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The Joy of burning zombos in Resident Evil HD Remaster

Flambé zombé

Resident Evil HD Remaster is a three-year-old shine-job of a 17-year-old remake of a 23-year-old console game that I’d have little problem believing was a modern release if those corridor dogs weren’t seared into my memory and stained into my underoos. That those corridor dogs are stained into our collective underoos (the vast interconnected underoo network that binds us all) suggests that Resident Evil is best remembered as a scripted spookfest: a one-and-done ghost train ride.

You’d be wrong, though, to make that hypothetical assumption I just invented to give my next point gravitas, you big wrong strawberry.

While the original PlayStation version meant you didn’t have to worry about zombies once you’d felled them with your felling device of choice, the Remaster introduces Crimson Heads: faster, spongier zombos that spawn after you fail to either decapitate or burn a regular dead’un.

This is how the remaster achieves what I like to call ‘egg-merchant’ gameplay. Go to your kitchen. Pick up an egg. Examine it. Throw several at the fridge. You’ll notice that, despite the uniform shells, the eggs make subtly different shapes depending on the intensity of the throw. When a game surprises you with an interaction between its rigid shell and malleable yolk, it has just sold you a real good egg, buddy. Thus, egg-merchant gameplay.

First, there’s the unpredictable nature of the Crimson Heads themselves, which take time to appear. Then, there’s the rarity of actually pulling off headshots, which can’t be relied upon but are a nice bonus when they do happen. Finally, there’s the finite amount of kerosene, much less than is needed to safely torch every zombo in the game.

This results in different areas of the mansion taking on their own character. You might have forgotten to torch all the corpses in a frequently used hallway earlier on. Now, every time you need to go through that hallway, you think ‘oh no, that’s the bad hallway’ because it’s full of Crimson Heads. Then you might tell a friend about the bad hallway, but they’ll say “what are you talking about I love that hallway, that’s the best hallway there is!” because they’ve burnt all the zombies there. Pure egg-merchandise.

I’ve always enjoyed the way the events of Resident Evil are referred to in the wider canon as the Spencer Mansion “incident”. The word suggests a sort of surgical professionalism in the face of the horrific, as if it’s only by the cool detachment of toe-tagging corpses and filling out paperwork that the surviving S.T.A.R.S members can keep sane.

I like to think of the zombie-flambé mechanic as an extension of this same composure in the face of malevolent monstrosities. Even when threatened by the evil dead, Jill and Chris are still chill enough to think ahead, thus preventing the evil dead part II: red dead redemption. It doesn’t just add a tactical layer to game, it portrays Jill and Chris as tactical thinkers, and there’s something just so uniquely Resident Evil about that level of calm bravado in the midst of getting your limbs chewed off.

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