Release Date : January 25, 2019
Developer(s) : Capcom
Publisher(s) : Capcom
Platforms : PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Nintendo Switch
For many gamers, 1998 is the best year in the history of video games. And among the monuments released this year is Resident Evil 2. The result of an exciting development and the sequel of the mythical Resident Evil, this second episode has, by its story, its structure, its music, and its gameplay, succeeded in placing itself among the favorite episodes for the fans of the series.
That’s why its remake has been for years the most requested by the fans. 21 years after the release of the original game, Capcom finally offers its new version of the adventures of Leon and Claire. Did the Japanese publisher manage to achieve the same success as when it recreated the original Resident Evil on GameCube? This is what we will see.
Even if Resident Evil 2 is no longer presented, a recap of its scenario is necessary. After the events told in the first Resident Evil, things get out of hand and the virus spreads in Raccoon City. Like the original version, Resident Evil 2 features two heroes: Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield. Leon is a young recruit of the Raccoon City Police Department on his way to his new assignment when he realizes that an unexpected disaster has occurred.
Claire is the younger sister of Chris Redfield, one of the heroes of the first Resident Evil, and she hasn’t heard from him in a while. In order to track him down, she goes to Raccoon City, where he works in a special police unit. The two teenagers quickly get to know each other and decide to help each other. But fate has them separated as soon as they arrive in downtown Raccoon City.
TRIP INTO A FAMILIAR TERRITORY
Resident Evil requires, their respective businesses will go from bad to worse. And it will be necessary for them to face nameless horrors to manage to escape, and also to understand what happened. For those who played the original game, it is obvious that this is a remake.
Most of the key scenes are there, even if they are not always where you expect them to be, and the story is very similar to the original Resident Evil 2. It should be noted that if the game respects a lot the plot of the 1998 Resident Evil 2, some elements, such as the sequence with the Chief of Police Brian Irons and mayor Warren’s daughter, have been put aside in this new version of the game.
As we mentioned in our last preview, Resident Evil 2 does feature some new sequences. While some of them logically involve the two heroes of the game, others allow you to play the supporting characters, Ada Wong and Sherry Birkin. Although the presence of these sequences is appreciable, none of the additions made here by Capcom really have an impact on the narrative as a whole. Even if some new scenes are particularly good, like the passage at the Kendo Gun Shop, it is regrettable that the Japanese publisher did not manage to include a new element in the plot as striking as Lisa Trevor was in the remake of the first Resident Evil.
THE ABC’S OF SURVIVAL HORROR
In the interviews with the producers of Resident Evil 2 after the presentation of the game at E3 2018, they promised that the remake’s campaign would not repeat the Leon A-Claire B and Claire A-Leon B structure that the original Resident Evil 2 used. That’s not entirely true.
When you first play the remake, the game does ask you to choose between Leon and Claire. But once the campaign has been completed once, the player then has the option to go through a “Bonus” campaign with the character he didn’t choose the first time.
During this campaign, which starts much faster than the initial game, the order of events is significantly changed and some scenes are replaced by others. To see the full ending of Resident Evil 2, and get the full experience offered by the game, it is necessary to finish the main scenario as well as the “Bonus”.
If the idea is good and globally well exploited, it is unfortunately possible to note small inconsistencies when switching from the main scenario to the “Bonus” scenario, such as the need to redo some puzzles for example. This doesn’t spoil the pleasure at all but it deserves to be highlighted.
A regular Resident Evil player will take less than seven hours to complete the main storyline on the first playthrough on “Normal” difficulty mode. The “Bonus” campaign will require one hour less. Moreover, this remake performs automatic saves in “Normal” and allows you to save at will. In “Extreme” difficulty, the automatic saves disappear and the ink ribbons limiting the number of possible saves make their return (in addition to increasing the zombies’ resistance).
Fans of the series who want an even more authentic and challenging experience are well advised to play in “Extreme”. As shown in screenshots and trailers released by Capcom, Hunk and Tofu are also back and offer a tough challenge to those who want to face an even more difficult opponent.
That being said, even without these extras, the game is not so easily put away. One of the strengths of Resident Evil 2 is that it leaves the player with a strong desire to start the adventure over once it has been completed the first time. The traditional ranking system at the end of the game and the desire to start again by optimizing your movements and your management of the confrontations/objects to gain a few minutes on the final completion time make Resident Evil 2 suitable for repeated play. And this, without any feeling of redundancy. Like the original episodes, this remake makes players eager to speedrun even if they are not interested in it at all.
BETWEEN TRADITION AND MODERNITY
When Resident Evil 2 remake development was confirmed by Capcom, the question of the gameplay choice was immediately raised by players. After Resident Evil 7 and its first-person view, it was coherent to wonder what the Japanese publisher would choose for this highly anticipated remake.
As everyone knows by now, Capcom has chosen the third-person view with an over-the-shoulder camera. For those who are used to this type of view, Resident Evil 2 is very easy to learn. Automation is created in the first few minutes, and the gameplay should not disturb the players.
The arrival of the modern TPS-type gameplay in Resident Evil 2 made some people fear the simplification of the game. To compensate for this, Capcom has increased the aggression and resistance of the enemies, while limiting the ammunition available to the hero. Let’s say it right away, if you’re going to go through the game (in Normal or Extreme) by shooting at the pile, you might not get very far.
Even if you take care to aim at the enemies’ heads and avoid combat if possible, it’s still possible to run out of ammo. The traditional zombies, once weak and clumsy, have become extremely tough and hungry. Even with a proper aim, emptying a clip on a single zombie is a frequent situation in this remake. And just to make things right, even the smallest attack from zombies, dogs, lickers, etc. does considerable damage.
IT’S GOOD TO HAVE THE BALLS
Basically, the feeling of constant danger is definitely present in Resident Evil 2. And things only get worse when the awesome Tyrant T-103, more commonly known as Mr. X, a massive enemy sent by Umbrella to eliminate all witnesses to the disaster, shows up. While he was originally confined to B scenarios in the original Resident Evil 2, he is present here in all versions of the plot.
Extremely resistant and powerful, he stalks Leon and Claire during the whole adventure like a steamroller in a raincoat and hat and with a silent charisma of his own. And this, no matter the situation or the possible presence of other enemies. By his look, his behavior, and the staging he benefits from (more information about this below in the test), Mr. X is one of the big highlights of the 2019 version of Resident Evil 2. His presence on the screen is obviously feared, and he doesn’t make the player’s life easier. But if he wasn’t there, the game wouldn’t have been this successful.
To wrap up with the gameplay, it is worth noting that its modernization is not complete. In order to deal with enemies that are much more aggressive and resistant than in the past, along with Mr. X, Capcom could have added a dodge button similar to the one in Resident Evil 3. That said, it is quite possible that the publisher voluntarily avoided adding this move in order to make things challenging for the players.
On the other hand, the ability to make a quick turn is still there. As for the management of objects and puzzles, fans of the original title should find themselves on familiar ground despite the addition of elements from episodes released after the latter (such as mixing powders to create ammunition for example). From a gameplay point of view, Resident Evil 2 is a real success for fans of Survival Horror from the beginning. Upon initial discovery, the game is scary, stressful, and should not be thought of as a third-person shooter. Capcom has proven here that it is capable of reproducing an old-fashioned experience, with all the sensations that go with it, while modernizing the gameplay.
In addition to the respect given to the plot of the original work and the changes made to the gameplay, the realization is the other element that is closely watched when it comes to a game remake. In the case of Resident Evil 2, Capcom has done things very well. Its RE Engine is a perfect match for the universe imagined by Hideki Kamiya and the company in the late 90s.
The environments are, despite the changes made for the remake, both recognizable at first glance and magnified (just watch a video of the original game after playing this remake to be convinced). These settings are also greatly assisted by Capcom’s work in terms of lighting, atmosphere, and effects. The dark areas that require the use of a flashlight to see a little more clearly, the light that filters from outside through the windows, the driving rain in the outdoor sequences, and the fire grenades are just some of the visual achievements of Resident Evil 2. During the first few minutes of the game in the police station, the intentionally reduced visibility and the sound ambiance push the player to grope for fear of what might be on the other side of a door.
As for the characters, the effort made is also successful. The RE Engine allows for more realistic modeling of the protagonists and the game clearly benefits from this. And it may be strange to say, but Resident Evil 2 certainly benefits from the most beautiful zombies seen so far in a video game. Absolutely horrific, they suffer localized damage and see their condition deteriorate as they are attacked by the hero. And what about the absolute gore of their bites? After years of generic identical zombies, Resident Evil 2 gives back their letters of nobility to the video game undead. Of course, the other enemies of the game benefit from equally careful modeling. Special mention to the zombie plants that are as annoying as they are disgusting.
To be honest, some facial expressions (Claire’s in particular) can put the characters in the uncanny valley. In addition, a small flicker can sometimes be perceived on some environments and on the water even on PS4 Pro. It is also strange to see that the enemies’ animations far from the player are jerky and become fluid when they are near the hero. But overall, Resident Evil 2 is a true visual success that brilliantly transports this late 20th-century game into 2019.
Sound has always played an essential role in Resident Evil. It is therefore essential to dwell on this element of the game, starting with the dialogues. As fans of the early games will remember, the early Resident Evil games did not have particularly good dubbing. On that side, there is clearly some improvement in this remake (some useless vulgarities and Sherry’s lines aside). The zombies and other creatures make noises and screams that contribute to a not-so-friendly atmosphere. But as for the music, there are other things to say.
Like its glorious predecessor, the original Resident Evil 2 had tracks that, 20 years later, still ring in the heads of fans of the series. Unfortunately, the music in the remake is not as striking and is more discreet than its iconic predecessor. In the original Resident Evil 2, the music matched specific locations and situations. Here, they are mainly used to accentuate particular situations. For example, the save rooms no longer have their own music. The theme music that starts when you first arrive in the police station lobby is also missing. And for fans of the series, this absence is definitely obvious.
The only sound element that really stands out, and in a good way, here is the treatment given to the sound effects of the passages in which Mr. X appears. When the latter approach the room where the hero is, it is possible to hear heavy footsteps through the walls. The arrival of the Tyrant in the proximity of the player is systematically accompanied by the start of a special musical theme that is, to say the least, frightening. These two elements contribute to increasing the tension and the feeling of the danger of the situation. Overall, the treatment given to this enemy is first-rate and makes you dream about what Capcom could do with the Nemesis…
Resident Evil 2 was a great game and Resident Evil 2 remake is a great game too. It is clear that Capcom was very careful not to alter its monument of the PlayStation era. Beautifully updated with the RE Engine, this new version of the second episode of the series manages to put players in the terrifying atmosphere of the infested Raccoon City easily (special mention to the very insistent Mr. X). However, this special care taken to keep the remake faithful to the original game prevents this new version from really surprising as much as Resident Evil “Rebirth” did in its time. This little reproach aside, Resident Evil 2 provides an experience that is both modern and worthy, in terms of sensations, of the first Resident Evil. And for newcomers, this remake should be particularly striking. Resident Evil 2 delivers a terrifying yet excellent time and leaves you wanting more. For the remake of Resident Evil 3, it’s whenever you want Capcom.