Resident Evil 2’s Remake Shows a Lot of Promise for the Future

Resident Evil 2’s remake has finally launched, and to the delight of fans and critics alike, I might add. There’s no denying that the series has had its ups and its downs, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s now back on track and exactly where it needs to be. Some would argue that the series was at its best, back when Resident Evil 4 launched. I mean, it’s hard to disagree when we look back at that time, isn’t it? Resident Evil 4 marked a bold shift for the franchise, one that embraced the evolution of gaming, whilst staying true to its roots.

Back then, when Resident Evil 4 arrived, the series never really had any downsides. Many regarded the franchise as the pinnacle of survival horror. Resident Evil 4’s predecessors were all, for the most part, exceptional horror games. That iconic blend of fixed cameras, limited inventory, item management, and that all important scary structure, made for some compelling journeys into the dark world of Resident Evil. That said, Capcom needed to stay inline with the times and adapt and evolve their formula to stay relevant in gaming overall.

Resident Evil 4 was the perfect fit. This game did away with the fixed camera system and adopted a third-person perspective in its place. There was also a notable step towards action, though, it managed to pull it off through keeping its elements of horror firmly in place. Unfortunately, things only went downhill from here on out. Resident Evil 5, although entertaining in its own way, was far too action-packed to be considered a true horror. There was enough fan service to get it by, but the bottom line was that it took too many liberties.

Whilst it did a fair job at tying up the Chris and Wesker story-line, there was something off about it. In fact, there was a few things that pulled it well shy of greatness. The first of which sat with its companion system. Survival horror works best when its scary. That’s a given. Throwing in co-op play (or, solo play with hideous AI) takes away that sense of isolation. There’s very little to be scared of, after all, if you’re not in that zone of desperation. The second issue with the game was that its leap towards action, and its leap away from horror.

When Capcom saw the acclaim that Resident Evil 4 got upon release, they assumed that its action elements were the key to success. Now, because of this, they assumed that more action would equate to more acclaim. How wrong were they, eh? Resident Evil 5 suffered from mistaken identity. Through and through, it was a game that didn’t know where to lean; on action, or on horror. The end result made for a very convoluted experience that ultimately came across pretty silly – Chris Redfield punching a ten foot boulder, anyone?

Sadly, things spiraled out of control thereafter. Resident Evil 6, despite its massively impressive sales, marked what seemed to be the beginning of the end for the series. The game’s impressively bulky campaign served itself as little more than large chunks of vanity-rich bullshit. Not only did it come with pretty much everything that held Resident Evil 5 back, but it built upon them. In my humble opinion, the only standout feature in the game is that of Leon’s campaign, which at the very least, attempted to stay true to the series’ roots.

Everything else just sucked, majorly. Furthermore, pretty much the entire experience was like something out of a bad Chuck Norris movie; complete with Herbal Essence hairstyles, ridiculous character movements, shoddy AI companionship, and worse, a story that was about as interesting as watching paint dry. The whole game was just off the mark. It seemed as though Capcom had lost their way, big time. Then, some years later, a glimmer of hope pulled fans back with interest; Resident Evil VII – a game that the series was in dire need of.

Resident Evil VII showcased Capcom’s commitment to address fan feedback. I mean, let’s not beat around the bush, they deserved the lashings they got for its two immediate predecessors. Regardless, Resident Evil VII was a very polarizing game. Though, I absolutely loved it. Once again, the franchise underwent some pretty drastic changes. Capcom did away with the third-person perspective and introduced first-person perspective in its place. This, if anything, pulled back that iconic horror that the hit series was well regarded for.

It even disregarded much of the franchise’s history up until the endgame, throwing players into the role of a brand new character, with brand new antagonists, smack bang in the middle of a very isolated, brand new environment. Resident Evil was finally scary again. It helped, of course, that Resident Evil VII re-introduced puzzle elements, item management, limited inventory space, and enemies that literally made you shit your pants, big time. Capcom were clearly moving away from action and back to that beautiful classic formula.

Not too long after the release of Resident Evil VII, Capcom announced that they were remaking one of the best games in the series to date, Resident Evil 2. Throughout its promotional run, we learned that the game will return to third-person perspective, and that the developer planned on staying true to the original game, whilst implementing fresh twists and turns to keep players on their toes. Many, myself included, had reservations about the remake, especially when we took the franchise’s ups and downs into account.

However, now that it’s here, we can safely pat Capcom on the back. Resident Evil 2 isn’t just a true return to form, it’s one of the best remakes in recent memory, and one that seamlessly paves the way to a brighter future for Resident Evil on the whole. Some may argue that it’s somewhat resting on the laurels of the original’s acclaim, but having run through the game myself, and, of course, being a life-long fan of the series, I have to disagree. Resident Evil 2’s remake, if anything, is the best the series has seen for years.

Leon and Claire, two very incapable characters at this point in the canon, make for excellent fodder. Both are hopelessly out of their depth, and neither seemingly have the capability to endure the nightmare within. The stage is set well by the game’s “waste no time” approach, throwing players straight into the deep end with little warning or build-up. That sense of tension is dominant throughout the entirety of play, as is the sense of dread and desperation. Resident Evil 2 wants you to feel on edge at all times, and it truly achieves that.

I’m not a very squeamish person. I can watch some pretty grotesque stuff and still have the stomach for some food soon after. That being said, there’s some scenes in Resident Evil 2, especially early on, that even had me looking through squinted eyes. Speaking of the visuals, Resident Evil 2 looks sensational. The game’s care and attention to detail is simply outstanding, depicting the horrors of Raccoon City, wonderfully. It’s also surprisingly dark, forcing you to move through its locales with a heavy reliance on your dim flashlight.

Having finished the game myself, I was shocked at how little ammo is in the game. In fact, I had to ping Jamie, our reviewer of the game, to find out if this was normal. Surely when even a single zombie can endure pretty much a whole pistol clip, with several bullets to head, the scarcity of ammo would balance out? No, it doesn’t. You’re literally under powered from start to finish, and that’s providing you’ve taken the time to look around for replenishment; ammo, health, and supplies. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

That aforementioned sense of desperation is only amplified because of this. Several times did I take the long way around RPD to get to where I needed to be, simply due to wanting to conserve my clips. Though, even then, the dangers of the undead are all over the place. It fast becomes a juggling act. Do I try running through the hordes? Or, do I try finding an alternate route and cross my fingers that a bigger horde isn’t sitting in wait. For the first time in years, zombies are scary again, and more than capable of giving you a game over.

There’s a dynamic system in place, too. RPD is littered with corpses, and many of them will reanimate at different times. Hell, even the ones you kill can come back much later to give you a hard time. That’s not to mention the lickers, the dogs, and that ever so looming giant, Mr. X. There’s more on top of that, but the point here is that Resident Evil 2 knows how to push you into a corner and keep you there. It also frequently baits you into wasting your ammo, largely due to how the enemies behave and react to your noise and aggression.

Oftentimes it puts all of that together and throws it at you. How do you take your time dancing around the undead to lure them away from a door you need to go through, when the unstoppable tyrant is hunting you down? Well, you don’t. You just shit your pants and hope for the best. I’ll tell you, there’s nothing more heart-stopping than running to a door, only for the tyrant to open it from the other side, duck under the framework, and give chase. It’s quite literally petrifying, and easily rivals that of the Bakers from Resident Evil VII.

Resident Evil 2 does well with its item management system too, and its puzzles. You start the game with very limited inventory space, meaning that you’re constantly going back and forth through the dangers to pick up and hold items that you need. You can indeed earn more inventory space, but even at max capacity, it’s still very limited. The puzzles, much like the classic, consist of paying attention to your surroundings, reading notes, solving brain twisters, and so on. It’s all really well balanced, and that’s playing on its easiest setting.

Those of you that want more of a challenge can ramp up the difficulty tremendously. Even the achievements offer their own tough challenges. Complete the game taking just 14,000 steps? Yeah, good luck with that! I fear I waste 1000 steps alone when the tyrant is on my ass. Nevertheless, with that to the side, Resident Evil 2 is precisely where the series needs to be right now. This is survival horror that we all know and love. It’s dark, it’s brutally gory, it’s twisted, it’s grim, and above all else, it’s constantly tense, and thoroughly scary.

The game blends together the elements that made this franchise such a hit to begin with, incredibly well. Capcom simply needs to stay on track with this formula, and not be tempted to step towards action. Will we see Resident Evil 3: Nemesis getting this remake treatment? Only time will tell, but for me, this is the structure that Capcom needs to stay true to, regardless as to what comes next. Have you played the game? Plan on picking it up? Have you fell off the Resident Evil bandwagon? Hit the commend section to get in on the action.

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Written by
I've been playing games for as long as I can care to remember. Here at Xbox Tavern, I write news, reviews, previews and more. I'm a long time Final Fantasy fan, I can camp like you've never seen before in most FPS, and if I'm on a racing game, I tend to purposely trade paint. Feel free to add me - Gamertag: Kaloudz

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