Resident Evil 2 Review: A New High For A Classic Series
Words by Mark Foster
The year is 1998. You’ve just finished up an all Buffy The Vampire Slayer marathon and text your bffl on your brand new Nokia 5110 with a pay as you go sim.
You boot up your PlayStation and in the darkness you first see it, as a booming voice pierces the silence. Resident Evil 2.
Your Furby covers its eyes.
Flash forward to 2019, and Capcom have released a ground-up remake of the horror classic, this time using their shiny new RE engine, and swapping out the iconic fixed camera angles for an intensely claustrophobic over-the-shoulder view. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
If you didn’t get a chance to play the original, RE2’s story follows the exploits of rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy who’s arrived for his first day on the job in the midst of a zombie outbreak, and young student Claire Redfield who’s in town looking for her missing brother, Chris.
The duel campaigns allow you to see the outbreak from different perspectives, giving a much wider scope to the overall story. You’ll get 4 runs in total; Leon A, Claire B or Claire A and Leon B. Each run clocks in at between 6 and 9 hours depending on how thorough you’re looking to be.
Once you’re all finished though, there’s still plenty to do. Secret modes (yes Hunk and Tofu campaigns are present) and a long list of unlocks will keep purists happy long after the credits role.
A special mention has to go to the voice acting and scripting this time around too. The cast have vastly improved on the original’s shlocky one liners, and almost make you actually care about Sherry. Almost.
Veterans be warned though, not everything is quite as you remember it. Not by a long way. Capcom go to great lengths to make this look and feel like a brand new game, and there can be little argument that they accomplished it with flying colours.
It’s like straying into a half-remembered dream where everything feels intensely familiar, yet slightly warped. It helps add to the unnerving fear that creeps through every seam of the game, and that camera makes the gorgeously realised locales feel like an enemies in their own right.
The Raccoon Police Department is for sure the star of the show among the places you’ll visit, and the winding halls and ominous rooms have never felt so suffocating. But seriously, how did anybody get any work done in this place? You need two medallions, a safe combination and valve handle just to take a piss there.
On more than one occasion, I had to consciously un-tense my body as I’d been playing hunched with anticipation of what might be around any given corner. There’s an immediate and smothering sense of being overwhelmed, even ambient noise like floorboards creaking will keep you on edge during the rare downtime.
The lighting, too, is absolutely superb. Most of the game’s set-pieces are cloaked in darkness, leaving you to use your flash-light to assess a situation. Throwing a pinprick of light into the void, hoping to see (or rather, not see) if there’s any enemies ahead is genuinely terrifying.
It’s a sign of a great horror title that can make you feel as scared with the lights on as when they’re off, and this game delivers that in buckets.
When you do inevitably bump into an enemy, running out of ammo is a real problem, as one zombie can take multiple headshots to kill. It’s fight or flight at its most extreme and knowing that you have to go back into a crowded area with no ammo is a terrifying prospect.
If you do decide to take a foe down, it is, at least, extremely satisfying; zombies will react dynamically to you shooting them. You can saw off limbs with your bullets and blow gaping holes into midriffs. Make no mistake, this game is not for the squeamish, and those who do enjoy the gore will revel in every meaty, glossy chunk shown off on the impressive RE engine.
The enemy variety, especially later in the game, is enough to make you want to keep a veritable arsenal of weapons and ammo on you at all time. Especially when lickers or things decidedly more boss-shaped start to show up.
But that’s where inventory management becomes key, do you take extra grenade rounds or leave space for a key item? Resi has always known how to make you feel like you’re just barely scraping by, and it’s nice to see it’s still as stressful as ever.
The downside, if we’re really nitpicking here, is that it isn’t always clear what you need to be doing. Yes you’ve got an overall objectives tab on the screen, but how to accomplish them might leave you scratching your head, meaning that it can edge on frustrating when you’ve turned every stone for that one item to progress the story and still come up short.
But that really is a minute detail when you stack it up against the plethora of things this game gets right. The gratifying combat, slow-build horror and memorable set-pieces make the Resident Evil 2 remake a new high water mark for the series, one that hopefully Capcom will emulate as more remakes and new games inevitably shuffle ahead.
Don’t be fooled by your memory; this is a very new kind of horror. It’s creeping through dark hallways with widened pupils. It’s knowing your exit strategy three rooms ahead of a key item. It’s dread incarnate, and it’s never felt better.