It's simply that good. Not scary, per se, but still wonderfully creepy.

But uncovering the mansion (let alone the rest of the game) is an exercise in decoding obtuse puzzles, the solutions of which are undoubtedly hidden in some item you don't realize is a thing you can interact with and not just part of the background.

I enjoy linear games. I enjoy open-world games. Both present manners of play that are very different, and yet both effectively guide the player through their structure. Linear games do it by simply moving the player forward, while open-world games let the player choose what to do at any moment and thus present infinite opportunity.

What I don't especially like is a linear game masquerading as an open-world game, which is basically what Resident Evil does. It presents you with a wide-open world, but there's really only one thing you should be doing at any given moment to progress. Other paths lead to dead ends.

Every person I know who really loves Resident Evil either hasn't played it since release and thus is speaking solely from a place of nostalgia, or has played it many, many times. I expect this is because Resident Evil is much more enjoyable a second or even third time through, once you've memorized the path you're supposed to take through the game and minimized your own frustration.

The first time through Resident Evil, you will be frustrated. A lot. Nearly every puzzle requires a specific item to progress. You can only carry eight items at a time. Excess items must be stored in boxes that are neither convenient nor accessible when you need them, resulting in a lot of backtracking because you "forgot" some stupid thing you didn't even know you needed.


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