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Resident Evil 2 Remake Review

The classic formula, refined.

by Kyle Hanson

The Resident Evil series is mostly broken up into two distinct eras. There’s the survival-horror classics, and the action-fests that followed RE4. Lately, such as with 2017’s Resident Evil 7, Capcom has worked to merge the older style with more modern gameplay sensibilities. Nobody wants to run around using tank controls and fixed cameras anymore. So with Resident Evil 2, the team had a lot of work ahead of them. And with the specter of one of the best remakes of all time in the Gamecube REmake hanging over its head, the pressure was truly on. Clearly that pressure wasn’t a factor as RE2 lives up not only to the original, but to the series’ pedigree as one of the best franchises in horror gaming.

This new remake of Resident Evil 2 follows the same overall plot as the 1998 classic. Players start off by choosing between RE2’s two main characters. Each has their own semi-unique story. Leon is arriving on his first day as a rookie cop, while Claire is searching for her missing brother: Chris Redfield of Resident Evil 1 fame. While these characters technically have their own story, much of the content is recycled between the two. You’ll even be solving a lot of the same puzzles, and searching for the same items.

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It’s a bit of a narrative disconnect, and the second time through the horrors of Raccoon City aren’t as impactful as the first, but it helps flesh out the game and its story. If you finish one chapter and not the other, you will be missing out, though it would have been nice if more had been put into separating these two characters’ stories and especially the puzzles. The original release was pretty similar, with this remake just merging together elements from what used to be four much more alike campaigns. So it’s not a loss, but it is still worth noting that these aren’t two totally separate campaigns. More like two different flavors of the same one.

Like its predecessor, this is one of the best remakes of all time, hands down.

Playing as either Leon S. Kennedy or Claire Redfield, you must survive the nightmarish, zombie-infested town of Raccoon City. You’ll explore the Raccoon Police Department, searching for puzzle pieces and helpful items/weapons; all while being chased, tormented, and attacked by the various mutated creatures that hide within. As the danger grows, and you meet fellow survivors, you’ll start to figure out just what went wrong here. What wiped out all of Raccoon City and turned its populace into flesh-eating monsters? If you live long enough, you might find out.

Resident Evil 2 impressed back in 1998 with its gory, tense, and truly scary adventure through a ruined city. However, its tank controls, fixed-cameras, and other antiquated elements clearly needed an upgrade on their way to a 2019 release. Capcom could have taken a light touch, editing around a few things while updating the graphics and securing a decent, if underwhelming release. That’s not how Capcom does things though, as evidenced by the original Resident Evil remake on Gamecube.

Still considered one of the best remakes of all time, that game showed the power of a caring team being given free-reign to update and rework a true classic. They’ve done it again with Resident Evil 2 Remake. This game is simply phenomenal in all the ways it needs to be. You’ll be saying “wow” and finding yourself in disbelief all throughout RE2 Remake, as you see how gorgeous it is, but also how well it plays.

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Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first: Resident Evil 2 looks fantastic. The RE Engine has been impressing for years, with RE7 offering stellar visuals and atmosphere two years ago. It’s clearly been updated over those intervening years, because the RE2 remake is gorgeous. Characters, textures, lighting, all of it is at or near the top of its league, and being layered on top of what was already a well-crafted game just makes it all that much better.

Resident Evil 2 is seen by many as the pinnacle of early RE games. Featuring a rewarding and interesting story, the game still held true horror within the dimly lit halls of RPD and areas beyond. Of course, with the RE series moving more toward action in its later entries, and the proliferation of zombies across all media, the scares were either going to be absent in the remake or at least be tough to pull off.

This is especially true as the RE2 remake shifts to a more traditional third-person camera angle, giving players more control over what they see and do. Thankfully, the team behind this game have found truly brilliant ways to ratchet up the scares. From its first few moments, Resident Evil 2 will make players feel tense, scared, and all those other adrenaline-pumping emotions they crave from survival-horror games. How it pulls this off is through some really inventive positioning of enemies, and the general dread created by the sound design, and the fact that enemies could be ready to pounce on you around every corner.

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Does the game cheat a bit to create this atmosphere? Yep. Zombies take a ton of bullets to truly bring them down. Sure, a couple of headshots, each of which tears away parts of the zombie’s rotted flesh in gory, realistic, and impressive fashion, will bring them to the floor, but that doesn’t mean they’re dead. If you really want to make sure they go down and don’t come back up, it can take entire clips of ammo, or more. This can create less fear and more frustration at times, as you (and your character) exclaim how ridiculous it is, but it works exceptionally well overall.

The only areas where it feels like Resident Evil 2 truly falters are when it loses its pacing.

Adding to this are various boss or mutated creatures that truly strike fear into the hearts of players. Never before has walking into a room and hearing the sound of a Licker been more terrifying as it is in Resident Evil 2’s remake. The Tyrant has also been improved, and has shifted from an intermittent story point to an ever-present nightmare. Whenever he’s around, you know it, and there’s not much you can do but run and hide. Hearing Tyrant stomp around brought back memories of Alien: Isolation, in all the right ways.

In fact, sound plays a massive role throughout all of Resident Evil 2. The Tyrant can strike fear with just his thumping foot steps, but every creature has their own unique way to make players soil themselves. The lowly zombie, which often becomes fodder for bullets to the brain, can make sounds you’ll remember in your worst nightmares. It all comes to life through some fantastic audio tech, which starts with Dolby Atmos support and expands with binaural audio that puts you right into the game. Playing Resident Evil 2 late at night, in the dark, with your surround sound speakers/headphones turned way up will make you feel like a scared child again…which is exactly what it should do.

So Resident Evil 2 nailed all the things it had to to live up to the original, but does it stand on its own? Will someone like this game if they never played the 1998 original? If you like survival-horror, then absolutely. In fact, if this were a brand new game, it’d still be deserving of this high praise I’m lavishing onto it. RE2 has a great story, with interesting characters, in an intriguing universe, and it offers fun, challenging gameplay that is capped off with some truly frightening atmosphere.

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The only areas where it feels like Resident Evil 2 truly falters are when it loses its pacing. The RPD area is great, and feels like you’re always exploring someplace new, or working through the maze-like hallways in an orderly fashion. There’s backtracking, but it all works well. The second area you explore hurts the pacing immensely with its meandering structure and dull design. It doesn’t kill the player’s enjoyment of the game, but it feels like a slog, and the extra  story elements this remake add don’t help a ton. Things get back on track, and RE2 doesn’t overstay its welcome like so many other horror titles, but if editing was an option, there were some areas where a larger, sharper knife could have been applied.

The Verdict

From top to bottom, Resident Evil 2 is a stellar achievement from a team that obviously loved the source material and went to great lengths to update and enhance it without losing that original magic. Its few faults either lie in the original source material, or are added elements that don’t truly detract from the game’s worth. Like its predecessor, this is one of the best remakes of all time, hands down.

"loved"
loved

Resident Evil 2

  • Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
  • Published By: Capcom
  • Developed By:
  • Genre: Survival-Horror
  • US Release Date: January 25th, 2019
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One
  • Quote: "From top to bottom, Resident Evil 2 is a stellar achievement from a team that obviously loved the source material and went to great lengths to update and enhance it without losing that original magic."
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