The original Resident Evil 2 is one of my favourite games of all time. Between its PlayStation One, PS3 and (perhaps ever so dodgy) PC versions, I’ve finished each of its four scenarios about twenty-five times. It’s that very love of the game that had me equal parts excited and terrified of a remaster; after all, Capcom made a big deal of its announcement back in August 2015 and we’ve hardly heard anything else since.
Thankfully, my fears were for nought; after hands-on time with Resident Evil 2, I’m doing nothing but anticipating the release.
“We do it!” indeed. Sorry for doubting you, Capcom.
If I had to boil the Resident Evil 2 remake into a short blurb, it’s the terrifying visuals that come with Resident Evil 7’s RE Engine, coupled with the general camera of Resident Evil 4, but maintaining the essence of what made the original Resident Evil 2 so amazing in the first place. The twenty minute demo we played took place right at the start of the game, after the title’s initial cutscene that (I assume) introduces Leon and Claire to one another and deposits them at the front of the Raccoon City Police Department.
Playing as Leon, I’m sure my jaw was always agape. The station looked as I remembered, but not. Rooms were slightly different; the familiar keys I knew provided further access didn’t appear to be needed; at least, not where I expected. The east wing of the building’s ground floor was partially blocked off; Leon had to crawl through a narrow gap to obtain access. The use of lighting in this situation – and throughout the entire east wing – is something to behold. You truly don’t know what horrors lurk in the shadows, just out of reach. That is, until a zombie lurches out and has you in its grasp.
While items and baddies mightn’t be where you remember them, the demo did a wonderful job of showing just how true to the original the remake was, though with a modern slant. Leon had modern controls, meaning he can run and gun (something that didn’t appear into the original series until Resident Evil 5). That said, doing so is to Leon’s detriment. As a rookie police officer, you can tell how wide – how panicked – his shots go when he’s running around. To be able to place a round square in a zombie’s forehead, it’s best to plant your feet, calm and collected, and squeeze off a single round.
Zombies are terrifying in this remake; I was sure I put down several former officers with well placed headshots only to find they’d eventually find their feet again. The zombies replenished themselves; my bullets didn’t. Is this something Leon and Claire will continually have to contend with, or just a feature of the demo? I don’t know for sure – but I’m excited to find out.
Throwbacks to the original are plentiful; I instantly knew what planks of wood would be used for – and of course I decided to use them to board up a broken external window in the east wing. It’s not always that easy, of course — as I stepped into the RPD officer’s shared office space, Marvin Branagh was nowhere to be found. In his place, a new puzzle – one I couldn’t solve in the demo’s short duration, I ashamedly point out — was waiting for me. As I eventually gave up and entered the east wing of the station, expecting to stumble across a fearsome Licker, nothing happened. That scared me more than the encounter I was expecting.
There’s a reason it earned Stevivor’s Best of E3 nomination – and took home the Game Critics Awards’ gong for best of show this year as well. Resident Evil 2 heads to Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4 on 25 January 2019, and that release date can’t come fast enough.