With a heavy emphasis on intense gore and moody atmosphere, the remake of Resident Evil 2 is more horrifying than its ever been. While there is much of the original’s DNA here to satisfy those who grew up playing the now 21-year-old classic, Capcom has made some significant changes to make it feel like a completely new experience. Resident Evil 2 is now the benchmark for how a remake should be handled as it understands exactly what made the original so memorable in the first place while modernizing it for today’s standards.
Unlike the recent Onimusha remaster, Resident Evil 2 is a from-the-ground-up remake. Everything here has been made from scratch to accommodate the change from pre-rendered backgrounds to full 3D explorable environments. Enemy locations and puzzles have been changed, items have been moved, and large chunks of the story now play out in new and unexpected ways. Resident Evil 2 also brings with it new locations to explore and places a much larger spotlight on some of its original supporting cast, giving characters like Lieutenant Marvin Branagh more to do here than his one-and-done appearance in the original. With absolutely gorgeous visuals and some stellar voice acting, this modern remake is better than the original in every way, setting a new standard for the series to follow.
Once again, players will take on the roles of either Leon Kennedy, or Claire Redfield. Leon has come to Raccoon City to start his new life at the Raccoon City Police Department, while Claire is in search of her brother, Chris, a protagonist from the first entry in the series. The two quickly meet up and then are separated from one another almost immediately, forced to go their own way if they are to survive. Each of those paths are available as separate playthroughs for the both of them, allowing the game to be played from essentially four perspectives, even if much of the content itself remains largely the same. Apart from that, there are two additional experiences to unlock as well, with more to be added in the near future for free, but I’ll go more into depth on those later on in the review.
Each character will share a considerable amount of content between each playthough, but the means of why you traverse the same locations will be slightly different to both Leon and Claire. That said, there are large portions of each narrative, as well as a few locations, that are exclusive to each of them. Leon will always meet up with FBI Agent Ada Wong, and Claire will encounter the young Sherry Birkin. While the second playthrough will have the same overall story, the starting place will be changed as will certain puzzles and some aspects of the story.
Choosing who to start your initial playthrough with will all depend on how you want the early game to play out. During my second playthrough with Leon, he ended up missing out on conversing with a central character and had a very different interaction with them altogether. While there was a clear sign that Claire had been through the area, at least when I entered the main hall, the rest of my progression was as if she hadn’t been present at all. In regards to how the playthroughs play out, I would say my only disappointment is that they could have made each campaign a bit more unique this time around given the care and attention they gave to what they changed from the original and how well those changes benefited the overall experience.
Resident Evil 2 returns to the horror roots of the original games and less of what the series had evolved into with Resident Evil 5 and 6; games that were far more action focused and seemed to have left the horror elements of the series behind. Resident Evil 2 can often be terrifying, having you often question what lurks around every corner, or what event could trigger the appearance of a licker, or a pack of zombie dogs. While there are several threats here apart from zombies, it is those undead that really take the spotlight here, revamped for better and for worse. Resident Evil 2 has some of the best looking and animated zombies the genre has ever seen, making the approach to each slumped over body fixed with ample bouts of paranoia as you attempt to move past them. While you’ll often want to save ammo for more menacing threats, the zombies you do choose to gun down can often require more shots to the head than it really should take. I’ve unloaded five to six shots right between the eyes and still have them get up to take a few more. It is possible to one-shot them to the head, but the chances of that happening aren’t nearly as often as you would think.
The Resident Evil series has always been about elaborate puzzles and tracking down specialty keys to unlocked a door or gain access to a room that will often contain a much sought after item or yet another key that will let you progress further down the road. You’ll find various items that you’ll need to examine that will contain an item that you’ll combine with yet another item to then unlock yet another item to use elsewhere. Thankfully, the map system here is phenomenal as not only will it tell you where certain rooms are but it will also indicate what items you have left in those rooms and whether you’ve cleared it out, making you aware of where some much needed bullets are or those herbs you left on the desk due to your inventory being full. To accommodate all those herbs, bullets, and guns you’ll pick up and discover, you can upgrade your inventory space by finding additional pouches. Some of these are found just laying around, but a few will require a special key or the combination to a safe.
Both Leon and Claire have similar puzzles for the most part, but how you come across them is usually different in some way. Each consecutive playthrough will change up most of the puzzle solutions to keep it interesting, as well as how you may have solved them the first time around. Thankfully, Capcom went through and altered every single puzzle from the original while also adding new ones to keep veteran players on their toes.
After you have beaten at least two of the playthroughs with Leon and Claire, you’ll unlock the 4th Survivor, a tale of horror starring Hunk, an Umbrella solider who is attempting to escape. He is outfitted with a great deal of healing and firepower and must traverse a fairly sizable path in order to make it out alive. Beating this mode will unlock Tofu, a fan-favorite character that was present in the original. If the name sounds a bit weird, keep in mind that Tofu is, in fact, a giant piece of Tofu with a small little hat and a knife. Capcom recently announced that additional campaigns will start hitting the game in mid-February as part of a free batch of downloadable content, featuring characters and scenario’s that were not present in the original release. This is wonderful to see happening, especially from Capcom, a company that has been notoriously known for charging for extra content.
Using the RE engine from Resident Evil 7, this remaster is the best the series has ever looked and quite honestly, it’s one of the best looking games in recent memory. The amount of detail to the characters is staggering as their outfits have some truly fantastic details. The environments are full of equally impressive detail as well and the focus on offering us up dark and moody locations is furthered along with a solid use of the flashlight, giving you just enough light to emphasis the shuffling zombies down the hallway or the lickers that are crawling across the ceiling. The lighting present in the game is almost masterful in its execution and allows even the most simplistic hallway to become something of pure horror.
The updated visuals and 3D environments allow Resident Evil 2 to escape the original’s tank controls and provides full 3D movement much in the same way that the series introduced with Resident Evil 4. Controlling any of the main characters here is extremely fluid and yet allows the game to feel as intense as ever. Due to how the game is constructed, there are no loading screens or breaks in the gameplay apart from when a cutscene is triggered. This allows the world to feel more real and offer up much better pacing during intense action moments that would have had their impact ruined by a animation of a door opening or your character going up or down a staircase as what was present in the original release. The ability of doors opening within their environment now allows a character like Mr X, a large imposing tyrant, to stalk you in a more believable manner as the pre-rendered doors of the past would halt him in his tracks until you moved out of view of the door.
Featuring an all new voice cast, Resident Evil 2 does stray considerably from providing the usual campy and cheesy voice acting that the series is often known for. Nick Apostolides and Stephanie Panisello are rather good here as Leon and Claire, respectively, and compliment the characters well. The supporting cast does waver here and there, but Jolene Anderson (Ada Wong), and Christopher Mychael Watson (Marvin Branagh) are extremely solid here with stand out performances. While there isn’t really anything score-wise that is as memorable, the music and sound does a great deal to earn the atmosphere the game is shooting for. For those who have purchased the Deluxe edition, you can rock the original game’s soundtrack, even if it isn’t used in exactly the same way due to the more open world nature of how the environments work now. Where the game truly stands out is through its use of sound effects. Most of my time with the game was through the use of headphones as Resident Evil 2 supports binaural sound, allowing the sound to push its audio all around you. Hearing the footsteps of Mr X. walk around and the direction of his presence is truly terrifying, especially when you hear the sound stop and the door swing open. Not since Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice have I been so impressed with a game’s use of directional sound.
Capcom is the originator of survival horror, a phrase that was coined by the developer with the original Resident Evil. By returning to the roots of where the series came from, it has shown to have full confidence in its brand and where the series is heading. With gorgeous visuals, a haunting use of sound, and new tricks to surprise the series faithful, Resident Evil 2 is a superb remake that has raised the bar and put Capcom back in the throne as the survival horror king.
Resident Evil 2 was purchased by the reviewer.
All Screenshots were taken on an Xbox One X.