The franchise has such a large and loyal following – one that I missed out on entirely. Growing up I had limited access to consoles, and I wasn’t about to spend that limited time on a horror game. “It’s just too scary,” I thought.
As I’ve matured, horror games still don’t have a huge appeal to me, but I’ve dabbled in ones that seem to cross over genres – notably, Amensia: the Dark Descent and Outlast. I appreciated the terrifying ways in which the developers crafted the atmosphere while combining puzzler elements instead of just pure jump scares and mindless slaughter.
Since Resident Evil is survival horror, and a game that laid the ground-work for games likeAmnesia, I figured that it would be a fairly seamless transition. Sadly, without having a black-log of nostalgic memories, playing through the HD remaster of Resident Evil on PC was an extremely frustrating experience. Here’s are some of the things I actually said out loud while playing:
“Oh god these camera angles. How can I tell when it is going to switch perspective?”
“Wait, didn’t I just come from there? Oh no, I got turned around. Nope, that was the right way. Oh god these camera angles!”
“Oh god a zombie. Wait, they’re really slow. OH GOD I CAN’T SHOOT AND MOVE?!”
This was within the first ten minutes of playing. I figured that maybe it was just something I would get used to, and that the mechanics would start to make sense. Unfortunately, this never happened. Hang on fanboys and girls, because here’s where it’s going to start getting blasphemous.
Normally, I’m all about getting rid of drawn-out and dumbed down tutorials. I like games that trust their players are smart enough to figure out the puzzles on their own. But there’s a difference between having your hand held through a park and being dropped off in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a sundial to guide your way back to civilization.
Elements in a game’s environment should have some sort of cohesion or share commonalities so that a pattern can be found. Sure, Resident Evil makes it clear that the shining dagger in front of you is something you must pick up. However, there are other things to interact with in the environment that are not quite as obvious. I completely missed the emblem in the main dining hall the first attempt because I thought it was part of the scenery. I still have no idea if this emblem is used for anything. I didn't make it that far.
After that, I just started spamming the interact button in every room, which led to a lot of moments where my character was frozen while the text scrolled by. I wasn't sure how much of the text I should pay attention to in case it was a clue. The game never bothered to make that clear.
After poking around every conceivable crevice, and running out of a room to reset the statue I had been pushing around for five minutes, I had to stop and think: why am I doing this? Is the game simply not intuitive? Or am I simply spoiled by modern gaming, which has to cater to an audience that no longer has the patience to sit through dated mechanics when they have a whole Steam library full of games still waiting to be played?
Bear in mind that when Resident Evil released on the original Playstation console, it was also during a time when games came with a manual in the CD lining that provided more information for the player. Tutorial levels were rare.
Since I didn’t have access to this manual, I consulted a walkthrough online after I was pulverized by a pair of blending blades attached to a suit of armor. I thought that after reading it, the solution would be obvious. It would prove that I’m just not very good at these kinds of games.
Instead it just reinforced my major complaint with Resident Evil. Namely, how was I supposed to figure this out on my own? When it comes down to it, the game mechanics just don’t hold up after 20 years. Without the benefit of rose-tinted glasses, I just don’t have the patience for it.
Having said that, I can see how this game was considered groundbreaking for its time. The atmosphere is great. I got lulled into a false sense of security as I ran back through the hallway where I had come from in order to access a typewriter to save. My guard was lowered, and I was completely taken aback by the rabid dogs that jumped through the window.
A good horror game does that. It lets you think you’re in control and then at the worst possible time it viscerally reminds you what type of game you’re playing.
Speaking of saving, even though it was tedious to have to collect the typewriter ribbon, I really liked this element, and it was different than anything else I had experienced. It made me more carefully consider what I was going to do rather than burst through a door on a whim.
Having limited ammo was fine as well; many modern games still operate this way, and it allows for more strategic gameplay. However, not being able to drop any items except in a specific room was absolutely unthinkable, and I doubt that we would give any modern game a pass on something like this.
But here’s the thing: it really doesn’t matter what I, a newcomer to the series, think of the original game that launched one of the most popular gaming franchises in history. This HD remastered Resident Evil preserves the original experience of the game for fans who have their rose-tinted glasses polished and ready to go. From a next-gen standpoint, there are just too many things that get in the way of an enjoyable and immersive gaming experience.