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Opinion: Resident Evil's Remaster and Winning New Fans

Without any sense of nostalgia to back me up, I delve into Resident Evil HD Remaster and discover a new brand of horror.


Horror game fans got a treat this week, as Resident Evil HD Remaster made its way onto the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, and PC. The original game didn't catch my interest when it released on PlayStation in 1996, and I let its remake pass me by both when it hit the GameCube in 2002 and ported to the Wii in 2008. But now, having played so many survival horror games, I gained a curiosity for the one that began the genre. So, I was genuinely looking forward to Resident Evil releasing on the PC. I expected that playing it would be much like seeing Star Wars: A New Hope for the first time, except with the remastered experience, so dated special effects wouldn't interfere with the enjoyment of the film. However, after I started playing, I couldn't help asking, "What's the big deal?" 

Yes, it looks great, which should be the minimum standard of any remastered game. I also realize that it's been over a decade since both the original and its remake were first released, and this is simply a remastered port of the GameCube version. Add on top of that the fact that, after years of desensitization, I don't scare easily. I kept all that in mind as I watched the intro sequence cinematic, featuring what I thought was supposed to be an elite SWAT team sent in to investigate an area. Instead, I was treated to a squad that panics at the drop of a hat, and scream like little school children when they discover a dead body. The chopper pilot abandons his team, and Jill freezes with a doe-eyed stare when confronted with what initially looks like a pack of mangy dogs.

STARS isn't exactly the elite strike force I was expecting. Then I realize as soon as I see "sunglasses at night" wearing Albert Wesker (who has become a Rosebud equivalent after multiple games and movies) that there will be a sudden yet inevitable betrayal coming my way. Soon after entering the mansion, we make the terrible B-movie decision to split up. Next, we enter a dining room, where my teammate wants to be divine clues from a pool of blood by staring at it, and tells me to go exploring on my own. With decisions like these, our odds of survival were dropping fast, but I guess that's why it's called a survival horror game.

The story isn't impressing me so far, but surely the fully remastered gameplay and controls will win me over! They don't. I had no idea what was going on with the aiming system. Jill goes into shooting stance, and I use the mouse to aim, which causes her to point the weapon straight up at the ceiling. I compensate by moving downward, and suddenly she's aiming at the floor. It seems the only way to shoot a zombie is to aim at its chest, which defies the one rule that has been drilled into me by almost every zombie game I've ever played: aim for the head. It takes almost a whole magazine to drop it, and when I return to the dining room, I trigger a cinematic sequence where my teammate kills the zombie for me. He seems very calm for a guy who just discovered that monsters exist, and suggests that we split up again.

That's when I decided to stop and restart the game. I had just wasted a ton of bullets on a single zombie that a cinematic took care of for me. I gave Chris a try, and found out that he's armed with a perfectly useless knife, doesn't believe in aiming for the head, and doesn't have a handy teammate to shoot the first zombie for him. The remainder of the game, from what I could gather, involved solving classic Tomb Raider style puzzles and hoping that you never have to draw your weapon against anything.

Being that this is the remastered port of a remake based on a game from the 90s, I'm willing to give the game a lot of slack, but I don't understand why people would call it one of the best survival horror games of all time. Yes, it's the first of its kind, and when something is compared to itself, I suppose it can't help but be the best. Using that kind of reasoning means that the Ford Model T is one of the best consumer automobiles of all time. It does deserve credit for blazing a trail, but others have done it much better. Some will say I shouldn't judge a 13 year old game, despite the fact that liking it is a form of judgment. Plus, this is the remastered port, so it shouldn't be immune to criticism.

Many may argue that it's impossible for me to understand the game's charm because I never played the original version, when very reason I wanted to play it is because I missed out on it. I didn't realize that prior experience was a pre-requisite. If that's the case, there should be a disclaimer in the game's description to help save people time and money. I also point out that the original game had plenty of flaws, since the GameCube remake added improved gameplay. Furthermore, the super easy difficulty setting probably wasn't added to please longtime fans.

I'm generally a big supporter of remakes and remasters, because it gives fans to experience old games in a new way, and provides an opportunity to bring in new players that missed out on the original releases. 2014 and 2015 are prime years for remastered classics, which include The Master Chief Collection, Grim Fandango Remastered, and Day of the Tentacle Special Edition among many others. Some games just need a fresh coat of paint, and others require a little more attention. After spending some time with it, I think Resident Evil HD falls into the latter category.

One of the things that impressed me about Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father 20th Anniversary Edition was that it didn't stop at remastering the graphics and sound. Areas are redesigned, the interface reworked, and extraneous scenes from the original game are removed--making it a different experience for fans, and a better experience for newcomers. Similarly, Metro 2033 Redux features scenes that play out a little differently than the original. This is the kind of standard that all remastered games should strive for. Things that are problematic should be fixed, to both be in line with more modern gameplay developments, and to bring in new fans.

There's probably not a lot that can be done with Resident Evil's plot while still preserving the feel of the original game. Truth be told, the campy quality should be part of the game's charm, but certainly something more could have been done with the controls. It might sound like I'm demanding a total remake of a remake, but in actuality, I just wish the developers took the control modifications a step further. You can switch between the original movement controls, or use the much smoother new ones. I actually don't mind the shifting camera angles, since I consider the game shown from the point of view of security cameras, and I really like not having the controls work against me. Why couldn't the shooting system be similarly revised, with the option to revert back to the extreme aiming controls?

Although there's little doubt that re-releases are primarily targeted toward longtime fans that want to relive a sense of nostalgia, there should be an equally strong effort to win over players like me, who don't have fond memories to look back on. If all we're supposed to expect from remakes is the same game, except with a nicer look, then there's no point in talking about them. Everything that's worth saying was probably already said with the original release. But I think we should sometimes raise the bar a little higher, and expect remastered games to improve the experience however possible. There should be an option to revert back to original controls so that both new and old players can appreciate those improvements. I want to like Resident Evil HD Remaster. I want to understand why so many fans look fondly upon the game. I also want to be able to shoot zombies in the head and not have my elite STARS character appear to be a total rookie who doesn't know how to point a gun.

Managing Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 23, 2015 9:00 AM

    Steven Wong posted a new article, Opinion: Resident Evil's Remake and Winning New Fans

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      January 23, 2015 9:20 AM

      All right. Let's do this.

      People keep using the word "remake" in conjunction with this game. Resident Evil Remastered is not a remake. You acknowledge this at the beginning of the article, but use the word "remake" loosely later on. The Last of Us Remastered is a port of the GameCube edition. It's the same game, but with an HD coat of paint. Resident Evil Remastered is a port. Same game, HD coat of paint. You cannot and should not expect any new content.

      Near the end of your write-up, you say: "There should be an option to revert back to original controls so that both new and old players can appreciate those improvements." You must have missed it in the options menu, Steven, but you can revert to the old tank control scheme.

      You understand why being able to easily target an enemy's head would break the game, right? If you could automatically aim for the head--say, in first person, or by tapping a button to lift the gun and level it precisely at a zombie's noggin--there would be no risk. Survival horror games are all about risks. If you have a shotgun, you can blow a zombie's head clean off--by waiting for it to get close, holding up on the analog stick to raise the gun, and squeezing the trigger at the exact moment the zombie gets close enough to lunge. If you're faster than the enemy, you'll execute a perfect head shot. If you're not, the zombie will feast on your throat.

      Is the system perfect? No. But it's not meant to be. It is meant to balance risk and reward, and it does so.

      Finally, you mentioned you went into this game with no knowledge of the story or characters, so you wouldn't understand why STARS members come across as rookies. Aside from B-horror campiness, which does occasionally work against the story, there are two reasons STARS constantly trip over their own feet. Firstly, the incident in the mansion was set up as a test. Wesker, the Brad Pitt lookalike in the sunglasses, is a high-ranking member of the corporation responsible for the creation of the virus that terms humans into zombies and generates all sorts of monsters. He lured the STARS team into the mansion to test the efficacy of the BOWs (bio-organic weapons). To quote Admiral Ackbar: "It's a trap!" You would know this if you'd finished the game.

      Second, Jill, Chris, Barry, and the others (minus Wesker) are regular human beings who are confronted with the sight of horror-movie monsters come to life before their eyes. Jill didn't freeze with "a doe-eyed stare" because she'd confronted a pack of dogs. She'c confronted a pack of dogs that looked like they had survived a run-in with a thresher. Eyes hanging from sockets. Gaping holes in their bodies, with blood and sinew oozing out, exposing bone. Picture it: you're in the woods late at night, the site where cannibalistic murders have taken place recently. You've found the half-devoured body of a teammate. Moments later, a pack of ZOMBIE DOGS devour another teammate and friend right in front of you. What would YOU do?

      Finally, Barry acts like a hapless doofus because he's a traitor. Albert Wesker has kidnapped his family (or something along those lines; I can't remember) and is forcing Barry to monitor Jill until he has a chance to kill her. Again, this is something you would know if you had finished the game.

      I appreciate write-ups like these, but not prepared by those with half-baked opinions and knowledge of the subject matter. Perhaps if you'd finished the game, you'd understand why some of the apparent flaws you point out exist.

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        January 23, 2015 9:24 AM

        oh shit

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        January 23, 2015 9:25 AM

        And Steven, you and I go back a ways. Hopefully you know I'm not trying to be an asshole. :) But every time a classic Resident Evil game (meaning, pre-RE4) is released, some journo who's never played the game inevitably reviews it with a bad score or writes a "What's the big deal?" editorial--not because he genuinely dislikes the game or because it fails to resonate with him, but because they played for an hour or two, get frustrated, and spout off at the keyboard.

        Full disclosure: I love the RE remake. It's one of the best survival horror games ever made, one of the best games of all time, and one of my favorite games. I can accept that it's not for everyone, but so many of these editorials come across as uninformed, and it irks me.

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          January 23, 2015 10:30 AM

          It sucks when people take a shit on something because they missed the point.

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          January 23, 2015 11:52 AM

          But what is the fundamental difference between disliking something and having it fail to resonate? And if, as you say, it fails to resonate with many people - journos among them - then isn't that a relevant topic? Lastly, what do you recommend is the minimum amount of playtime one should have in order to figure out whether a game is likable or fails to resonate? I apologize if these questions seem sarcastic. I'm genuinely interested in your reasoning.

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            January 23, 2015 12:15 PM

            I didn't detect sarcasm at all. Your questions are totally fair.

            Let me start by saying I don't believe games must always be finished in order to be understood and/or fairly evaluated--if you're a consumer. If, however, you're someone in our position, one of authority on a particular subject, I do believe the majority of the game should be finished. You don't need to finish the game to resolve many of the flaws you perceived in the plot, but you do need to get at least 90 percent of the way to the finish line.

            Research also helps. Resident Evil's dialogue, writing, and plot are also cheesy for two reasons. Primarily, much was lost in the translation from Japanese, the game's native language, to English. Second, the campy dialogue and cutscenes actually serve as a respite. In its heyday--and even today--Resident Evil's atmosphere was bleak and tense enough for some to find it cloying. Listening to the voice actors deliver terri-bad lines is like a ray of sunshine cutting through oil-black storm clouds before the clouds snap closed and leave you in doom and gloom again.

            Ultimately, anyone in a position to deliver an authoritative opinion on a game--as, again, we are--should ask themselves why a game isn't resonating. If they believe their points are valid, they should proceed with their write-up. But if they come to the realization that they're just not "getting it," it might be prudent to turn the proverbial pen over to someone who is, perhaps not a fanboy/girl, but more knowledgeable on the particular's game's history and genre.

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              January 23, 2015 12:49 PM

              The fact that the game wasn't resonating with me is kind of the point. Keep in mind that I'm recounting a first-time experience, not writing a review. I, like many, have no nostalgia for RE, but keep hearing about how it's one of the best survival horror games ever remade. I don't believe an average new player would want to do a lot of history homework to appreciate a game, and would rather just have the game speak for itself. Even if that weren't the case, there must be a better way to present remastered games that they're more approachable to newcomers, and it can be done in a way so that players can appreciate the past.

              The Master Chief Collection, for example, lets you turn the remastered graphics on and off. It lets you switch control schemes. In that way, it makes the game approachable, and informs curious players how far the series has come. The Secret of Monkey Island 1&2 remakes include developers commentaries. RE HD Remaster lets you switch between new and original movement controls. I'm saying stuff like that can be taken a step further to win over more people.

              If remastered works are meant solely for existing fans that want to play old games on new systems, then that's fine. But it's an exclusionary mentality. I think RE HD failed to resonate with me, and as a result, I really started to not like it, and I don't think it's fair to shrug our shoulders and say, "can't please everyone." I also don't think it's too unreasonable to add a few touch-ups so it doesn't seem like the main characters just learned to hold a gun an hour ago.

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                January 23, 2015 1:06 PM

                Did you try the new difficulty, very easy? Capcom said it's made to ease players into the experience of a classic survival horror game. There's not much more they could have done without digging into the roots of the tree. Rip out one, and you've got to rip out the rest.

                That was never the point of RE Remastered. This game exists as a time capsule. The new controls coupled with the easier difficulty level should be more than enough to make the game more inviting, even though some flaws will still exist. As much as I love the game, I can cop to its faults. I sometimes find the controls frustrating (even the new arrangement), the inventory system can be clunky (RE0 eschewed item boxes in favor of letting you drop items anywhere, although that comes with its own set of problems), and there's too much backtracking.

                Beyond that, though. I wouldn't change a thing. Changing anything else would have changed the original game, and Capcom didn't want that. Now, if they decide to remake RE2, we might see more fundamental changes introduced. Remember that the RE remake on GameCube shook up the PS1 version's formula. I could see Capcom trying to make RE2 even more palatable for new fans while striving (and perhaps struggling) to maintain what fans like me loved about the classic design.

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                  January 23, 2015 1:58 PM

                  I understand your point about how the game should be regarded as a kind of time capsule, but at the same time, it's one that exists after six games and multiple spin-offs that are increasingly action oriented. Capcom should realize that for many, recent games are the point of reference for many new players. I have no problem with the crazy camera angles, the tiny inventory space, or the sparse ammunition. i even learned to appreciate having to go into an official fighting stance whenever I had to fight back. But feeling like the game is designed to prevent you from dealing with a monster that's slowly shambling towards you... that makes it very difficult to stay engaged and appreciate the historic value of the game.

                  But to answer your initial question, I played using Jill on Normal out of habit. Then I switched to easy when I chose Chris and found out that the knife is useless, and that he only starts with a handful of bullets, so I switched back to Jill.

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                    January 23, 2015 2:06 PM

                    Why should Capcom use the recent, more action-oriented games as touch points when critics and consumers alike panned those games--specifically RE 6 and Operation Raccoon City--as the two worst entries in the franchise? Capcom admitted that RE 6 was a commercial failure, and said they would be going back to basics for RE 7.

                    The point of remastering the Resident Evil remake from 2002 was not to make it more like its contemporaries. If Capcom wanted to remake RE 1 to more closely resemble RE 4 or 5, they would have remade the game. This is not a remake. It's a port. What you see is what you get.

                    And I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree about dealing with monsters. The game does a good job of showing instead of telling. Aim and shoot. If you want to go for the head, wait until the enemy draws close enough to lunge, then point up and shoot. To dodge, just weave around them; the new control scheme makes it easy to maneuver--some might say too easy.

                    Every move you make in this game comes with a trade-off. That zombie in the hallway: will you run around it, or open fire? If it grabs you, will you take the hit based on your knowledge of your current health status and the healing items tucked away in the item box? Or will you use one of your rare defensive items? If you open fire and kill the enemy, will you try to go for a head shot to prevent it from coming back to life? If you fail to decapitate it, will you incinerate the body to prevent it from coming back to life?

                    What will you carry? What will you leave behind?

                    Choice and consequence. That's the name of the game.

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                    January 23, 2015 2:10 PM

                    But isn't changing the way you deal with the enemies going against the historic value of the game?

                    If they made the game have an easier way of aiming, there would be no point to the game as nothing would pose a threat to the player except maybe bosses.

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                      January 23, 2015 2:35 PM

                      That's effectively what Steven seems to want: new features added to a port. That's a recipe for disaster. Look at what happened to Metal Gear: The Twin Snakes on GameCube. That was a from-the-ground-up remake of Metal Gear Solid, but with features from Metal Gear Solid 2 like first-person aiming.

                      The problem was that the enemies had not been retooled to deal with the player being able to aim more precisely, which made them ridiculously easy to pick off.

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                January 23, 2015 1:13 PM

                Your last line would require the entire game to be rethought. Less ammo, harder enemies. Basically a different ideal route through the game. It would require major, major tweaking.

                If you learn the systems, the game really does play well. It just doesn't play like an action game, or a shooter, which it isn't in the first place.

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                  January 23, 2015 1:14 PM

                  I feel like it should be thought of closer to Myst than Doom.

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                    January 23, 2015 1:23 PM

                    I've often though of RE 1-3 (and Code Veronica) as Myst with zombies. It used to be as much a puzzle-oriented series as it was a survival horror game.

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                      January 23, 2015 2:00 PM

                      See, I thought it would be more like Tomb Raider, but with zombies, only 12 bullets to work with, and a lot of stabbing until you got the rocket launcher.

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                        January 23, 2015 2:07 PM

                        You should never, ever use the knife to attack an enemy... unless you're going for the new knife-only achievement, which looks like a blast. :D

                        Seriously, though. Dodge first, shoot second. Toss that knife in the item box where it belongs. These are things the game teaches you by letting you experiment, learn, fail, and eventually succeed.

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                  January 23, 2015 1:38 PM

                  Well said

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            January 23, 2015 3:07 PM

            In the future I guess you could just read a summary/synopsis to plot stuff, assuming most games will work out questions you have about the plot like 1/5th into the game, by the end.

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        January 23, 2015 9:43 AM

        I'm glad you wrote down what I was thinking as well.

        If you give about 20-30 minutes to the original controls they work fine for the game, because of trial and error. Also if he wants a genuine experience play with other people, it's about enjoying the campyness with friends. This isn't Silent Hill.

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        January 23, 2015 9:53 AM

        What's funny is the REmake did actually add new content, and rework areas from the PSX original.

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          January 23, 2015 9:59 AM

          Yep. This is a remaster of THAT version. An HD port with a new control scheme. People don't seem to understand that. There's no "remastered gameplay," as Steven mentions in the article.

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        January 23, 2015 9:54 AM

        Every review starts with saying what year the game was made, the GameCube remaster was made and then proceeds to review the current release as if its gameplay and mechanics are not a product of the limitations of when it was made.

        I haven't slept and I hope that at least some of that makes sense, sorry.

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        January 23, 2015 10:27 AM


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        January 23, 2015 12:27 PM

        I loved this game on the GameCube, but I'm kind of sad they didn't really do much to it for this release on the PC. I wonder if this means that they'll RE0 next though. I only played through that once. I suspect they won't do this for RE2, 3 or CV. Kind of a shame. A full blown remake would be amazing for the entire pre-RE4 series.

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          January 23, 2015 12:53 PM

          Actually, there's good news on the RE2-remake front:

          On another site, captures of Capcom's website from last summer show a release date for "Resident Evil 2 HD" as September 2015. I don't believe a remake would follow that quickly, but I do think it's plausible that Capcom would be open to remaking RE2 if RE HD is a success.

          When you think about it, remaking RE2 makes sense. The REmake of RE1 on GameCube failed to meet Capcom's sales expectations, which is why RE4 did a 180 and became an action-survival horror game. Today, the landscape is different. RE HD is not a full-fledged retail product. It's only $20. Capcom has engine and the HD tech; all that's left is to spend time rebuilding RE2 using the RE HD engine. (I'd love to see new areas, characters, and gameplay mechanics, a la the REmake, but I'd settle for a one-to-one transition over to the new engine.)

          As for RE0 HD... yeah. I guess. It's my least favorite of the classic RE series, but I'd buy it if only to give it another chance, and demonstrate to Capcom that I want remakes and remastered versions of the RE series.

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            January 23, 2015 12:59 PM

            I would hope they don't use the RE HD engine or at least update that. It'd be a full-blown remake though. I doubt they could knock that out in a year.

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              January 23, 2015 1:09 PM

              Why don't you think they'd use the engine? Game development is expensive; any developer that goes to the trouble of updating an engine would probably want to reuse it a time or two, though Capcom could bolt on some improvements.

              I don't see any alternative to reusing the RE Remastered engine for an RE2 remake, honestly. Capcom would want to retail the core design; dramatic changes like the over-the-shoulder view used in RE4-6 would be too far removed from what made RE2 great.

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                January 23, 2015 1:15 PM

                They already updated that engine in 2002. They used it again with RE0. I think we got all we can. Whatever. They're gonna have to do a full-blown remake if they greenlight RE2. This isn't the same as taking the RE remake and fixing it for HD.

                I guess I just think they could have done more for this remaster. I guess it also probably doesn't matter. They'll probably remake it again at some point to reboot the series given how convoluted the plot is now.

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                  January 23, 2015 1:22 PM

                  RE really has gone off the rails.

                  I think we got our wires crossed somewhere. I'm not suggesting Capcom touch up RE2 as it stands and send it out into the wild. I want them to remake it from the ground up and get it running on the Resident Evil Remastered engine. They did the same thing for RE0. It was originally in development for N64, but Capcom canned it and built it for the Resident Evil REmake engine on GameCube.

                  The Remastered engine has all the bells and whistles Capcom needs to support a remake of RE2, and even RE3 if they want to go that far back. I'd love to run screaming from Nemesis again!

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            January 23, 2015 1:39 PM

            hoooly shit that would make my year

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        January 23, 2015 6:44 PM


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      January 23, 2015 9:24 AM

      I'm worried about our shacknews staff and their inability to play old Resident Evils. :(

      This game isn't really about shooting. Not really. Having pin point accuracy with weapons across long distances would totally unbalance the game and basically make it a cake walk. This might seem annoying by modern standards, but that's what this game is and how it was designed.

      That said. You CAN shoot everything in the head. You just need them to be rather close to you to do it. Dangerously close. You basically have the 3 aiming positions. Up - mid - low. Low and mid will hit at longer distances. Up will only hit when the enemy is generally 3 steps away or closer, which makes it a bit of a gamble. But that's the whole point. You're supposed to be making hard decisions about the best ways to get through the game.

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        January 23, 2015 9:26 AM

        Exactly. Plus, you want to avoid most encounters. I'm playing on very hard, as Chris (which is hard in and of itself), and I have 90 handgun bullets collecting dust in the item bin, plus 15 in the chamber at all times.

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          January 23, 2015 9:32 AM

          Yep, the last thing you want to be doing is trying to kill all the bad things. Most of the time your best option is to gtfo.

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      January 23, 2015 1:52 PM

      Then Shacknews stopped putting its foot in its mouth about Resident Evil.

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        January 23, 2015 1:58 PM

        Based on your comment, you do seem to realize that the dog piles caused by the last two RE pieces were not the product of fanboys and girls coming out of their parents' basements to throw stones at anyone who dares insult their beloved series. Offer up informed opinions and your readers will be happy to engage them.

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          January 23, 2015 3:26 PM

          Yea, I will be sure to write better articles and edit them better.

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            January 23, 2015 6:19 PM

            I meant "your readers" in the general, Shack editorial sense. And I honestly didn't mean to come across like a dick. Steven and I had a good discussion above.

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            January 24, 2015 9:49 AM

            Of all people, I think David Craddock has always been really polite and constructive about his feedback. No reason to be a complete ass about it.

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        January 23, 2015 2:41 PM

        I think your next article should just be a picture of the attaché case with everything out of order.

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        January 23, 2015 5:38 PM

        Are you being sarcastic? If not, you're throwing your staff member under the bus here. It comes off as unprofessional.

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        January 23, 2015 11:49 PM


    • rms legacy 10 years legacy 20 years mercury super mega
      January 24, 2015 6:35 PM

      I've read both these review pieces carefully -- well, skipping plot points, as I'm 12 hours into my first playthrough ever of this title, only being familiar with RE4 on gamecube, and I also disagree with most of what's been written.

      As for the port itself, it runs 60hz smooth at highest settings and 1080p, with a xbox360 controller using the alternate control scheme. Not a single bug, glitch or crash. I've gotten familiar with the -- probably intentional -- disorienting camera scheme, and it doesn't bother me now, given the amount of backtracking that is done.

      What I expected going in was a high-res, sharper textured fairly old gamecube game that would run well on my modern pc. That's exactly what I got for my $14 (hello? this isn't a $50 game), and I'm very happy, and engrossed in the gameworld right now. Complaints about the frequent door-opening, awkward camera, and semi-digital aiming fall on deaf ears, as I got over them within the first few hours. They are part of the charm. I never expected RE4 with different maps, and the control scheme was improved just enough to make my adaptation to it fairly painless.

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