1998 gave me my favourite game of all-time, Resident Evil 2. It brought everything that a fan would want from a sequel, it was bigger than the previous game with a total of four campaigns (not including the Hunk & Tofu modes); it looked better, more immersive story-telling and was arguably better than its 1996 original. So 21 years later, in a generation where remasters pop-up from the woodwork like zombies from a grave, much like the original Resident Evil remake of 2002 on the Nintendo GameCube, this new Resident Evil 2 game built from the ground-up has a lot to live up to. So the big question is, does it deliver? Well I can tell you right now, it more than delivers and this very well may be the best survival horror game since, well, Resident Evil 7!
Resident Evil 2 tells the story of two young protagonists, Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, in which destiny has led them both to entwine on a path that will change the course of their lives forever. Leon is about to start his first day as a member of the Raccoon Police Department and Claire is in search of her older brother Chris, a member of the S.T.A.R.S unit of the RPD, who went missing following the events taken place in the Spencer Mansion incident hidden within the Arklay Mountains, in the outskirts of Raccoon City. Without giving spoilers away for those that are new to RE2, Leon and Claire first cross paths at a gas station just outside of the city, before heading to the RPD for a safe heaven, unbeknown of the nightmarish horrors that await them.
As with the 1998 original, we do get two fulfilling and immersive campaigns for each of our heroes and just going by my initial playthrough’s, these are more packed campaigns with even more freedom to explore if you wish. I know playtimes will drastically shorten over time, especially as the Resident Evil series has always encouraged speedruns, but you should easily get 10-15 hours during your first playthrough’s for each campaign, and that’s not taking into account any milestone achievements, unlockable bonuses or any forthcoming expansions. Either way, the Resident Evil franchise has always been packed with content and value, and this remake is certainly no exception to that rule.
In terms of gameplay, while Resident Evil 2 very much reminds me of Resident Evil 4 with its over-the-shoulder perspective, if anything, with its gruesome limb dismemberment, I’m having moments of nostalgia more than anything else with the Dead Space series. Zombies will often take quite a few bullets to the head before they go down, but they’ll likely get back up again more than once, unless you manage to get a lucky head-pop. As a result, ammo will be very precious and you’ll not want to waste a single bullet, and if you do, you’ll probably be quite angry with yourself, because you’ll know you’re going to pay for that miss later.
If you don’t get that satisfying head pop, once the zombies are down, you can then use your knife to chop away at their limbs and in the likely event that they try to get back up again to chomp on your brains, they’ll be crawling slowly across the floor, which makes them much more manageable, unless you’re in a narrow corridor. However, be careful of your combat knife breaking, because it will deteriorate after prolonged use.
As I’ve already alluded too, you’ll not want to waste ammo and other then being as accurate as you can be, one handy way to stock-up on ammo is by crafting them by the various pots of gun powder that you might find scattered throughout the campaign. There is a variety of ammo to craft, from standard handgun bullets, to powerful grenade rounds. However, if I was you, I’d try to stock-up on gun powder in your handy item box and only use them as and when you really need too. You can also upgrade some of your weaponry too, just like before, as long as you find the necessary pieces of equipment of course.
Just like previous games in the series, RE2 has its fair share of puzzles to solve. Overall, they’re not particularly too challenging, but they never really were, but there are one or two puzzles that will have you scratching your head on occasion. If you’ve played the original RE2, then many of these puzzles may feel deliberately familiar, but they’ve all been remixed enough to make them feel fresh even to veterans of the series. However, there are new puzzles solve and of course there will be plenty of back-tracking involved as you dare to discover what’s secrets or dangers lurk behind that locked door.
Touching on the puzzles being remixed enough to make them feel fresh, so too has the environments and characters, especially when it comes to the enemies. In general, much of the RPD layout feels quite familiar, but not only has much of those familiar rooms and corridors been shaken up a little, but we also have entirely new locations and this remake really plays up to the lore of the RPD building once being a museum. I don’t want to give too much away on the new environments, but there really are some fantastic surprises that will even throw returning fans off-guard and will have you jumping out your boots.
Now arguably the biggest remix comes in the forms of the new enemies, in particular the lickers and Cerberus dogs. Not only do they look more grotesque, but they’re even more nimble than ever before and can get very difficult to hit while on the move or at close-quarter. There is also another major returning enemy that returns and from your first encounter with it, it’s quite terrifying being stalked to the extent that it much reminds me of the Xenomorph from Alien: Isolation, albeit without the alien’s AI. I don’t want to speak to much more about the creatures of RE2, but I must also add that there is a greater variety of zombies over the original RE2.
So what about the visuals? Powered by the RE Engine, which first came into play with the brilliant Resident Evil 7, the RE2 remake looks stunning in third-person. The character animation is fantastic, the grotesque attention to detail to the enemy design is nothing short of terrific and the environments are created to a standard that has never been seen before in the entire series. I’ve already spoken about the dismemberment, but not only will limbs be realistically effected depending on where you attack, but as flesh and bone shaves off a rotting zombie, you can even see exposed skulls and more with well placed headshots at close inspection. I can’t also talk about the visuals of RE2 without mentioning its incredible lighting and shadow effects, which reacts uncannily lifelike and plays a huge role in the damning atmosphere.
The exceptional sound design is also nothing short of pure horror magic and if you have a decent headset, then you’re in for a nightmarish treat. From the groans of the undead, the creek of a floor board, the rain pelting against the window and the daunting thuds of a formidable foe stalking you in the hallways. This is how audio should be executed in a horror game. However, it’s a shame that none of the original voice-actors have reprised their roles for the leading characters, but the new team do a fantastic job in bringing these iconic characters to life.
To conclude, this Resident Evil 2 remake is nothing short of brilliance and sits firmly alongside the great remake of 2002. It has everything that a remake needs, it’s full of nostalgia for returning fans, but yet offers more than enough to make this feel like a totally new experience, and has all the ingredients for fans new and old to fall for this series all over again. With this being the first major AAA title to release this year, the competition really has to up their game and hopefully with a bit of luck, this will give the spark survival horror genre needs that will make other publishers sit up and notice. This is a master class of how remakes should be done and is pure survival horror from start to finish. Resident Evil 2 is re-invented for a new generation and is better than ever!