For years the sequel in the iconic series has been met with praise. Any player who found themselves sitting down with the PS1 classic in 1998 will tell you stories about the brilliant game it was and that it’s probably one of the best games in the series. 21 years later and a remake is about to confirm those findings and justify its legendary status. Welcome, yet again, to Raccoon City.
Resident Evil 2 takes place two months after the events that unfolded at the mansion that had Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine encountering the first outbreak of zombies. Unfortunately this virus has spread to Raccoon City that sees the city overrun with the undead. Leon S. Kennedy arrives as a rookie cop on his first day on the job and Claire Redfield, Chris’ sister, enters the city in her search for her missing brother. As with the original game it’s not long before either hero encounters their first threat and things unfold real quick. Thankfully players who enjoyed the original game all those years ago will spot enough changes to create something fresh in terms of plot development. That said, they’ve not redesigned the wheel.
Same, but different, but still the same
Where this remake excels is with sticking to the formula that once made it such a grand action adventure survival horror game, but injecting just enough new elements to keep it fresh. As soon as you enter the Raccoon City Police Department it’s time to throw away your modern ways of thinking in a game. There isn’t an unlimited amount of ammo to destroy your foes. There are only so many herbs and first-aid sprays to heal Leon or Claire and if you have difficulty reading a map you’re in for the challenge of your life.
Everything feels so very familiar, yet there are big important changes.
The whole game revolves around understanding the map and is going to play a big part. It comes with improvements that mark items on the map you might have missed and important areas that needs solving or searching, but you need a good understanding of your surroundings. Resident Evil 2 is not about to give you the answers you seek on a silver platter either. It’s filled with puzzles that’ll have you carefully reading and deciphering each document you pick up. Learning how to combine items to overcome obstacles will be a first for many new players to this old school formula, but it still comes with that immense joy of solving it and thinking you’re the most intelligent person on earth. Everything feels so very familiar, yet there are big important changes.
Tank controls have thankfully been dropped in favour of modern controls, which include the manner in that you aim and shoot your foes. Oh, best you be prepared for what’s coming your way – the zombies are nowhere near as easy to overcome. Lodging six to seven 9MM bullets into a zombie head is the norm to eventually drop it. Shoot off limbs and the zombie will come crawling towards you, though you can at least move while shooting now. Stand still and your accuracy improves – a little nod to players of the original game.
Also, unlike having your character auto-aiming at any zombie that is alive (but looks dead) in the original game, you’ll now have to poke it with your knife to see if there is life left in it… and knifes do eventually break. There is absolutely nothing in this game that is limitless. Running to and from safe rooms will have you constantly swapping items out in your storage case. Inventory management plays a big role, but one of the upgrades now includes the ability to increase the inventory number by finding backpacks scattered throughout the game. Your task is to constantly reserve each and every item in your inventory to survive this outbreak. Ending up with two or three bullets in your gun at the end of any boss fight is not a surprising outcome. However, the biggest element is fear.
The sound of
What made Resident Evil 2 such a classic comes down to good pacing and they’ve nailed it in this remake. While the first hour is quite slow-paced, to teach players the ins and out of the remake, it all changes once the Tyrant arrives. This big behemoth of a thing will come stomping towards you at a very fast pace, never running, but walking just fast enough to have your heart drop whenever you bump into him. Should you drop him to his knees with numerous bullets or outsmart him, it’s just a matter of time that he’ll find you again. Hearing his footsteps getting louder and doors smashing open in your area, as he hunts you down, gets you to frantically solve puzzles and search for items in a rush, in turn missing important bits that could help you through this nightmare. Get close enough and he’ll slash your health meter in half. The Tyrant is ruthless and absolutely terrifying. Mr.X in the original game is a dud by comparison.
The Resident Evil 7 engine has worked wonders for this remake.
Your health status is again displayed as fine (green), caution (orange) and danger (red). Should you own one of the new Dualshock controllers that has the lightbar on the top of the touchpad, a glance down at it can tell your status without having to pause, which is a clever use of the hardware feature. Calls to Leon or Claire or the unlocking sound of doors will also come through your Dualshock speaker, just adding in those extra bits of immersion that was never there in the past.
The biggest winner in this remake is the use of sound. When you’re not petrified of the Tyrant’s footsteps you’ll have to deal with creepy music or absolute silence, while the sound of the zombie dog nails are tapping away nearby as they patrol the room. Hearing a zombie lady screech as she sees you will send shivers down your spine. It’s so, so unsettling. They hobble around as you would expect in the real-world (or as seen on The Walking Dead TV series). The graphical details are incredible. I’ve never seen a game that uses lighting quite as effectively as in this game. Each set scene sets the mood perfectly for what is to come, enough so to even have veterans feel queasy and uneasy of what awaits ahead. The Resident Evil 7 engine has worked wonders for this remake.
Dynamite comes in small packages
Those who expect this to last as long as other current generation games will likely be a little disappointed as your first playthrough will last you roughly eight to nine hours. It does however require you to play it at least one more time to get the true ending that will last you another six to seven hours. Should this game speak to you, you need to finish it four times in total to see all the scenarios and you’ll unlock various extras that’ll extend the life of the game. As short as each scenario might be, it is action-packed from beginning to end and it’s highly likely that you won’t switch the game off before you see the credits roll, unless the fear gets to you. Fans of the original game will be glad to hear that hardcore mode requires you to yet again find ink ribbons to save your game using a hard-to-find typewriter. There is something here for both old and new Resident Evil 2 fans.
It’s unthinkable that this remake eventually became a reality. The original game has been honoured and improved on. Resident Evil 2 is proof that these old mechanics still have a place in the modern world of gaming… and that this is indeed one of the best Resident Evil games in the series. Welcome back Raccoon City.