No other series in the history of video games has a more convoluted story than the Resident Evil series.
You may be familiar with the franchise and its zombie-infested track record but to have a clear understanding of the storyline and plot throughout its 10+ games in the series might be a bit too much for us simpletons. A remake is exactly what we needed to awaken our zombie love and to get us familiar with the series again. We’re happy to report that Resident Evil 2 firmly holds the mantle of what made the older game so good and builds better on the same formula with a 2019 flavour to it.
This is a remake from the ground up of the older Resident Evil 2 game and we reckon it's the first time many gamers will be playing the RE:2 game. So while you can find a lot of references to how it compares to the original title, I want to address this game as a 2019 title and how it feels to play a survival horror in an era where one could consider it a rarity.
A second run
The premise is simple on the surface. There’s a breakout in Racoon City and everyone’s munching on brains and flesh. Our heroes are on their way to the ill-fated city when they meet for the first time. You can play as the rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy or Claire Redfield. Both of them have slightly different playthroughs and story arcs. The story itself is very well written and perfectly paced, leading the characters to discover the truth about the virus causing the widespread violent hunger pangs in now turned zombie people.
We played the first round with Leon and to be honest, we cannot wait to jump back for our second serving of the zombie fest with Claire. Returning fans will be very pleased to know that the game stays very true to the source material of the first game and could almost entirely be reminiscent of the sentiments that made the older one so good.
One of the most striking features that makes Resident Evil 2 immediately encapsulating is the attention to detail and the graphical grandeur complimenting it. Every level is meticulously detailed and the zombies themselves are near-perfect.
These brain-munchers are so compelling in behaviour that every encounter with the most basic zombie feels terrifying and nerve-racking. Their ‘zombie-walk’ and grotesque bodies make you terrified no matter how many time you see it. Dark and spookier corridors are rundown and splattered with blood. Meanwhile, the shadows and lights induce tension through its atmospheric vibe along with stellar audio and great level design.
Scare me stupid
The series is long stated to have complex web-like levels and that holds true in this game as well. The Racoon City Police Station, where you take your first steps in the right direction, is intriguingly puzzling. These metroidvania-ish levels will often require you to track back and forth to collect weird puzzle objects which makes you question the nature of this once museum but now said police station. It’s something very few games manage to achieve and Resident Evil 2 has some of the best level designs.
Aside from the puzzle challenges themselves, the zombies and a certain boss make for a very, very challenging atmosphere. The zombies are ridiculously persistent and shooting frantically at them will only delay your eventual doom. Even taking headshots is not easy because the zombies keep moving in indecisive ‘zombie’ ways. So you really need to focus in-between the building tension to make every bullet count.
The added layer of survival mechanics like the lack of resources drive anxiety and tension at its best. Game saving typewriters are few and far between so you really need to figure out your strategy before taking the next step.
Many times we would visit the pause menu and flit between the inventory page and the map to figure out my next destination and plan the route accordingly. By the end of it, we had the map at the back of our heads and not many games induce this level of involvement. It’s different. It’s needed.
Both health and ammo are sparsely available, so you need to pick and choose your fights. Either shoot the zombies in the head to incapacitate them momentarily or avoid and run past them and live to fight another day. We felt a little cheated by the shift in the balance of power but quickly realised that it was us that brought that upon ourselves. Shooting impulsively in the face of danger is definitely not a good strategy. Once you understand the survival aspect, the game feels well balanced.
Obviously, with the inclusion of more than one gun, grenades, knives (they have limited use) and ammo/health crafting, there are many ways to permanently splatter the wall with zombie insides but we’ll keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. Resident Evil 2 relies heavily on the little things that add up to its moment-to-moment gameplay effectively. Let's not ruin that for you.
It sounds as good as it looks
Racoon City Police Station has easily become one of my favourite levels in video games. Everywhere you look there’s tension afflicting presence. The polished surfaces in the lobby to the grim corridors, the environment itself tells a story like no other.
Whilst you marvel at the visual beauty, the audio is what puts life into its deadly setting. Bashing raindrops on the window, a thrilling soundtrack and best of all, the spatial footsteps from the enemies in and around your environment. All add to this immersive and enjoyable videogame.
We played the game on our 4K test bench and while the game looks stunning in 1080p too, we would totally recommend trying this game in 4K with 3D audio. We were lucky enough to have an Audeze Mobius for review at the time of playing which is totally apt for this kind of game. So if you’re looking to get nightmares, this is the immersive package we recommend.
Processor: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2920X; Liquid cooled by Corsair H115i RGB Platinum
GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti
Motherboard: Asus PRIME X399-A
RAM: 32GB of Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB
CPU Case: Corsair Obsidian 500D RGB
Keyboard: Kingston HyperX Alloy Elite RGB
Power Supply: Corsair AX850
RESIDENT EVIL 2 VERDICT
Survival is a key aspect to being successful at playing Resident Evil 2 and that tension is elevated by amazing audio-visual fidelity, a gripping storyline and truly the best level design we’ve ever seen.
Much like God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man from 2018, Resident Evil 2 is one of the most polished games out there. Not even once did we notice a bug or frame drop when playing on the PC.
Capcom has really outdone themselves here and while it might seem like cheating to garner respect from remaking a classic, we find this approach better for reintroducing the series to veterans and newbies of the series alike.