Over the past decade and a half the Resident Evil series has fluctuated between being part of the horror genre, some action horror, to pure action, though two years ago the franchise went back to its horror roots in the form of the somewhat experimental Resident Evil 7. By taking a different approach that brought the horror back to the series, fans were eager to see just how the Resident Evil 2 remake would turn out. Now with such a formative game for many being released with a modern take is this everything fans could have hoped for?
Leon S. Kennedy recently was hired on as a rookie police officer for the Raccoon City Police Department and although his start date was pushed back, he is still ready to go into the city to begin working while a girl named Claire Redfield also heads to the city in search of her brother, Chris Redfield. The two meet shortly after it becomes clear that monstrous creatures have taken over the city and that everyone they run into happens to be a walking corpse. While trying to head further into the city to find survivors as well as answers, the pair are separated with only the police station appearing as the safest option
Those who are familiar with the story of Resident Evil 2 will find that, at least in the broader sense of things, the storyline for the game remains almost entirely the same. Players will have the option to choose either to play as Leon or Claire with the story for each character running along similar paths that vary to certain degrees while aiming for “B” run of the other character afterwards to fill in certain blanks. Along those lines this B run features a mix-up of puzzles and other elements that keep players on their toes for the most part but does introduce a couple of questions about the timeline of some events.
That being said, Capcom has made sure to vary things up greatly, expand upon some elements of the story while snipping a bit as well to make sure that older players will find plenty of familiar areas, progress points, and puzzles that they loved but have now been revamped for a modern era to make the story and progression of the game flow better. This creates an excellent combination of nostalgia and eagerness to see just how well the developers have managed to take such a game and transition it to this style and thankfully they have lovingly done so. The tension of navigating through the police station and subsequent areas always feels rather high since you never quite know what to expect thanks to the changes made to the game and this is especially true in the case of Mr. X.
While going into too much detail would spoil elements of the game’s feeling of progression, let’s just say that the new way Mr. X is handled is phenomenal. The enemies themselves feel like far more of a threat than before as well thanks to the way the story presents certain creatures, though it is worth noting that some enemies have been modified with a few missing here and there though the removed enemy types were already incredibly sparse so there is no need to worry about the game suffering from their removal. As a whole this leaves players with a familiar story that has been heightened greatly by expanding a few scenes and creating a true sense of dread that gives the environments in the game a life of their own.
The most immediate change that players will notice is the fact that Resident Evil 2 now plays as a third-person over the shoulder survival horror game. Rather than using tank controls with fixed camera angles players will now have complete control over their characters actions through a system that is best described as a toned down Resident Evil 4. Quick turns are available and aiming is easier than ever but don’t expect to dodge or kick any creatures as there are no quick time events in this game, meaning your best chance against a zombie is to either put it down or do your best to avoid it normally. There are sub-weapons such as combat knives that can turn away a zombie bite and then be retrieved from a corpse but these have a limited durability and grenades remain one use items. In fact, the knife can be one of your most useful tools as not only is it possible to avoid a bite, grapple, etc. but it also can be used to slash a zombie while it is on the ground.
This used to be a known factor but now it is more vital than ever thanks to how intense and draining combat can be. Zombies in Resident Evil 2 are incredibly resilient with headshots seemingly doing only slightly more damage than shots to the body or limbs, making almost every encounter one that you will need to balance the importance of. Do you use limited resources to put down a zombie and potentially leave an area clear from then on? Or do you just try to avoid it and leave it as a lingering threat should you ever have to pass through that area again? Even when you decide to drop a zombie they can be rather tricky at times since not only do they move rather erratically but they can fake being dead more than once. Downed zombies can do anything from immediately come after the player or even wait a few minutes before trying to bust open a door or crawl after you. This is especially true in regards to some later zombie types that can be incredibly dangerous if you don’t happen to be carrying any sub-weapons with you.
Taking on creatures besides zombies have their own little quirks now as well. The dangerous licker can now be stealthed around should you be able to while dogs are more nimble than ever to counterbalance the easier aiming mechanics. As for boss fights, players will find that for the most part they have been retreaded this time around. While this is far from a bad thing, players shouldn’t expect too many surprises in the way of the boss enemies other than the arenas that you happen to face off against them in.
Outside of the combat systems players will find that Resident Evil 2 continues to make use of the familiar limited inventory system that will keep players balancing what they are carrying while trying to not go into areas unprepared. Running around with healing items, weapons and ammo, as well as a key or special item needed to complete a puzzle will often feel challenging but not unfair as the item box is usually never too far out of reach if you plan properly and items that have been completely used up are presented with a checkmark that allows them to be discarded at no loss to the player. In fact, the user interface in this game is incredibly well done as it is kept minimal while playing but features more than enough detail during combat and exploration. Your map will immediately update with the locations of items you found but left behind, show what doors are locked with what keys, and even turn rooms to different colors depending on if there is anything still left to be found inside of it to minimize players blindly searching finished areas.
Now it is worth noting that Resident Evil 2 is actually quite generous when it comes to difficulty options. There is an easy mode that not only allows for enemies to be defeated easier but can also provide some minimal health regeneration making it much easier to clear the game if you simply want to experience what the game has to offer without too much of a challenge. The default difficulty is probably the best place to start however as players are given auto-saves at certain points in the game and can save freely any time they come across a typewriter but otherwise the actual gameplay remains unchanged with difficult enemies and players needing to be very careful with their resources. The hardest option is of course the Hardcore mode that not only makes it so that enemies are tougher but you also need to use ink ribbons to save. This means that you will need to be careful of just when and where you save as auto saves are also removed and make the game much more challenging for those who want a real punishing experience.
With these difficulty options as well as two unlockable game modes that place the player into the shoes of different characters entirely players will have tons of reasons to play through the game more than a few times, especially when it comes to chasing after the coveted S rank and what those grades unlock.
Visuals & Audio
There are a lot of things that help create the tense and horror styled atmosphere of Resident Evil 2 but the one that does the best job is just how gorgeous the game looks. Through the use of the RE Engine not only do we have extraordinary looking environments that feature plenty of lovingly recreated looking designs that have been expanded to fit the new playstyle but absolutely horrific looking creature appearances and gore all highlighted by expertly handled lighting. Zombies are truly gruesome to look at and the amount of decay on some corpses is surprisingly detailed. Damage dealt to the player is visualized for a time while damage dealt to zombies can leave them horrifically maimed with faces torn apart by gunfire or limb snapping off when enough damage is dealt.
The audio is no slouch either as the sound effects, moans and cries of the zombies, and general creature sounds are expertly crafted to create a genuinely terrifying experience that truly shines when wearing headphones but still does a great job over standard stereo. The voice acting is also handled rather well and the little quips of disbelief that Leon and Claire make when facing enemies make for an all the more believable experience.
There were a lot of ways that Resident Evil 2 could have went when Capcom recreated it and thankfully the developer has pulled out all the stops to make sure that this entry lives up to and surpasses everything that came before it in a survival horror experience. With more than enough content and reason to play through the campaigns multiple times and learning the layout of the gorgeously designed areas players will be eager to see just how far they can push themselves on higher difficulty settings once they learn how to handle things. Sure those who have played the original will still remember the core elements as well as most puzzles and bosses but that does little to truly hamper the experience thanks to the amount of detail that Capcom has put into creating a brand new feeling experience that still holds onto the nostalgic elements that fans loved.