Back in 1998, we were blessed with Resident Evil 2, the sequel to the classic Resident Evil. It included more advanced gameplay and visuals, more replay value, and more modes to enjoy. Many people consider it the best Resident Evil to date, and now 21 years later, Capcom has brought this masterpiece to the current generation. Did they manage to retain the magic of the original while recreating it for the modern age of gaming?
I’m going to answer that question right now: Yes! We’ve seen a lot of remakes in the past few years with nostalgia still working a charm. But most of those remakes have been visual upgrades, while still keeping the majority of the game exactly as people remembered it.
A Complete Re-imagining of Resident Evil 2
But when it comes to this remake of Resident Evil 2, things are done a lot differently. You’ll still play as either Leon or Claire, you’ll still get to play through those challenging second scenarios, and you’ll still be searching through all those memorable locations. But what Capcom have so brilliantly with this remake is that they’ve completely recreated it from the ground-up, and given us a new and fresh experience, all while staying true to the original.
When you first walk into that massive police station hall, you’ll automatically feel at home. That reception desk, that statue near the back, you’ll instantly get those nostalgic feels. Then you’ll notice something different…where did those stairs in the back come from? Why does this place look messier than usual? Hey look, it’s Marvin, but isn’t he meant to be in the West Office?
Then you realise while it may be the same game in many ways, it’s also a completely new game for both newcomers and veterans to enjoy. When I realised this, my excitement skyrocketed! I’ll admit I had played the original Resident Evil 2 more times than I can count, but to experience it for the first time all over again was everything I’ve ever wanted.
This isn’t just remake, it’s a re-imagining. You’ll recognise many areas but there’s so many new rooms to explore. The layout also is similar, but very different. As a veteran, I appreciated this greatly because exploring an area that I knew so well wouldn’t have been as exciting. Not only has the layout of the entire game changed (not just the police station), but the twists, scares, and surprises have changed too. Whenever you’re expecting something to happen from the original, it doesn’t, but it will happen at a different point when you’re not expecting.
The puzzles and items are all different too and that’s a major part of what keeps things fresh and fun. The exploring and finding items is one of my favourite parts about any Resident Evil, so to see this completely redone just kept me hooked.
Possibly the biggest change to the game is the change of perspective, going from fixed camera angles to now over the shoulder, something that worked well in Resident Evil 4. Now you’ll have to use a bit of skill and aim for those headshots.
Now I feel I need to talk about another change in particular that has got everyone in a spin, and that is Mr. X (also known as Tyrant). Mr. X is a huge hulking bio-weapon in the form of a man, and his goal is to focus only on you and not stop until you are dead. In the original, he only appeared in the second scenario playthrough, but here he will appear in both.
This completely took me by surprise. One of my favourite things about the original Resident Evil 2 was actually Mr. X. I loved the idea of an enemy chasing you throughout the game, especially at inopportune times, to try and take you down only to finally get your revenge at the end. It was satisfying and added a unique bit of story to the game.
The same thing applies here, Mr. X will makes appearances throughout the game and you can only truly kill him at the end. But there’s one problem, he literally will not stop chasing after you until you’ve progressed far enough to properly lose him.
This means when you hear his footsteps you know he’s near, and when he finds you, all you can do is run. Your bullets are ineffective and can only stun him very temporarily, unlike the original where once he’s down, he stays down until certain points in the story.
Now I’m actually in two minds about this big change to Mr. X. On one hand, having him constantly chase you creates a lot of tension and fear. You can lose him, but he’s always searching, and loud noises will only draw him near. Trying to sneak around and avoid him is such a nerve-wrecking feeling that I haven’t really experienced before.
On the other hand though, while it raises the horror element, for me it kind of ruined the exploration element. The exploring in Resident Evil games is one of my favourite parts of these games, and to have that taken away from me, it did lessen the enjoyment a bit. I just felt rushed, and I hate feeling rushed in any game, especially in one that demands the need to thoroughly search in every room.
It did force me to spend lots of time staring at the map, plotting where I would go next and what I would do, and then hope that all goes according to plan. While it was satisfying when I pulled it off, I always felt immense relief when Mr.X was gone for good, that is until the next time he needed to make an appearance.
The Horror Element
Resident Evil 2 is a scary game, possibly the scariest in the series, though I think Resident Evil 7 may have something to say about that. There’s so many great ways in which Capcom have raised to fear factor, and I’ll gladly cover how they have.
As mentioned before, the perspective has changed to over the shoulder, meaning you can only see what’s in front of you. So when zombies/monsters are behind you, you have no real way of knowing except for audio cues (or of course if you’re bitten).
Sometimes it’s not knowing what’s there that brings out the most fear. This fear is heightened when you’re in darker areas and need to use your torch which further narrows your field of view.
Enemies are also scarier this time around. Zombies are that little bit faster and can grab you easier. The Lickers are back and even more terrifying. They ended up being my favourite enemy in the game, as I employ a different strategy to surviving them. Lickers are blind but have a great sense of hearing.
It’s possible to sneak passed them but you must be slow and quiet. It makes matters worse when they can sense you’re there and slowly follow in your direction, but don’t necessarily attack. Sneaking passed them is one of the most tension-filled moments I can think of in gaming, especially when you can hear them hissing loudly at you.
There’s plenty of other ways this new Resident Evil 2 raises the scares, such as using shadows, sound effects, lighting (or lack of), and of course Mr. X as I mentioned before. From the beginning of the game, all the way through to the end, I felt the tension from all those elements, but there was even more that that. Ammo scarcity, getting killed easily, and tough monsters all added to the already tense environment. But you know what? I loved it all and almost no other game does it better!
The Gameplay of Resident Evil 2
There’s many aspects of the gameplay that have not only changed, but have been improved. I’ve already talked about the perspective change that adds another whole element to playing the game. But it isn’t the only change that has improved this remake.
An improvement I really appreciated was the map, now when you walk passed an item or a special interest spot, it will appear on the map so you’ll to come back later when you need to. I know using our own memories can be fun, but in a game that constantly has you on your toes, it’s easy to forget where things are.
Thanks to technology, there’s no more loading screens when going through doors, which greatly helps keep the immersion going. This helps make the whole game feel like one seamless area, but that also means enemies aren’t restricted to the room they start off in (I’m looking at you Mr. X).
The realism is also incredible, not just in visuals, but physics too. When you shoot a zombie in a certain spot, they react accordingly, along with proper blood stains and bullet holes. Capcom really gave it their all to make this as realistic as possible.
If you think back to every other Resident Evil, you’ll remember the good ol’ knife that should only be a last resort if you ran out of ammo. In this game it’s actually pretty useful. When a zombie or creature gets their hands on you, you can use the knife (as well as Grenades and Stun Grenades) to get them off you and have a second chance. I always used to put my knife away, but here, I always had one equipped.
The knife has another useful feature. You can slash zombies while they lay on the ground to see if they’re actually dead or not. There’s no puddle of blood to let you know they’re gone for good, you either have to test it yourself, or hope they don’t get back up again. It’s yet another way this game ups the fear.
Once you’ve played through your first playthrough, like in the original, you’ll get to enjoy the second scenario as I like to call it. If you start your game as Leon, you’ll then get to play as Claire afterwards, but from a different perspective from Leon’s path. But it’s not exactly consistent, as there are times when you’ll still face the same boss, and complete the same puzzles, which doesn’t actually make sense when it’s supposed an alternate story to the first playthrough.
There are still some differences in the two playthroughs, but there were too many similarities that made it feel like just a more challenging version of the first playthrough. From memory I believe it was like this in the original, but it is something I wished they addressed just so it made a bit more sense. It certainly didn’t lessen the experience in any way, but just it’s something I noticed.
Apart from the multiple playthroughs you’ll no doubt undertake, there’s still plenty more to do after that, such as unlocking the 4th Survivor mode (remember Hunk…and Tofu?), higher rankings to obtain, and secret weapons to unlock. There’s an incredible amount of replay value here, and it’s refreshing to have these secrets to unlock, rather than simply purchasing them. Just add the free DLC that’s coming our way, and you’ll be playing this game for a long time, and having so much fun along the way.
Resident Evil 2 Review Summary
I mean this when I say it, but this Resident Evil 2 remake is the best remake I’ve ever played! It stays faithful to the original to keep fans happy, but is completely modernised to keep the game feeling brand new and fresh. As a fan who bought Resident Evil 2 back in 1998, I can easily say that Capcom could not have done a better job with recreating this masterpiece.
They’ve taken the best parts of all the previous Resident Evil games and perfectly fused it into this one game. The exploration and puzzles from the first 3 games, the action-oriented approach from Resident Evil 4, and the creepy horror from Resident Evil 7, all make there way into this latest entry.
This Resident Evil 2 remake is the definitive Resident Evil experience. As a life-long fan, nothing makes me happier to see one of my favourite gaming series going in the right direction, and getting stronger every time.