Released in 1998, the original Resident Evil 2 was, at the time, one of the better survival horror games ever made. But times change, and if 2015’s faithful remake of Resident Evil is any indication, the original Resident Evil 2 wouldn’t hold up today. Thankfully, the good people at Capcom have gone a different route with this new edition of Resident Evil 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC), which not only boasts modern-style controls, but reworks other aspects to make this feel like…well, not a whole new game, but certainly a revived one.
Set two months after the events of the original,
Resident Evil 2 follows a rookie cop named Leon S. Kennedy as he arrives for his first day with the Racoon City Police Department, only to find that the town has been overrun by zombies. Or, if you prefer, you can be a college kid named Claire Redfield, who’s come to Racoon City to look her brother Chris, a cop who was one of the heroes of the first game. Either way, you spend your time fighting the undead and other monsters, scrounging for supplies, and trying to solve situational puzzles that will open up new areas for you to scrounge and shoot.
Or, to put it another way, it’s like if George Romero made a movie in the ’70s called Escape Room Of The Living Dead.
Like the original, this new Resident Evil 2 is a third-person action game, but one firmly rooted in the tenets of the survival horror genre. Which is why, unlike some of the more recent entries in this series, you can only carry a limited amount of stuff at any given time. This includes ammo and heath-restoring herbs and sprays, which are hard to come by anyway. As a result, you may find it more advantageous to run away from some of your attackers.
Which you’ll probably want to do anyway, given how the game effectively uses light and shadow, as well as creepy sound effects, to create a tense vibe. Sure, it’s freaky when a zombie breaks a window and starts coming to get you, Barbara, but it’s just as scary when you enter a room for the first time and don’t see anything…yet.
Resident Evil 2 is also set in a world where, for some reason, people hide keys in really inconvenient places. But while yes, it is a pain in the butt to have to find three medallions and then place them in the base of a statue in just the right order so its arm will lower and you can take the key out of its hand every time you want to use the bathroom, but it’s also what made this series — especially the early installments — more compelling than other scary games.
Best of all, this version of Resident Evil 2 leaves in one of the original’s neatest tricks. Unlike most games with two playable characters, Leon’s story does not play out the same as Claire’s, and vice versa. Again, the changes between them aren’t radical, but they do differ enough that you’ll want to play this twice.
As for how this version of Resident Evil 2 differs from the original, the most obvious answer is visually, as the graphics have been updated to modern standards, albeit still with that trademark Capcom look.
What’s more significant…
is how the controls in this edition of Resident Evil 2 have also been brought of up to code. Where the original had a fixed camera and stifled movement, this has the same player-controlled camera and more intuitive movie controls employed by such relatively recent Evil installment as Resident Evil Revelations, its sequel, and Resident Evil 6.
There are also small changes to how the rest of the game plays out, though I can’t go into any detail without spoiling anything, save to say that if you have the original memorized, you’ll find some things where you left them while others have been moved.
Resident Evil 2 even cribs from some of its own spiritual children. Specifically, in how you can find piles of wood and police tape you can use to board up open windows like in the “Zombies” mode of Call Of Duty.
Even the options have been updated, most notably in how you can turn the music down or off for a more realistic experience.
Not everything in Resident Evil 2 has been upgraded, though. You still have to find typewriters to save your progress (though given how consoles can now be put to sleep, you can easily work around this limitation), and herbs or aerosol sprays to restore your health.
All together, these changes make Resident Evil 2 feel like a modern take on the survival horror genre. It has all the scares and brain teasers of the original, as well as its B-movie story, without the awkward controls that would make playing the original so frustrating if you tried to play it now.
That said, as good a job as Capcom may have done on this remake, there are some spots they might consider improving when they do it again in 2040. For starters, if a zombie grabs you, you can’t push them off like you can in other Resident Evil games. Or real life.
Now you can, if you have a knife,
stab the grabby bastards. You can also slash to death after taking them down with a couple headshots, which is handy since, unlike in The Walking Dead and other works of zombie fiction, the undead in Resident Evil 2 don’t stay dead if you only shoot them in the head once. It takes a couple shots. Or, as the case may be, a couple slashes.
Unfortunately, knives in Resident Evil 2 wear down and eventually break if you use them a lot. Which isn’t any more fun here than it is in any other game that’s annoyingly included this mechanic, especially since they break way quicker than they do in real life.
It’s also annoying that Resident Evil 2 doesn’t let you foot stomp downed zombies, thus saving your knife for when you really need it. Nor can you use the knife to break locks on doors that are chained, though this isn’t nearly as annoying as the inability to shoot those locks off with your gun.
You’d also think that Clare and Leon would pick up the pace a bit, and not stroll around like their lives aren’t in imminent danger. And while yeah, you can tell them to run, you’d think after twenty odd years of running away from the living impaired that they’d know better than to take their sweet time.
There’s also spots where they’ve made some mechanics both more and less convenient. Unlike in the original, and so many other games, opening a door that’s unlocked doesn’t require you to hit a button. You can, but the door will open anyway if you just walk into it.
On the flipside, though, Resident Evil 2 won’t doesn’t let you just hit a button to open a locked door when you have the key for it. Instead, it brings up your inventory, and you then have to click on the key. Which, admittedly, is just one more step — and since the game pauses when you pull up your inventory, it’s not a step that could mean the difference between life and death — but it’s still seems unnecessary. Almost as unnecessary as having to manually discard keys and other items you don’t need anymore, which you also have to do but shouldn’t have to in a game where carrying space is at a premium.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that fans of the original hoping this would be a faithful remake will be very disappointed by Resident Evil 2 for obvious reasons. Especially since the game oddly has the option to play with the original music and sound effects, but not its visuals or controls.
this edition of Resident Evil 2 isn’t for purists or nostalgia buffs. It’s for people looking to get scared out of their wits while occasionally having to get them back long enough to shoot something or solve a weird puzzle. And in that regard, the new Resident Evil is, at this time, one of the better survival horror games ever made.