THE ORIGINS OF TERROR
With the survival horror genre achieving a resurgence in recent years, it seems fitting that one of the most iconic franchises from its early days is reliving past glories as well. As Capcom aims to return the Resident Evil (RE) series to its frightful roots, they have begun to re-release past successes while awaiting the inevitable seventh entry in the series. Combining the freshly-polished remake of the original RE, now dubbed Resident Evil HD (REHD), with a beautifully remastered edition of Resident Evil 0, Capcom has provided the perfect survival horror starter kit for gamers.
Where do I even begin? The original PlayStation Resident Evil had one of the most brilliant settings in all of gaming — the secluded Spencer Estate, home to a kooky billionaire with delusions of grandeur and a penchant for puzzles. This remake only improves upon the mansion, changing its layout while also adding new rooms and, yes, even new bosses to tussle with. Our own Jesse Webster once gave it a perfect 10 out of 10!
Like other games of the same era, the earliest RE entries featured tank-like controls and the infamous static camera — first popularized by Alone in the Dark. While you explore the mansion as one of the two playable S.T.A.R.S. officers, Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, the perspective will switch back and forth between different camera angles. That remains the same in this remastered version, although REHD offers at least one change…
Traditionally the controls would be based on the in-game character’s orientation. Pressing forward on the left thumbstick would always make them walk forward, pulling back would make them walk backwards, and so on. REHD features an alternate control scheme, with movement being based instead on the player’s point of view. Fans of Capcom’s other beloved series, Devil May Cry, will immediately feel at home with this option. See the video above for a direct comparison.
As you might expect, the static camera angles lend an eerie tone to the game, making it seem like Chris and Jill are being watched at all times. They also contribute to the game’s many scares, as you will often be blind to whatever dangers lurk around the next corner. Although common back in the good ol’ days, this seems much more unique in the modern era of gaming. What you get here is an atmosphere unlike anything else on store shelves.
Much of your time in REHD will be spent exploring the mansion, tracking down keys or items to unlock new rooms and locations. These don’t amount to simple fetch-quests, taking plenty thought and effort to move on. Found items can be examined within the inventory screen, often leading to new functions or additional concealed items being discovered. At one point you will need to locate a dog whistle to summon an undead Cerberus hound, kill it, retrieve the collar, and then inspect the collar to find an attached key. Such tasks can border on absurdity, but the pride you feel upon solving each puzzle is immeasurable.
Adding one more hurdle to your escape from the mansion is a limited inventory. Because neither Chris nor Jill wore their cargo pants on this outing, they don’t have many pockets in which to carry things. Fear not! You need only to trek to the nearest save room (where collected ink ribbons allow you to save your game) and find an item box. Your unused items and weapons will be stored inside, and every box is seemingly linked by magic. Like a post-apocalyptic magician, you’ll be able to pull your treasured hand cannon straight from a newly-discovered box as you please. This cuts down on excess backtracking, allowing you to focus on other goals.
Speaking of weapons, homeowner Oswell E. Spencer was a bit of a gun nut and left lots of them to find. However, ammunition is scarce — meaning it is better conserved for boss fights, not wasted on slow-moving zombies. Evasion is usually the best tactic, primarily because zombies will rise again with increased speed and strength. This can only be prevented by killing them with headshots or burning their corpses with kerosene — and yes, kerosene is also in limited supply.
As far as the story goes, what seems bland on the surface soon builds into a tale of conspiracies and betrayal. The Spencer Estate is home to many secrets, most of which must be uncovered on your own through notes, files and journals left scattered around the mansion. Each one is more tragic than the last, with the personal account of a little girl named Lisa Trevor being the most heartbreaking of all. Not every resident willingly succumbed to the evil T-Virus, choosing to fight for their freedom or kill themselves rather than be turned into a shambling zombie.
The freshly-updated graphics look phenomenal for the most part, although there are a few issues worth noting. The painted, pre-rendered backgrounds were never intended to be viewed in HD — and although many of them look pristine, others are noticeably muddy and slightly pixelated. The Aqua Ring at its surrounding tunnels especially suffer. Just a little more effort would’ve made all the difference here, though it doesn’t ruin the experience by any means.
The second half of this collection is Resident Evil 0 HD (RE0HD), originally released on Gamecube. Serving as the prequel to REHD, RE0HD focuses on S.T.A.R.S. medic Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen, an escaped convict. Forcefully pulled into a tale of tragedy and revenge, they must work together to survive the dangers of Arklay Mountain.
Although much of the gameplay is identical to REHD, including the new control scheme, there are a few notable additions. Unlike the lonely romp through Spencer’s mansion, RE0HD sees both protagonists sticking closely to one another. Your AI partner will follow along throughout the entire game, sharing items, weapons and ammo all the while. If you want them in a particular location, you can either control them with the right thumbstick, or assume total control by switching characters. This is vital for many of the puzzles.
Also of note is the different storage mechanic, with the magical item boxes taking a break. Items must be dropped on the floor instead, marked on your map lest you take a blow to the head and forget where you put that blasted hookshot. Each room can only hold so many items, forcing you to spread your collection out amongst every location.
Locations which, as far as I’m concerned, are some of the most memorable in the series. The game begins aboard the Ecliptic Express, a lavish passenger train which travels to and fro one of many Umbrella installations in and around Raccoon City. The interior of the train is especially beautiful, essentially serving as a mansion with its rooms lined up end-to-end. When you finally get off at your next stop, RE0HD offers lots of Gothic-style locales I dare not spoil here.
The story is a bit oddball, even for Resident Evil standards. The primary villain is ripped straight out of an anime, while his proclivity for operatic singing helps set him apart from the likes of Naraku. Intelligent leeches capable of merging into humanoid forms also make for some unforgettable moments, especially when their origin is finally revealed.
Most enemies in general feel unique to this game, with many of them being large, mutated forms of familiar animals. Frogs, bats and monkeys are all reinvented in horrific ways, while a particular boss fight will ensure you never look at centipedes the same way again. This is in addition to the relentless leech mimics, who chase you around until you literally kill it with fire.
Unlike REHD, this is no simple remaster! Capcom took the time to add a multitude of new costumes in addition to a new Wesker Mode. Wesker Mode allows us to control Resident Evil icon Albert Wesker, along with Rebecca, in a non-canonical romp through the main story. This is a fun way to revisit familiar locations, making use of Wesker’s unique abilities to battle the various bosses in new and exciting ways. It’s a nice bonus and fun enough on its own, though I would have preferred new environments and enemies. The pre-rendered cutscenes remain unchanged, so Rebecca is still hanging out with Billy despite spending time with Captain Wesker in-game. For all intents and purposes, Wesker is just a new costume for Billy with some bonus abilities. Even so, this was reason enough for me to purchase Resident Evil 0 all over again.
I was all set to commend Capcom for the incredible amount of new costumes made for the game… but, as it turns out, most of it is sold separately as day one downloadable content. That’s something the past two weeks of marketing didn’t mention, so I’m making sure to inform people now. Not cool.
THE VERDICT: 8.4 OUT OF 10
All in all, this Resident Evil: Origins Collection is a steal at $39.99 — or you can purchase each game digitally for $19.99 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Both games already had tons of meat, with REHD featuring two playable stories with multiple endings for each, higher difficulty settings, Invisible Enemies Mode and One Dangerous Zombie mode as mentioned in the first video above. RE0HD has a Leech Hunter mini-game to run through after completing the story, in addition to the all-new Wesker Mode.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Chris Cobb is an Associate Writer at MONG as well as a looney conspiracy theorist. He shouts incessantly about the existence of a real-world Umbrella Corporation and their wack-a-doo monster factories, claiming smartphones are used to turn people into zombies. Ask him about it on Twitter… or don’t, because you’ll never hear the end of it!