There has been no shortage of remakes and remasters over the last few years. Developers and publishers have rushed to re-release their classic games, updating them for modern hardware. It only seemed like a matter of time, then, before Resident Evil 2 got the same treatment. After all, it is recognized as one of the best survival horror games of all time
With the remake released in 2019, many modern gamers might be experiencing Resident Evil 2 for the first time. That’s because the original released way back in 1998 for the PS1. Of course, as with any remaster, the question remains whether such an old game holds up after two decades.
Resident Evil 2 takes place a few months after its predecessor. The zombie outbreak has now spread across the entirety of Raccoon City. Players take on the roles of Leon and Claire in separate stories that are unlocked after beating the main campaign. Capcom has stuck with the original formula most of the time. Yet, they have also made some significant changes to certain scenes and moments to take advantage of performance upgrades. So, those who have played the original to death will still find plenty of enjoyment.
Unfortunately, one gripe I do have is that the different campaigns all feel too similar. While they switch up locations and quests somewhat, each is more of a rehashed experience than a brand new campaign. The only real differences are completing objectives in new orders and encountering certain enemies at different points. Big story elements and plot details remain constant across them. Those who love Resident Evil 2 will get a kick out of them. But for everyone else, they are something that will likely remain untouched. The extra campaigns are not entertaining enough to justify more playthroughs.
Unlike the original game that used a fixed perspective, the Resident Evil 2 remake utilizes a third-person camera. The controls have switched up to give you the ability to move around freely. However, much of the action is the same as before. The main mechanics involve shooting zombies and solving puzzles. This new enhanced version also includes extra difficulty modes and collectibles. A few twists have been inserted along the way to ensure that this feels like a new game.
One of the best aspects of Resident Evil 2 is the wide array of enemies. Almost all of them are tough. They can take multiple hits from your gun and can deal a large amount of damage out if you get close. For example, the powerful Tyrant and Licker monsters add real variety to combat and keep things fresh.
You also have to carefully manage your inventory. Ensuring that you are well stocked up on ammo and other essential equipment is paramount to staying alive. So you have to be extra careful about scavenging. Failing to do so will leave you short of items at a vital moment. This will inevitably end in your death or at least force you to backtrack.
As a survival horror game, this works well. Every scene pours with tension. The drama of knowing that a new evil could be lurking around any corner creates a palpable atmosphere. Getting through an area can often feel more like you managed to squeak by and survive. By creating this sense of you just about surviving each encounter, you remain permanently on edge.
Capcom didn’t go with a half-hearted remaster with Resident Evil 2. While many remakes stick with trying to upgrade the visuals and performance, this edition is a complete reworking. The developer has built it from the ground up. It now uses the same engine that Resident Evil 7 uses, giving it a remarkable look. The zombies are some of the best you will see in any video game and the environments are all beautifully rendered. Characters have detailed expressions and react to the world around them. It also means there are no loading screens. Everything runs smoothly and without issue.
Probably the best aspect of the presentation, though, is the excellent sound design. The original game purposely limited the amount of music. Although controversial, it was an effective means of ratcheting up the terror. Without a distracting musical score, you can hear every little bump and creak. Being able to sense approaching enemies adds to the foreboding atmosphere, as do all the extra sound effects. Playing with headphones or a good sound system is a terrifying but delightful experience.
Even with the sheer number of remakes over the last few years, Resident Evil 2 stands out. It manages to not only improve on every facet of the original but also makes several worthwhile additions. Capcom showed what they were capable of with Resident Evil 7 but this title is more impressive. Making so many improvements while keeping the spirit of the original alive is difficult. But they’ve done real justice to a 21-year-old game and brought it up to date for modern audiences. You’ll struggle to find a better remake on current consoles.