Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: January 25th, 2019
Reviewed On: Xbox One X
Developer: Capcom R&D Division 1
Price: $59.99 USD
Raccoon City isn’t doing so well. There’s been a horrifying outbreak of the T-Virus and almost all of the city residents have been transformed into shambling zombies. The remainder of the population are rapidly being eradicated. Yet two individuals, unaware of what’s happened, are heading straight to the city.
A rookie cop, Leon Kennedy, has been told to stay away and to await further instructions before beginning his first day at the Raccoon City Police Department. He’s tired of waiting and is heading in. A college student, Claire Redfield, hasn’t heard from her brother for a while now. She’s taking a road trip to see what’s going on. At a small gas station on the outskirts of Raccoon City, the paths of these two are going to collide – and it’s going to take everything they have to survive a horrifying night.
Resident Evil 2 is an ambitious remake of Resident Evil 2, the original game that released on January 21st, 1998. You can play as either Leon or Claire in your first run and then play as the second character in the “2nd run” story, which shows what the other was up to. After multiple runs through the game, checking out the different paths and possibilities available, I’m ready to share my Resident Evil 2 review.
While knowledge of the first game would definitely be helpful for understanding what’s going on, the presentation here is done in a very newcomer-friendly way. Even if you haven’t played Resident Evil (or the REmake, as the graphically improved version is called) you’ll still be able to follow things fairly well. The story follows Leon and Claire as they enter Raccoon City, where a zombie attack quickly leaves them separated. Whoever you’ve chosen to play as first then makes their way to the RPD – the Raccoon City Police Department. Once inside, you’ll begin exploring the police station, trying to find any possible survivors, supplies and information. You’ll also need to figure a way out if you have any hope of surviving.
From the moment you can first control your chosen character, a creeping, unnerving atmosphere is established. Leon and Claire both have weapons training but they’re both clearly out of their element. This is a survival-horror game and the characters’ reactions solidify that fact.
It’s also worth mentioning that Leon, Claire and the other characters all have solid voice acting. While the story sometimes feels a bit overly dramatic, for the most part it is fairly believable. The story beats here follow the same lines as the original game but for the most part, everything here improves upon the spirit of the original, with characters given more time to flesh out their emotions and motivations during these nightmarish events. Leon’s story focuses on personal growth in standing up for himself and figuring out who to trust, while Claire’s protective nature is brought out as she cares for a young survivor found in the midst of everything. The reactions are (again) often overly dramatic but the substance of the situations is well-wrought.
There is one issue that I have to address. When you finish one path, then play through the 2nd run for the other character (so if you played as Leon first, you’d play as Claire for the second go) you end up having more than a handful of the exact same events. I understand some contradicting overlap was inevitable due to the design of the game however, when the 2nd run is explicitly supposed to show you what is happening at the same time as your first playthrough, it feels like a missed opportunity.
Abandoning the tank controls (a phrase that refers to a fixed camera, where the character is moved without the camera moving), Resident Evil 2 now uses an over-the-shoulder third-person setup and it works quite well. For the most part the controls feel tight, gunplay is smooth and the menus are very quick and responsive.
You’ll face a variety of different zombies and other virus-afflicted monstrosities while exploring your environments, keeping you on your toes finding resources and solving puzzles. It’s here the menu shows itself in a strong way, as combining gunpowder and herbs while managing your inventory feels clean and intuitive. I never felt like the menus were fighting me; they felt reliable no matter how stressful the situation became.
Which is good, because this game can definitely be stressful. Zombies are incredibly tough, taking multiple headshots to put down – then often getting right back up. If the head isn’t completely turned to pulp, there’s a good chance they’ll just keep on coming. Yet the shambling zombies aren’t even the worst of it. The T-Virus (and other horrific viruses being cooked up) have transformed many people and animals into different creatures that are far, far worse than the standard zombies.
There’s multiple boss fights and they do a good job and changing things up. At certain points, you might just need to run – at others, your guns won’t do the trick but there’s something in the environment that can help. Speaking of guns, Leon and Claire each get access to a completely different roster of weapons, so you’ll have to learn there are additional modes that can be unlocked. These two modes are formidable but don’t take a very long time to beat. With that said, they do provide an additional challenge and a reason to keep playing.
The RE Engine is absolutely incredible, allowing for remarkably detailed gore and viscera. Shoot a zombie in the head and chunks of bloody bone and meat will spatter. Get clawed, bitten or scratched and damage will show up your character, staining their clothes with blood and rips. With enough firepower, you can even cut off different limbs or completely bisect the zombies. The game runs at 60 frames-per-second and at least on Xbox One X, the framerate remains smooth throughout.
It’s not just the incredible gore that looks good though. The textures of the varied environments are impeccable, with the police station making a particular impression. Reflections in glass, clutter-filled corridors and more all seem lived-in and believable. Character models are all high-quality, and the RE Engine seems to handle wet surfaces very well. Whether the unrelenting rain is drenching glass, marble floors or human skin it all has a sheen that aides the atmosphere being created.
Compared to the original game, there’s a more subdued soundtrack this time around. There’s no more classic theme music, instead a good deal of the time there will be tense chords that increase the tension, only to relax right before something happens, taking you completely off guard. There are however a couple of exception, primarily the excellent intro music or the themes for different bosses and recurring enemies, which are all fantastic. If you really don’t like the new soundtrack though, you can purchase the original Resident Evil 2 soundtrack and use it in this game (it’s included in the deluxe edition by default).
The audio design is fantastic, with the roars and shrieks of the various zombies and other monsters echoing throughout the halls. Guns sound great, with fantastic sounds that give clear feedback. Making a zombie’s head explode with a shotgun results in a satisfying crunch. When certain foes begin stomping around, searching for you room by room, you can hear them multiple rooms away, which adds a terrifying new level to the tension. Is it okay to grab these items? Do I have time to figure out this puzzle I’m stuck on? Is HE right around the corner or a little further off? These are questions you’ll have to constantly juggle, brought on due to the immersive sounds that haunt this game.
This game is already proving to be successful, with 3 million copies shipped in its first week. Capcom is going to be supporting the game as well, with some free DLC coming with The Ghost Survivors update, which will be available on February 15th, 2019. These additional modes add playable perspectives for three different characters.
This is an absolutely fantastic game and a re-imagining of a classic that works wonders. Capcom has successfully taken the game that set the tone for zombie survival-horror at the time and has made it reborn for a new generation and older fans alike. Whether another remake (Resident Evil 3: Nemesis? Pretty please?) or a brand new game is next, whether it’s third-person or first-person, I have full confidence in the way Capcom is handling this series. Between Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and the release of this game, something very important has been cemented: Resident Evil is back in full survival-horror force and it is fantastic.