Connect with us

Review

Resident Evil HD Remaster Review

Published

 on

As the Resident Evil franchise approaches its (almost) 20th year of existence it has seen six numbered entries, approximately 10 “core” titles and far more than double that in spin-offs, ports and mobile gaming options. It has also been paired with a relatively mediocre – but extremely lucrative – film franchise, loosely tied to the basic story found in the games. Our focus today is the first game: Resident Evil (no number or subtitle).

Did you play it – perhaps the original 1996 PSX release, or maybe the 1997 director’s cut? It’s possible you played the rare SEGA Saturn port, or the PC port developed by legendary Westwood Studios of Command & Conquer and Lands of Lore fame… Or… for those of you a little younger, you received your first taste of B-style zombie action and gore in the 2002 Gamecube Remake or its eventual Wii release in full glorious 480p under the Resident Evil Archives banner nearly 10 years later… The point being, you’ve probably played this game before; either the remake or the original (though distinctly different in many ways) are most likely listed in your gaming biography somewhere.

So, other than an uptick in visual quality, this week’s Resident Evil HD Remaster, a remaster of a remake which was mostly a remaster, doesn’t really need a review from us, does it? I mean, if you like the series, you’ll probably get it – if you don’t you won’t, right? All settled? OK, good. Carry on.

Oh… you’re still here? Okay then. I guess, prepare to, “Enter the Survival Horror”.

Resident Evil HD Remake - Review - Chris

S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) Alpha Team flies over a dense forest in search of Bravo Team, who were sent to investigate grisly murders near Raccoon City. Bravo team has been incommunicado and trouble is quickly apparent after Alpha discovers the heavily damaged remains of Bravo’s helicopter in a forest clearing. The aircraft seemed to have had no trouble landing, but what looks like claw marks, and heavy damage, paired with the ravaged and decaying body of the pilot indicate that Bravo team may be in significant danger. The search is on for other survivors, when the group is set upon by rabid dogs with decaying flesh. The vicious animals kill team-member Joseph, causing everyone else to retreat, seeking refuge in a nearby mansion.

Depending on which character is chosen to start the game, we are left with captain of S.T.A.R.S Albert Wesker, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. In Jill’s scenario, Chris is replaced by Barry Burton at the beginning of gameplay. Once inside the mansion the goal is to find the missing members of both Alpha and Bravo teams and continue the investigation if possible. As Chris or Jill, the exploration of the huge estate reveals an increasingly complex, and at times convoluted story of a secret bio research facility and a virus gone wrong. The unleashing of this deadly chemical agent has turned human, animal and botanical life-forms alike into aggressive, vicious killing machines. Quicker and more deadly monsters begin to appear as the story progresses and our heroes move closer to the truth. Navigating through the mansion complex will require the player to solve various puzzles and find door-specific keys in order to progress.

This is the classic re-imagining of the original Resident Evil, presented in the 2002 Gamecube-exclusive remake. While the core mechanics of the game remained intact, that entry saw a complete visual overhaul. More than an upgrade, the graphical changes not only presented increased resolution and clarity, but also more areas to explore and a rearranging of many locations within the mansion. It also added in new enemies, or rather, a new enemy state. Any zombified human that does not lose their head, or have their corpse burned, will turn into a Crimson Head after a set period of time. In this state they become much faster and deal damage at a higher rate than traditional zombies. As far as the story changes from the original Playstation release, they are mostly all focused on inserting characters that more closely align the story with the overall series. All of that Gamecube content is here in the HD Remaster… and nothing else.

Resident Evil HD REMASTER - Review - Zombie

The visual remastering is great… except when it’s not. Starting with the opening intro video it’s clear that all of the cutscenes are simply a basic stretching of the originals, with possibly some noise reduction. They are mostly muddy and don’t really feel “HD” any more than taking a DVD and stretching it to fill a 1080p screen with no advanced upscaling. They are also, for those that care about these things, locked at 30fps. Following the opening, the mansion entrance showcases what this remaster is capable of. The main character models look really good, especially the BSAA bonus outfits that have been made for all versions of the Resident Evil HD Remaster. Particle effects such as candle flicker and dust also have a higher quality look to them along with the lighting.

There are various assets that have received the upgrade treatment. Within those upgraded assets some have nice texture work and others… Again, it looks as if the textures were simply doubled, possibly more, in size and then maybe sharpened, or run through some set of filters to achieve “HD”.  At their best, the textures fit the HD moniker, at worst they are ugly, stretched, dirty messes, and it’s incredibly inconsistent throughout the game.

The game did achieve a consistent 60fps on my PC and the widescreen option at 1080p works very well (old-school 4:3 aspect ratio is available for those who wish it). The higher frame-rate results in a smooth experience, once again improving on the tank-style movement controls that were upgraded for the original remake. The increased speed can ease a bit of the frustration resulting from frequent back-tracking, resulting from forced inventory management, particularly when playing as Chris who only has six inventory slots available.

bhd 1-7-2015 11-24-28 PM.Still010

If I sound underwhelmed, it’s because I am. Don’t mistake this for me feeling that the Resident Evil HD Remaster is bad. This could be a case of high expectations. The Gamecube remake was such a jump over the original, it would have been great to see even half of that leap in quality. What we get is something that is visually inconsistent as a remaster, but still with everything that was critically-praised and fan-loved about the remake. That is the key. This is the game that until now was only available for Gamecube or Wii owners, and is now being made available for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Resident Evil is still one of the biggest names in survival horror, and it’s good that more people can now experience Capcom’s definitive beginning of this long-running series.

Resident Evil has it’s quirks, both in gameplay and story. After all, at its heart, this a B-style horror film with doses of action. The voice-acting would be some of the worst ever, if it weren’t for the voice-acting of the original 1996 version. Do yourself a favor; look it up (found some of it here). What RE did was to build a bridge between adventure games of the late 80s and early 90s and combine it with action mechanics. To really fit the horror genre, and possibly out of necessity of design, they slowed down the movement and the pacing of the narrative. It wasn’t the first game to do this – one can point to Alone in the Dark for that honor. However, it was the first to bring this style to consoles. Through continued refinement of the gameplay, world and story in subsequent sequels, Capcom created a franchise that set itself apart from the competition for a very long time – and it all began with this game.

Once you have memorized the seemingly maze-like layout of the mansion, a lot of that due to fixed camera placement, you have the option to play through again with the other character, or increase your difficulty with a New Game+ mode called Once Again. This, along with special weapon unlocks for beating the game within certain time limits, and modes that unlink storage boxes or make enemies invisible will provide a fair amount of replayability. PC owners will receive the benefit of 60fps and a small amount of control over anti-aliasing. The keyboard controls work well for the traditional “tank” control scheme, and they can be remapped, but the new “alternate” movement scheme works best with a controller. If you know it, and love it, this is the best version of the game available. If you hate it, there probably isn’t anything here to change your mind. For new players this is the most accessible entry into the the series. The Resident Evil HD Remaster is available January 20, 2015 for PS4, Xbox One and PC and is already available for PS3 and Xbox 360.

PC review copy provided by Capcom.

[wp-review id=”52524″]

Freelance writer and used-to-be artist based out of the Pacific Northwest. I studied Game Art & Design in college. I have been writing web content for the last 6 years, including for my own website dedicated to entertainment, gaming & photography. I have been playing games dating back to the NES era. My other interests are film, books and music. I sometimes pretend to be great at photography. You can find me on Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, 500px, DeviantArt and elsewhere under my nick: JamesInDigital.

Review

Etherborn Review — A Brief, Beautiful Defiance of Gravity

Published

 on

Etherborn

Indie developers in 2019 truly have the freedom to create the games they want. When Fig-funded game Etherborn reached its funding target, developer Altered Matter set out to craft a gravity-shifting puzzle platformer. Players sold on this concept have a lot to look forward to as Altered Matter has delivered on its promise. The mind-bending mechanics of Etherborn force players to approach the world from a new perspective amidst some stunning visual landscapes. 

In Etherborn, the player takes control of a voiceless, newly-born being who follows a bodiless voice in search of meaning. Such a philosophical premise promises an experience that will answer key questions regarding self-identity and the quest for meaning. The answer plays into the age old cliche that we are born to create our own destiny. The game’s narrative discussions around these topics are disappointing, though they do demonstrate that the narrative is less important than the themes behind them. 

Etherborn

One of the biggest frustrations with the story is that the language used complicated the simple message the developer was trying to tell. The soothing yet commanding tone of the omniscient voice would have been enough to carry along a more refined script that served the themes with clarity. Instead, Altered Matter opted to write something poetic by using lots of really big words that sound like they have lots of meaning, which instead detract from the actual meaning. 

Etherborn has a linear structure that takes place across five distinct levels. The levels are completed by solving gravity-defying puzzles to collect light orbs that open the pathway forward. Once all levels are completed, a new game+ mode is unlocked, creating replayability through the additional challenge of new, well-hidden light orb locations. Including this game mode offers players a chance to enjoy a more difficult experience without an additional learning curve. 

What sets Etherborn apart is the unique mechanic that underpins the gameplay. To traverse the landscape, players must jump and use ramps to change their perspective, turning walls into floors to move through the level. The opening level does an exceptional job of introducing the player to how this concept will be manipulated throughout the game. Controls in Etherborn are simple and intuitive, allowing for an experience that focuses the challenge purely within the design. Despite being able to run, the movement speed of the character seems sluggish for the most part, yet can be too fast for easy maneuverability in levels that require finesse to execute. 

Etherborn is deeply beautiful. The soft hues and subtle colour palette create a truly ethereal experience that carries through until the final level where the tone shifts into something somewhat dark, yet utterly breathtaking. Skeletal bodies, frozen in time, dwarf the character to create a visual masterpiece that captivates the viewer. Accompanying the divine art direction is killer sound design that makes the world feel complete. The ambient music creates an atmosphere that indulges in the landscape it calls home in a way that elevates the experience. 

The short length of Etherborn leaves players wanting more. In OnlySP’s preview of the game in 2018, the Alpha build contained the same five levels that are seen in the final game. Having spent so much time on these levels has meant the final product is highly polished yet disappointingly short. The gravity bending puzzles at play are so clever, well designed, and satisfying to complete that a lack of experimentation through more level designs to satiate the player’s hunger for more is disappointing.  

The challenging gameplay, gorgeous sound design, and stunning aesthetics all make Etherborn a worthwhile experience, even for those not fond of puzzle-platformers. Every level demonstrates a craftsmanship that encourages the curiosity to think and engage with the world. Completing puzzles is satisfying, even if the length of the game is not. Some minor issues may crop up along the way, but Etherborn is still a clever, fun game that challenges players and their perspective of the world. 

OnlySP Review Score 3 Credit

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Also available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Continue Reading