: Resident Evil 4 is in my top three games of all time. It’s also still the best Resident Evil game ever released. I also played through -- multiple times -- Resident Evil Zero and Resident Evil 1 (GameCube remake). I’ve also played through Resident Evil 3, Resident Evil 4 (obviously), Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil 6 and most recently, Resi 7. You’ll note that on that list above, is the omission of Resident Evil 2. For some reason I never played the original, which is why I was really stoked to get my Leon S. Kennedy back on, and in a Resi 4-style camera and character movement setup to boot. So, as this is my first jaunt through early outbreak Raccoon City, you’ll have to forgive my lack of comparison to the original release.
First up, maybe don’t play the game on Hardcore. Zombies sponge bullets early on, and are equally aggressive even when you bring them to ground. There’s no melee either (until you get your first knife), so your only real option of staying alive is to avoid them, but you lose a lot of health if you’re the recipient of a good zombie necking. This immediately makes the game feel dated and unfair, but then that’s the point of playing on Hardcore. And for the purpose of this review, I continued on the challenge assault which took me to dark places in my past -- mainly that these games have all, always been designed around starving the player. So if you want the traditional Mikami way of things, if you want to know just how rough we had it as kids, then play Resident Evil 2 on Hardcore, but take our advice: run away, it’s the easiest way to return to fight another day.
Out of the gate, Resident Evil 2 is gorgeous. Almost too
gorgeous. I actually felt like it was a bit too shiny early on, and what 4K HDR does to the game is highlight the antithesis of “gorgeous”. The blood, guts and overall gore and horror are on show here for the first real time in a Resident Evil game. That first neck fillet you see a zombie butcher off an NPC, and eventually yourself, is in the realms of “wow, is this now too
real?”. But this sells the dramatic situation you’re in. This is a zombie fucking apocalypse, it’s not going to be nice for anyone, let alone your wallflowererd, snowflake sensibilities -- get on with it, Leon. There’s work to do.
"This isn’t a ‘dynamic’ experience, per se. Games like this of the past were binary and essentially on-rails, as far as how the developer pushed you into your required progression path(s)..."
If you’re new to the series, or Resident Evil 2, Leon isn’t alone. He has help in the form of series mainstay Claire Redfield. You also have the option of choosing to play as either Leon or Claire from the outset, and if you play through one character’s story, you’ll unlock more of the other’s for another playthrough. Each has different agendas, encounters and environments to explore, as well as the shared spaces. This gives the game plenty of replay value and reminds us of the Capcom of old.
And speaking of, that’ll be the differentiator for newcomers. This isn’t a ‘dynamic’ experience, per se. Games like this of the past were binary and essentially on-rails, as far as how the developer pushed you into your required progression path(s). In this remake, however, they’ve loosened the reins a bit. It’s *almost
* Metroidvania, if you please -- see sections of the game-world that are locked or require something
to open, or operate or reveal and you know you’ll find that thing and come back for even more scares later. The game is actually incredibly well-paced, with that in mind, it’s just that every time you die and go back through the paces, another old-school videogame trait rears its head: predictability
"What stems from this is a two-prong player-response: frustration at losing so much progress, but knowledge of that progress and how to quickly pick it all back up and get on with it. Unfortunately the side-effect of this is a game that can feel tedious and repetitive at times..."
It can be frustrating doing a stack of item gathering, zombie slaying (or locking out) and puzzle-solving, only to forget this is not a Checkpoint-style game. Game saves are done at typewriters, and saves require typewriter ink ribbons, and these are strewn about the world and come in short order, as is the recipe for these types of experiences. What stems from this is a two-prong player-response: frustration at losing so
much progress, but knowledge of
that progress and how to quickly pick it all back up and get on with it. Unfortunately the side-effect of this is a game that can feel tedious and repetitive at times. Management of resources and being aware of the environment -- on your third, fourth or fifth run through a pre-save sequence means the scares, horror and tension are lost to speed-run sensibilities.
It’s not a bad
system, but it’s at odds with the game’s new, shiny presentation and may not sit well with people fresh to the series, and an old formula.
What does stand out, however, is just how thoughtful these games were back in the day, and while I do know the series backward, I also know that Resident Evil 2 presented some of the series’ best environmental puzzles. Again, be warned if you’re a Resi newb, there’s sort of a rhyme but there’s definitely no reason to how this works -- you’ll see environmental impediments that require a specific
item; no MacGyvering
here. But that’s the point of these games: starve the player, pull their strings and puppeteer the horror experience. In this Resident Evil 2 remake it feels awesome to be out of the fixed-camera design of the original series, and much of the aforementioned puppeteering was built off that fixed visual setup, so you feel more
in control than ever, especially if you’re a Resi 2 vet, but I just don’t think they did enough to capitalise on the new movement and eye-freedom for the player.
At the end of the day, this feels like someone at Capcom wondered “what if you could play Resident Evil 2, as if it was Resident Evil 4?” and then greenlit the project. It’s not even remotely bad (thoroughly enjoyable, actually), but in all honesty I’d have rathered a new game on this engine starring anyone
from the series (plus Leon -- he’s my dreamboat), than another remake. Ever since Resident Evil 4 Capcom has found it difficult to top Mikami’s masterpiece, and in the wake of poorer games, just keep going back to the re-release/remake well. Someone at the company is
capable of giving us the next proper evolution, or even revolution
of the series, as Resident Evil 4 was. But a remake of Resident Evil 2 in the cracked mirrored reflection of Resident Evil 4 is not the solution to their internal escape room puzzle needs.
"It can be frustrating and grinding at times, but this is how games were designed and played back in the day..."
Conversely, this is a solid game built off an old experience that brings videogame horror to the visual contemporary. It can be frustrating and grinding at times, but this is how games were designed and played back in the day. We just may have come too
far for a presentation of this calibre to be tied to game-design so long lost. Plenty of value if you’re a survival-horror/horror fan, or just a Resident Evil fan, but for mine -- a brand new experience would have been more welcome.