Resident Evil 2 [Remake] Review
When I was but a young boy with my Playstation 1, I was quite averse to horror games. Even action games like Tomb Raider that were soaked in heavy atmosphere and the occasional thick draw-distance fog, could unsettle me if presented in the right manner. As such, I never really engaged with the likes of Alone in the Dark, Silent Hill, or Resident Evil. It’s a shame, because I would have loved to have experienced them in their prime back in the day. The closest I got to any Capcom horror games however, was Dino Crisis 2 (notorious for removing the survival horror aspects, and focusing heavily on action/arcade style gameplay).
After playing a few games on the Xbox 360 such as Dead Space however, I’ve grown to love the genre. Other oddities such as Amnesia : The Dark Descent becoming popular on YouTube, would also bring me deeper into the genre over time. So whilst horror has never been a favourite genre of mine in any capacity inside or outside of gaming, it’s definitely one that I’ve made the time for in recent years, should an interesting game/movie come along. This is one of them.
A few things out of the way first. I’ve never played the original Resident Evil games, even now. I’ve played the opening hour of Code Veronica, and I’ve played the opening hour of Resident Evil 2 (got as far as lowering the ladder in the police station). It wouldn’t be until Resident Evil 5 came out that I would enter the series for the first time (yeah, not even Resi 4 still to this day!). I’m also that guy you hate, who doesn’t mind Resi 6 and actually enjoys it. So my gaming pedigree is weak here, and I don’t know how the original played. Having said that, I’ve watched many people complete Resident Evil 2 and 3 in various speedruns online. As such, I still have a general oversight of the game to compare against when playing the remake. Without knowing the game like the back of my hand, I’m still able to see that the game has changed considerably in its presentation, in terms of events and sequences. It much better fits a more modern experience, and I imagine all of the story changes were made for quality reasons. I can’t see the original’s pacing working for today’s audience, judging from what I saw of other people playing.
Both campaigns are present, with both Leon and Claire being accessible from the beginning. They offer two very different tones to the experience. I found Leon’s to be more subtle and a little more horror focused, whereas Claire’s felt a little faster paced and her grenade launcher makes the Tyrant (big bioweapon guy in a trenchcoat, that searches for you in the police station) a little less intimidating as a result. Both are largely similar though, and their shared commonalities are far more in number than their differences.
Personally I preferred Claire’s route a little more. It seemed to go a lot smoother (maybe a result of me getting better at the game on a 2nd playthrough), and I enjoyed Sherry’s supporting story events. Having kids to protect in a horror game makes for some great sequences (making for a great stealth section later on in the game).
The music really creates a nice atmosphere throughout. Since I bought the deluxe version of the game, I was able to swap between the original and remastered soundtrack. I played through Leon’s with the original soundtrack (which I feel holds up really well, and is better than the remastered one), and I played through Claire’s with the remastered soundtrack. Both are great, depends on your tastes. The option is there for those willing to purchase the DLC or the deluxe version of the game. I feel this is something that should be in the base game however. Questionable decision, but cheap enough should you want it (around £2.50).
The gameplay is very good at having both what made the originals great (without devolving into the old control schemes), and keeping what has evolved the series forward into the 3rd person over-the-shoulder experience. Movement is slow, and deliberately so. I’ve always advocated that despite people’s displeasure for the old tank-turning controls of the original games, it was very good at restricting player movement, and elevating that sense of horror and tension. It’s slow enough here that it raises that tension once more, but has enough flexibility in it to allow some escapes should you sacrifice your ability to shoot and fight back. It’s very much a binary decision of “Do I stop and start shooting?” or “Should I run away and reposition?”. Guns do moderate damage (depending on your difficulty), but even on the easier difficulty, there are still many close calls if you aren’t used to reserving your ammo somewhat.
Speaking of which, the game is definitely leaning ever so slightly into the action genre. Being able to free yourself from enemy clutches/grabs with a grenade or knife is one of the many conveniences taken from an action style game that keeps the gameplay flowing smoothly. As long as you reserve ammo and equipment, you’ll find yourself never really being down and out, despite what the game throws at you. I played Leon’s campaign on the regular difficulty, and found that I wasn’t able to just run and gun myself out of every situation (at least not without completely running out of bullets). This artificial difficulty is compounded even further by inventory space; it’s a premium. I took my time to backtrack to every door and corridor that was locked beforehand, and made the effort to collect every extra satchel/pack to increase my inventory space, and still found myself having to make difficult decisions of “Is it better to have these 30 handgun bullets, or a couple of grenades?”. It’s interesting, and makes you think about your playstyle. If you rely more on your handgun, you’ll be taking those bullets to stammer a zombie with a quick headshot so you can slip by quickly. If you find yourself getting caught by the Tyrant or other creatures regularly, that grenade will be looking far more enticing to you. These decisions are what keep the tension and difficulty present, outside of simple zombie encounters.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Resident Evil game without some light puzzles to solve. Thankfully they are still light, and don’t detract or ruin the experience at all. There were 1 or 2 moments that took me a little longer (mixing the solution agent was a little bit of trial and error), but overall were a welcome change of pace from shooting and avoiding enemies. If you survived Resident Evil 7, you’ll survive here. Your next goal/objective is always clear, since most doors are locked and areas sealed off until you have the next key/item, meaning there’s only ever one new direction to go in. It’s possible to backtrack as I alluded to before in order to pick up better items and equipment, but my niggle is that these aren’t really optional. You can choose to not backtrack and continue on as you are, but you’re severely crippled for doing so. The upgrades for your guns aren’t really a problem should they go amiss, but the extra ammunition and healing items in themselves make the experience far more enjoyable when you’ve stocked up a few extra. I tried playing Leon’s campaign a 2nd time on an easier difficulty to prove my point, and simply storming through meant that I was starving for items a lot of the time, and it was slightly harder than backtracking on a harder difficulty. This means that it’s imperative to explore and backtrack in order to continue without regular interruptions or difficulty spikes, which might put some people off.
Honestly that’s kind of everything in a nutshell. It’s a very simple game to explain, and I don’t want to ruin the story for those who (like myself) haven’t experienced Resident Evil 2’s story before. Know that it’s just as horror focused as the original, but has some quality-of-life decisions made to improve the overall experience. The atmosphere is great, and all gameplay mechanics improve and support that atmosphere, despite one or two things which might put a few people off. Just remember that those perceived annoyances are there for good reason, and suit the genre well. Whether you’re a fan of the series or not, and regardless of whether you’ve played a Resident Evil title before, I highly recommend you play this game. It’s easily become one of my favourite games of all time, even though I’m not much of a horror game fan.
Also just a quick note, yes, Tofu does indeed return.
Images Taken From: http://www.residentevil2.com/uk/media.php