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Review: Resident Evil 2 Remake masterfully modernizes a horror classic

DISCLAIMER: A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4, and PC
Developers: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
MSRP: $59.99
Release Date: Friday, January 25th, 2018
Resident Evil is a major pillar for gaming history. When people talk about horror games, this is the series that almost immediately comes to mind. It’s a rich series that revolutionized ways games were made and experienced but somewhere along the way, many felt it lost its way.
With Resident Evil 5 and 6, fans become hesitant of where Capcom was going with the series. Slowly but surely, the series has had a mighty resurgence that ultimately resulted in the gaming staple being reshaped with Resident Evil 7. While it’s definitely a fantastic game, some rejected the idea of it being a Resident Evil game because it changed the way you played.
Now, two years after Resident Evil 7, we’ve come full circle on the series with the release of Resident Evil 2 Remake. A true, unmistakably authentic RE experience that delivers on almost all fronts. This remake will quench the thirst of longtime veterans craving that classic RE experience but also leave those who boarded the series for the first time with 7 infected by that undeniable rush that comes with old school Resident Evil gameplay.

You’re given an option to pick between Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield’s story at the start of the game. They’re both largely the same experience, you’ll be hitting the same core beats in both of their stories but new dialogue, characters, and opportunities will be presented to both characters making it worth it to play both.
There’s also a set of second run campaign options, I personally didn’t have time to play them for this review but it promises new endings and other changes to both Claire and Leon’s stories.

Narratively, the game holds up quite well and presents an interesting albeit rather short experience. I was able to burn through Leon’s story in about 5 – 6 hours and Claire’s was even shorter because, by that point, I knew exactly what I was doing making it easier to speed through. Thankfully, the additional modes add much more replay value.
The disappointing thing is the fact that both stories are somewhat identical, while there are changes that do justify playing both, they’re not as large as I’d hope they’d be. When you play as Leon, you’ll see Claire on security cameras or talk to her through locked gates, meaning you never stay in touch long and their interactions are brief.

I was hoping when I played as Claire, I’d see exactly what she had been up to but you don’t really. They just change the places of both characters so when Leon is in RPD, Claire’s outside, but when you play as Claire, Leon’s outside and Claire’s inside RPD. It’s slightly annoying as it means the content isn’t as varied as it could be but it’s true to the original game.
One other thing that bothered me but is more of a nitpick than anything else is dialogue outside of cutscenes. In cutscenes, everything is performed pretty well but when you’re walking and talking with other characters, there are sometimes long pauses between sentences in an unnatural way. To make it worse, sometimes you can tell when it’s totally different takes stitched together and it sounds very choppy, like these lines were recorded days or weeks apart so their tone of voice just changes randomly.
On the gameplay side, Capcom has masterfully balanced the need to evolve and modernize their survival horror formula while retaining some of the most essential elements of the series. Resident Evil 2’s remake comes with top of the line graphics, new puzzles and content, and controls to make it feel more comfortable to play but don’t fret, it still keeps that feeling of forced slowness to build tension when in enemy encounters.

There’s something very particular about the way Resident Evil handles which goes hand in hand with the fear factor. While RE2 doesn’t strap your feet down when you aim your weapon like earlier entries, you will be backing up very slowly which still delivers that desired feeling of immense terror as a zombie inches closer and closer, swiping its arms at you.

Capcom just nails horror in this survival horror renaissance exhibit. From the aforementioned gameplay tension to building a world which fills you with unparalleled dread. The team has painstakingly recreated the original environments as you remember them so the claustrophobia of navigating the tight hallways of RPD is still very present.

Since a large part of Resident Evil 2 is exploring large levels for extended periods of time by backtracking, unlocking new rooms, and what not, you’ll often find yourself going through hallways you’ve seen dozens of times. You get to know these areas like the back of your hand… and then you’ll go down one of these corridors you’ve visited several times and be met with a zombie.
No big deal right? Just knock him down and keep moving. You move forward… there’s another one… and another, and this hallway you once considered a bit of a safe space is now your worst enemy because it’s compacted and you’re low on bullets. You try to squeeze past them as they growl at you but they pin you against the wall and chomp at your neck, you manage to escape but the small group of just two or three zombies feels overwhelming.
This is what Resident Evil 2 does best. It makes a group of zombies you could do rollcall with on one hand feel like an unprecedented force of nature. Truth be told, there’s probably less than 120 – 150 zombies in this game (that may even be a generous estimate) but it uses the undead so wisely, instead of making them cannon fodder the player easily mows down, it makes them feel threatening.

Simply put, Resident Evil 2 makes zombies scary and purposeful again. They’re rather tough, as well. Shooting them a few times in the head will usually knock them down and they’ll appear to be dead but they’ll typically get back up next time you stroll past. The only way to definitively kill one is by destroying its head entirely, making them all the more dangerous.
And when there’s a threat other than zombies like a licker or the Tyrant? Forget about it, it’s the stuff of nightmares. The kind of moments that make your stomach tighten up, your hands clench down on the controller, as you sprint away and let a small whimper of fear escape from your throat.

The best way to describe it is to imagine that scene in Jurassic Park where they’re being chased by the T-Rex and Jeff Goldblum mutters to himself “Must go faster…” That’s exactly what I’m thinking of myself when the behemoth that is the Tyrant is hot on my tail.
One touch that I love is that zombies never ever just disappear or despawn, even after death. Their bodies remain exactly where you left them, if you kill one at the start of the game and manage to come back five hours later, it’ll be in the same spot.

Same with alive zombies, they’ll roam around but stay in the same general area but if you opt to run away, you may have to deal with them when you return. It’s super impressive what Capcom has managed to do with this game on a technical level, everything is seamless so that there are no loading screens unless you die.
You can return to pretty much every location in the game by finding new routes or backtracking and everything will be exactly how you left it without the game needing to stop you to load it all back in. I was continuously blown away by this despite it being a small detail in the grand scheme of things.
Exploring the world itself is a treat, Capcom doesn’t hold your hand whatsoever so solving puzzles and surviving the undead is a challenge. You’re left to your own devices, made to think, experiment, and embrace the world around you. Some solutions to puzzles are more obvious than others, some are actually really obscure and are written on a chalkboard you’ve passed dozens of times but haven’t bothered to stop and read because you’ve mentally programmed yourself to just ignore that kind of stuff in games.

Resident Evil 2 is incredibly clever in how it organically delivers information to you, giving you euphoric feelings when it finally “clicks” and you can solve a puzzle that’s either required to progress or simply used to gain a new item.
The Verdict:
Resident Evil 2 is a definite remake in every sense of the word. It feels familiar but it’s also dressed up to be 100% new for both veterans and newcomers alike. Fans will appreciate the smooth controls that still maintain the classic Resident Evil feel, the genuine feeling of horror, the great puzzles, and much more. There’s so much here to love, I would find it blasphemous for a survival horror or RE fan to dislike this game.

Capcom has managed to redeliver a classic in a way that sparks new life into the series and survival horror genre. Resident Evil 2’s remake is simply a masterclass in perfecting love letters to fans.

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