For many long-time gamers, the Resident Evil series was a cornerstone of survivor horror games since the early days of the original PlayStation. Over the years the franchised has undergone changes, for better or worse, that have taken the games in many directions outside of survival horror. But it was only until Capcom decided to go back to the original PlayStation entries of the series and modernize them for a new era, returning to its roots that made the series so iconic. This continues with the revival of Resident Evil 2, a complete reimagining of the classic game of the same name from 1998.
From the very start, Resident Evil 2 is leaps and bounds better looking than the original. The RE engine that Capcom uses for this new vision of Resident Evil 2 makes every detail about Raccoon City look spectacular and terrifying. The biggest part of the visuals that make this game live up to the series legacy is the dramatic lighting, which sets a horrifying and tense atmosphere that RE fans are going to love. Every character from the original and every zombie and monster you encounter looks amazing, with a high amount of detail that really stands out. Even the most basic of zombies you find throughout the Racoon City Police Department looks intimidating and scary.
The sounds and music you hear throughout are a great compliment to the visuals. Sometimes you’ll find yourself terrified simply from hearing a faint clicking or grunt in the distance. But even then the absence of sound can be enough to make you feel uneasy about opening a door to the next room or walking down the hallway. Resident Evil 2 does a really great job of using subtle things to help intensify the atmosphere, rather than trying to constantly set up an action piece or big event constantly throughout. The best moments come from a slow build-up and a huge payoff that will have you being terrified of what’s happening but wanting to continue onward.
What’s great about this remake of Resident Evil 2 is how it changes up certain aspects of the original game for the better without compromising many iconic or classic elements from it. There are no tank controls or tedious fixed camera angles here, but instead, an over-the-shoulder third-person view that allows you to see and take in everything around you much better. Whether you’re exploring the tight corridors of the police department for items and clues or targeting a monstrous group of zombies slowly coming at you, you’ll marvel just how much detail was put into every aspect of the game’s environment and enemies.
Picking up new items and combining them for better usage definitely feels like something pulled straight out of the original game, but tweaked to be more polished and intuitive for many of the puzzles you need to solve. They’re definitely not hard to figure out, but often require you to gather items scattered around and really take a look at how they can be used at the time.
The controls are responsive and work well even in the tensest or restrictive situations you might yourself in. Targeting nearby zombies feels more in line with Resident Evil 4, where you can quickly ready your weapons and shoot just about any body part of your target you’re staring at. This doesn’t make you overpowered, however, so you still need to be careful to pick & choose your battles wisely. Trying to be trigger happy is a very quick way to get you killed in this game, as well as an easy way to waste the limited resources available to you.
This take on the gameplay works very well with many big boss fights in the game, which not only make the iconic monsters look even better but also the fights very different and a lot more fun to play. There are some few instances when some of the bosses seem a bit overpowered more than they should, with hit detection feeling a little bit off, but the majority of them are well-designed and pay a lot of respect to their original incarnations. Seeing the Tyrant appear and ominously follow you throughout the police department is intimidating, scary, and one of the best experiences you can have in Resident Evil 2.
Much like in the original game, there are two stories to follow and two characters to play as, Leon Kennedy and Clair Redfield. Each has their own paths and unique events that occasionally coincide, but the majority of their experiences will be different from one another. Leon might get a shotgun early on inside the police department, while Clair would instead discover a grenade launcher within the same location. The overall plot of the game is almost identical to the original, but some things are changed for the better to give more emotional weight or dramatic presentation to the events that happen.
What’s interesting is how the same interactions with certain characters are different in tone depending on who you play as, even though they have the same outcomes in the plot. The boss fights you encounter also end up being the same with the exception of a few instances that are character specific. Playing through both paths is well worth it to see everything, but then you gain additional modes for both characters once you finish each path. This gives you more events for either Leon or Clair that take place within the opposite character’s story, with a few things mixed around in the areas you visit.
This makes Resident Evil 2 lend itself very well to multiple playthroughs. There’s a bunch of unlockable concept art and bonus material to unlock by completing each story and finishing all of the game’s many challenges. You can obtain bonus weapons and outfits for both Leon and Clair, as well as download more content online that adds to the game.
Earning everything will take a lot of time and multiple playthroughs, however, as you won’t be able to get everything the first time you start or within one run of the story. Some of these challenges to earn the bonus content can be a little vague and require you to really explore the environment to figure them out, but they are obtainable and yield some great rewards. Beyond the game’s true ending there are some additional modes that are very spoiler heavy, but they’ll definitely put a smile on the faces of RE fans who know the original game inside and out.
Resident Evil 2 is a fantastic remake of the classic game from the PlayStation and lives up to the series legacy in a grand fashion. This is survival horror modernized and given new life for a new generation. Newcomers to the series are getting some of the best aspects of Resident Evil presented in an entirely new fashion that will also appease long-time fans. The visuals are great and really set up an awesome atmosphere of fear and anxiety that is made all the better by the soundtrack and interesting gameplay. If you wanted to get into the Resident Evil series via a good starting point, this is the best way to do so.
This review is based on a digital review code for Resident Evil 2 for the PlayStation 4, provided by Capcom.