Our take on the survival horror PC game that everyone's talking about
Firstly, I must admit that my memory of the original Resident Evil 2 back in 1998 are somewhat blurry, most likely because I was seven at the time and would often watch my older friends or siblings playing these horror-type games with my hands firmly covering most of my vision.
Now a little older (well, over 20 years older) and little wiser/braver, the Resident Evil 2 Remake was a chance to visit Raccoon City for myself, to witness the horrors that have unfolded at the Raccoon City Police Department – and see a young rookie cop and a college student venture into what must be one of the most terrifying experiences that anyone could face.
Those who have played the free ‘1-shot’ demo got a glimpse of what the game had to offer. But even from that 30 minutes of exploring and shooting zombies, you can sense that this game had something special – that the hype was real and that you should certainly feel excited to experience the full package when the game launches on January 25th.
Making a classic even more epic
Capcom wanted to make a bold statement with the Resident Evil 2 Remake, and it was one that paid off. Above all else, the game went through a huge transformation from its pixelated presence from the 90s.
The graphics have been revamped, the characters are life-like and the environments even more so – all thanks to the impressive RE Engine used for Resident Evil 7. Wandering into the Main Hall of the museum-turned-police department was a sight to see, not only because I remember the location (albeit a few adjustments) but the feeling that you get this game is going to be something special – intense, challenging and entertaining.
Another big change is the camera angle, changing from fixed positions usually located in the corner of rooms to the over-the-shoulder view introduced in Resident Evil 4. This change, for me, was an essential one.
The HD remakes of the first Resident Evil and Resident Evil 0 looked the part after a good old polish, but most of the games stayed intact – with the fixed camera being one of surviving features. The Resident Evil 2 Remake feels like a completely new game and giving gamers the same close-up camera just behind Leon/Claire adds to the exhilarating experience.
It also means that, if you’ve had the pleasure of playing some of the recent entries in the franchise (RE4, RE5, RE6) you’ll feel right at home as you stroll around your surroundings. Resident Evil 2 takes inspiration from these newer titles in the franchise, but it still stands on its own feet by not being a complete copycat.
The huge inventory cases that allows players to flip and cram items, weapons and ammo into a Tetris-like formation does not feature – but players can find Hip Pouches which grant more inventory slots. Also, the quick-turn (being able to turn 180 degrees by pulling the stick/mouse back with the corresponding button) from RE4 has been included, but is now 'pull-back and B' instead of 'pull-back and A'.
Some may find it quite the challenge managing their inventory with such a considerably small amount of space, but with storage containers located across the game – conveniently placed next to save points (typewriters) – it tests your management and tactical abilities. Knowing that a certain item is required for an access point, opening a door, etc means that you can leave it in your container while you venture out to find additional, much-needed items.
Hey, even if you do get to a room and realize that you need that item that you’ve stored away, it’s always fun to jog back and grab it to see what other monstrous foes are lurking where they weren’t previously!
Building and maintaining a true survival horror
The Resident Evil 2 Remake puts me on edge, and that’s not a bad thing at all given the genre and projection of the game’s identity. From pulling into the Gas Station with Leon or Claire at the beginning of the game, to venturing into the creepy underground facilities below the Police Department, the game has you hooked with its intense, spine-chilling grip.
The attention to detail comes in small noises that occur when investigating rooms, nowhere feels safe, sometimes not even the ‘save rooms’ – but the true horror within the game, of course, is the not so lovable zombies. They crash through windows (unless you board them up with timber planks found scattered throughout the game), they lurk around corners and entrances hoping for a chomp, and their movement is almost hypnotic.
Those who give Easy Mode a go will have access to auto-aim, a very useful feature indeed, but for those who go in a Normal or Hard (seriously!) every confrontation can be a potential test. Zombies sway towards you, holding your aim steady in one position will do little besides waste the precious and very scarce ammo available.
You plant two good shots to a zombie’s head, it continues to move towards you, suddenly it has a but of a skip in its step – almost as if it excited that it can smell its soon-to-be meal – its arms stretch out and, before you know it, it lunges towards you.
These close encounters can go one of two ways – one being that you’ve equipped a side weapon such as a grenade or Combat Knife and can deal some damage while avoiding their teeth – or the second option, it takes a good bite out of your health. It’s worth noting that knifes wear down and will eventually break, and if you’ve used said knife to defend yourself, you won’t get it back until that zombie has been slayed.
There’s no shame in choosing to flight rather than fight is most situations, the map across various floors of the Police Department soon begins to expand – with rooms intertwining with one another and gateways to previously explored rooms becoming easier to find.
I found myself in a predicament on a few occasions, the one where my ammo supply was next to nothing (or nothing) and my health was low. Knowing specific routes around the building and where the main bulk of zombies were hiding gave me an advantage, I started to find patterns in the building and trusted my survival instincts – you can always tell when you feel confident in a room when you jog around like no one is watching!
But just when I felt like my heart rate was returning to its normal state, the game would throw another undead curve ball at me – putting me back on red alert and confronting every room like it was completely pitch black… to be honest, most rooms are, thank god for that flashlight.
I had to applaud the persistence of some of the zombies I bumped into, particularly the ones that – even after shooting them in the head and dismembering them of their arms and legs – they continued to come at me, wiggling along like an undead snake.
My first interaction with a ‘Licker’ still sends shivers down my spine, how it screeched and scuttled across the wall blindly trying to find out where I was. One thing worth noting is that you can sneak past them if you move slowly, but the fear of being attacked can often lead to your trigger finger twitching.
Boss battles spread themselves out nicely throughout the game, again, letting you find your rhythm before terrifying you with a ‘quick, act fast’ conflict with little explanation on what to do. Meeting Dr Birkin in his G-Virus infected form was a scary encounter – trying to find a correct method of taking him down resorted in a panicked dash around the confined ‘arena’ with a lot of bullets going amiss.
Fortunately, a hand grenade – the last offensive item in my inventory – helped seal my victory, but it was almost a very different story. There’s one foe that stands out for me, and that’s ‘Mr. X’ – who you’ve no doubt seen from early gameplay footage and discussions about him being an absolute beast – or had the displeasure of coming across him in the original game.
Mr. X, a Tyrant creature, is sent to Raccoon City to kill any survivors and retrieve a sample of the G-Virus – unfortunately for you, he makes a regular appearance. Aside from boss-type battles, Mr. X cannot be killed, and his constant pursuing makes this a very scary world to be immersed in.
Losing him in one room to then hear his heavy footsteps thudding across the wooden floors nearby is unlike any experience of horror that I’ve witnessed before. Even his quirky hat, which can be shot off, does little to calm your nerves as you try to put as much distance between you.
Add hallways of zombies, mutated hounds biting at your ankles and Lickers darting across walls and ceilings, and you’ve got a truly horrifying environment.
I’ve talked about a lot about new and revamped features that make the Resident Evil 2 Remake a fantastic game to play, but it also its well-known traits that gives it a familiar and likeable feel. The herbs (green, red and blue) make a welcome return, your go-to healing factor aside from First Aid Sprays, which can be combined to restore larger portions of health and cure ailments – as does the gunpowder combinations – which give players the opportunity to craft ammo for different weapons (e.g. normal gunpowder x2 for pistol ammo, normal and yellow gunpowder for shotgun ammo, etc).
Players taking on the Hard Mode will also be reunited with the Ink Ribbons used in the original game, which must be used in order to save the game. Resident Evil 2 stays true to its history and a lot of the game remembers what made the 1998 classic good, but at the same time, the look and feel of the remake surpasses it.
Once you've completed Leon and Claire's campaigns, unlocking the 'B Side' campaigns for each character, the Resident Evil 2 Remake also brings back revamped versions of The Tofu Survivor and The 4th Survivor bonus modes.
Tofu is a block of tofu (the Asian cuisine obviously) and can only perform melee attacks, which adds a whole new challenge to your survival gameplay, while Hunk (The 4th Survivor character) is the remaining Special Agent of the Umbrella Security Service, as sees players tasked with obtaining a G-Virus sample before escaping Raccoon City.
The secretive private agent Ada Wong also makes a welcome return, and players will be able to control her during short bursts under Leon's storyline. Her tasks often see gamers opening access points using hi-tech gadgets such as the EMF Visualizer, which is used to hack power lines and bust open vents.
The Resident Evil 2 Remake takes a classic game from the RE franchise and turns it on its head - with outstanding graphical upgrades, a new camera angle and a re-imagined storyline. Despite it’s January release, you can be certain that Resident Evil 2 will be a contender among the game awards at the end of the year.
Simply sensational and well worth playing for lovers of survival horror games and Resident Evil fans.
SAM'S RATING: ★★★★★