Bringing back a classic is a risky thing to do. Especially with a game like Resident Evil 2, which is without a doubt one of the most celebrated in the franchise’s long running multi decade history. There are so many creative decisions that I’m sure daunted the designers. Do you just copy exactly what was in the original game? Do you remove what didn’t work? Do you add new content in entirely? While all these questions are hard, I’m happy to proclaim that Capcom has done it yet again. Resident Evil 2 is an unquestionable treat for old and new fans alike.
The game follows two characters; Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield through Raccoon City. Leon is a rookie cop arriving in town to start his new job, while Claire is traveling there to find her missing brother Chris. As you’d expect, they both meet up, get stranded in the city and discover that they’re in way over their heads as the city has fallen to an outbreak of a deadly virus. The story hasn’t changed much since 1998, though some key plot points are expanded upon to play out in a more modern fashion.In the game, you’ll control Leon or Claire as they explore the Raccoon Police Department and its surrounding areas to not only escape but discover the cause of the outbreak. The characters each have their own unique characteristics that separate their campaigns – they’ll meet different people on their journey and acquire different weapons too – but it’s really, really recommended that you see the story through with both characters to get the full picture.
This is a simplified, more streamlined version of the “zapping” system that played out in the original game. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but now honestly, I believe it’s a better way to handle the plot. No more debates over how a certain character died, or if a certain character got infected, as it’s all laid out here no matter what order you play the game in. Leon and Claire experience the same story from two different sides, which just makes a little bit more sense.But enough about the plot. Just how does it play?
Thankfully, Resident Evil 2 largely resembles the game you played back in 1998 with some modern improvements. Despite the new camera, the game is structured similarly to an older style of Resident Evil game, throwing you into a semi-open area to explore and discover a way out. Fans of the first half of Resident Evil 7 will know what to expect here; you’ll explore an area, probably get lost, solve some (surprisingly tough) puzzles and take out (or sneak around) some macabre enemies.
The greatest thing about Resident Evil 2 is just how different the whole experience is without betraying the spirit of the original. Despite knowing the original game entirely, I was still faced with surprises and even some scares too. Some of the late game areas and the enemies found within them have been redesigned in a way that makes them intimidate more than I’d ever imagined they would.What results is a game that is much harder than previous Resident Evil games, perhaps the hardest one in the series. Gone are the days where you could just escape from a room if the enemies inside are overwhelming you – instead in the modern Resident Evil 2 they follow you and persist. This sounds a little bit annoying, and sometimes it can be, but there are some rooms that are safe that give players a breather and stop things from getting frustratingly difficult.
The new camera and greater control of Leon or Claire means that the enemies they fight must be more agile and challenging – and they are. In the original game you’d be comfortable running past a zombie or sneaking past a Licker or even escaping the Tyrant. In the remake, everything moves quicker, everything is more dangerous, and everything is much less lenient.This beautifully dovetails when you’re in bit of a bind and have a few different types of enemies chasing after you. Tyrant might be marching towards you, so you’ve got to run; but there’s a group of Lickers in the next room who will attack you if you do anything but walk, but there’s likely some loud zombies hanging around too. It becomes a tense balancing act and one that encapsulates perfectly what Resident Evil is all about – picking your battles and managing yourself effectively.
It’d be remiss to not mention that some things are missing from this remake – enemies like the Crows, Spiders, Enhanced Lickers and the Moth did not make the cut in this reimagining. While disappointing for fans of the original – I’d argue these cuts aren’t dramatic. What is on offer here is still fantastically paced and well-presented to the point where I didn’t even notice these elements were missing initially. The two campaigns still feel complete and I’m convinced that both hardcore fans and new players will appreciate what’s on offer here.That one thing that is absolute, on the other hand, is the presentation. Resident Evil 2 is without a doubt one of the best-looking Resident Evil games. Every zombie and every creature writhe in a way that’s not only realistic to look at but totally unsettling. Every light source, whether bright or dim, bathes the room it’s in to appropriately set the scene with an ambience like no other. Impressively, this is one of the best-looking games I’ve ever played and yet the game still manages to maintain a very steady and smooth 60 frames per second too.
One aspect of Resident Evil 2 that’s bound to divide fans will be the approach to the soundtrack, which has been reworked and completely re-done for this reimagining. The score has subtle notes of the old soundtrack embedded within but is completely new and original pieces that have a much more subdued vibe to them.Where the original game played music constantly no matter where you were, the modern Resident Evil 2’s soundtrack is only really heard during key moments. I personally love the score – the loud and booming orchestral backings that play during some of the boss battles are sublime, but otherwise Resident Evil 2 is a quiet game that uses sound sparingly to sell its mood.
When all is said and done – despite a few cuts – the question remains as to whether it’s worth it. Thankfully, Resident Evil 2 feels as complete as ever, perhaps more so than the last release of Resident Evil 7. Each of the campaigns takes about six to eight hours to complete, perhaps even more if you’re going into the game completely fresh to the experience. Many would ask if it was worth playing through with both characters – and I say absolutely. The story beats and scenarios you find yourself in are distinct enough to warrant a second play. Add to this the 4th Survivor and Tofu (yes, Tofu) mini-games and Resident Evil 2 feels like a complete package.
THE XBOX ONE VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED ON AN XBOX ONE X FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Resident Evil 2 takes a masterpiece and twists it until it resembles something completely new without betraying the spirit of the original. There’s some very, very minor cuts that’ll no doubt upset some fans; but these are ultimately unnoticeable as what Capcom has offered up is an absolute triumph. Resident Evil 2 provides a new way to experience a classic and a very welcome reminder that the old style of Resident Evil is not dead. If anything, it’s finally back.