Gotta get to the Police Station. There’s so many of these things… what the hell happened here? Bang! … Bang bang bang! Damn these things are strong. I gotta be more careful. 4 bullets left? Dozens more of them. Can I do this? I gotta be fast but also not get grabbed. Phew that was close. One bullet in this one will slow it down, I can make the gap. I can make it. I’m gonna make it.
Welcome to Resident Evil 2 where killing every enemy is not always an option. This is survival horror gameplay at its best.
I was a bit pessimistic about this game going in and held off buying it for quite some time. When I first played the demo a year ago I thought it was beautiful, but the lack of movement options didn’t feel good. You can’t do melee attacks, kick or punch wildly or dive around the room like Resident Evil 4/5/6 which feels restricting in this over-the-shoulder viewpoint. It takes some getting used to, but this is just how the classic Resident Evil games felt. It worked then, and it works now.
Upon starting this game from the beginning, I realised this game was not meant to be played like modern Resident Evil games. It feels -exactly- like the classic fixed-camera Resident Evils, and I had to bring that mindset back. You have to make a lot of decisions in this game. If there’s an enemy in a hallway, it’s very risky to run past it. You have to decide whether to sink your ammo into it, risk a grab, or go a different way. This makes the game very tense and I liked that a lot the more I played. It’s very engaging.
Eventually you find much more daunting enemy encounters and the relative simplicity of young Leon makes it much more terrifying. Leon and Claire are both in over their heads. It’s Leon’s first day as a cop, and Claire isn’t a cop at all, she’s just looking for her brother and bumps into Leon. The gameplay reflects these characters as they are. Leon hasn’t learned how to suplex or do roundhouse kicks yet. Not having that flexible combat option removes a bit of depth from the combat compared to Resident Evil 4, but creates more of a classic survival horror feel. They put a lot more design into positioning, enemy behavior and layout instead. It’s just as rewarding but with a different feeling.
That’s a good price for air. This is the kind of detail I love, I can just imagine coming to this gas station on the way to Raccoon City. Seeing all this little text and brand new detail adds more lore and authenticity to the world without rewriting the script. They got so many details right in this game. It doesn’t feel like they just threw a million chairs together like Resident Evil 6. Everything sorta has a reason to be there, as you find out more and more about the police station. They took in civilians to try and keep people safe during the outbreak, and things were chaotic. You can see shelves and furniture that people placed in hallways to protect themselves. Bags packed in bedrooms. Unfinished food. Bloodstains and footprints. I had a great time just looking around each room piecing together the story and scenario with my imagination.
*thud… thud… thud…*
Do you hear something?
Bullets do nothing? Time to RUN!
The Tyrant (or Mr X as the internet and Capcom call him) is a controversial gameplay element that I ended up loving. It shows up and stalks you through major parts of the game, meaning you can’t relax and look around at your own pace. This is tough to swallow after getting used to enjoying the immense detail at your own leisure, but it’s worth it. You look at things in a different way when you’re in danger. The tension was something I hadn’t experienced in a game before, not on this level. Hearing his footsteps parade about the police station, without a care for anything except your destruction is truly terrifying. He can not be killed or stopped, only avoided. Planning a route around him adds even more strategy to the survival horror gameplay. You can’t complete a puzzle efficiently when he’s in the room. You also need to make sure you don’t sandwich yourself between him and enemies you decided not to kill earlier. It was a tense gameplay element that added even more survival horror and I thought it was perfect for what this game wanted to be.
If you’re worried about this hampering your enjoyment, my best advice is to take it slow. Don’t think you need to escape immediately from the police department or any room or puzzle. Just keep moving and study his actions and you get better at avoiding him. You don’t need to always be making progress. Planning, moving, and thinking is progress in classic Resident Evil. It’s a lot of fun, even when you make a lot of mistakes and have to run for your life. If I have one tip, it’s that save rooms are off limits to him. You can take a breather if you want.
If it’s too much for you then that’s okay too, survival horror is not for everyone. This game has a very strong feeling of survival anxiety, even on the lowest difficulty. Great for fans of horror games, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. The jank and sillyness in the classic games made them a bit less scary to me, even though they had a great atmosphere. Now the jank is gone and the only thing to remind you it’s a videogame is the inventory screen. Your character doesn’t run into walls anymore and even holds the gun differently depending on how you stand. It’s way more realistic, but in an effortless way you don’t think too much about.
I can’t speak highly enough of this game’s graphics. It’s more than just a cluster of objects and fine textures, the lighting and atmosphere is second to none. The game absolutely nails the feeling of being isolated in this apocalyptic situation and makes the Police Station feel like your entire world. You want to escape but you also want to find out everything you can about this place just to feel safer. Not just the graphical style but the sound design is absolutely top notch. You hear a lot of things in this game before you see them. It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played from a technical standpoint, with a stable framerate and not a single glitch encountered in my two playthroughs. It’s a highly polished work with great art direction. The game’s graphics create their own feelings and carry the story to new heights.
This remake takes all the right things from modern games, and discards the bad things. I finished the first campaign in roughly 11 hours over two days, completely immersed in the setting. Some would say that’s a short game in today’s world, but I found that refreshing. This game has no padding whatsoever and is full of actual content and gameplay. Every small room has dozens of details to appreciate that hit you all at once. There are no super long cutscenes and a lot of story is simply waiting to be discovered in the environments. It’s very rare to see a big budget game not cave to the metacritic standard “20 hour campaign” bullet-point, and the Resident Evil 2 remake holds it values close to its heart. It simply is what it is.
When you make a game this short it’s also highly replayable, I started Claire’s campaign right after Leon’s and then did the side content. Now that I’m familiar with the game I’m itching to try and get the unlockables and do the 3 hour speedrun to get the infinite handgun. I can also increase the difficulty and challenge myself with resources further. The “gameplay loop” in Resident Evil 2 is the entire game, and not one single part or mechanic of it. It’s one big puzzle that you need to solve. It’s tremendously satisfying when you get an item you need and come back with it alive.
This game went above and beyond what I expected in every way. It’s more than a graphical overhaul, once you get into the game you find new puzzles with more interaction than ever. There’s more convincing and fleshed out dialogue between some of the main characters. Quite a few small changes and side stories that create new feelings. I like Leon and Claire even more after this remake. It’s just an absolute joy to discover everything in this game again, and it blew away my expectations of it being a safe money-grabbing re-release. They put a lot of heart into this and I can’t wait to play the Resident Evil 3 remake in April now. Until then, stay safe out there and don’t leave the house without a green herb.