Resident Evil 2, as it was in 1998, is survival horror at its absolute best
When it was announced Resident Evil 2 was being remade for next generation consoles, fans of the series were both horrified and hopeful. Would this be a faithful remake to a beloved and iconic game? Or, would people be subjected to the prospect of a brazen cash grab; just a lacklustre remastering of the original PlayStation One version?
Thankfully the latter is not the case. After exploring the nostalgic and oppressive corridors of the Raccoon City Police Department, and cravenly fleeing from any zombie threat, this game is clearly the furthest from a cash grab a remake has ever been.
Resident Evil 2 has been rebuilt from the ground up in such a way that exudes a profound care and appreciation to the source material, and an understanding of what made it such a compelling and terrifying game in the first place. Love for this game, it seems, has become just as undying as its shambling zombies.
You’re given a new perspective, literally, of your surroundings. The original game, in all its pixelated horror, was a frustrating-yet-frightening mixture of zombies, fixed camera angles and clunky controls. This remake on the other hand gives you the over-the-shoulder view that was first introduced in Resident Evil 4 and which quickly became the standard in future releases.
With this new update, protagonists Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield have never looked so good. The gorgeously grotesque graphics lend to the game a level of horror and fear that was almost impossible to convey in older iterations of Resident Evil. Sure, being in the sewers section midway through the game was, by all accounts, terrifying in 1998 when the game first released. But with the capabilities of next-generation consoles you feel more immersed in this zombie-infested maze than is comfortable.
Fan service goes through the roof the first time you see the Raccoon City Police Department, where much of the first act takes place, and it doesn’t stop there. Traversing the narrow hallways and blood-spattered rooms of the macabre building fills you with an oppressive dread, and your dwindling supplies will have you triple checking your decisions. Resident Evil 2, as it was in 1998, is once again survival horror at its absolute best.
The first few hours of the game deliver powerful pangs of nostalgia in the best possible way. The classic scene of Leon and Claire being separated by an errant lorry ploughing unceremoniously into their car sent chills down my spine, evoking the same reaction as the first time around.
The controls of the game have been redone as well. In the original version you were unable to aim your gun and move at the same time. True to a 90’s survival horror game, you were essentially battling against the game’s own clunky controls and this helped to create a certain fear while playing; not being able to back off from an enemy as you shoot or being able to quickly change your position for example.
However, these sorts of unintuitive controls aren’t things we come to expect from a game being released in 2019. The small quality of life changes like this are a truly welcome relief as they’ve been implemented without sacrificing anything in terms of gameplay and design.
For better or worse, Resident Evil 2 does deviate at times from the source material. Most notably in the remake you no longer hurriedly take shelter in Kendo’s gun shop, an iconic area in the game’s introduction. There are other moments however, where it doesn’t quite deliver, and these are painfully obvious when you’re running around the streets of Raccoon City; as full of zombies as it is, it is entirely empty and bland in an altogether un-scary way.
For veteran fans, the police department will not be how you remember it, but it’s certainly how you always wanted it to look. You can rest easy knowing that the classic, if somewhat inexplicable puzzles are still present in the game for you to solve and have you question all over again why, oh why, do these type of puzzles exist in a police station?
With all these changes in mind, the game is not without glaring issues. There are some clunky AI mapping which sees zombies behave more stupid than scary at times, and after you’ve been chased by the monstrous hulking Tyrant (a freaky mutated superhuman) for the fourth time you’re hit with diminishing returns on the scare factor trying to be elicited.
Further to this, Resident Evil 2 is a short game, with some people being able to finish the original in under an hour. It raises concerns as to the replay value. While you do have in total four different story scenarios, unlike the original they unfortunately don’t differ too much between each play through.
Overall, Resident Evil 2 is a beautifully immersive and polished game which resets the tired and lazy standard for survival horror games. It’s by no means reinventing it, as the Resident Evil franchise really set that standard back in the 1990s and you’d hope that from this, you’ll begin to see this type of ‘old school’ survival horror game, and remakes of this quality beginning to become the norm.