Return to Raccoon City
Resident Evil 2, for many fans, represents the pinnacle of the long living Resident Evil franchise that spawned seven numbered entries, multiple spinoffs, countless remasters, a decade worth of films (both live action and animated/cg), and an upcoming Netflix original series. To say the series has seen commercial success would be the understatement of the generation. When Capcom announced a complete remake of the PlayStation classic, fans were both giddy with excitement and cautious of the prospect. After all, Resident Evil 6, the last main entry that saw players fighting the biohazard in third person action, was not received well by most long standing fans of the franchise. Still, the release has now been upon us for nearly two weeks, and fans and critics alike have much praise for the recent effort. How does it hold up?
I’ll admit: Resident Evil 2 was not my favorite. Growing up, I missed this one, with my lone experience coming from playing it on my PSPGo – often in short, frustrating bursts. My younger days saw a heavy dosage of RPGs, so the crazy camera angles, unintuitive controls, and the necessity of being frugal with your supplies put a damper on the experience. Still, the last decade has instilled in me a newfound love in Resident Evil, with Resident EVII being one of my favorite PS4 horror games on this console generation (perhaps one of my favorite horror games of all time). So I, too, joined the hype train for Resident Evil 2 Remake with the hopes that I would enjoy revisiting Raccoon City as Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield.
I’ve now played through the game multiple times and am now working on earning S ratings on the campaigns. Needless to say, I’ve found much to love here. For starters, the entirety of the game is faithful to its origin source while injecting enough changes to keep the game creative and fresh. Things were scary; I actually jumped a few times. Lickers popped out of nowhere, and walking the halls where they lurked was dreadful – especially once Mr. X, who may be one of the goofiest and creepiest horror villains I’ve ever had to flee, showed up to wreak some havoc. Even the hunkering zombies provided a good jump scare every now and again, and the prospect of running through a thin hallway with the idea of preserving ammo a harrowing endeavor.
Gameplay is a modernized take on the original. Camera angles are fortunately no longer fixed, which eliminates the poor controls. Your characters can now move and shoot, albeit at a deliberate pace. You’re rewarded with tighter accuracy if you stand still, however, preserving some of the original gameplay. The biggest difference in gameplay, in my opinion, is that the camera is now swung over your character’s shoulder. Overall, the game holds onto its classic gameplay but fortifies it with updated modern controls.
Visually, Resident Evil 2 Remake is a gorgeous release. I played this one on the Xbox One X in 4K HDR, and it really shines. The RE Engine is a pretty impressive inhouse creation that has been pleasantly surprising since Resident EVII. The re-imagined world of Raccoon City, the RPD, sewers, and Nest are all shining examples of the feats of modern technology. If you run a side-by-side comparison of the original and remake, you’ll see the care that Capcom invested into recreating the world to reflect its original aesthetic while keeping it unique enough to stand on its own.
Finally, the sounds in Resident Evil 2 were pretty solid. I was definitely disappointed that Capcom chose to leave behind longtime voice actors (particularly Matthew Mercer), though the cast did a superb job nonetheless. Atmospheric tones and the murmurs of zombies echoed throughout the halls and built a tense experience. Add in the clattering of zombie dogs and growls of lickers, and you’re white knuckling your controller. For me, though, the eerie sounds that accompanied Tyrant felt so unnerving and left a lasting impression. Overall, the sound direction nailed this one.
If you have somehow sat the fence and waited to pick this one up, I highly recommend it. Whether your new to Resident Evil 2 or a longtime fan, you’ll find yourself engrossed in this fight for survival. The difficulty progresses along at a near immaculate rate, and the multiple playthroughs each add more to the overall story. Once you’ve unlocked the ‘true ending’, you’ll find yourself privy to even more content, and Capcom has already promised some free DLC, too. It’s only February (January when it launched), but this could hold water in a potential Game of the Year debate.