Wednesday, 19 October 2016

October Nightmares II #19: Resident Evil REmake (2002) - Second Time's the Charm

Ah remakes, the younger sibling no one actually wanted. Remakes have a stigma attached to them like they’re the weird person who sits next to you on an empty bus. A stigma they often rightly deserve; from films such as The Fog (2005) to games like Golden Axe: Beast Rider and Bionic Commando (2009), remakes are often the gooey wank stuck to the bottom of the original’s shoes. But it is worth noting that some of the greatest films and games are remakes; The Thing, Scarface, The Secret of Monkey Island (2009), and Metroid: Zero Mission.

What I’m about to say is sure to get me shived in certain circles: Capcom’s 2002 remake of Resident Evil is absolutely superior to the original. A bold statement for one who grew up on “Jill sandwiches”, but it’s hardly a stretch. The original game is legendary, but for all the wrong reasons; clunky controls, cheesy graphics, and hammy dialogue, the first Resident Evil is like a Stuart Gordon film on steroids. Resident Evil REmake (yes that is its official name) picks off where the original started. You play as either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, members of Racoon City’s elite S.T.A.R.S team – like SWAT except that they let 15-year-old girls and Johnny Bravo wannabes onto the team.

The Resident Evil remake serves as the posterchild of how to pull off a successful remake. You’re plonked into the same old mansion in the woods, tasked with uncovering the mystery of why Dexter’s final season was so shit…the strange murders which occurred on the outskirts of Raccoon City. The mansion, with its creaky corridors and puzzling layout, is as obtuse as ever - as though it was designed by whoever built the Winchester Mystery House - requiring novelty themed keys and items to progress. Around every corner the b-movie zombies still wait to advance upon you, arms outstretched, like your gran trying to kiss you on the cheek at the family Christmas dinner. And as this is one of survival horror’s grand masters, ammo and health supplies are still scarcer than a reasonable political opinion in 2016. Resident Evil REmake is a certainly faithful adaptation of the original, right down to Barry Burton’s ridiculous dialogue and weird relationship with rope.

Unlike the original Resident Evil, however, the remake is actually terrifying. Sure, that first zombie you encounter in the PS1 version (munching on your fallen comrade with the unyielding focus of a dog eating its own vomit) scared the shite out of me when I was five. As did the zombies bursting out of the closest like it’s Gay Pride and they’ve finally plucked up the courage to confront their conservative father. But outside a few isolated scares – which can largely be chalked up to childhood innocence – the original Resident Evil was more hilarious than anything else. Resident Evil REmake combines an atmospheric visual design with horrifying set pieces to constantly keep the player on their edge of their seat. Enemies can now breakdown doors to chase you down, and you must burn the bodies of fallen foes lest they mutate and get back up stronger and more ferocious than before. Unfortunately for the player, the game’s as stingy as fucking Scrooge when it comes to the items you need to burn the corpses – further developing the game’s stringent resource management.

The visuals of Resident Evil REmake really are outstanding, lending to the overall morose tone of the game. Even for a GameCube game, the remake looks spectacular. And this has only improved with the game's subsequent (re)remake for the Xbox One and PS4. I always felt the original PS1 game was too vibrant looking for a monster filled mansion, it was practically Manic Mansion in tone. The remake utilises the drab palettes of modern video games and contrasts this with remarkable lighting effects; resulting in a scenery in which the marble floors shine, shadows obscure, and the slimy decrepitude stands out. Not only does the mansion look appropriately desolate, but the enemies look more in line to what you'd expect them to be. There’s not just the green overalls zombie and black zombie now; the game features a range of zombies, each visibly torn and rotten away. The other enemies, the lizard-gorilla Hunters and the anorexic Chimeras, actually look like killing machines – all sinewy and streamlined.

It’s reflective of the game’s combination of the old and the new; a game that’s kept its George Romero-esque creations but made them more Lucio Fulci. That’s kept the tank controls but modernised them slightly so you only move like you’ve got half an awkward stiffy, and can defend yourself without having to put in a planning permission request. At times the adherence to old-school Resident Evil doesn’t jive well with the remake’s more realistic approach. The giant snakes and sharks, and secret underground labs, feel more Saturday morning cartoon than grisly survival horror. Especially when the lab is run by Albert Wesker, the S.T.A.R.S team traitor who looks like he used to be the tough one in a nineties boy band.