Resident Evil is a survival horror franchise that is as iconic as it is divisive among gamers. Originally released for Playstation in 1998, Resident Evil 2 featured blocky, grainy imagery that (at least back in those days) was the pinnacle of what 3D graphics could be on a console. The game’s tank controls and fixed cameras made the effort to escape the handful of shambling undead that you would encounter a terrifying – despite being slightly comical in appearance – and panic inducing experience. Now, 21 years later, Capcom has dusted off Resident Evil 2 and given the game a make over fit for the modern gaming era. But how does this classic hold up to new gaming standards?
Firstly, Capcom has gotten rid of excessively frustrating tank controls and fixed cameras. In interviews with various publications, the developers stated that they tried several different camera angle options including first person and yes, even fixed. Finally, however, they settled on the third person over the shoulder perspective with a modern control scheme for both the camera and character movement, and thus the Resident Evil 2 remake is all the better for it.
The most noticeable upgrade that 2019’s Resident Evil 2 has over its predecessor is obviously the graphical improvements. Gone are the stiff polygons of yesteryear, and what we have now are beautifully terrifying realism. From Claire’s flowing locks and red leather jacket to the slick, bloody intestines from a disemboweled body there is plenty of progress in the graphic department. Raccoon City has gotten quite a face lift, though it is still as disgusting and dilapidated as one would expect an apocalyptic city currently in the throes of a zombie infestation to be. Admittedly, the animated zombies are still rough around the edges, with their heads tilting so dramatically at times that it clips through their shoulders.
The zombies are what also bring us to the biggest complaint of Resident Evil 2. Despite the game’s new Assisted Mode, which is a fantastic addition in most regards, the zombies are an undeniable headache to dispatch. There’s an almost RNG like element to killing them. Sometimes one shot to the head is sufficient, sometimes it takes several. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for the inconsistency beyond an effort to force tension and to make you run either attempt to flee or waste your precious (and always on the brink of being depleted) ammo supply. While it makes plenty of sense that body or limb shots are not sufficient, the current set up makes it feel like it is nothing short of impossible to gauge the potential for risk and reward.
All things considered, Resident Evil’s balance between risk and reward are fairly negligible as it stands given the game’s use of a limited inventory and metroidvania style backtracking within it’s linear story line. The shortage of inventory space is, again, a means of creating tension and cranking up the survival aspect of Resident Evil, but it wears out its welcome very quickly. Even when sprinting, the characters move fairly slow and the last thing you want to do is slowly chug your way through multiple buildings in an effort to get back to the one film roll you had to ignore earlier simply because you did not have enough inventory space to take it with you.
To add insult to injury, it’s incredibly easy to lose yourself among the twists and turns of the city as there are an inexplicable amount of dead ends and locked doors. While there is a mega map that you can access by pressing back, it takes over the whole screen and constantly stopping to check your location is less than stellar. It’s commendable that Capcom wanted to keep Resident Evil 2’s hud spotless, but it’s fairly certain that most players would concede at least a small area of the screen for a mini map if it meant not having to press back 25 times before still running into the wrong (and also probably locked) door.
To be fair, by the time most players make it to the end of their fourth play through they will pretty much be able to navigate Raccoon City in their sleep. When starting Resident Evil 2 players start with the option to choose between Leon or Claire. It is worth taking the time to play through both character’s story lines, even though a good chunk of the stories are similar there are several areas where each character’s story arc deviates from the other’s briefly. As of the time of writing this review, players can expect four different play throughs of Resident Evil 2 if they want to experience all that there is to offer on launch. However, it is worth noting that a free update will be hitting the game on 15 February, 2019 that will bring additional survivors and their stories to the game. Just in case you felt you hadn’t traversed your way through Raccoon City enough.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher