Game: Resident Evil 2
Genre: Survival Horror
System Played On: Xbox One
The genre-defining masterpiece Resident Evil 2 returns, completely rebuilt from the ground up for a deeper narrative experience. Using Capcom’s proprietary RE Engine, Resident Evil 2 offers a fresh take on the classic survival horror saga with breathtakingly realistic visuals, heart-poundingly immersive audio, a new over-the-shoulder camera, and modernized controls on top of gameplay modes from the original game. The nightmares return reimagined for the PlayStation4 and Xbox One.
In Resident Evil 2, the classic action, tense exploration, and puzzle solving gameplay that defined the Resident Evil series returns. Players join rookie police officer Leon Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield, who are thrust together by a disastrous outbreak in Raccoon City that transformed its population into deadly zombies. Both Leon and Claire have their own separate playable campaigns, allowing players to see the story from both characters’ perspectives. The fate of these two fan favourite characters is in players hands as they work together to survive and get to the bottom of what is behind the terrifying attack on the city. Will they make it out alive?
When the Resident Evil 2 Remake was announced I was, like many, excited. For me, the original Resident Evil 2 was a great game, and given how much I enjoyed Resident Evil 7, I was hopeful that it would be a fantastic reimagining. Did it live up to that? In a word, yes.
The first thing you should know is that the fixed camera and tank controls combo of the original release has been jettisoned. Instead, we have the over-the-shoulder camera and control style that made Resident Evil 4 such a pleasure to play. This makes things a lot easier to get to grips with, as you don’t find yourself having to stop and start your runs through the undead hordes. Throw in that you can move while you shoot, and what you essentially have is a set up that would excellently as an action game. They’re smooth, responsive, and let you do exactly what you want when you want to do it.
Now, if you’ve spoken to me before, you may know that the more action-oriented entries in the series weren’t my cup of tea. What I’ve always enjoyed with the games is the sense of dread that they’re able to create, and the more action-heavy they got, the less that seemed to happen for me. Of course, many others liked the way the series progressed, and that’s fine. But which side of the fence does the Resident Evil 2 Remake come down on? Well, it actually does a really good job of balancing the two styles of game. There are a lot of zombies around, not to mention the Lickers, Ivy Zombies, Dogs and G-Adult’s. It’s the utter feeling of pursuit that makes this veer more towards horror than action though.
Way back in the original game, walking through a door triggered a loading screen and reset the enemies. This was due to each screen essentially being its own map. Now that technology is such that the whole area can be loaded as a single map, which opens the door for some truly terrifying moments. Zombies now shamble around after you, and actually open doors to follow you into rooms. What makes this so hard to handle is that where I found ammo to be overly plentiful in the original game, the remake has tweaked things to not only drop the amount of ammo you pick up but to toughen the enemies. As a result, you will often find yourself frustratedly running around rooms trying to avoid enemies while performing the old-school survival horror puzzle tasks at the same time. Once Mr. X joins the fray, this becomes even more difficult, and you’ll soon find yourself suppressing panic whenever you start to hear his heavy footsteps nearby. The best thing about that? Thanks to some boundary-breaking camera work on YouTube, it’s been shown that Mr. X really does wander around the map looking for you. While he does warp in during some scenes, he is actually a physical character that will keep hunting until then.
As you progress through the game, you’ll find that whether you’re on scenario A or B, both Leon and Claire offer sufficiently different experiences. Both meet different side characters – Sherry with Claire, and Ada with Leon – which have their own unique skills for their respective sections. They also have a different set of weapons at their disposal and face down different bosses too. In particular, I was impressed with the revamped Alligator in Leon’s scenarios. Gone is the shambling monstrosity of the original game, replaced now with a high-speed chase section that will see you dodging attacks until you can get in the killing blow.
The combat has a few new elements to deal with too, all of which are nice touches. Combat knives were fairly useless in the older titles, but this time around, they’re part of a decently built secondary weapon system. Not only do they actually do some damage when used like normal, when equipped, they offer a QTE style counter to enemy attacks. Of course, that means ramming the knife into them and having to wait until they’re dead to retrieve it, but it could well save your life to do so. The knives also have a health bar and will eventually become useless. Even then though, there are grenades and flashbangs that you can use as alternatives.
The story feels very tidy this time around, with plenty of little snippets that you can pick up throughout the game. What made this interesting is that the overall presentation of it made it feel shorter, or at least quicker, than it didn’t in the original to me, even though it’s a longer game. In many ways, this is helped by two things: the voice acting and the cutscenes.
The classic Resident Evil games were never really blessed with high-quality voice acting, but here, the cast really does a fantastic job with the script. The characters sound far less wooden now and it makes it a lot easier to get behind them at the right time. Add in a wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack and you have an auditory feast on your hands. Meanwhile, while the original’s cutscenes were good for their time, they’re even better now, topping even the CG RE films. The best decision that was made here though pertains to the Lickers. Previously, you got a full-blown cinematic introduction not them. It was impressive enough, but it did take you out of the game. This time, you get a little hint that they’re coming, then eventually find one. There’s a jump scare, and that’s it. You’re stuck with them from then on. That goes a long way to keeping the build of horror flowing smoothly. Meanwhile, moments like the encounter with the Gun Shop Owner and Sherry’s Mother are suitably harsh, helping paint a very dark picture of the world.
It’s not just the cutscenes that have been ramped up in terms of visual quality either. The whole game looks stunning from start-to-finish. The monster designs are grotesque in just the right ways, with some of the transformation moments bringing to mind the body horror genre of fiction. It’s the little touches that really make it special though. While you’ll definitely want to preserve ammo when you can, whether it because you’re not going to be able to sneak past a Licker or are anticipating a Mr. X encounter, there’s fun to be had with the zombies. Headshots no longer just lead to blood spray, you can actually damage to once-alive masses. This even extends to being able to shoot the hats off the heads of some of the undead police officers. That one really surprised me, and the initial amusement I had when I first did it by accident actually almost led me to an untimely death.
So, how do I rate the game overall? It’s essentially Resident Evil 2 with RE4’s controls and RE7’s graphical quality. There’s a lot to explore, and plenty of fun little touches to discover. Replayability isn’t an issue as, along with the grading system for each run, finishing Scenario A for one character unlocks Scenario B for the other, and you also have the Hunk and Tofu missions. The difficulty settings offer a logical ladder to climb too. Honestly, I can’t find any real fault at all with the game. So, there is no other possible score for me than 5 out of 5.