It has been over 20 years since gaming fans were introduced to the quintessential moment in Resident Evil lore: The outbreak at Raccoon City. The original 1998 release of Resident Evil 2 was a nightmare that endeared to gamers globally, but could Capcom’s double tap hit the mark in the anticipated remake in 2019?
Simply put the Resident Evil 2 remake is a masterful example of a what it means to redo a title that will likely redefine the meaning to developers and gamers alike in years to come. Every aspect of the original was beautifully redone from the ground up using the new Resident Evil engine.
Capcom’s wealth of experience developing the Resident Evil franchise showed. The brooding and ominous pacing of Resident Evil 7 made a sinister return in this classic. Gone are the frustrating tank controls that plagued the original installment. Instead, explorers of the horrors of Raccoon City will find the game is played in the over-the-shoulder third person, much like the Resident Evil 4-6 titles.
Straying away from the fixed camera angles of the original meant Capcom had to augment how they would terrify newcomers and veterans to the series. While the original title relied on fixed camera angles and foreboding sounds to conceal the danger ahead, the remake opted to use the primal fear of darkness and shadows to their advantage.
Each darkly-lit area is a new unknown fear the player must conquer. The terrorizing sound design is keen to remind the player of their hellish predicament. The drops of rain, your character’s heavy panting, the creaking of the buildings to the slow moaning and sluggish movement of what most certainly is a zombie hungering for your brains makes you question what it is exactly you’re doing here. It all helps build an ambiance of absolute anxiety-inducing terror.
As if any of this was not enough to scare you stiff, Mr. X (aka the trench coat tyrant) will run a chill through your spine. The fiendish spawn of the evil Umbrella Corporation, Mr. X is a juggernaut that will stalk you like a genetically modified mutant Robert De Niro in Cape Fear.
Once revealed, he will sporadically trail your path as you traverse through the various puzzles and pitfalls the levels have to offer. The worst part is all you can do is run.
Firing enough damage at the unstoppable villain can slow him down, but after a brief period of thinking over his life decisions, Mr. X will rise back to his feet Jason Voorhees-style, only to begin the hunt for your flesh once again. This renders your powers useless as a player, and puts you squarely at the abomination’s mercy.
What his presence entails is a situation that will cause many gamers to frantically lose their wits as they try to figure out a route to safety with him hot on your heels.
As if the terrifying possibility of a pack of undead wasn’t enough, the sound of Mr. X’s boots hitting the ground as he stumps around slowly but surely following your footsteps like an undead Sherlock Holmes that wants to rip you apart, is an unnerving experience that will have you screaming at your screen in desperation.
This is the essence of what makes Resident Evil great: pressure. Do I take out this zombie? Or do I conserve ammo? Do I use this herb now to heal? Or should I wait for later? Should I pick up this item now? Should I save space in my inventory? With, finally, the most important question being: How do I survive?
Your limited inventory and resources will often ask you to make these difficult decisions. Resource management and a conscious outlook on how to traverse through the outbreak are required, and is a glimpse at what endeared the vintage titles to so many fans. Players can alleviate this restriction with frugal use of items collected and by upgrading their inventory slots, but a sense of preparedness is sparingly ever achieved.
The game does a great job of providing enough resources to get through the journey, but not enough to ever feel comfortable enough to sit on your laurels. What results is a constant flux between periods of catching your breath, and stretches of constant clenching distress.
Survival has seen a return to the forefront of Capcom’s philosophy for the franchise, and is a needed return to it’s genesis.
The graphics for the title are stunning. The Resident Evil engine shines in the details of the textures and obscurity of the shadows. Most notably the facial expressions of the characters have been revamped. Whether it is the teenage looks of first day on the job rookie cop heartthrob Leon S Kennedy, or the overly optimistic Claire Redfield searching for her brother and protagonist of Resident Evil 1 Chris, the details of the characters ushers the classic title into the era of modern gaming.
The player is asked to choose between Leon or Claire’s campaign to start. There are structural differences to Leon and Claire’s playthroughs, but they are essentially two outlooks on the same story. Both characters however receive different weapons during their adventure.
Once players defeat the part A of the playthrough, they then unlock the ability to play part B. The B side also offers a different perspective on how the playthrough starts as well as a different conclusion. Different encounters that unnerved you in playthrough A are swapped around as you trail the aftermath of many of the events that occurred in the A side’s story.
Players can also unlock two additional mercenary campaigns; including fan favorite mercenary Hunk.
Overall it took nearly 10 hours for the first playthrough (I chose Leon to begin), but seasoned survivalists will soon find they will be pushing for quicker times. As is tradition with Resident Evil, each playthrough is graded with S+ being the highest rank. S rank can be achieved by beating the A side in less than three and half hours, while the B side must be completed in less than three hours. Achieving higher rankings unlocks various bonuses such as character costumes, models, and most notably starting with weapons that have infinite ammo. S+ rank can be achieved by completing any campaign in the S rank time on hardcore mode while saving the game less than three times and without using any infinite ammo weapons.
This remake is much more than a remake. It is the best Resident Evil game ever made. Capcom has put together a blend of what made the franchise great in the past with a willingness to apply standards learned from ironing out the kinks of a series that has seen its fair share of ups and downs. The result is a chilling survival horror masterpiece.
This game was reviewed using the PC version.