Classic horror with a new coat of paint.
This is it: the day has come. 17 years since the first Resident Evil Remake broke the windows of our homes and made us explore once again the Spencer Mansion, now it’s time to get back to Raccoon City in order to survive alongside Claire and Leon. It’s no lie that I’m a huge fan of the Resident Evil franchise as I stated here and there, yet I wanted to analyze this title with precise detail in order to see if the experience was worth the hype and the wait. Come with me, as we are going to enter the world of true survival horror in this Resident Evil 2 review.
Your best and worst nightmare
Before talking about the wrongs and the rights, I have to address the mutant elephant in the room: Resident Evil 2 and its comeback to survival horror roots. Capcom had the great idea to create Resident Evil 7 only to realize that making horror games can indeed make a good profit. Thus, we have to thank RE 7 for this remake, even if now that I played it the 7th entry feels like an experiment to test the waters. And let me tell you: this time, you will have TRUE survival horror vibes.
Resident Evil 2 manages to create an atmosphere of tension and darkness that I’ve never seen since The Evil Within 2. Even if we no longer have fixed cameras, the pitch-black locations and the constant sound of the zombies in the streets of Raccoon City – as well as the stomps of a certain enemy I’ll address later – are some of the things that made me scream (yes, SCREAM) while playing this game. You will never feel safe in any area, nor you will have tons of ammo to go on a zombie killing spree. You have to survive using your own wit and tactical approach to situations that will test you. Should I kill that Licker and waste some precious ammo of my most powerful gun? Or should I leave it and take the risk of having to get back to this place but with some spare ammo to face bigger foes? The choices are yours and yours alone, even if at times taking the risky route can be a little bit tedious in the later levels.
You see, in Resident Evil 2 we face one of the best types of zombies I’ve ever seen in a video game. When something as basic as a minor zombie becomes a dangerous threat, you know you are doing something amazing as a developer. The infected population of Raccoon City are quite resilient to the old Vitamin Bullet to the Brain, as now 4 headshots won’t be enough to kill them and it will only make them scarier due to the new decal system that peels off their skin and fabric when you shoot at them. This also helps to the horror aspect of the game, as watching a zombie with its face muscle tissue exposed coming against you in order to bite your neck can be a good way to control your intestinal transit. However, if this is really amazing and adds to the tension on the first half, later it will become a huge pain to deal with, as getting rid of that annoying zombie blocking your way only to see that 5 bullets to the forehead are doing absolutely nothing will make you groan as loud as them.
Two of a kind
Horror aside, now it’s time to talk about our main protagonists: Leon and Claire. Now, if you played the original Resident Evil 2, you know the drill about it: two campaigns called Scenarios that have differences regarding some areas you visit and some characters you find. And of course, when you finished the A Scenario with one character, you then unlocked the B Scenario of the other character. It was fun, interesting and it gave the game tons of replayability, as you even were able to leave some objects for the other character to pick up in its B scenario. Only 2 objects though, and there were some moments of narrative inconsistency, but it was still pretty cool stuff for a 1998 game. But now we are in 2019, and this question has to be asked: is this the same thing as in the PSX title? Well… Not really.
You see, in this remake, we still have to play as Leon or Claire as we experience basically 95% of the things and places they visited in the original game. However, the connection between these two scenarios is non-existent if you compare it to the original. In the A Scenario, the character you chose faced different enemies and bosses and had to deal with them in different places or in different forms of mutation. But in 2019, you visit practically the same areas and literally fight against the same bosses even if it doesn’t make sense. You have to grab the same things, do the same puzzles and you even find most of the weapons parts in the same areas. Granted, some of the puzzles like the statues change its solution in order to make things a little bit more interesting and you have less ammo for your weapons on the 2nd run, but it’s not that great. And speaking about boss battles…
In terms of what we face in this Remake, Resident Evil 2 has the same issue as in the original title: the boss battles are just dumb. Don’t get me wrong, they are amazing in terms of visuals and watching you-know-who turning into you-know-what never gets old, yet they can be summed up as “hit the glowy part until it dies”. Doing this once it’s okay, but having to do it twice with a different character doesn’t feel as good as the first time. Oh, and hope you like one-hit kill attacks, because in the A Scenario the final boss has one that it’s a HUGE pain to evade. And now that we are talking about annoying things, let’s talk about Mr. X.
The Tyrant 00 (A.K.A. The Ultimate Bio-weapon) is one of the best enemies of the franchise, and it could come close to sit in the throne of persistent bastards alongside others like the Crimson Head or Nemesis. This guy is f*cking relentless, and his stomps are so loud and menacing that you’ll have PTSD every single time you are walking through a hallway at night. But of course, and repeat with me: it gets annoying on the latter half. You start to sense a pattern, right?
Mr. X doesn’t follow the laws of physics, as he can teleport from one area of the police station to the other one for the sake of convenient jumpscare moment. Although it’s pretty damn awesome to see him walk like he’s going to smack the sh*t out of you for not cleaning your room while pushing away zombies, sometimes the hallways do not help you evade him, thus, you get a free knuckle sandwich. And even if for the most part you are playing cat and mouse, it can feel unfair at times when you don’t have enough room to evade him (don’t bother shooting at him, he eats bullets for breakfast). Regardless of this, I can’t hate the big guy, he gives a fresh take to a character that was already amazing in the original game.
Modes, Models and Runs
Resident Evil 2 Remake takes the same route of its forerunner and gives the player the chance to play in different modes after beating the game. Once we complete the 2nd Run, we unlock The 4th Survivor Mode. In this mode, we control HUNK, one of the members of Umbrella Security Service that was sent to Raccoon City in order to obtain a sample of the G-Virus. This mode could be simply called “GET TO DA CHOPPA!“, as that’s what you have to simply do. Once we complete this mode, we unlock The Tofu Survivor, which is the same thing but harder, as we control a giant block of Tofu with a knife and a lovely beret. Fun yet hard as balls, so be warned.
As well as those modes, Resident Evil 2 will give us unlockables in the form of model viewers that we can fiddle with and concept arts that we can look at. It’s pretty damn stupid that the alternative costumes for Leon and Claire can only be bought for 5 bucks each (unless you bought the Deluxe Edition) but this is still Capcom, so I wasn’t expecting to find zombie Brad holding a key for a locker with alternative costumes inside of it.
Regarding replayability, we also have the 2nd Run with both characters, as well as obtaining an S rank on the A Scenario. By doing this, we will unlock new weapons that I won’t spoil but that I can assure you it will make you create some mayhem on the police station for sure. As far as I’m concerned, there are no Extreme Battles as in the original, but this shouldn’t be an issue as we will have a free new mode called The Ghost Survivors that will offer even more excuses to keep playing this title.
Return of the Living Dead
Let’s get something clear: even if there are issues in this game, Resident Evil 2 Remake is one of the best games I’ve played so far, and it easily shares the throne with the original RE 2. The atmosphere is dark and terrifying, the enemies you face are a real threat unlike in other titles like Resident Evil 6 and the bosses are memorable even if they can be repetitive when you play the second run immediately after the first one. Some stuff that I didn’t say like the lack of memorable tunes (if you have the original score do yourself a favor and turn it on, you’ll thank me later) or how backtracking to some areas feels more like a drag rather than an enjoyable thing to do are minor problems in a vast sea of amazing mechanics, visuals and overall fun factor in this remake. Because at the end of the day, no matter what people tell you, this game is a remake.
It may have bigger and new areas, but we follow the same premise as in the original game from 1998. Same twists, same encounters, same convenient McGuffins. Is this a bad thing? Not at all! If it worked back in the day, it can work nowadays as good as it did. And that’s the best sentence I can end this short review without addressing spoilers (I’ll write some extended thoughts soon, don’t worry about it): Resident Evil 2 is everything that made the original game click but improved in almost every single area. As a good friend of mine told me, this game does something that people love in video games: it makes the player experience tons of emotions. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll head back to Raccoon City in order to try and get an S+ rank.
Resident Evil 2
- Immersive atmosphere
- Every enemy feels like a real threat
- Survival Horror at its finest
- Visiting Raccoon City once again will bring tears to old fans
- Music is not really memorable
- Bossess are still bullet sponges
- No remarkable connection between scenarios