I have been a fan of the Resident Evil series for quite some time now ever since renting a copy of 4 on PS2 and from their I went out of my way to checkout as much as I could of the earlier games. In particular Code Veornica X and Deadly Silence, but I was never able to have a go at some of the more well regarded early entries like Resident Evil 2 or 3. But now it's thirteen years since I fell in love with the series and now Capcom has remade Resi 2 for PC and modern consoles and I couldn't think of anything more fitting to grab as an early birthday present. Especially when it turns out this remake is real game of the year material.
Taking place some time after the events of the original Resident Evil, 2 takes place in the year of 1998 the golden age of Blockbuster video and Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield are on their way to Raccoon City for different reasons. Leon is a rookie cop ready to start his day on the force while Claire is trying to get in contact with her brother, original protagonist Chris. Only to end up trapped in the Raccoon City Police station in the midst of a zombie outbreak tearing the city apart. Like the original you're free to choose between playing as either Leon or Claire but rather than having an impact on difficulty this choice has an impact on narrative beats, such as different interactions with other characters or progress through character exclusive rooms and weapons. Not only does that variety and replayability but as a whole the story is well written like two parts of a cheesy exploitation film from the 80's or 70's, with healthy doses of camp and genuine tension. I say two parts because when you finish one playthrough you've only seen the first half of the story and then you can play through the second half, or B scenario, seeing what happened to the character you didn't pick first. As they arrive at the police station later and there are substantial differences between the two. The A scenario is more about intrigue and has you uncover what is behind the zombie outbreak, whereas the B scenario focuses on trying to rescue a young girl and keeping her safe. On top of that if you think just playing through both scenarios once means you've seen everything you're wrong, to see every aspect of the story both canon and noncanon you need to play through each scenario twice with each character. So it's safe to say Capcom didn't hold any content back.
Compared to the remake of Resident Evil 1 Capcom approached this game with the idea of presenting something old with modern sensibilities, rather than just taking what came before and making easier to understand. So rather than fixed camera angles and tank controls the game makes use of a third person perspective and modern controls, but in the grand scheme of things that's the most significant change at it's core the experience is what long time fans remember. With the bulk of the experience being hunting down key items to open up new paths, puzzles, inventory management and backtracking. People who are unfamiliar with early Resident Evil may be put off by this gameplay loop but it's not unbearable, thanks to how it plays in to the overall atmosphere of the game by making you keep a close eye on your resources thus playing in to the tension. The puzzles are well designed and don't make you feel like an idiot when you're stumped. Clues are always present and it's a matter of simply looking in the right place to see them whether it be examining an object to interact with it to looking through documents.
Then there's another part of the Resident Evil 2 experience combat. Capcom decided to go back to what they had for the likes of Revelations 2 rather than continuing the first person perspective Seven brought to the table and it works fine. This doesn't mean Resident Evil has gone back to the days of 4, you can move and shoot like in any modern shooter and it feels great, just don't expect a Bulletstorm or Call of Duty levels of action. Ammo is scarce and you have limited inventory space so you always need to ration what you've got, or else you're gonna end up in Destination F, something that's driven home by how the zombies function. They're basically bullet sponges but that's a good thing, if you're not actively thinking about how many precious bullets you could pump in to a brain muncher over whether or not you should just run, then there's something wrong with the game. This is taken to the next level thanks to the devs lifting a key mechanic from Dead Space, enemy dismemberment. In alot of situations strategic dismemberment or knee capping are valid strategies, spending minimal resources for a quick getaway and easily avoidable enemy for the rest of the game. However this strategy only applies to the core enemies there's one enemy that cannot be brought down and will constantly keep you on your toes.
Mr. X the man who would go on to inspire the franchise icon Nemesis. When he shows up is when you should have a grasp on how everything plays and you're in a comfortable groove, then whatever horror wrecking comfort you had is crushed and you're left praying to Hideki Kamiya for mercy. What he does is organically patrol the environment in pursuit of the player with some scripted encounters and he cannot be killed, every encounter is nerve wracking because if he gets his hands on you or gets one too many good hits in then that's it game over. But the game is fair with how he functions, making use of the game's stellar sound design you're alerted to his presence by booming footsteps that get louder or softer, though you never know exactly how far away he is, he also reacts to the noise you make and if you run out of ammo he'll despawn until you've found some fresh resources. Giving the game a great deal of extra challenge that can come close to annoying but never feels outright unfair or cheap.
I played this on PC and I can safely say not only does the game look great but it also ran butter smooth at all times, in fact I was blown away at the number of options available for tweaking the graphics. Which not only include options for minute details but real time measurements so you can see what you're altering, but also information on how taxing the settings are on your hardware. Even on the lower settings the game is pleasing to look at and one thing I love are all the little touches and finer details. From persistent wound decals on enemies and the player, gradual costume degredation and to how animations play alongside these. The level of detail drives home a sense of pride and passion the we tend to rarely see from the AAA companies these days.
Now I'm sure by now you've noticed that I have been praising this game left right and center and there is a good reason for this. There isn't alot to complain about and what I do have to complain about are really just nitpicks. Like the 4th Survivor mode, this is a bonus you unlock for beating both scenarios and it tells the story of Hunk an operative on a mission for the Umbrella Corporation. With this I was expecting smaller piece of story content explaining how he got out of Raccoon City and while that is the case it's not really focused on story, rather it's an action heavy challenge. Which to be honest is quiet fun and addicitve just not what I was expecting or wanted, same with the free Ghost Survivors DLC. With this expansion I thought we were getting a trilogy of bit sized non canon stories but instead they're narratively light arcade style action experiences, that throw in new enemy types and conditions to keep the player on their toes. There's also how to me the enemies just lack an ick factor, this and 7 were both made in the RE Engine and yet the enemies here lack a subtle extra bite to them that 7's molded had. I blame this how they were created since something made purely in a computer would lack the raw energy of a model that was made by literally scanning a meat sculpture, this isn't to say the enemies aren't scary or look good but compared to what came before they aren't as good. There's also how there are microtransactions for the game but to be honest they earn a pass, you wouldn't be wrong for raising an eyebrow at them but considering the game off the bat is packed with content, already has a free expansion and still has traditional unlockable extras, it almost feels like buying these microtransactions is a way of saying thanks for the game being so great. What you get are additional skins for Leon and Claire that are high quality as well as access to the soundtrack and sound effects from the original release, and considering the the quality on offer the only issue I see with these is that they're over priced. In Australian dollars each is just under five dollars and if they were two dollars cheaper buying one would feel more justifiable, but even at their current full price considering what's already in the game they don't feel like a rip off either.
If 7 wasn't already an indication that Resident Evil is back on track this remake only confirms what we knew. It's frightening and easy to approach but doesn't sacrifice what made the original 98 release so memorable, sure some modern gamers may be put of by how it plays but it's a case of just keep going and you'll get it. Whether you're a series vet or like me came here during the modern era if you buy this game you will have a horrifyingly great time.