Resident Evil 2 returns the series to its roots, reworking a 20-year-old classic and bringing survival horr or back to its best. OXM got hands-on and found it scarily familiar…
It’s been 20 years since this writer was last in Racoon City’s sprawling police station. It was another time, another console. Returning to it now is as if the years have melted away. Of course, usually what happens when you revisit old games is that you realise you’ve remembered it through a rose-tinted filter, but not this time. ResidentEvil2’ s even better than you remember.
That’s because, of course, survival horror innovator Capcom has chosen to revisit its classic second ResidentEvil game, updating its visuals and mechanics for 2018. Gone are the fixed camera angles and the blockier, pixelly graphics in favour of the now familiar
ResidentEvil4- style, over-the-shoulder action camera, and Xbox One X-enhanced sharply realistic character models, backgrounds and effects. It’s a treat for the eyes and thumbs alright, but it’s also a game that pays serious fan-service by changing very little else.
Younger gamers might find some of the game’s 20-year-old ideas other-worldly. Firstly, there’s the ’90s setting with quaint concepts such as saving your progress with typewriters, rolls of film that need developing in a dark room, and complete lack of smart phones. There are also the fundamentals of the game mechanics – devised, ingeniously at the time, out of technical constraints and limitations on the size of the play area possible, but retained faithfully and somehow still made to feel fresh here.
The genius of Capcom’s first two games was in that these limitations were used to also convey the claustrophobia and fear that helped the games feel like interactive horror movies. It’s weirdly refreshing that
ResidentEvil2’ s puzzles and gameplay devices still follow the same ideas they did 20 years ago. Keys, crank shafts and combinations to door locks must be found in order to open up areas of the game’s central Police Station location, and consequently you’ll often find yourself returning to an area time and again as objects are found, puzzles solved and doors opened up. It’s certainly not an open world game – quite the opposite, in fact. It’s as claustrophobic and limiting as it ever was, and we love that.
“We had requests from the fans for many years to create a remake of
ResidentEvil2,” explains producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi as to why the time was right for a new version of the game. “We wanted to not only respond to our passionate fan base but also deliver a whole new zombie horror gaming experience that utilised the Capcom in-house proprietary engine, RE Engine, to bring it to life on current gaming consoles and also attract a whole new audience that may not have been around for the original release in 1998. We also wanted to have players feel new kinds of possibilities for ResidentEvil by combining the Metroidvania-style exploration and survival horror of the original game with the latest modern game experience.”
And they’ve delivered that in spades, if OXM’s playthrough is anything to go by. Our hands-on time with the game begins with rookie cop Leon S Kennedy, who’s turned up for his first day on the job only to discover that everyone’s dead, or undead. We’re starting somewhere in the middle of his campaign – both Leon and student Claire Redfield each have their own distinct playthrough, echoing the original.
Leon meets the enigmatic Ada Wong in the underground car park, and we leave with her to go out into the pouring rain in an eerily silent Racoon City street.
A quick word about the rain. It’s awesomely cool. We love everything about it from the atmosphere it conveys to the way Claire puts her arm up to shield her eyes from the downpour, and the way Leon shakes his sleeves of excess water when he enters a building from outside.
It’s not just the weather that’s improved though, but the game’s story beats. Leon and Ada need to pass through a gun shop, and it’s here we see a strong example of the remake’s newly emotional depth for the first time. The gun shop owner emerges with a shotgun trained on Leon and Ada, in a beautifully-worked cutscene in which it becomes apparent he’s protecting his daughter, who’s turning into a zombie. It’s harrowing,
above Leon and Claire are the stars once more.