When it originally launched back in 1998 Resident Evil 2 was quickly hailed as a gaming masterpiece and is still considered one of the best gaming horror experiences to this day. Now 20 years on Capcom have given Resident Evil 2 the remake treatment, rebuilding the game completely from scratch using the RE Engine and adding new features to the game to help bring it into line with what we expect of games in 2019. The game captures everything that made the original so great and sends a message to other game publishers letting them know that this is how a remake of a classic should be handled.
If you’re a fan of the original Resident Evil 2 the first thing you’ll notice is that the remake has done away with the fixed camera and tank controls. Instead opting for a Resident Evil 4 over the shoulder perspective and control scheme. The second thing you’ll notice is how gorgeous the game’s presentation is. The character models look incredibly realistic, the lighting of the RE Engine uses shadows and lights in an effective way to make the environments feel uneasy and the way the Engine renders liquids realistically conveys the appearance of a wet character in the rain and the moist, sticky gore of torn flesh.
As in the original, in the remake you’ll have the option to play through the game as either Leon Kennedy or Claire Redfield, each with their own unique play experience, puzzles to solve and narrative subplots. The two stories do intertwine throughout the overall narrative but are otherwise unique enough experiences to warrant the 2 playthroughs. In fact it’s required if you want to experience the whole story Resident Evil 2 has to offer.
Unlike the original, the remake no longer uses the ‘zapping system’ where choices made in one side of the playthrough directly affect events in the other. Such as leaving certain doors unlocked or enemies alive. But upon completing the game with one character you’ll unlock a ‘Second Run’ mode where you can jump in as the second character and the game offers a modified experience as it knows you have already completed the first side, such as streamlining parts of the story and removing the initial tutorials.
But this remake is more than just a graphical overhaul. The game features completely new voice overs, doing away with the original script and cheesy dialogue that had become a widespread joke on the internet over the years. But best of all, this remake will offer a new experience even for veterans of Resident Evil 2. Even if you knew the original game like the back of your hand you’ll still enjoy working your way through because Capcom have added in completely new puzzles, new areas, changed up some of the game’s bosses and even changed where the enemies in the game are placed.
My favourite part of Resident Evil 2 was the world and puzzle design. Working like a mix between a Metroidvania title and an old school point-and-click adventure game. Upon completing the game you realise how well crafted the environments are and how brilliantly the game is all interconnected but seemingly funnelled you in the right direction to progress at all times via the use of locked doors and closed off areas.
It requires you to get to know the areas of Raccoon City well or constantly refer to your map to work out what you need to solve next. Doing so often requires backtracking into already explored areas once you’ve acquired a new item or tool that can be used to get past an obstacle you may have initially stumbled upon hours before.
You’ll find many key items in the game that you know are used to solve puzzles but knowing what item goes with what solution is often a puzzle in itself. And quite frequently even with all of the pieces to the puzzle there is often yet another puzzle when it comes to using the items properly, such as having to insert keys in the correct order or referring to a scribbled note on a document for the final step. The varying ways in which puzzles are solved in Resident Evil 2 kept things interesting at all times.
Now it wouldn’t be a Resident Evil game without the zombies. And yes there’s plenty of them. And if you’ve been spoiled by other video games thinking you can kill an approaching enemy with a well placed shot to the head you’re in for a shock here. The zombies are a real challenge to kill and often I found it better to try and find ways to manage them rather than waste the ammunition trying to drop them for good. A shot to the head rarely has any effect in making a zombie back down. You can easily waste most of a clip of ammunition to fully kill a zombie. But the game has a great way of keeping you always cautious as you’ll frequently come across zombies you thought you had pumped enough bullets into quickly spring to life and take a chomp out of your ankle as you walk past.
Having each enemy feel like a challenge, combined with the limited resources scattered around the stages leaves you never feeling too comfortable. Jump scares will give you a quick fright but there’s a different kind of fear you experience when you’re out of ammunition and walk around the corner to find yourself in a corridor full of zombies and you only have a single knife and flash grenade at your disposal.
Initially I didn’t find Resident Evil 2 to be too scary and I think that was because coming off Resident Evil 7’s first person perspective I had an extra layer of distance between myself and the scares. Sure the jump scares and sharp music cues offer an initial scare but for most of the first act I thought I was in for a tamer experience. I was wrong. Resident Evil 2 doesn’t solely rely on jump scares and freaky imagery for it’s horror. By the second act of Leon’s story I found myself on the edge of my seat never knowing where it was safe to stop moving, as for the most of the game you never know when you’re being watched or even worse, chased by one of the game’s more menacing enemies.
There’s plenty of replayability on offer here too. Not only do you get 2 separate campaigns there is also a separate mode called ‘The 4th Survivor’ that has you playing as Special Agent Hunk, a professional security agent tasked with taking down the nightmares of Raccoon City. It’s a nice break from the survival and resource management aspects of Leon and Claire’s story and gives you new ways to mow down zombies. And yes ‘The Tofu Survivor’ is back too but you can jump into that mode and experience what that is for yourself.
Resident Evil 2 is a fantastic survival horror experience that has a brilliant world and puzzle design and even found new ways to scare me. There is a lot to experience in the game and will be fun to replay for years to come. This is how all video game remakes should be treated. It stays true to what made the original so great but wasn’t afraid to change aspects of the game to keep things fresh for veteran players and bring the game into the modern age and a real contender for one of the best games this year.
A PS4 review code was supplied by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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