You got five bullets left for your handgun, your on danger status health wise with no healing items on hand, and you need to make your way through a few unexplored hallways to pick up that key item to get you out of here. You’re not sure what’s going to be on the other side, be it salvation or death, but you got to put on a brave face and head into the dark abyss… You’ve now entered the world of survival horror, good luck.
You will often come across situations like above on your first run through the newly released, Resident Evil 2 Remake — or as I would like to call it “REmake 2”. It’s a completely, from the grounds up re-imagining of the original Resident Evil 2 that was released way back in 1998 for the Playstation and then had subsequent ports to the Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, PC, Gamecube and Playstation 3. The original Resident Evil 2 was such a success that it sent the benchmark for what survival horror games should and could be. It took the concept that was presented in the original Resident Evil (released back in 1996 for the Playstation and Sega Saturn) and amplified it tenfold. It was the Aliens to Alien in a way for this game series.
However a few years after its own initial released and a couple of entries deep into the series, Capcom decided to remake the first Resident Evil into something extremely scary and unsettling in the form of the Resident Evil Remake (aka “REmake 1”). It was in response to how dated and cheesy in tone the original Resident Evil had become. Here Capcom redefined the concept of survival horror gaming once again and hit it big, scaring almost everyone who first played it with it’s unsettling atmosphere, complex puzzles and adding in entirely new sections into it. But sadly the video game world was changing back in 2002 and the Resident Evil series wasn’t selling as much as they would liked it to do.
They then went into a completely 180 degrees of what the series was known for, with then new released of Resident Evil 4 which went the action-movie route. This change revitalized the series and made it a household name, but at the same time the horror aspect was slowly getting chipped away with each new entry like Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil 6, Operations Raccoon City, etc. — the side series Resident Evil: Revelations still retained some aspect of horror but a lot of the search and discovery vibes from the classic entries were missing still in them.
There was little hope that Capcom will ever take the series back to its horror roots ever again and if we’ll ever get a REmake 2 as it is cause of it. Strangely enough, we got our wish. A few years ago Capcom dropped the bombshell that was Resident Evil 7. While the camera was changed from a third person perspective like the action games and fixed camera perspective from the classic games to a new first person view which even had VR support, Resident Evil 7 was a return to true survival horror for the series.
This was thanks in part with the game following an almost back to basic like approach and set up that made the first Resident Evil a moderate success. It had the right amount of tension and atmosphere, ditching the action heavy set pieces. It was a character piece that scared the gamer due to the highly impressive and visceral gaming engine, the RE Engine. And then Capcom dropped another bombshell a few months after Resident Evil 7’s success, they announced that after nearly 15 years of not saying a word since REmake 1, that they will indeed make a REmake 2. Which leads us to today with arguably one of the best Resident Evil games ever created.
REmake 2 is a strange, greatest hits, compilation of what made all of the other previous Resident Evils a success in their own right. While it uses the story of Resident Evil 2, it has DNA from a few other games in the series like Resident Evil 7’s RE Engine, Resident Evil 3’s crafting system, Operations Raccoon City’s tougher zombies, REmake 1’s atmosphere, Resident Evil 4’s adaptive difficulty, Resident Evil 6’s style cut scenes and a much improved Resident Evil 5 like controls. There’s probably more bits of DNA I’m missing off the top of my head, but when you put these things together, you get the perfect Resident Evil game!
REmake 2 is not an easy game, it’s probably one of the more difficult games to play in the series not because of glitches or stuff like that. But because it sticks to the original formula from the classic games, you need to manage your resources if you want to make it to the end of the game. This paired with the third person perspective and aiming, forces players to not waste their shot and also sometimes to just outright run away from monsters.
For you see, in REmake 2 the monsters are bullet sponges, especially the zombies due to the adaptive difficulty. If you’re doing extremely well, then you won’t be able to kill or decapitate a zombie just like that, they will fall down but will get right back up in a matter of seconds. With ammo being limited, you will have to do one of two things, either pray that your next shot drops them or run away and hope they don’t follow you. Yes, monsters can actually follow you around in the game, this goes doubly so for Mr. X.
Mr. X is probably going to be the one thing you’re either going to love or hate. If you like stalking monsters who chase you for the majority of the game like Nemesis or Jack Baker from previous Resident Evils, then Mr. X is going to give you your moneys worth. If you hate stuff like this though, then you’re probably going to get a lot of anxiety from encountering him. The later was me, but eventually I figured out certain tricks to avoid Mr. X and then got used to his presence in the game.
With Mr. X’s presence comes the excellent sound design for the game. I cannot stress enough, that REmake 2 HAS to be played while wearing headphones. Either via plugged into the control directly or using an amplifier to simulate surround sound. While the game isn’t in first person or has any VR mode like Resident Evil 7, the sound design effectively makes up for that. You can hear everything from the zombie groans, to Licker’s hissing to even the heavy footsteps of Mr. X walking around the RPD trying to find you. With headphones on, you can easily pinpoint where everything is while walking aground in the dark. Sound will be your friend in here.
Speaking of the dark though, REmake 2 is just dripping with atmospheric dread around every corner! The game has an eerie vibe throughout, especially on a first run and there is genuine fear about not knowing what’s around the corner or behind a door. This is done in part with Leon and Claire having flashlights to help navigate dark hallways around the RPD, which in turn acts as the players own field of view for the majority of the game. Outside this cone of light, you’re completely bind and will never know if the zombie you’re hearing is ten feet or just a foot away from you.
While it’s not a true 1:1 recreation of the kind of fear you would get from a fixed camera perspective, it is still quiet effective. This is in part to everything else the RE Engine is capable of doing, being from life like characters that verge on the edge of uncanny valley at times to the actual visceral gore and guts presented throughout the game. The settings you run around in trying to escape also have their own character, which each room having a unique twist. In short, REmake 2 is a visual treat on par with how REmake 1 was long ago.
The game play itself, as mentioned up above, is a mixture of various old Resident Evils. (These next few lines will be based off of the console version of the game.) Movement is mapped to the left stick, the d-pad switches between currently equip weapons and the face buttons will confirm, reload, cancel and bring up the inventory. Your shoulder buttons are the typical shooting style with left trigger to aim and right trigger to fighter; and your extra shoulder buttons handle sub-weapons and switch to alternate ammo if you have them. Overall it’s roughly the same set up to how Resident Evil 7 was, so if you played that you’ll feel right at home with REmake 2’s gameplay.
There are a few new and returning additions to the game play though such as ammo crafting, a focus shot while aiming and a map that checks off if you’ve gotten all the items in a room. Those last two are extremely important in REmake 2. With the Focus Shot, you can now effectively do more damaging shots against monsters, this is vital for boss fights and dropping them faster. With the map checking feature, you can effectively plan out your routes and not waste time while Mr. X is stalking you around the RPD.
It’s also not really flaunted by Capcom, but thanks to the RE Engine, there is a dismemberment feature in the game when it comes to dispatching the undead. You can fully blow apart the zombies any way you want and they will react to it in real time. So if you want to cut up their legs, they will react to it and then slowly start crawling towards you, this goes double for zombies who are only a torso and arms. As long as the head is still attached, the zombie will come after you in here!
As for the plot of the game, it does follow the basic plot of the original but at the same time things are drastically different. Such as you’ll be meeting characters in different ways, along with certain plot bets happening in different order. So as Cacpom said, it’s not a remake but more of an re-imagining of the original. Thankfully, if you go in with knowledge of what to do from the original Resident Evil 2 then you have a slight edge compared to someone who’s entering REmake 2 fully unaware of what it’s all about. Still don’t go in thinking you know what to do just cause you played the original, Capcom was wise enough to change things around and certain monsters are in the same spots you remember them to be.
My only grip with the story however is that there are some moments in the game that just feel way too linear compared to the rest of the game and because of that, it gives off the more action-vibe of the series that was last seen in Resident Evil 6. Thankfully moments like these are few and far between, and then you are back to exploring creepy environments at your leisure — well, unless Mr. X is chasing after you, then you better run!
Now should you play REmake 2 if you’re a Resident Evil fan? Absolutely! It is, as of this writing, the perfect Resident Evil. It is basically a greatest hits of all of the best qualities from previous entires rolled up into one fully realized game. Outside of the linear moments, the game exceeds expectations and keeps the ball running from where Resident Evil 7 left off gameplay and atmosphere wise. REmake 2 won’t be nothing new to a Resident Evil diehard, but it will bring a giant smile to your face especially when you take your first steps again in the RPD.
Also, if you’re not a Resident Evil fan but are still a horror gaming fan, this is still a game for you to play! It is probably one of the toughest Resident Evils, especially on the higher difficulties and the Mr. X that stalks you throughout the game will get your heart racing just like the Xenomorph did in Alien: Isolation. Also being that this is a remake of Resident Evil 2 which had a standalone story, this is also a perfect entry point into the series proper.
However, should you play this because it’s the popular game at the moment but you’re afraid of stalker mechanics, get anxiety from horror games in general, and just want to shoot everything? Then no, I can’t recommend it, because you’re not going to enjoy it for what it is, a reinvention of a horror classic.
This is a Resident Evil game that you can’t go guns blazing and it will punish anyone who wastes resources. Outside of autosaves at medium and easy difficulties, the game is merciless on a blind first run. The zombies hit hard and can kill you if three of them get to close to you. You don’t have a melee move anymore like in the action centric Resident Evils. And lastly Mr. X will be a pain for players who are not good at stealth.
If you get the chance to pick up a copy or try out the game sometime, go for it! I firmly believe that Capcom has found the winning formula in REmake 2. Don’t be surprised if the eventual REmake 3 gets green lit soon and Resident Evil 8 follows the formula of this too.