Resident Evil 2’s Remake is a triumph because of how it makes you feel. It’s difficult returning to older games, and even tougher when they’re over two decades old. Design improves with time and sullies our memories of engrossing experiences on a revisit, shattering the illusion of perfection your nostalgic-tinted glasses might present. Capcom’s faithful remake of this classic sequel not only proves that its design was exemplary at the time, but that with the right changes and attention to detail it’s possible to experience it again as if it were the first time.

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Resident Evil 2 stars both Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield – two stalwarts of the Resident Evil franchise who initially starred in one of its best entries. The simplicity of Resident Evil 2’s story is retained in this remake, taking place in the eerie hallways of the zombie infested Raccoon City Police Department and quickly slipping out into the catacombs beneath. The Umbrella Corporation and its nefarious (and misguided) doings are still the focal point of both stories, and it remains a cheesy – if not enjoyable – romp through some of the origins of the horrors the rest of the series would expand on. Some dialogue feels stilted and stiff but its delicately quiet nature juxtaposed by its more outlandish set-pieces still makes the entire journey worthy of multiple playthroughs.

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Of course, the way you make your way through Raccoon City isn’t the same this time. Instead of fixed-cameras and the awful tank controls of 1998, Resident Evil 2 now plays with an over-the-shoulder view like Resident Evil 4. It’s tight to your character’s back to keep your vision restricted, while movement is still slow and purposeful. The added accuracy of this view is balanced nicely with advantages when you’re not moving while aiming, encourage you to stand still frequently to pop off headshots in succession. This all combines to retain the same slow pace of the original while making it feel like a game that belongs in this generation. Resident Evil 2 doesn’t lose anything in giving you finer controls to work with, while it also doesn’t undermine the rest of the retained design elements around it.

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Much of Resident Evil 2 is still about scouring your surroundings to look items that aid your progress. A valve head is needed to shut off steam vents in an early section, for example, while colour-coded keys force you to return to areas you’ve already visited to open new sections. A revamped map system helps you keep stock of things with ease. Rooms that have been completely cleared out of items and objectives is indicated as such, while items you’ve left behind or dead-ends you’ve encountered are marked clearly enough so that returning to them is never a memory exercise. You might not need these tools to explore the faithfully recreated routes from the original title, but it does make this remake equally approached to newcomers too.

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It’s bewildering then that so many of Resident Evil 2’s classic design elements return to serve their same thoughtful purposes as before. Mr. X, as he’s been so fondly named by fans, remains an expertly executed addition to break up the monotony of repetitive backtracking. His loud, thumping footsteps echo through the wooden halls of the police station, forcing you to move slower and peer around corners with caution. On the other end of the spectrum, returning monstrosities such as Lickers can turn narrow passages into deadly choke points. Their aggressive nature and fast movement make them as tricky to pin down as ever, even with the added benefit of a more modern movement system.

Even standard undead enemies pose large threats, both alone and in larger groups. They’ve been balanced to take far more firepower than you might remember, while also jerking back into motion at the most inopportune times. Resident Evil 2 never makes you feel comfortable with threats and doesn’t reward you with enough resources to kill them all. Deciding when to fight and when to use equipment like flash grenades or shotguns is paramount to your survival and remains as engrossing as ever.

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It would be criminal not to admire how great Resident Evil 2 looks as well. Based off the same advancements that Resident Evil 7 presented (albeit from a different perspective) Resident Evil 2 looks exceptional while also running incredibly well. Lighting is the standout here, with the soft glow of your character’s flashlight never piercing the darkness ahead as much as you’d like. The rain-soaked roof of the police station reflects ambient light sources to create an eerie atmosphere for you to explore. Smaller details make corpses a grotesque sight while also elevating the classic designs of memorable characters to new heights. You might often remember a game looking far better than it does, but with Resident Evil 2 Capcom has captured that nostalgia in a bottle and used it to enhance this remake in every way possible.

Sound is just as important, and the selective lack thereof is used expertly here too. Resident Evil 2 doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares to elicit fear, but rather the creaks of the wooden floors beneath your steps and the shattering of glass windows as undead foes attempt to attack you from behind. Weapons are given a considerable amount of weight to their shots thanks to their thunderous, explosive sounds, making the gross explosion of a zombie head with a perfect headshot that much more satisfying to pull off. Sound is what makes enemies like Mr. X shine in every scene he’s in but serves just as an important function mechanically too.

Without the well-implemented 3D audio, Resident Evil 2’s hallways would be far more dangerous to journey through without being able to pinpoint where a threat is. This is a game that screams for a good pair of headphones or a well-positioned surround sound system, and it truly is a treat in either scenario.

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Just like the original, Resident Evil 2 also remains deeply replayable thanks to its dual protagonists and strange piecing together of their separate paths. Completing the campaign with either Leon or Claire will unlock the other character’s “2nd Run” campaign – letting you play through the same events from a different perspective. Story beats repeat in a way that makes little sense when the story tries to convince you that these two playthroughs were happening in parallel, but the slight changes to item placements and small alterations to character motives and set-pieces make the two otherwise similar playthroughs engaging to play. Given that you can swap between which character starts your story essentially gives you four paths to play through, while additional modes and speedrunning for higher completion scores gives the whole package a great sense of replayability.

It’s important then, that Resident Evil 2 is immensely entertaining to return to time and time again. Capcom has done a great job of recreating this classic in a way that retains the familiarity of the original while also elevating it to the standards of modern gaming. This transformation rarely makes its two-decade old design standout poorly, with only some stale dialogue getting in the way of an action-packed and fun story. Resident Evil 2 plays better than it ever has, but it’s also the best the series has felt yet. While this might be looking to the past for inspiration, the future of Resident Evil might do well to takes notes as it moves into the future.

Last Updated: January 28, 2019

Resident Evil 2 Remake
Resident Evil 2’s remake highlights just how great Capcom’s first sequel in the Resident Evil series ways, but does it in a way that makes it the most compelling entry in the series thus far. It’s smart changes merge with the classic design expertly, while its atmosphere is rich thanks to gorgeous lighting and incredible sound design. It’s a reminder of the past, but this remake would be a fine direction for the future of Resident Evil
9.0
Resident Evil 2 Remake was reviewed on PlayStation 4

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