I’m slow off the mark discussing this but, then again, what’s new around here? I’d originally planned on talking about the Resident Evil 4 remake right after the news broke, but shit happened and I slacked off with blogging.
Anyway, my question is this: is a remake of Resident Evil 4 really necessary?
I find myself asking this question more and more frequently these days. The jaded oldtimer in me shakes his stick at all these newfangled HD rebuilds and preaches about how the OGs will always be where it’s at. Yet this same miserable fart purchased and massively enjoyed the Spyro and Crash Bandicoot remakes, so he’s also a hypocrite. I think I used to worry about the new versions stomping all over my fond memories of the original games but this is a flawed way of thinking. After all, there’s nothing stopping me from quietly passing up the new version(s) and continuing to enjoy the original(s) as I remember it/them. Plus, I can play both! The world is my oyster.
The point is, rose-tinted spectacles are a dangerous accessory that should be worn with extreme caution. The past wasn’t always better. We just tend to associate old stuff with the easier, less complicated lives that a lot of us enjoyed as children or teenagers. Case in point: I was extremely cautious about playing Yakuza Kiwami since the original PS2 game is one of my all-time favourites, and I found myself asking if a full-blown remake with new content was actually necessary. But I seriously enjoyed Kiwami and can’t see myself ever playing the original version again. Yes, I still prefer the PS2 version’s soundtrack and darker tone, and it will always have a special place in my pixellated heart (as well as a space on my gaming shelf), but the truth is that there is just no contest: Kiwami IS the better choice. Once I’d removed the aforementioned glasses, it was plain to see that the PS2 original was pretty dated, a lot more unforgiving, and the English dub was AWFUL.
To bring this rambling back on-topic, the Resident Evil series has experienced similar situations over the years. The Playstation generation have great memories of the first three games, and would probably have liked them to remain just the way they were. But then the Gamecube remake of the first Resi happened and blew many of us away. In fact, it still looks fantastic today. It was a bit of a half-way house, however, since the tank controls and frustrating save system remained. Additionally, there was a B-Movie charm to the original’s cheesy FMW intro and appalling dialogue. Many purists hated the Crimson Head zombies in the remake too. I’m going to be controversial here and say that, as good as RE:Make was, it didn’t do what it needed to do. I get why Capcom were afraid to deviate too far from the original’s setup but it ended up just looking better and not being the new experience that it could have been.
For me, a remake of a game should free the art and gameplay from the technical shackles or marketing/publisher demands that imprisoned the original vision. The remake of Resident Evil didn’t really do that. I would actually say that something like the PS3 remaster of Shadow of the Colossus was a much more necessary and worthy example of a remake; for fixing the dreadful framerate that spoiled the artistry of the PS2 release.
I can’t level the same criticism at Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes however. These were full-on, ground-up reconstructions – entirely new games that brought Raccoon City to a new generation of gamers who never need to know the pain of tank controls, fixed camera angles, and ink ribbons. Now, I’m NOT saying that the original PS1 versions are redundant – far, far from it. Nostalgia aside, they have their own charm, their own atmosphere, and many design choices that fans may prefer over those in the remakes. But the remakes offer a modern gaming experience and a new way to enjoy the classic scenarios.
More to the point (I WILL get back to Resi 4 soon), there was a large enough gap between the PS1 games and the current-gen remakes. Technology and presentation has moved on A LOT in the intervening years. Even if you still enjoy playing the original Resi games, they do feel like old games – relics of the past.
This finally brings me to Resident Evil 4 and this announced remake. In my opinion, it is entirely unnecessary. Guaranteed sales by the bucketload aside, I can see why 2 and 3 were remade: they missed out back when the original game was treated to a major makeover, and fans had been begging for them for years (especially RE2). More to the point, Capcom’s devs can do so many more things now than they could back in the PS1 days.
Resident Evil 4 though? It’s a completely different story. Yes, it IS a fifteen year-old game by this point (where the fuck has THAT time gone?!?) but it still FEELS like a modern game. Graphically, it is still very acceptable (remember, many updated HD ports also exist), and the third-person action game genre remains strong. Furthermore, stuff like QTEs and the cinematics are still extremely relevant to current-gen gaming. This isn’t like remaking the PS1 games which were loaded with outdated mechanics and conventions.
You see, the rate of progress over the last fifteen years of gaming has definitely been much slower than it had for the previous fifteen. For example, we were playing much less-involved 2D, arcade-style games back in 1990. Fast-forward fifteen years to 2005 and Resident Evil 4…it was an ENORMOUS leap in technology and gameplay style. So much happened during that decade-and-a-half. Compare that to the fifteen years that followed and, well…we’re still playing the same games, aren’t we? The graphics may be better and the online functionality more prevalent, but we’re playing the same genres and doing the same things.
I have no doubt that the original Resident Evil 4 will look crustier and more limited versus whatever Capcom come out with, but that doesn’t make a remake necessary. And, to return to my earlier example, as much as Yakuza Kiwami improved on its PS2 predecessor, it still wasn’t really that necessary. The only caveat is that, despite releasing during the same year, it hasn’t aged anywhere near as gracefully as Resident Evil 4 – one of the most technically accomplished software releases of its generation.
I suppose I just can’t get excited for the new Resident Evil 4 because I don’t see what can be improved outside of superficial upgrades and the way in which Capcom are rumoured to be re-writing the script to tie the game in more closely to Resi 1-3. I’m all for bigger explosions, more realistic-looking breasts and better framerates but I need more than that. Yes, I would play and likely enjoy an RE4 remake – no resistance on either count – but I still need a reason why I should care about it happening and, as of now, I’m not seeing one.
I would much rather see a remake of Code Veronica, a re-telling of the story from Survivor, or even a remake of the Gameboy’s Resident Evil Gaiden (now THAT would be cool). Unfortunately, there’s one BIG reason why Capcom would elect for the far less intriguing option of Resi 4 instead…