Before I start with this review, I think it only fair to mention I’m an old school gamer and the Resident Evil series are up there as one of my favourites. Resident Evil 2 just happens to be my favourite game of my favourite series and I may or may not have been waiting for this to happen since the announcement of the Resident Evil 1 remaster on the GameCube waaaaaay back in 2001. That being said, this does not mean I had already trained myself to love the game before playing it, in fact it ran the risk of destroying the fond memories I had of a cherished game. A game that I attended a midnight launch for and developed a mysterious illness that kept me home from school and mysteriously cleared up when I had completed it. Due to my love of the game and my attempts to keep the review as neutral as possible, I have tried to keep any preconceptions and nostalgia out of the review and tried to look at it from an objective standpoint rather than with rose-tinted glasses.
Resident Evil 2, for those who have not played it, is a direct sequel from the original game released in 1996…..and 1997…..and 2002…and 2008….and 2015. In the unlikely event you haven’t at least heard of the game, Resident Evil involved a special forces team called S.T.A.R.S investigating strange reports of a series of cannibalistic murders occurring in a creepy mansion in Racoon City. The first game followed 2 members of the team, Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, each with their own campaign and cast of characters across intersecting stories. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that zombies were involved and that it didn’t particularly end well for anyone. Fast forward 2 months and the virus was not contained and has spread, causing a mass outbreak in Raccoon City and decimating the entire area. The game opens with us meeting our new foolish heroes, Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie cop heading to the city to start his first day and Claire Redfield, sister of Chris who is rightly concerned that she has not heard from her brother since he left for the Spencer Mansion 2 months earlier. Like the first game, both characters follow the same basic path, this time through a huge Police station rather than a mansion, but like its predecessor, each character has unique companions and routes that only they can access. The game has moved away from this format over the years, but it truly adds a layer of depth and replay value that is not seen in many modern titles.
Upon starting the game, the player is given a choice as to which character they prefer to start with and treated to a stunning into sequence of the protagonist entering Racoon city. Both characters are led to a gas station on the outskirts of the city and run into each other by chance after meeting the games first zombies. As mentioned before, both Leon and Claire have varying stories and meet unique companions as they progress, but other than the weapons they can obtain, there is little difference between the 2. After both characters meet, they reach the city together before being separated and making their separate ways to the largest, most elaborate Police Station in the history of the modern world. From here, the stories follow a similar path but with variations along the way. The most notable of which being that both Claire and Leon meet a companion each that have a supporting role and a short playable section, both adding a different element to the gameplay but also fleshing out the rich story. The ingenious way in which Resident Evil 2 works however, is that each character only discovers part of what has happened to the city and why and in order to experience the full story, players will need to play through multiple times. This may seem like a cheap way in which to add replay value, especially to those new to the format, but it is important to see the game as a complete story split into 2 parts, with each character needed to see it all. This, in my opinion, works in a fantastic way and rather than feeling like a chore to complete the game again as another character, the game is so expertly crafted that it creates and excitement, leaving you wanting to start again as soon as the first credits roll. Both characters also have a ‘B Scenario’ to play through having completed the first playthrough with either of them but unlock alternately. The B scenario is slightly shorter but puts the player in the shoes of the other character and the game is played through their perspective, at the same time as the other playing through their campaign, for example Leon’s A campaign is paired with Claire’s B campaign and vice versa. This further fleshes out the story but also means that puzzles and items are not where they usually are and gives another new challenge, new sections and a true ending.
As for gameplay, Resident Evil 2 keeps the spirit of the original but manages to inject a modern flair that helps it feel like a brand-new game. Anyone who played the original Resident Evil trilogy or the superb remakes of Resident Evil 1 and 0, will likely remember how frustrating it was dealing with the ‘tank controls’. The character was controlled by pressing left or right to turn them on the spot and forwards and backwards to make them move. This doesn’t sound too bad on paper but I reality, made it VERY difficult when faced with more than one enemy. The kicker to the controls was that you could only shoot a weapon while being stood still so gameplay often consisted of; awkward turn, aim, shoot, move back a few steps, another awkward turn to aim, shoot, move back……repeat. This control method, twinned with static cameras led to some infuriating deaths that in all honesty, was no fault of the player. Resident Evil 2 however has given the entire control scheme and overhaul and plays similarly to the later, more action orientated titles such as 4,5 and 6. Although similar, when aiming, the camera doesn’t zoom in as far as it would with say Resident Evil 4, allowing for a more third person view as opposed to an over the shoulder viewpoint. This helps the game to feel much more modern and easier to play, without compromising the spirit of the original, which was no easy feat.
True to the original, the item system is the same, with both characters having a set number of slots on their person to carry essentials and the magic item chests are back, allowing for storage along the way. The type-writer system is also back which allows the game to be saved but before you fans collectively groan, you no longer need an ink cartridge to save unless you are playing on the hardest setting. As like every Resident Evil game, there are puzzles-a-plenty and in this iteration, I felt they were able to balance them between mind-numbingly easy and I-need-to-google this, as so many of the other games were one or the other. The combat in the remake has also had an overhaul and is much smarter than it has been in previous titles due to the way the areas of the game are set up. Adding a third person control scheme ran the risk of turning the title into an action game rather than a survival horror but the environments are used to force the player to make a decision about how they progress, and the lack of resources stop the player killing everything that moves.. Combine this with dark, tight corridors with ever present zombies leads to either some quick dodging or a few shots to drop a zombie and running before checking they are truly dead. The game also allows you to use boards scattered around the station to cover open windows but again, these are scarce. Players must study the map and work out where they may need to revisit before perhaps wasting boards on a section that may not need another trip. This helps to keep the game atmospheric and claustrophobic and at time, genuinely terrifying.
Most of the gameplay follows the core of the original but, there is one big difference in this game compared to its predecessor. Similar to Resident Evil 3 and Resident Evil 7, Resident Evil 2 contains a large, unkillable enemy that follows you throughout the game, adding another layer of fear to an already creepy game! Fear not, he is not present for the whole game but will turn up intermittently and slowly stalk you as you progress. He can basically travel anywhere you can and the only indication he is coming are the cumbersome footsteps drawing closer. This led to some very tense gameplay on my first playthrough as well as a large number of expletives when he caught me.
As for looks, Resident Evil 2 is absolutely stunning in every sense of the word. Like its predecessor, Resident Evil 7, the character models are realistic with a good range of emotions and the dialogue is well acted. Characters are dressed like actual people (no more hot pink double denim shorts and vest for Claire) and the zombie models are so varied that it almost felt like I didn’t see 2 the same. The zombies are an absolute work of art in themselves; with varying states of decay and all shapes sizes and genders it truly felt like each zombie could have a story as to how they ended up in the state they are. The gore throughout is absolutely visceral and holds nothing back, from a head split at the jaw to a poor soul being ripped in half allowing his intestines to spill out, every disgusting detail is present. As well as zombies, the other creatures are well designed and almost feel like they came from a Clive Barker movie, hellish but almost human mutations of varying forms. As well as enemies, the weapons used to dispose them feel more realistic than ever and each abomination shows bullet wounds in the place they are hit, with head slowly being ripped away by pistol fire rather than spectacularly exploding with one hit as they used too. The environments are also stunning, smoke and shadow are used to conceal enemies rather than the fixed camera angles of the past and every area drips atmosphere. The police station feels grand and well used, with desks full of files and storerooms full of junk hiding the unknown followed by the stark contrast of murky sewers and clinical laboratories, every area feels like it was is used right up until the virus hit. It’s hard to gauge graphics in the 4K age because in all honesty, most AAA games look stunning but Resident Evil 2 not only manages to look beautiful, but it feels beautiful, like every room has a story behind it.
Resident Evil 2 is not only a successful remake of a beloved classic, it is a masterpiece of modern gaming. Had it been released as a completely different game with a new name, it would still have been an absolute triumph of the survival horror genre and one that deserves to be played. The graphics and atmosphere are phenomenal, the story is deep and engaging and the replay value is much higher than most other games of the genre that often offer very little after the credits roll. If you like Resident Evil or if you like horror games, you need to play this game.
- Deep Gameplay.
- Rich story.
- Jaw-dropping graphics.
- Lots of Replay Value.
- Fans of the original may not like the addition of the Nemesis type character.