When Resident Evil 2 first came out in 1998, it was a complete game-changer for the horror genre. Capcom's gory hit perfectly blended a strong narrative with a guttural shock factor that enthralled the world. The Resident Evil 2 remake continues that tradition, bigger and better than ever before.
As a huge fan of the original, I was excited to dive in and see all of the changes to iconic characters like Claire, Leon, and Ada Wong. Especially Leon, my first video game crush -- don't judge. Thankfully, the way in which Capcom re-imagined the cast of survivors was everything I'd hoped for and so much more.
For anyone not familiar, the story of Resident Evil 2 begins with a young rookie of a cop, Leon Kennedy, as he is thrust into a chaotic world littered with the walking dead alongside a hopeful college student named Claire Redfield. Tossed into the midst of the dying area of Racoon City, both Leon and Claire must figure out how to survive while uncovering what caused this hell on Earth.
What was and is really intriguing, and absolutely terrifying if you're like me and have a love-hate relationship with horror games, is the two different campaigns. Fans of the franchise will be familiar with this mechanic, but it really offers two totally different play experiences with a narrative that is still intertwined at its conclusion. Whether you play as Leon or Claire when first diving in, both paths offer thrills and nail-biting horror that the original Resident Evil 2 game perfected back in the day.
The game offers a progressive sort of play, one that begins on an admittedly frustrating note. With a fixed camera angle that can be irritating at times, especially in those high-intensity moments, oftentimes while trapped within incredibly tiny areas. Resident Evil 2 definitely doesn't hold the player's hand, and that escalated feeling of discovery and mastery really adds an entirely new level of appreciation and triumph that is more often than not missing from modern horror games.
But just because the gameplay is progressive, that doesn't mean it gets predictable. One aspect of the game I both loved and hated was when I'd finally get a grip on what's going on, it'd drop me off into a completely different scenario, making me feel like I'm back at square one. There were definitely more than a few moments when I stayed in a particular room longer than necessary simply because I was scared to leap back into the unknown. I was genuinely scared to leave, which is a testament to how perfectly crafted this horror experience truly is.
The graphics, especially when comparing to the original, are unreal. To see a beloved tale in this generation's graphics is so unbelievably amazing as a longtime fan. For newcomers, the fresh visuals and fluid mechanics are a treat no matter what the previous familiarity with series is. From the visceral gore seen in the undead, to the way the rain hits the surrounding environment, visually this game is a masterpiece and offered a very fresh experience to a familiar tale.
The survival part of this game becomes very apparent, very quickly. If you go in guns blazing with no strategy, you're going to end up really dead, very quick. Because of that, players need to be invested in their own method of play as well as what's around them, and that adds an entirely new level of immersion to an already immersive experience.
And don't think you can skirt your way through it using a melee weapon at all times either. You can't just hack and slash your way through this game; even with a melee weapon, you still have to get up close and personal, and then you have to get even closer to retrieve that weapon. That zombie you thought you killed? Yeah, he might not be that dead after all, and when you're getting that combat knife from his neck? That's a good time for him to spring at you.
The controls for this game were about what any familiar Resident Evil fan will expect. A forced camera angle is laborious at first, but gets easier and does eventually evolve to a more tailored play experience. That being said, there were a few instances throughout the story where the sprinting or movement in general was a bit jilted, causing a break in immersion, and at times disruptive. At the same time, however, this is an ode to the original, and honestly if they did the mechanics any other way -- no matter how maddening they can be at times -- it might not have felt as organically Resident Evil as it does in its current state.
Resident Evil 2 is a survival horror experience in its truest sense. From a constantly teased false sense of security, to horrifying instances that go far beyond a simple jump scare, this remake is one that every fan of the original needs to play. For those that aren't familiar with the Resident Evil franchise in its humble beginnings, it's still a treat, albeit imperfect, and one that requires no previous knowledge of the other games.
From its challenging story from start to finish, to the incredible character development and increasing level of intrigue and desire to know more, Capcom mostly nailed bringing this beloved title into 2019, and it's an experience every horror fan needs to have for themselves.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Resident Evil 2 releases on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on January 25th.