As I trudge through Racoon City PD as Leon S. Kennedy, I cautiously make my way through the halls. I’m out of bullets, I have no knife and the only way to defend myself is with a flash grenade. I have one shot at getting there unscathed and all the while Mr. X is after Leon. I’m terrified again, this sense of dread feels exactly like it did 20 years ago. I thought I wouldn’t be creeped out by the remake of Resident Evil 2, but I was.
While Resident Evil 7 innovated the series, it’s now I can say that the series is back on course and this is one of the finest entries in the long-running series.
Next stop, Raccoon City
After playing the complete remake I’m left in awe at the care and detail Capcom put into this game. It’s a passion project for those who worked on it. Everything is recreated in loving fashion and over two campaigns that feature the outbreak that occurred in Raccoon City, you’ll see the events through the eyes of both Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield. Everything put into this game was done to make it better, from the lighting to the dark corridors, everything carries nuance.
Starting with Leon’s campaign, I strap in for what must be the worst first day on the job, ever. Leon makes his way into Raccoon City and meets Claire Redfield. Claire is here to find her brother, Chris and soon enough the two of them agree to meet at the Raccoon City Police Department. As Leon gets into two, he’s immediately swarmed by zombies. Dodging them, Leon enters the precinct and changes into his police uniform, the rest is history.
Two sides to every story
I completed Leon’s story in roughly ten hours. After that, I promptly pressed on and began playing with Claire to see how she dealt with the events that transpired in Racoon City. Instead, what happens is the second playthrough is largely the same, you complete the game in largely the same way. Small deviations shake up the formula, but you deal with the same story beats and interact with the same people.
Being built in the same engine as Resident Evil 7 gives the remake a solid footing to stand on. The engine features several qualities of life improvements and welcome changes. Small changes like item indicators when you stand over them to pick them up, other things like examining items in your inventory to see what they offer are nice additions. The overall inventory system finds itself improved but not without issues. Items you collect take up one slot, and weapons take up two slots as you improve them.
Then, more important improvements like having the map update when the room is clear of items, or what items are left in a room help manage inventory. If you ever need gunpowder for more ammo you can check your map to see if you left some behind and pick up the required components.
This is an overall improvement I found myself having to stop and look at my inventory. I’d run out of space and I would need to look at what was worth discarding and what I could combine. Thankfully, over the course of the campaign, you can find hip pouches that expand your inventory by two blocks. During my playthrough, I was attempting to solve a puzzle and I’d hit a wall because I had no space to store the handle. I ended up discarding some first aid spray to store the handle.
Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles
If you think this is a one-to-one remake of Resident Evil 2, you’ll be pleased to know that things aren’t like you remember them. I went into the review thinking I could look up solutions to puzzles or item locations. This isn’t true at all, and while most of the puzzles are similar, the developers tweaked them enough to feel different. Changing them is a smart move and there were moments I was genuinely stumped.
That doesn’t last long though because trial and error often help resolve these puzzles. For the most part, I misread a memo or got the order wrong when solving a puzzle.
Tension is the bread and butter of a horror game and Resident Evil 2 provides that in spades. Throughout my playthrough, I was on edge either to my lack of ammo or because I was in a new area with no idea what was ahead of me. The new soundtrack created does a phenomenal job of capitulating your sense of security. Through the use of good sound design, you’re often left imagining what noises are around you and whether that creaky door was intentional or something else entirely. All the while you’re making your way through the Raccoon City Police Station and meet someone so frightening it’s hard not to have chills run down your spine.
Mr. X gon’ give it to ya
Up until a certain point in the campaign, you only deal with zombies. After that, you set eyes upon Mr. X, who solely is there to stalk you throughout the station. Hearing his massive footprints echo throughout the hallways as you run away from this hulking beast. See, zombies can be killed, and you won’t have much trouble if you dispatch them. With Mr. X, you can’t hurt him, only temporarily down him and get as far away as possible. Over the course of the campaign, Mr. X is in Raccoon City looking for the virus just as you are.
At some points, I would end up cornered during a puzzle sequence and end up having to return after having him disappear. For as scary as Mr. X is, he is also a nuisance when trying to progress the story. Unlike regular zombies, who aren’t able to pass through rooms, this monstrosity goes wherever he wants to go and has no qualms going through walls to get to you.
Capcom has done fine work to update an iconic classic like Resident Evil 2 for a new generation. In fact, this is a fine return to form for the series and horror games in general. Once more, Resident Evil found its footing and propels the series to highs that have been missing for some time. Resident Evil 2 has always had the best moments in the series and plays to the strengths at which the franchise excels. Going all-in on the horror serves a purpose and propels the series forward, the action takes a backseat to tense encounters with zombies and monsters out to kill you. Whether this is the tenth time or the first time you’re experiencing this game, you won’t be disappointed with this wonderful remake of one of the most iconic games of all time.