- Developer: Capcom
- Genre: Survival Horror
- Release Date: January 25, 2019
- Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
My previous experience with Resident Evil 2 Remake left me underwhelmed. The Gamescom 2018 demo featured Claire Redfield going up against a ferocious William Birkin – and, sadly, served to highlight some of the series’ worst habits.
Being hounded by a boss in a confined space with no ammunition to call your own is undeniably tense, yet equally frustrating as you’re powerless to do anything. My only option was survival, despite being eager to explore and soak in the atmosphere of this survival horror classic’s modern vision.
Having now spent a number of hours with both Claire and Leon’s campaigns, I’m completely sold. Resident Evil 2 Remake sets a new benchmark for recreating beloved titles. So much so, that it builds upon the original’s world and characters in ways I really didn’t expect.
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Resident Evil 2 Remake will launch with two independent campaigns that chronicle the Raccoon City Outbreak. Playing as Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, it’s been a joy thus far to re-live events cemented in franchise canon for more than two decades now.
First up was Leon’s campaign. He’s joined by the mysterious Ada Wong as they navigate the ruined city and dank sewers awaiting underneath, trying desperately to get to the bottom of transpiring events. Once again, the Umbrella Corporation is up to no good.
Upon exiting the police department’s parking garage, we’re greeted by a city in ruin – utterly abandoned with the exception of a few slow, shambling corpses that crawl towards us. I savoured these moments of quiet, taking time to slowly glance at environments once nothing but pre-rendered backgrounds. While they still have plenty of charm, the sense of life on display here is simply on another level.
Rain gathering on Leon’s now damp police vest, I wandered past abandoned storefronts that expressed a wonderfully melancholic vibe, with the cheesy dialogue between our two heroes making it clear that Resident Evil hasn’t flown too far from the nest. It’s also strange to see Leon so fresh-faced, seeming more like a member of One Direction than a grizzled veteran of bio-terrorism.
New interpretations of these iconic characters is just as exciting as the city they explore, presenting a remake that feels perfectly suited for hardcore purists and newcomers to the long-running series. Dialogue and situations being conjured up from nothing provide Capcom a larger canvas to grow this universe, and you can tell it’s trying desperately to ensure the original vision remains intact, too.
My time with Leon’s campaign was brief, with us descending into the sewers in the opening minutes. Clichéd setting aside, it was absolutely trenched in an oppressive tone, leading me to cautiously turn every corner with my pistol drawn, ready to fire. Ammo is limited, however, meaning my happy trigger finger was doomed to fail.
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It wasn’t long before we stumbled into a couple of blood-soaked zombies. To be more specific, I stepped over an unsuspecting corpse and had one gnaw at my ankles. Modelled after Romero’s classic creations, these enemies are the most relentless I’ve seen in the genre. They simply don’t go down, taking several bullets to the head before collapsing into a grotesque heap on the ground.
I adore this approach to the undead. For the first time in years, every single one of them is a credible threat of which you need to be aware. Unless you’ve a flash grenade or sharp object on hand, being caught will have you tumbling to the floor alongside them. What follows isn’t pretty, and a clear indication of the grittier, more realistic aesthetic Resident Evil 2 Remake is going for.
Gunplay isn’t anything spectacular, but packs the necessary punch for pistols, shotguns and grenade launchers to feel truly impactful. Limited inventory space only furthers the tense vulnerability that permeates every moment of Resident Evil 2 Remake. I was constantly juggling crucial herbs and ammunition with quest items, debating the importance of certain things in the conflicts to come. It’s excellent, and a natural evolution of the Resi formula.
Leon’s section concludes with a short playable section as Ada Wong, our favourite undercover agent in a fabulous red dress. She’s far from a carbon-copy of Leon, possessing her own special equipment to solve hacking puzzles throughout the environment. One saw me in a claustrophobic storage room with a zombie at my heels, giving me precious seconds to escape with my life.
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Claire Redfield’s section was far more substantial, letting me loose in the Raccoon City Police Department for several hours. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone with the omnipresent Tyrant and a smattering of zombies halting my progress. Once again, you never feel safe, as winding staircases and quaint save rooms provide only temporary respite from the horror.
The police department itself has been recreated in startling detail, and also expanded in some places with extra collectibles hidden through optional side quests. However, before arriving there I had to navigate what might be the scariest ten minutes Resident Evil has seen for over a decade. Yes, it’s the return of The Lickers.
Lacking sight, the ugly, skinless beasts are sensitive to any and all noise around them. So, obviously, my first instinct was to unload on them with a grenade launcher. In my defence, it worked. Well, it did until one crawled out of harm’s way and ambushed me from the ceiling. This lead to some heart-in-my-throat moments as I screamed aloud, firing haplessly with every weapon at my disposal.
Somehow, I emerged alive and proceeded to the police station. As the saying goes – out of the frying pan and into the fire. My primary objective here was to unlock a storage room by obtaining two missing pieces of a circuit board. Of course, both of these are locked behind countless layers of equally convoluted puzzles. But, in true Resi fashion, they’re a hectic joy to solve.
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My precious qualms with this remake were remedied the minute I set foot inside the police station. Resident Evil’s open-ended nature and nefarious approach to puzzle design is untouched. Many of the problems I stumbled upon were tackled with a temporary dose of bravery, as I stepped inside rooms filled with threats I had no credible way of dealing with.
One moment towards the end of my session saw me run out of ammo completely. I had to memorise the animations of enemies and use windows of opportunity to my advantage. I’ll never forget the sharp intake of breath that occurred when Tyrant was just inches away from my last few slivers of health, yet I barged through the nearest door with just seconds to spare.
This isn’t a pure puzzle experience, though, and those wishing to play it like a determined sharpshooter won’t be disappointed. Although, you’ll need to watch your ammo count as it’s dastardly limited, but for good reason. It’s unclear if weapons can be upgraded, but you’ll be able to find improved versions in the same category, encouraging to leave behind inferior spoils.
Claire’s adventure ends with her finally concluding her predicament and receiving an ominous phone call from Brian Irons, Police Chief of Raccoon City. Sherry Birkin is in his custody, and it’s up to you to help her. Or is it?
Before my hands-on session comes to an end, I’m given a tease of “The Orphanage”. This all-new playable section is unique to the remake, presumably having you play as Sherry to sneak past foes and solve puzzles. We don’t know any more than this, but knowing that Capcom is pushing the boat out in regards to story and content is super-exciting.
Resident Evil 2 Remake is shaping up to be a triumph for Capcom. Having played it a few times now, the survival horror classic has been morphed into a gorgeously terrifying experience that remains true to the original, while pushing the series’ absurd mythos in bold new directions.