It was a bit touch and go for Resident Evil for a while there. RE4 – considered by many to be the best of the series, as well as one of the best third-person shooters ever – was followed by the middling RE5 and the outright horrid RE6. It seemed to imply that the magic was gone, the zombie-cow (eww!) was fully milked, and that Capcom had no clear idea of how to refresh the series.
Then, in 2017, we got Resident Evil 7, a complete overhaul of how to have the RE experience. Set in the backwater wasteland of Louisiana, players crept through decrepit hallways and overgrown marshlands in first-person, confronting the horrors within. Resident Evil hadn’t been terrifying in a long time, but RE7 was almost unbearable.
Somewhere in the middle though, around 2015, Capcom dropped a lovely little gift – a full remake of the original Resident Evil, with a complete graphics overhaul. It was basically a reissue of an earlier remaster from 2002. It seemed that Capcom weren’t opposed to breathing new life into old releases, and Resident Evil 2 is their most detailed and comprehensive yet.
Set months after the original nightmare at the abandoned mansion of Resident Evil, RE2 follows two separate but intersecting tales. Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, a rookie cop and civilian respectively, stumble unwittingly into the bloodbath that is Raccoon City after the release of the zombifying T-Virus.
The story here is largely the same as the original, however key differences in dialogue and character motivations bring it up to modern standards, avoiding the embarrassing “there was an incident… involving zombies” dialogue of the ‘90s, while also keeping its tongue ever so slightly in its cheek.
Players can choose to endure the experience of either Leon or Claire, which will take them through the blood-slicked halls of the Raccoon City PD and beyond in an effort to discover the root of the crisis.
We truly mean ‘blood-slicked’, too. Capcom’s refresh of the original environments is impressive and horrifying all at once, especially in the early game. Surviving through this police-station-gone-to-hell is one of the key pleasures of RE2. Running on the same engine as RE7 – which had its own minute attention to detail – exploration of the RPD is a joy, both in what it maintains from the original, and in new elements to be discovered.
The atmosphere benefits from the new engine, too. Lightning flashes to illuminate halls of disarray, while zombified silhouettes shuffle outside the fragile windows. When confronting the dearly departed of the RPD, their forms stagger and shuffle in unnerving fashion. A well-placed bullet to the forehead whips their heads back, only to have them calmly return their gaze to you, perhaps with a moan of confusion.
All of this is experienced through the game’s new camera and control system, perhaps the biggest change to the overall experience. Now, your view sits snugly behind Leon and Claire, putting you right in the path of whatever horror is bearing down upon you. It’s understandable that some purists will bemoan the switch away from the original’s ‘room-specific’ camera views, but that the new perspective cranks up both the immediacy and the more frantic moments is undeniable.
Even on standard difficulty, you’ll need to develop a steady aim, as multiple headshots are needed to down even the most standard zombie – which is to say nothing of their ability to rise again unless you give ‘em a few more once they’re down.
It all feeds into the methodical, considered play-style that the game expects. Inventory management is an RE mainstay, and you’ll be hopping between your map and inventory, weighing up just how many healing items you might need in order to make it down those stairs, across the hall, through the offices, and to your next objective.
As far as remakes go, Resident Evil 2 can confidently take its place beside the best of them. From the attention to detail imbued in the environments, to the frantic, satisfying combat, Capcom’s understanding of how to evolve Resident Evil into a series worth playing again is on full display here. If it’s been a few years, and you didn’t have it in you to delve into the humid Louisiana bayou of RE7, Resident Evil 2 is a perfect reintroduction into the series.
Resdient Evil 2 is available from January 25 for PS4 and Xbox One.