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Resident Evil 2 review: reopening nightmares

By Craig House Jan 31, 2019
Resident Evil 2's protagonist Leon Kennedy Credit: CAPCOM


“Stay back sir, I’ve got this.” Moments later the officer is tackled to the ground,  his crimson blood spilling across the floor as his throat is devoured.

His attackers’ eyes are glazed white and his flesh is cloaked in a horrific amount of human blood. It is safe to say that Resident Evil 2 is a terrifying masterpiece.

Resident Evil has been a staple of the horror genre since its debut in 1996 and the successful series has had multiple iterations, spin offs and even critically acclaimed movies.

At its core Resident Evil is the epitome of survival horror.

However, in more recent years, things changed. The series, much to the distaste of some of its more vocal fanbase, strayed from these roots and favoured a more action styled gameplay.

The 2017 release of Resident Evil 7 sought to rectify the issue and their newest game, a remake of Resident Evil 2, once again sees a welcome return to the fundamentals that made this series what it is today.

The gaming industry has been preying on nostalgia, and more remasters and remakes are appearing with each calendar year. With so many great games being reimagined it is near-on impossible to relive them all, but Resident Evil 2 is a game certainly worthy of your time.

However it’s probably best to warn you, this game truly is terrifying. This comes from someone who prides themselves on binge-watching horror films and playing scary video games, so hopefully that tells you what you need to know.

The remake is a revisualisation of the game built on the latest technology so hardcore fans will still have a reason to purchase this game and relive the nightmare once more.

The original Resident Evil 2 from 1996 was graphically inferior to the remake Credit: Kill Screen
The original Resident Evil 2 from 1996 was graphically inferior to the remake Credit: Kill Screen

The general gameplay feels smoother and though I was critical at first, the less restrictive camera angles work well and don’t detract from the atmosphere.

Speaking of the atmosphere, it is sublime; the anxiety that builds as you push open an office door and slowly approach a police corpse sat at a desk, who may or may not be a zombie, is truly nerve-inducing.

By today’s standard the graphics are average but in comparison to its 21-year-old predecessor it is a completely new experience. They have been polished and refined and, along with the new gameplay improvements, you’re experiencing the definition of what a remake should be.

What makes a game of this genre so successful is preying on the player’s inventory. A fight with a zombie will play on your nerves when you’re down to your last bullet and you’ve used every last useful item.

Resident Evil 2 will have you frantically searching every nook and cranny as you furiously debate with yourself whether you should have placed one more bullet into the head of your enemy, as opposed to that panic shot that grazed his shoulder.

Those with Dolby surround sound will find the whole experience even more unnerving as you aim your torch down a dark corridor, praying that the inevitable next jump scare isn’t as close as you think.

Bringing the game to modern consoles just means that everything sounds and looks much scarier but with 4K support or 60fps if you chose to play at a lower resolution.

Resident Evil 2 protagonist Ada Wong confronts a horde of zombies. Credit: CAPCOM
Resident Evil 2 protagonist Ada Wong confronts a horde of zombies. Credit: CAPCOM

For those new to the series, there’s more to the experience than elevating your heart beat to unnatural levels.

The game often revolves around puzzles that you will need to solve in order to move forward, puzzles which are sometimes made a bit trickier by cohorts of undead enemies viewing you as their next snack.

When revamping a game held in such high regards it is risky to stray from the original mechanics which made the game the success it is.

However, to just recreate the game lacks ambition and doesn’t given seasoned veterans anything new to add to their experience of the game.

Though technically a remake of the original game, the developer Capcom does a great job of implementing lots of new content.

Adaptive difficulty is one of these implementations, if you’re newer to the series and struggling with the survival elements, the game will cater to this and reduce some of the enemies you have to contend with.

Visually, areas remain the same but the plot is different so those aforementioned experienced players will be kept guessing as to what’s coming next.

Technology has greatly improved since the game’s original release in 1998 and the more modernised dynamic camera angles give the game a very different feel, in my opinion this is the biggest new implementation.

For nostalgia reasons it may have been nice to have a fixed camera option but technology has changed so much and remake or not, I think the game does need to reflect that.

Ada Wong searches in debris Credit: CAPCOM
Ada Wong searches in debris Credit: CAPCOM

There is enough fresh content to offer a different perspective on what some regard as the best Resident Evil game to be made.

As with many other gamers I’m always critical when I hear of yet another remaster or remake but Resident Evil 2 shows that a masterclass in survival horror can be modernised and still maintain all of its nostalgic charm.

All in all, Resident Evil 2 is a game that can be enjoyed by newcomers to the series or fans who experienced the game over two decades ago. You’ll scream either way.

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