Before Leon S. Kennedy became his cooler Resident Evil (RE) 4 iteration, he was merely a rookie cop who moved like a tank, took his sweet time to aim in the face of danger, and was absent of any cool melee moves. But lacking mobility and action oriented combat was the original charm of the RE series, and RE2's remake brings us back to all the things that we loved in Resident Evil when it was genuinely a survival horror rather than an action game.
Of course, being a remake, it does come with a lot of modern improvements to its visuals and gameplay, which Capcom did a good job of implementing without drastically changing the feel of the game.
Welcome back to Raccoon City
It's been a long time indeed since we last visited the ill fated Raccoon City (let's pretend Umbrella Corps never existed), and thanks to the RE Engine which was previously used for RE7, everything we remembered from RE2 has been visually redone.
The original locations from RE2 have been completely redone in full 3D which enhances the immersion and atmosphere. While the original simulated claustrophobic locations with limited viewing angles, the remake adds even more to the feeling of uncertainty with dark corridors, tight spaces, and dynamic environments.
Lighting plays a major role in the game with the aforementioned dark corridors, hallways, and rooms - which adds even more tension in the experience as your flashlight can only reveal so much as you traverse the darkness, hoping not to be caught with your pants down by an unsuspecting zombie. Sure, lighting in horror games isn't anything new, but witnessing Mr. X's tall, fedora-ed shadow reflected from a corner is more than enough to put you in panic mode. Good times.
Like RE7, the game ditches hand crafted character models with face captured actors portraying our beloved characters, and even a good number of zombies. Personally, I'm onboard with this approach, and the emotions seen in the characters' faces during intense situations is a big leap forward to the stoic expressions of the older character models. Not to say that hand crafted ones are bad in any way, non-actor characters such as Lickers and Mr. X are still terrifying to look at, with the former looking extremely grotesque in its modern interpretation.
New yet familiar features
Gone are the days of painstakingly rotating your character to aim and move. Without fail, the remake implements the currently familiar over-the-shoulder third person mechanics of modern RE games, but excludes features such as dodging or melee finishers. Even with the improved controls, movement still feels somewhat limited and dodging enemy lunges is still challenging. Despite knowing the fact that you're in a zombie apocalypse and desperate to survive, the running speed is ridiculously equivalent to a weekend jog. Of course, it's all just to make combat more tense, and encouraging players to be more cautious.
Speaking of which, combat is indeed improved compared to the original but due to limited ammunition, the sense of making each and every shot counts still matters the most. When entering aim mode, movement is slowed down which makes sense as you try to carefully line up your targeting reticule to the ever swaying zombie heads. Aiming while staying still is extremely beneficial as the longer you aim, the faster your reticle shrinks to a more focused shot which may have a good chance to score a critical hit (ie; splattering a zombie's head entirely). Criticals differ from weapon to weapon where in point blank situations, shotguns are guaranteed to pop a zombie’s head off without requiring focus.
Being a RE game, item management is ever important. The item storage interface looks very similar to RE7's, but that's hardly a complaint. You'll start off with limited space, and the game does well to put you in an item management hell as you struggle to hoard or to leave space for important items that you may stumble upon later. Some items will require two inventory slots, and others can be combined together to create healing items, ammunition, and even puzzle pieces. Closely examining a key item is crucial as well, since you'll never know what secrets it may hide.
The map helps you out by highlighting areas in your current location as blue when all items are secured, and red when some items are still left behind. Fret not, if you've encountered an item but unable to pick it up due to whatever reason, the map will label its exact location for you as well. Very handy for those with OCD. Due to heavy emphasis on backtracking, the map will also label locations of important objects such as puzzle pieces and mechanisms if you've encountered them.
What has changed?
Aside from the obvious visual update and the jump to full 3D, certain parts of the game has been changed to accommodate its modern implementations. New content include rooms, levels, weapons, puzzles, and even enemies. All these are a welcomed change to actually keep the experience nostalgic yet fresh at the same time.
I won't expose the improvements done to the puzzles and levels, but I will emphasise on the enemies. Zombies are sluggish and slow most of the time, but their stumbling and swaying is what makes it difficult to land a headshot. At close range, they will immediately lunge towards you for a very unhygienic and painful hickey. Getting caught up in a group will end miserably as a zombie double-team (yes, it’s a thing) at half health will result in an instant death. Thankfully, they can be stun-locked with headshots and several blows to their kneecaps if you wish to run past them.
If you thought the low-polygon Lickers of yesteryear were frightening, get a load of the ones in the remake. Lickers can stick to walls and ceilings, and are able to swiftly pounce at you from that position if you’re not careful. Forget outrunning them as they’re faster, and they’ll leap towards you to shorten the distance. Aside from having heavy firepower to take them down, you could actually sneak past them and avoid combat. Lickers in the RE2 Remake are blind and could only rely on sound to track you, so use that to your advantage.
In the original RE2, Mr. X would only appear in Leon or Claire’s B scenarios while in the remake, he is present in every playthrough to stalk and harass both characters, because of course he can. The tyrant will seek the player out in a location, and will immediately investigate an area if a commotion was caused (ie: fighting off zombies). His heavy footsteps can be heard when he is patrolling nearby, which is enough pressure you to either retreat or seek a place to hide. When caught in his sights, he will engage in an aggressively fast power walk towards you and will try to swing a devastating hook if you’re close enough. Mr. X is even more threatening if you’re caught in between him and several zombies. Even worse if there’s a Licker nearby. He’s invulnerable, but with enough headshots or heavy weapon damage, he’ll drop to one knee for a brief moment but enough for you to escape.
Back for more
So you’ve finished the original RE2 and you’re planning to hop back into the fray with the remake, but is that enough to sate your Resident Evil cravings? RE2 has plenty to offer with its base game and additional content. Like before, each characters have their scenario A and Bs which handles differently from each other - with the latter scenario being more difficult than the former.
Once you’re done with that, there’s the 4th Survivor time attack mode featuring Hunk - an Umbrella mercenary armed to the teeth, and Tofu - a sentient… piece of tofu. There are no item drops or pickups in this mode, thus why 4th Survivor is an excellent place to test your RE experience by dodging zombies and wasting as little resources as you can in order to beat the current World Record time which is logged online on RE Net.
Finally, there’s the recently released Ghost Survivors free DLC content (developers and publishers take note) featuring three different characters and their own exclusive scenarios. Ghost Survivors’ concept is similar to 4th Survivor’s time attack approach but with twists of its own. Each character scenario features its own equipment setup and unique enemy variants such as armoured zombies and Regenerators (yes, they’re back). Another feature that sets this apart from 4th Survivor are item drops and pickups which are available by looting a backpack equipped zombie, and by accessing pickup kiosks. The latter will only allow you to choose only one out of three items, so plan carefully.
All modes in RE2 consists of various achievements which could unlock artwork, 3D models, costumes, and even weapons. In a time where microtransactions is king, the ability to unlock extra content by fulfilling achievements is such a welcomed method. Like the good ol’ days.
Is it worth revisiting?
It’s hard not to recommend the RE2 remake to anyone. The original was a shining example of what a great genre survival horror can be, and the remake gloriously revamped everything we loved from the game and transformed it into an experience that fits relevantly to today’s standards. There’s lots of love being put into this remake and it shows. Where RE7 did a remarkable job of returning the franchise back to its roots, Resident Evil 2 Remake excels by reaching back to what made the series great and fine tuning it further to make it even greater. As much as I want to see RE3 get a remake, I would rather like to see what Capcom can do with a new sequel now that the franchise have found its footing.