Two is a lucky number when it comes to our favorite horror franchises. We’ve got Silent Hill 2, Dead Space 2, Outlast 2, Fatal Frame 2, Condemned 2, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, and plenty others that would take way too much Googling. Fresh with capitol from their first success, studios are free to polish the core of the first game without scrambling for ideas that will inevitably tank the franchise. And of all the twos in two-town, perhaps no two can do that voodoo like Resident Evil 2. Considered by many to be the best of the classic (read pre-Resident Evil 4) franchise, a quick survey of the people sitting directly around me confirms that it’s the most requested remake of the whole franchise.
Now everyone is aware of the Capcom carousel of constant remastering, re-releases, and redos. Before there was Skyrim on the regrigerator, Resident Evil 4 saw life on consoles ranging from the GameCube to most recently the PS4. But every once in a while when the stars align and the Elder Gods of horror gaming see fit to anoint a new scion of their wicked ways, a new Resident Evil remake is born. Last seen back in 2002 on the GameCube, the remake of the original Resident Evil was many gamers’ (myself included) first introduction to the series. And now, with the Resident Evil 2 remake, a whole new generation of horror fans can see what all the fuss is about.
So right off the bat, this is a remake in the vein of the Resident Evil GameCube remake. Utilizing the Resident Evil 7 engine, the over-the-shoulder camera is akin to that of the more recent (post-Resident Evil 4) titles. As the original game came out in 1998, it should go without saying that this is a significant visual update. But what I really wanted to know was what else changed. When the GameCube remake came around, it came with major changes to the core gameplay. There were new levels, new bosses, new weapons, new puzzles, and the Crimson Heads that just refuse to stop haunting my nightmares. So when Capcom gave me the chance to get a hands-on demo, I wanted to see if the Resident Evil 2 remake was more than just a paint job.
Having played through the 30-odd minute Resident Evil 2 demo at E3, it’s actually easier to go over what hasn’t changed than the massive amount that has. First, you still play through as both Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield. The game also still takes place in part in the Racoon City Police Station. There are zombies to fight, and a Licker that though not present in the demo did make some background appearances. Aside from that, this is a totally new game. Rebuilt from the ground up, everything from enemy placement to the puzzles has been streamlined, reworked, and modernized.
The demo starts with Leon already in the station, but before he’s had any chance to explore. Just like the original Resident Evil 2, you initially have to go to the right to get your first key. Crawling under a stuck metal shutter, I was immediately struck by just how gorgeous this lighting system is. Long shadows crawl up the walls, and splatters of gore across the cramped hallway create an immediately tense and menacing atmosphere. I did my normal gamer thing of trying to find every little pick-up and collectible hidden in various pots and boxes, and was pleasantly rewarded with a few extra herbs and some health spray for me effort. This may sound like a trivial detail, but obsessive exploration is a key component to the survival horror experience. Resident Evil 2 has not forgotten this.
After making it to a room where some stuff happens that I won’t spoil, the game starts in earnest with the previously decorative corpses reanimating and shambling towards me. Readying my pistol and popping off a few rounds, I quickly learned that Resident Evil 2 is not fucking around. Seriously, it took like six headshots to down one of these assholes. By then, three more were already making their way towards me. I did my best to conserve ammo as I bolted down the corridor, stopping only to pop my head in some rooms to check for more ammo (old habits die hard). I actually managed to down the lot of them and buy myself some scavenging time, only to find that one of my previously dispatched foes was attempting to nibble me from behind like a stealthy lover giving me a surprise hickey. Turns out, just because a zombie has fallen down and stopped moving, doesn’t mean it’s dead.
I made it back to the the main hall where some plot happened. I was handed a knife, told I’m doing a super job, and sent to check out the corridor to the left this time. Fans of the original will remember this as the place where the first Licker shows up. So I clutched my pistol tightly, prepared to get my ass handed to me, and found… nothing. Turns out, this is one of those enemy placements that they have changed. I had a chance to chat with one of the devs after, who said that they wanted the Licker reveal to be a much bigger moment. Whether that means that the brainy tongue boy is now a boss or just later in the game, he wouldn’t say.
From here was more of the same polished Resident Evil 2 experience. Zombies popped out of cabinets and crawled through windows, and I solved a few puzzles to get myself a shotgun and pistol upgrade. One of the things to note is that the puzzles take advantage of the new mechanics. One was a dial lock puzzle that required you to look around the room for clues in a way that the original game’s camera wouldn’t facilitate. Another was a trial and error sequence puzzle that would have felt at home in the original. Overall, it was a good mix of old and new coming together.
I suppressed my gamer instincts to save ammo and played with the shotgun a little bit, pleased to find it turned zombie skulls into satisfying confetti balloons. Pretty soon I started running into some puzzles I didn’t have the right keys for, and was funneled back to the main hall where the demo ended. We didn’t get to see any of Claire, but I had seen enough to get a good sense of what the Resident Evil 2 remake is.
From what I’ve seen, the Resident Evil 2 remake is exactly what I want out of an actual remake of this classic survival horror game. It’s way more than just a visual overhaul. The entire game has been redesigned to modernize and account for the shift in perspective. Most importantly, it captures the soul of what made Resident Evil such a lasting franchise. The environments are stuffed with visual clues and little puzzles, and exploration is as terrifying as it is rewarding. I’ve been promised by the devs that even more cool new stuff is in store, including new areas, bosses, weapons, etc. Over the course of playing the demo, I went from mildly curious to stoked. Both classic fans and series newcomers, this is one to keep an eye on.
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