Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Video Game Review - Old Brains Versus New Brains: Original & Remastered Resident Evil

My husband and I met because of the Final Fantasy video game series.  I was talking to a co-worker, stating that I felt Sephiroth was the best FF villain ever.  My husband popped up and chimed in, saying "Nope.  It was Kefka all the way."  The rest is history.  Heck, our cake toppers were even Cecil and Rosa from FF2.  So you see, we're dedicated gamers and the Final Fantasy series is one of my top two favorites of all time.  My other favorite is not only (in my opinion) one of the best ever created, but is a family favorite.  Part five was an anniversary present from my husband and part 6 I have start co-oping with my teenage daughter.  I'm talking about Resident Evil, and if you love zombies, guns, and overall general mayhem and destruction then most games in this series are right up your alley.  I leave out Operation:  Raccoon City on purpose.  As far as I'm concerned that game doesn't exist...

With the news of early conceptual designs for the remaster of Resident Evil 2 I decided to do a comparative piece on the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Remastered.  Let's discuss the pros and cons of both and see which one that we gravitate towards for overall gameplay, if not both.  Shall we?

Resident Evil (originally named Biohazard in Japan) was released to the original Playstation in the late 90's.  It was still early in the days of M rated games and this one definitely earned its ranking for animated gore, blood, and violence.  The original game started out with a live action opening, depicting the story of two military teams dispatched to Raccoon City to investigate multiple deaths, the corpses appearing to be eaten.  The military personnel of the 2nd (Bravo) Team were involved in the ground search for the previous (Alpha) Team, whose chopper had been reported missing.  Upon discovering the crash site the group was immediately besieged by what we later know to be zombie dogs that inadvertently herd the crew straight towards the mansion that housed the cause of the disaster that the two military teams had been sent to Raccoon City to investigate.

Bear in mind...I told you this was my favorite game series of all time.  But I'm starting off with the Cons if only to save those that had never played the game.  If you have never played this series before then please don’t click on the links I include as they might contain full game spoilers.  That being said, on to the RE Original Con List.

If you decide to compare the Remastered and Original by starting with the Original, please, do not let the opening sequence predetermine the game's quality for you.  It is by no means a reflection of this awesome game.  The game itself is the best in Playstation history.  Well, side-by-side with Final Fantasy VII.  But the opening sequence is by far and away the worst piece of film ever committed to celluloid and then transferred to the digital world.

The people in this scene were either workers in R&D that they simply pulled from their cubicles, models that the thought would look good with guns, or they purposely found random extras from a Variety free work add and told them "Do not act.  Just stare and pretend you are not interested most of the time and we'll fill in the blanks later."  Quite honestly I would rather go back and watch the entire Keanu Reeves filmography than ever watch this intro ever again.  The saddest thing about it is that the bad acting doesn't stop with the live action sequences; the voice acting throughout the game is even worse.  Just look at the Youtube clips I've linked below.  If you're any kind of gamer you can compare current game voice acting with this 1996 piece and tell me what is worse:  a root canal, or watching these videos again.

This game was also one of the first I ever played (minus Star Fox for Nintendo) that adapted the use of X and Y axis control adaptability.  The beauty of later sequels is that they give many different variations on control options, so if you want standard “Up is forward and down is backward” style you can switch it.  When I first started playing this game, however, I was a massive rage-quitter because I had so much difficulty getting used to the controls.  Killing or running from zombies was impossible when you accidentally running into them because you weren’t used to “backwards” controls.  Now that I have gotten the hang of it I run like the wind, but for a new player this is a major con.  It is, however, the best night of your life when you give the controls to your teenager daughter who wants to learn to play, has never touched the game, and you say nothing.  You just sit back and let her figure it out on her own, then you try not to laugh as she screams in annoyance two minutes later, “Why am I running in circles?  I can’t stop!  Mom!  Stop giggling and help me!”

It’s the little things in life you treasure.

On the flip-side of any negative you always have a positive.  A pro for a con.  And the pros definitely outweigh the small yet annoying cons in this game.  You can adapt to the controls and I can overlook one to two minutes of bad voice acting for the quality game play that exists throughout.  Firstly, this game doesn’t fit in any one genre.  It’s horror, action, puzzle, a splash of RPG, and with a splash of open-world that seems to be growing with each sequel.  The mansion is freaking huge; beyond the first and second floors are the pool area, maintenance areas, property grounds, you name it.  There are secret passages and hidden hallways that contain “rooms within rooms.”  You never run out of places to explore or things to do or find, and not just because the place is huge.  You can go into the same room three to four times to pick up different pieces of the puzzle or open a door that was locked the last time you grabbed gear from a room.  There are barely any rooms of the mansion that get stale and unused.  And while the limited space on gear you can carry is a bummer (a con I forgot to mention earlier) the variance in gear you can acquire blows my ever-loving mind.  The weapons alone are enough to make any gun enthusiast crap their pants (which I nearly did my first play-through,) not to mention the intricacies of the various puzzle pieces you have to gather (keys to doors, fertilizer to kill mutant plants, journals and files that help you piece together the story behind the virus, etc.  All-in-all these details, both good and bad, make for one of the most well rounded and detailed video games in Playstations early history.

Pixelation comparison, courtesy of Youtube video screenshot.
Now on to the RE Remastered.  When Playstation decided to revamp the original Resident Evil I couldn’t have been more thrilled.  When my husband bought said RE Remastered for me as a Birthday present he couldn’t have gotten more laid.  Just like the original it has its pros and cons, but also like the original it is still a fine piece of videogame history and a welcome addition to the RE franchise. 

Comparison shot courtesy of gbatemp.net
I will reverse the pro/con list with this game and start with the pros first.  First off, the opening sequence for this game is one thousand times better.  One million.  Pryde of The X-Men cartoon compared to the X-Men cartoon of the 90’s.  Hasslehoff’s Nick Fury compared to Samuel L. Jackson’s.  See where I am going here?  The entire opening was created with CGI animation technology, so there was much more that they could do with it from a creative standpoint that the original opening was simply not capable of at the time.  As you saw from the link above they had to use many flash-cuts to hit the action quickly and sharply as well as a lot of smoke/fog to hide the background to make up for lack of set design.  This was most likely due to lack of budget on their part; this was a Japanese game converted to its English counterpart.  So not a lot of budgetary allotments would be made for those kind of extreme makeovers I imagine.  In RE Remastered the opening sequence shows the trees outside of the in-air chopper, the insides of the downed Alpha Team chopper, the full forest landscape as the team runs for their lives...it is a thriller/horror opening that sets up the world you are about to dive into a way the original never could have.  Where the original set up the characters almost like actors (complete with the almost Television show credit-type introductions,) the new opening set them up like the soldiers that they were and the humans that were running out of time that they had become.  Perfection.

This CGI enhancement went beyond the opening sequence and cut scenes.  The characters that you control in-game are far superior to the animation of the original.  The controls are the same, but the movement is less sticky and jerky.  Plus they have the added bonus of realism.  A soldier has very (and I do mean very) specific mannerisms.  The way that they hold every single gun they are trained in.  They way that they run or walk up and down stairs, turning sideways to make themselves a smaller target and be easier to move in single file when in groups if necessary.  Their crouch positions, prone positions, reactionary timing, etc.  The original was not great at capturing this.  The Remastered version made up for that.  It gave the game a more true-to-life feel of military or SWAT members trapped in this horror Hell and how they would deal with it.  And speaking of my brief mention of the controls, I was happy to see that, much like later installments of the series, they instituted the ability to choose your control options between the X/Y axis set-ups.  My husband doesn’t like the traditional RE control set-up so he always goes into the control settings and resets them when we play RE5 or 6 on Co-Op.  I prefer, however, the original set-up.  I adapted to the controls thanks to the original and to switch would confuse me, but I love that they now give others the ability to have that choice.

The biggest con that I have for this game is strangely one of its biggest pros.  The remastered graphics are amazing.  Absolutely amazing.  Each room has such intricate detail that you can make out the etching on each painting, the carving on each china pattern.  But that very attention to detail throws off veterans.  I memorized the original RE floorplan.  I had the mansion committed to memory backwards and forwards, through each hallway and every floor.  The detail in the Remastered RE has left everything so bold and focused that it makes even familiar rooms look foreign.  I was lost so easily in my first play through of this newly digitized mansion that I had to relearn the entire floorplan.  Plus, they added new rooms and puzzles that didn’t even exist in the original.  This makes the game even more exciting, but much more challenging for the veterans that had mapped out everything in detail.  Imagine having to relearn what you already knew.  I was banging my head in frustration regularly!

This remapping threw new challenges into the game in the way new zombies and placements for creatures as well.  Most are in their tried and true locations, but some pop up in places that you were not familiar with seeing them in on the original RE.  If you are not expecting a killer to be where he was in the original and you walk through lackadaisically...wammo.  You’re toast.  Time to reload.  I hope you’re not a rage quitter because this alone could turn you in to one.

Are you a purist when it comes to your gaming experience or are you open to our culture’s take on reboots?  You have a pro/con list to go over and weigh your options, so give them both a fair shot and see which one sticks.  Don’t get me wrong; both are great and even my Final Fantasy addiction comes with a Remastered version in the form of Final Fantasy X, and recently Final Fantasy VII for the PS4.  Games are as bad as movies for getting a makeover.  The difference with games is that we move through those worlds and we can “play” the worlds, make the comparisons happen over and over again.  So go pick which world you prefer to play around in and tell me what you think in the comments. 

I’m gonna go kill some zombies now.

Christina Sizemore is trained in only four things:  writing, fighting, paranormal investigating, and being a mom.  At this point in her life she truly feels that she is not qualified to attempt to learn any new field.  A twenty year martial artist, mother of three, and writer who is working on the publication of her first book titled “Finding Your Way: A Guide To Your Path In The Martial Arts,” she spends her days working out, writing, making fanvids, going to DragonCon, and playing board games/video games/out in the yard with her kids and husband who are just as geeky as she is.  She is convinced that one day her skills will be of assistance in the Zombie Apocalypse and that while she is of no use in the kitchen, she can Buffy that zombie for ya or teach you the best way to get the blood stains out of your clothes (Psst…the secret is mixing Crown Cleaner and Shout.  Just sayin’.)

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