Capcom has been rather eager to re-release their older games on this current generation of consoles. However, none of their revivals have received nearly as much care as this reimagining of Resident Evil 2.
I'll be honest; I've never actually played the original Resident Evil 2. I was only 12 when the game released and I wasn't allowed to play violent games nor was I all that interested in them. As I got older, I never bothered to go back and check it out due to the aged mechanics and the vast amounts of newer games I was interested in playing. However, I have had a chance to watch some gameplay footage of the original game on YouTube to get a better understanding of its history and I've determined that it's not entirely fair to even refer to this new version of Resident Evil 2 as a remake. To me, it's more of an original game that was inspired by the 1998 version as a lot has been changed, upgraded, and improved. In other words, this version of Resident Evil 2 is so much more than a remake.
The action starts right away for our two playable heroes: Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield. After an opening cutscene sets an ominous tone, Leon and Claire immediately encounter their first group of zombies then narrowly avoid being blown to bits in a tanker explosion. Escaping the fire spreading across the streets, they split up and flee for shelter in the Raccoon Police Department.
Little do Leon and Claire know, the police department (formerly a museum) has already been inundated with zombies and most of the cops have already been killed or transformed into zombies. A hefty portion of the campaign takes place in the four stories of the police department that's filled with locked doors, secrets, upgrades, and key items that must be collected to proceed.
Resident Evil 2 excels at keeping you on the correct path while also offering you the ability to explore as much or as little as you want. Many of the side rooms don't offer anything essential but if you're willing to examine them, you'll be rewarded with useful items and ammo. Using the robust map, you can usually tell if you've missed any important locations that could hinder your progress. The map also tracks whether or not you've fully explored a room and acquired all of the items within it. There are a dozen or so puzzle rooms, some that must be solved to proceed and others that are optional and usually reward you with powerful ammo or weapon upgrades. Solving these puzzles is usually quite fun and none of them are tough enough that you'll get stuck.
Resident Evil 2's menacing ambiance is enhanced with plenty of creaking noises, dark rooms, and a few unexpected zombies that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It's suspenseful without being soul-shatteringly scary so those who aren't interested in horror games should still be able to enjoy the action and exploration that it offers. That being said, it is grotesquely gory in places.
Combat is simple and more fluid than in older Resident Evil games. You can move and aim without issue and overall, it feels like a modern action game. Zombies take an excessive amount of bullets to kill and it's hard to tell if they're actually dead or if they'll spring back up and attack again. There's no cheesing the enemies by shooting them in the leg then repeatedly stabbing them with your melee weapon as the combat knives break over time and don't do a whole lot of damage. That being said, there's no point where you'll feel completely overwhelmed by zombies and you'll almost always have the chance to run if you're low on ammo or simply want to avoid a fight.
Watch Resident Evil 2 in action
To watch the first hour of gameplay, check out our Let's Play Resident Evil 2 Remake video featuring our good friend GGRC.
Resident Evil 2 is the easiest one in the series that I've played, mostly because of its modern additions. The previously mentioned map improvements help you keep track of everything so you never have to wander around aimlessly. It also features an auto-save on Normal difficulty so you don't always have to restart at your last typewriter save and when you die, useful tips pop up about how to get past your current section. I felt like these tips were almost too friendly as they often told me exactly how to deal with an enemy or boss. Anyway, there are three difficulty levels to choose from that significantly alter the game. Assisted mode adds health regeneration and simpler enemies whereas Hardcore removes auto-saves and forces you to spend ink ribbons in order to save.
The campaign structure has been a source of confusion but I'll lay it out as clearly as possible. When you start, you choose to play as either Leon or Claire which I'll refer to as their 1st Run. Upon completing it with one character, you unlock the other's 2nd Run scenario. Playing through the initial Leon campaign on Normal difficulty took me a bit over 8 hours after finding most of the collectibles. Afterwards, I was excited to move on to Claire's 2nd Run scenario which tells the story of what Claire did while you were playing as Leon.
This may sound cool but the actual objectives and locations are almost all the same, just presented in a somewhat different order. Item and enemy locations change as well as the available weapons so it's not the exact same game. However, it did feel a little silly to collect the same medallions, solve the same puzzles, and unlock the same locks that Leon just did hours before. Because of this, it doesn't really serve as a complementary story to Leon's 1st Run. However, this is like other Resident Evil games where replayability primarily depends on how much you enjoy playing the same content over and over just to unlock a few new items, encounters, and story cutscenes.
Modern additions to the classic Resident Evil formula have made Resident Evil 2 an excellent remake although I am a little disappointed with how the 2nd Run campaigns are handled.
- + Fantastic spooky ambiance
- + Perfect blend of exploration and structure
- + Modern additions make it the most accessible Resident Evil game to date
- - 2nd Runs recycle a lot of content
- - Purists may not like the modern additions
- - More obvious zombie death animations would have been appreciated