Now this, this is how you do a remake. From the gorgeously grisly visuals, through the tense atmosphere and genuine scares, to the brilliantly updated perspective and control scheme, Resident Evil 2 is the epitome of what a modern day survival horror title should be. That it is also based on what is one of the best games in the franchise just adds icing to an already sumptuous cake. First off, let’s set the stage in case this is your first time with the game.
You play as either Leon S. Kennedy, arriving at Raccoon City for his first day on the job as a police officer, or Claire Redfield, in the city looking for her brother, and original game protagonist, Chris Redfield. Of course, things quickly go downhill. Due to some local shenanigans, a city-wide zombie outbreak has occurred. In a brilliant touch, what was once just an opening cinematic is now a small playable section; both characters crossing paths as they approach the city. Unfortunately, they are soon both separated again, and it’s here where the game kicks off proper.
Depending on who you choose to play as, your course through the game will alter with different routes and characters met along the way. Heading to the Raccoon City Police department is the first order of business, but that’s easier said than done. This is proper survival horror. This is not about taking down everything in your path, rather, it’s often best to avoid conflict at all. Ammo is incredibly scarce: if you come in expecting the epic shootouts of Resident Evil 6, then you’ll be in for a rude awakening!
Even just your garden variety zombies can take some serious punishment, enduring multiple headshots before they fall. But, don’t underestimate even supposedly downed foes. They will often play possum, waiting for you to walk past before lurching back to life to bite your ankles. Each shot creates a sinew-y, bloody mess that is somehow both absolutely gross, but utterly fascinating to behold. A few headshots sees bits and pieces hanging off, or even missing entirely, though to be sure, you’ve got to remove the whole thing.
Limbs can be removed, or even torsos ripped in half – the legs collapsing to the ground as the top half slides off, then spilling out as they continue to crawl after you. Everything is persistent throughout as well. Corpses will remain in whatever state you left them in, and if not finished off properly, will even reanimate much later on, just to keep you on your toes. On more than one occasion, I ran through a supposedly cleared room only to find a zombie I thought I had dealt with, waiting for a quick chow down.
With our returning heroes Leon and Claire being brand new to this, they lack any of the kick-ass defensive moves that you may be familiar with; Leon’s roundhouse kick is a long way off from Resident Evil 2. Thankfully, defense items make a return, though these are even more limited than regular ammo, and, in the case of the knife, can only be retrieved once you’ve killed the foe it’s currently lodged in. Oftentimes, it’s best to use the brief window you’ve created to escape. Enemies will give chase however. Gone are the days of being able to quickly pop through the nearest door for a safe loading screen away from danger.
Every door is now seamlessly opened, in real time, and enemies can make just as much use of this as you. You’ll at least have a few seconds of them banging on the door to prepare, but once they burst in, you’d best be ready. Zombies shuffle about in unpredictable ways, swerving and ducking and generally trying to make your already scarce ammo supply even more so. Lickers charge and jump in the blink of an eye, leading to plenty of wasted, panic-ridden fired shots. Each encounter feels tense, that one stray bullet could mean life or death. The undead’s movement a far cry from the conga line shufflers of old, for sure.
Returning fans will have their preset expectations of course. But, while much remains the same overall, Capcom will keep even the most die-hard fans guessing what’s around the next corner. Without spoiling anything, if you can think of a part of the original that sticks out to you, chances are, Capcom have thought of it too, and updated it in ways you may not expect. But more than that, they have made it feel fresh, and most importantly, scary. Having played through the PlayStation classic more times than I can count, I know what to expect, and where to expect it.
Here, Capcom teases, hints, and keeps you on tender hooks, with some fun payoffs in store if you think you’ve got their number. Lessons have clearly been learnt from Resident Evil 7, as the whole game has that same oppressive vibe throughout. Walls creak steadily, zombies can be heard shuffling in adjacent rooms, and there’s always that feeling that something is just…around…that…corner. The audio design is really top notch, lending a weight and sense of place to the surroundings. The chills shot up my spine when I heard the tell-tale ‘click’ of a licker’s claw, just out of sight.
That, and I don’t think I’ve ever held my breath as long as I did when the dull thuds of the Tyrant’s footsteps got ever so louder as they drew closer to my hiding place. The score ramps up and down with the action too, just increasing the tensions with deep, foreboding bass and strings that have your heart racing before you even see what you’re up against. Voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag, with our rookie cop hero coming across as a bit too naive at times. It fits the classic zombie horror style trope.
Though, when he refuses to let one of the few surviving people out of the cell he’s locked in due to needing to “check with the chief first”, despite everything that has happened to him since arriving in Raccoon City, it just makes him sound a bit daft. Of course, they can only work within the confines of the original game, but I feel like old Leon had a better handle on things by this point. Other characters fare better, with some solid acting and top-notch facial animation.
Everyone has that almost hyper-real look about them as they did in Resident Evil 7, with over-exaggerated expressions and features helping to sell the madness that happens. Using the RE Engine, first seen in Resident Evil 7, Raccoon City and its various locations are a sight to behold. The RPD always looked a little clean for having been through a zombie outbreak before , but here, there is no doubt some serious shit has gone down. Much of the power is out, your torch helping to illuminate the horrors before you.
Light and shadow play their role, hiding enemies in pain sight, or, teasing you with suspicious shadows around a narrow corner. Debris is scattered everywhere, as is what I can only imagine are the remains of any previous survivor. It’s a beautifully grim looking game. The only downside to the visuals, for me, however, was the implementation of film grain. In darker scenes (i.e. most of the game) it emitted an over-the-top flickering which proved to be quite distracting. An option is available to turn it off, but I’ve always liked the film grain aesthetic, and here, things look a little too… clean, without it.
But either way, that foreboding atmosphere never lets up. Even a generous checkpoint system won’t stop your heart skipping a beat upon entering each new room, or hearing those ever present footsteps thudding closer and closer. Playing on the normal difficulty does away with the ink ribbons, though, you’ll still need to find a typewriter to save progress, so save at every opportunity. Enemies won’t casually line up to attack, with zombies actually piling on you if you let them, as I found out early on.
Seasoned players will be able to get a sense of just when something big is about to go down, but even I got caught off guard on more than one occasion. You’ll soon learn to love the very brief moments of genuine respite, but that sense of dread at having to head back out there is palpable every time. Thankfully, the modern controls work well, allowing you to move with a great deal of freedom, even when aiming. Unlike Resident Evil 7, we return here to an over the shoulder viewpoint, helping you to keep aware of your surroundings.
Though, don’t expect the more action-focus of Resident Evil 6 to be in effect here – Leon and Claire plod along even at ‘running’ speed. I found myself gripping the run button with the force of a thousand suns each time I was trying to flee the Tyrant, each thud of his foot having me wish they’d just push that bit harder! Zombies have a surprising range too – the amount of times I barely scraped buy their finger tips was too many for my liking.
As with the original, you are ranked on completion stats. Going for higher ranks only adds to the tension; each failed dodge keenly felt as much as each wasted bullet. These ranks unlock further game modes which will test your skills with new spins on your adventure through Raccoon City that returning fans will no doubt be pleased to see. B-side mode also makes a comeback. After completing a run with either Leon or Claire, you can then experience the same story, but from the other character’s perspective – with events running parallel to those of your previous play-through.
A great idea at the time, no other game has ever really replicated it, so it’s wonderful to see its inclusion here. Effectively giving you 4 campaigns in one, before the aforementioned bonus bits, there’s enough here to keep you going for quite some time. And, just in case you truly are a glutton for punishment, a hardcore mode removes some of the safe guards – enemies are tougher, auto-save is disabled, and, you now also need ink ribbons to save – just like the good old days. One for the purists, this will absolutely test your nerve.
Whether you’re returning to Raccoon City after a number of years, or, this is your first trip to the ill-fated locale, there’s no better way to experience Resident Evil 2 than this remake. While remaining true to the overall arc of the original game, everything here has been tweaked, updated, and twisted into a truly brilliant survival horror. One that proves that no one does it quite like Capcom. Make no mistake about it, this, is a must-have.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.