Resident Evil (The REmake)



When I wrote about Code: Veronica I mentioned that it was my gateway into the series. While that is true, 2002’s remake of the original Resident Evil—we’ll call it REmake from here on out—pulled me in further and is largely responsible for where I am today with the franchise and the survival horror genre. But what if I told you that I almost bounced off of the game entirely? That if it weren’t for a glitch, we could have found ourselves in a different timeline where I’m here writing about the “Tales of…” games or something? 

Welcome to REvisited: A Resident Evil Retrospective, an Exposition Break series that explores the highs and lows of the Resident Evil franchise as we go back and replay the mainline games, their remakes, and their spinoffs. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to check out the series introduction to learn more about this project.


REmake had been out for over a year when I bought a copy at a GameStop in my college town. I was a freshman living in the dorms and didn’t have a car, so I’d spent two hours navigating bus connections to get there. I browsed the shelves and took a chance on a used copy, knowing I could exchange it if I didn’t like it. I got back to my dorm, put disk one into my purple GameCube, picked Jill from the character select screen, and started my adventure in the Spencer Mansion’s zombie infested halls. 

Outside of PT, name a better looking video game hallway.

It had probably been two years and change since I’d played through Code: Veronica and I hadn’t properly internalized anything from that experience. The early hours were ROUGH. I was burning through ammo, herbs, and ink ribbons at an alarming pace, and I was becoming well-acquainted with the game over screen. I don’t remember exactly where I was in the game—maybe Yawn?—but I was ready to quit. Then, I found something on GameFAQs. A glitch. Maybe the most important glitch I’ve ever encountered in a game. 

It turns out that in the original GameCube version of the game, you can move things around in your inventory in such a way that the game glitches, giving you 250 rounds of any grenade launcher ammo-type you wanted. I turned around from my PC, turned the console back on, and gave myself 250 incendiary shells. Why incendiary shells? Crimson heads. I’ll explain later. 

I breezed through the rest of the game, scorching everything in my path. Yes, that was not in the spirit of the genre. I’d robbed myself of the intended experience. Yada yada yada. Well, it was fun. And you’re not my mom.

After the credits finished rolling, I immediately started a new game. And THIS time, I wasn’t going to cheat. Thinking about it now, it wasn’t too different from the experience I recently had with Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Yawn’s back!

My “Release the Classics!” Soapbox

There’s a lot of speculation about why Capcom hasn’t released a Resident Evil classic collection on modern hardware, but one theory you see is “Capcom thinks the old games are too inaccessible for a modern audience and that releasing them could tarnish the reputation of the modern franchise, hurting sales.” Now, that’s a bad theory probably propagated by the “git gud” crowd as a way of further crapping on casual gamers, but there is a nugget of truth there. The old games ARE hard to get into and the learning curve can be steep. Hop on Reddit and you’ll see plenty of new franchise fans that won’t play the old games because of their control schemes, limited saves, difficulty, etc. Now, some purists will have a violent reaction to this, but they can kick rocks [Ed. Note: Punch rocks? You get it, like Chris in RE5? You’re right, I’ll shut up now.]. Capcom should ship a classic collection with a full suite of OPTIONAL modifications that can make the games more accessible. From the moment they turn on the game, players should be able to do things like enable modern directional controls, turn off the need for ink ribbons, make it so that ink ribbons don’t take up inventory space, give themselves infinite ammo/health, and adjust sliders for things like weapon damage and enemy HP. It doesn’t need to be this exact list, but they should give players tools to enjoy the old games on their own terms. Once they do, they just might start to appreciate the unmodded formula on subsequent runs, like I did with REmake and Nemesis. If not? Hey, they at least got to take a ride through a piece of video game history. As for the gatekeeping purists, the original “git gud” experience will be there for them, too.

This spider sends a shiver down my spine every time I see it.

While we’re on the topic of a classic collection, I suspect that Capcom hasn’t just done it because they don’t think it would sell enough to justify the work. But as I write this, I have the REmake Wikipedia page open and it says that the 2015 remaster of REmake was a commercial success and even set records for digital sales at the time. So what are they waiting for? Get on it, Capcom!

Updating a Classic

Ok. No more soapbox. Let’s talk a little bit more about the actual game. To this day, REmake is stunning to look at. But I wish I had an easy way of re-experiencing this game in the phosphorescent glow of a CRT TV. The HD version looks good, don’t get me wrong, but I was nothing short of blown away by REmake’s pre-rendered backgrounds back in 2003, and I’ve heard it’s still the best way to experience the game to this day.

I’d love to see what a big-budget pre-rendered background could look like in 2024.

When I first played REmake, I wasn’t actually aware of how different the game is from the original. I’d assumed that it was largely the same game with some fancy new graphics, voice acting, and some updated mechanics. What I didn’t realize was that the puzzles had been changed significantly, routes through the mansion were modified, and enemies were altered to play with veterans’ expectations. REmake is interesting because it doesn’t feel like it was made to replace the original but instead made to be enjoyed alongside it. Unfortunately, you can still find plenty of people out there who think it is the same experience, just prettier. But if you’re a fan of one, you should absolutely play the other.


The changes made in REmake range from relatively minor, like the addition of single-use defense weapons that allow you to shrug off a zombie without taking damage, to pretty major, like the mechanic of burning zombie corpses so they don’t reanimate later as stronger and faster crimson head variants (which is why incendiary shells were my grenade launcher ammo of choice when cheating). I don’t have a lot to say about the defense weapons; I think they’re a neat addition to the game but effectively amount to little more than a healing item that doesn’t take up an inventory slot…. Oh, shit! They don’t take up an inventory slot! They are low-key a VERY big deal! Self-defense items give you more security in the choice to carry fewer herbs with you, or even none at all. That’s more room for keys, weapons, and ammo! Which is huge! It’s just too bad the whole crimson head thing sucks so much and ruins that…

I’m sorry for calling you minor, defense dagger.

So let’s talk about crimson heads. In REmake, if you don’t burn a zombie’s corpse after you kill it, there’s a very good chance that it will come back as a crimson head zombie. They can run, do a ton of damage, and absorb a lot of bullets. If you aren’t torching them with incendiary shells—which isn’t even an option in Chris’ campaign—you need to dump kerosene on their bodies and ignite them with a lighter. If you manage to take down several zombies close together, you can light the whole pile in one go. Your flask of kerosene takes up an inventory slot, so say goodbye to the space you saved by leaving those herbs behind. If you’re playing as Jill, the lighter takes up ANOTHER inventory slot. Chris just always has a lighter on him because he’s canonically a smoker based on the original Resident Evil‘s FMV introduction cutscene. The flask of kerosene can be used two times before it needs to be refilled, and there are five refill stations throughout the game that can refill four uses each before they’re emptied. So there’s enough fuel for at least 22 zombies, i.e. what we have here is a worse version of my problem with ink ribbons. It just adds tedium to the game as you move things in and out of inventory, but this time there’s added travel involved as you run back and forth between a zombie’s body and a safe room’s storage chest. God forbid you need to refill the flask, too.

Seriously, everything about these guys is the worst.

It’s easy to see what the devs were going for here. This whole system is supposed to deter the player from needlessly killing zombies, but it’s redundant to the game’s emphasis on ammo conservation. On top of that, the crimson head isn’t even the actual punishment, it’s the tedium of inventory management that is. I hope someday that a re-release will have the option to turn crimson heads off, but it seems pretty unlikely. It’s interesting that REmake director Shinji Mikami went on to play with a similar gameplay mechanic in his later game The Evil Within, where you could burn fallen enemy bodies with matches, dealing a huge amount of damage and saving precious ammunition. It’s a different implementation, but it’s clearly a space he wanted to explore further.

Moving on. Now I said earlier that REmake doesn’t replace the original, and I stand by that, but I also don’t want to downplay how much it improves and expands upon the first game. I love the changes that they made to the mansion, expanding it and adding new pathways that make the original’s backtracking less of a burden. I love the adjustments they made to classic encounters like the hallway dogs. I love the new puzzles and the twists on old ones. If I have one complaint beyond the crimson heads, it’s that the pacing can drag a little here and there—the caves still suck, for example—but they did actually do a good job adjusting the area design.

The caves are bad in the original, and they’re bad here, too.

Enter Lisa Trevor.


REmake re-adds a side story involving the Spencer Mansion’s architect, George Trevor, that was supposedly cut during the development of the original game. George had a reputation for incorporating puzzles and secrets into his architectural designs and was hired by Umbrella’s Oswell Spencer to design the residence. After construction was complete, Spencer had Trevor locked away in a secret room within the mansion and left to die, ensuring nobody else knew of the estate’s secrets. But George Trevor wasn’t Spencer’s only victim. His wife, Jessica, and daughter, Lisa, were also guests at the mansion and had been kidnapped by Spencer and subjected to Umbrella’s experimentation with the Progenitor Virus. Jessica was killed while planning an escape for herself and her daughter, but Umbrella continued to experiment on Lisa, turning her into a nearly invincible monster.

Players face Lisa several times throughout the game, but she’s different from the other mindless monsters that skulk about the mansion. She retains some of who she once was and is ultimately just looking for her mother. Her story is probably the most tragic thing in the entire series. 

Ok, I’m determined to end this section on something less messed up than a child wearing her mother’s face… Oh! Neptune! In REmake, a giant shark named Neptune joins Yawn and RE2‘s alligator in our list of giant cold blooded animals. I have a love/hate relationship with Neptune. On one hand, he’s an integral part of one of my favorite moments in the franchise, on the other, he can insta-kill you if you’re not expecting him.

I really love when the series goes “What if [insert animal], but HUGE!”

Where Neptune shines is actually after he’s dead. After electrocuting the shark, the game asks you to get up close with his still twitching corpse to retrieve a key. It’s a wonderfully crafted moment of tension as you wait for the still twitching beast to attack you one last time, but the amazing bit here is that it never does. It shows great restraint from the developers and gives the player a rare release of relief when you get back to safety. I just think it’s a really cool section, and even knowing how it works all these years later I still feel tension as I approach him.

The Menagerie

With this being a remake and all, it doesn’t have a lot to add to our stable of monsters. We’ve got our giant shark, Neptune, and Lisa Trevor… whom I’m not quite sure how to categorize here—I’m going with humanoid…—and lastly, our crimson head friends.

Lisa Trevor
Crimson Head Zombies
Giant Shark (Neptune)
Giant Worm
Giant Moths

Zombie Dogs
Giant Spiders
Large Roaches
Giant Alligator

Brain Suckers
Sliding Worms
Grave Digger
Drain Deimos

G-Types (Includes W. Birkin)
Bold = New in REmake | Strikethrough = Didn’t return

The Scorecard

I had to go to my editor to decide if we should count crashes in a remake, since we’ve already counted them. We decided that we would count them, because A) The remakes have shown that they’re willing to change events, and B) We’ve been counting the number of crashes in relation to the number of game’s played. Not counting them would throw off our metrics.

Games PlayedHelicopters CrashedHelicopters Survived
Bravo still crashes and Brad still rescues the heroes at the end. Plus 1 each to Crashed and Survived.

The Last Great Classic-Style Resident Evil

Despite my nitpicks, REmake is easily one of the greatest survival horror games ever made. That said, I think I actually like Resident Evil 2 better, which I’d have never predicted when starting this project! I think the crimson heads and poor pacing in the middle prevent the game from reaching the near perfection that Resident Evil 2 achieves, but it’s still an all-time classic.


On top of that, as far as it’s status as a remake goes, it might be the greatest remake of all time due to the fact that it adds so much to the original without removing anything. Sure, it changes a few things, but you don’t feel like anything was cut in the recreation, only updated. They put everything they had into this and it was uncompromised. Compare that to Capcom’s modern remakes of Resident Evil 2, 3, and 4 and you can see what I mean.

I was going to write a bit more about remakes vs remasters, because people seem to struggle with the difference, but I just got tired thinking about it. Maybe I’ll touch on it for the next remake in the series.

Be on the lookout for more REvisited, where next time I’ll cover Resident Evil Zero. I’ve finished my playthrough, and it’s unfortunately worse than I’d remembered. The real tragedy is that it could have been great. See you next time!

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