Resident Evil 2

ESRB:M
ONLINE:N/A [Leaderboards + Weekly Challenges on RE.NET]
INSTALL:24.10GB
RELEASE DATE:January 25, 2019
PLATFORM:Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC/Steam
PUBLISHER:Capcom
DEVELOPER:Capcom
ONLINE PASS:N/A [Free DLC coming later]

UPDATE: FEBRUARY 10, 2019

So, I realized I forgot to talk about the game’s actual difficulty levels. It was a bit late when I was writing this, and it kind of slipped my mind. That has been fixed. Also fixed a few typos.

Gameplay Video



Story


It’s Resident Evil 2. Not too much has really changed in the plot. It’s not a 1-to-1 retelling, but it’s extremely close in narrative.

Taking place roughly 2 months after the events of the original Resident Evil, the zombie outbreak has hit Raccoon City and things have gone bad, quickly. Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie cop with the Raccoon Police Department, is traveling to the RPD station but stops at a gas station to fill up his jeep – only to find just how bad things really are.

zombie-reveal

Things pop off for Leon almost instantly. (Also, apologies for the quality of some screens – the game is so dark, it’s hard to capture properly.)

Upon dropping the first zombie, Leon makes his way out of the gas station – which is now being overrun with zombies – because of course it is.

It’s here that Leon meets the second protagonist – Claire Redfield, sister of Chris Redfield from the original game. She’s searching for her brother, hoping to find him somewhere in Raccoon City.

As I said – the game’s plot isn’t a 1-to-1 retelling – this is one of the places where things have changed a bit. Unfortunately, one of those changes is that there’s no more “That guy’s a maniac, WHY’DHEBITEMEH?” line. Disappointing.

The two manage to escape the gas station in a deserted cop car. Introductions are had on the way to the RPD before running into a closed off road. This is where the intro sneaks back into familiar territory. The bitten, dying truck driver crashes into the cop car, setting it ablaze and causing it to explode. Luckily without our heroes inside of it.

leon-go-boom

And then the tanker explodes. Frankly, Leon should be nearly deaf, and the game should have that really annoying ear-ringing sound for the remainder of the game.

Leon and Claire are now separated – and must find their way to the RPD somehow, while avoiding the horde of zambamboes that have now been drawn to the area.

I’m not going to go into much further detail about the plot – I tend to try not to spoil too much. Suffice to say that the story here does hit most of the same beats as the original game – though some things happen a little sooner, or later, in a different order.

There also isn’t really a Scenario system this time – though there are still 2 stories, and 2 alternate playthroughs, the changes between them aren’t nearly as stark as they were in the original. It’s also a little weird trying to figure out what exactly is canon between the 2 runs. Certain bosses are fought by both characters – albeit with slightly differing circumstances – and it’s difficult to know just what actually happened and who actually fought what.

Thankfully, these plot holes are fairly minor, and can kind of be shrugged off as “We needed to have boss fights for both stories, but didn’t want to mess with the plot too much”.

It’s good, though. It’s really well written – for Resident Evil standards, that is. The voice acting is much better, there’s an overall better characterization of everyone – including Ada and even Marvin Branagh! He’s an actual character now! Not just a guy who doles out exposition at one moment, with really bad lines like “An incident…..involving……z o m b i e s.”

Even extremely minor characters like Robert Kendo are more fleshed out and humanized.

I really appreciate the changes made here – they help the plot to flow better, and give the game some better moments to play through. It subverts what veterans would expect just enough to be fresh.


Presentation


Gorgeous, when you can actually see, that is.

Resident Evil 2 is a very dark game – intentionally so. Much different to the original REmake, which was dark due to color choices but well lit at all times. Resident Evil 2 is very, very dark – pitch black in some places. If you have Nyctophobia, you are certainly going to have a terrifying time here.

You never really feel safe – ever. Partly due to the lighting, partly due to the sound design. You’ll always hear noises – creaking wood, zombie moans, dripping water. There are sounds all the time, simply to screw with you.

And some of the actual zombie screeches are terrifying, especially when you don’t expect, or forget that a zombie is in a room. Many a time my heart skipped a beat because of surprise zombies yelling directly into my ear before chomping on Leon’s neck.

I highly recommend playing in a dark room with a good pair of headphones and the binaural settings on. You’ll thank me – as long as you don’t die from a heart attack.

gore-is-high

The game is dark – not just in tone. It’s also extremely gory and grisly.

Gore levels are high in this game. Hopefully, you don’t have a weak stomach – zombies get dismembered. Bullets leave disfiguring holes exactly where you fire them in the zombies’ heads and bodies. Heads explode in a shower of blood, complete with a disgusting, splorchy sound that lasts uncomfortably long.

Unfortunately, the darkness of the game makes it a bit difficult to capture high-quality screens – even at 30Mbps, the footage looks a bit rough when compression hits it. It’s the kind of game you really have to see for yourself, directly.

It looks and runs beautifully. The UI is clean and out of the way – as a good UI should be. It’s very similar to Resident Evil 7‘s.

Musically, the game delivers – though unlike the original game, the music goes for a more cinematic horror sound – very subdued and held back. I do, however, wish the original soundtrack were available in the game as an extra, instead of as a Deluxe Edition bonus (Though as far as bonuses go – it’s a pretty good one, down to having the original announcer shout “RESIDENT EEVIL….TWOO” on the title screen, and having the original songs tied to the areas they were for in the original game – the Main Hall theme plays in the Main Hall, the Safe Room theme plays in Safe Rooms – and they even crossfade properly. They put work in for it.)

Character models also look amazing – though some facial animations are a little stiff.

leon-face-anim

Characters are believably expressive – we’ve come a long, long way from PS1 blocks waving their stick arms around like they’re fighting invisible bees.

The game is dripping with atmosphere – Capcom has crafted a beautiful reimagining of the RPD. Every room is distinct, and it’s honestly difficult to get lost due to that. You’ll always know where you are – even though the lighting is super dark – it only makes it difficult to see what’s coming ahead – not where you are.

I even love the little quips that characters make when a zombie or monster just won’t stay down. Quite often I found they were echoing my exact thoughts in the moment.


Gameplay


This is where I feel the game truly shines.

Resident Evil 2 does a lot that’s familiar – it borrows a lot from previous entries in the series. Similar movement to Resident Evil 6, inventory management from Resident Evil 7, Gunpowder mixing from Resident Evil 3, even defensive items make a return from the Resident Evil remake.

It also does a lot new, even in the things it borrows. Gunpowder, for instance, works a little differently to both RE7 and RE3. Instead of needing Chem fluid to make Enhanced ammo, or higher grade gunpowder making more rounds, you simply mix the 3 gunpowder types in various combinations to get what you want.

For instance – High Grade gunpowder can mix with regular gunpowder to make Shotgun shells, but it can also combine with another High Grade gunpowder to craft Magnum ammo. You can also find large bottles of regular gunpowder that creates twice as much ammo. It’s a nice, simple system that works right from the inventory screen with no extra items required.

Defensive items are another thing that is familiar, but different. Knives, flashbangs, and grenades can all be used to defend yourself against all of the various enemy types and their various grabs/instant kill attacks, much like you could in Resident Evil remake. Simply hit the ready subweapon button (L1 on PS4) when prompted, and you can use your subweapon to get an enemy off of you at the cost of either using up that flash/grenade, or being without your knife until you drop that enemy.

so-many-zambamboes

You’re going to want those subweapons, too. There are a lot of enemies to deal with in this game – getting grabbed is inevitable.

I love, absolutely love, the changes made to the combat knife. It’s actually useful now – and to balance out its usefulness, it has a limit.

On top of losing it if you use it as a Get Out Of Death Free card, it acts as an inventory item again (While still having the mechanics of games like RE4 and 5 – L1 to ready it (And other subweapons), and R2 to throw/slash.). The knife also has a degradation meter now – so you don’t keep it permanently, even if you don’t use it for defense, you can’t rely on it for offense either (Unless you unlock the infinite combat knife, that is). It will break after a while. Faster if you constantly have to use it to throw break.

Grenades and flashbangs are also balanced – they’re really powerful if used directly, often killing enemies outright or stunning them for a very long time, allowing you to slip past. Used as defense items, they’re still effective – but their damage/effectiveness is greatly reduced.

You can also manually explode them after using them for defense by spending a bullet to shoot them while they’re in the enemies’ mouth.

It’s a lot of fun, honestly.

The game also features 3 difficulty levels – Assisted, Standard, and Hardcore. These don’t really effect much as far as the core gameplay goes – enemies get stronger, ammo gets scarcer, and some items might be in different locations (For instance, Assisted seems to have a Hip Pouch upgrade that isn’t available in Standard for the A scenario.)

The biggest difference comes with Hardcore – which makes the game closer to the original entries by also introducing limited saves through Ink Ribbons.

Assisted mode also features an aggressive aim assist. It’s kind of ridiculous how strong the auto aim is. Once you aim at an enemy’s part – be it the head, chest, arm, etc. You lock on, and that lock tries to hold on to that part for dear life – tracking it just about anywhere it moves. If you suck at aiming in shooters – this will definitely help you out.

Other than those differences, nothing else really changes in the game – though S ranks only really count for Standard and Hardcore since Assisted is so much easier. It’s not even listed on the screen that tracks your rankings.

In other news – while Scenarios mostly return (Albeit, not quite as drastically different as the original game), the Zapping system does not. No more worrying that you may have screwed Claire or Leon out of getting certain items for their playthrough. I for one don’t miss that system – I found it a pain to deal with and am glad it’s not here.

the-useful-map

The map is also extremely useful, on top of being nice to look at and use.

Even the map borrows a bit from Resident Evil 0 – it not only shows you opened and locked doors, plus what keys they require. It also shows you items you’ve passed by (As long as you’ve passed by close enough to be able to pick them up) and their exact locations, as well as item boxes and typewriters.

Unlike 0 though, you can’t drop items to pick up later – you can only discard them, losing them forever. So you have to take care with your inventory.

Enemies also don’t drop items – so what you pick up or create is all you get. No merchant, no drops. This is classic Resident Evil through and through. That’s not to say you’ll be hurting for items – so long as you play smart, you’ll be fine. Pick your times to fight, don’t try to kill enemies if you don’t have to and save your big weapons for emergencies.

Enemies don’t necessarily die in this game. Just because you’ve plugged a zombie with 20 bullets in the head, doesn’t mean it won’t come back. Unless that zombie’s head actually explodes, never get complacent. Not quite Crimson Head levels of resurrection, but they can always pop back up when you least expect it.

And that’s one of the main things I love about the gameplay – you never really feel safe. Ever.

You can even board up ground floor windows around the station – but you have a limited amount of boards, so you need to pick and choose problem areas and prioritize those.

limited-ammo

Don’t expect to be drowning in ammo at any given point. Even on easy, if you waste too much time trying to kill everything – you’ll end up in a bad spot later.

Much like in the story, there are things done in the gameplay to subvert what you might expect. Certain moments and scares that you might expect to happen don’t. Certain things you expect not to happen, do.

Like Mr. X, for instance.

The changes made to him make him honestly terrifying to deal with – because while you’re in the RPD, he’s pretty much always present once he shows up. There are no loading screens to save you – and you can always hear his intimidating, thudding footsteps off in the distance, slowly getting louder as he grows ever closer to you, following the sound of your sprinting footsteps or gunfire from defending yourself.

You can evade him, even drop him down to one knee (Not as useful as it was in the original game – he doesn’t drop anything for you this time. It only serves as a short time for you to catch your breath.), but you can never kill him, and you can never truly escape from him. He’s there, lurking the halls at all times, waiting until you least expect it and when you feel at your safest to pop up around the corner and give you a haymaker from hell directly in the face.

honey-i'm-home

Mr. X is both terrifying, and goofy. He can show up when you least expect, and while causing bowels to empty, make you laugh hysterically as Leon and Claire do flips from his punches.

As you can probably tell from my writing – I adore this game. However, don’t let that fool you – the game does have some flaws that mar the experience. One of which is just a problem with the series as a whole.

Like boss fights. Resident Evil, to me, has always struggled with them. They’ve never really matched up with the quality of the rest of the game – often devolving into “strafe around and shoot the thing until it dies or a cutscene happens”, and that’s assuming the boss isn’t just a setpiece moment with a possible damage threshold. That’s no different here. There never feels like there’s any real strategy involved in taking down the big bads of the game – you just run around an arena of varying complexity, avoiding attacks and plugging the boss full of bullets until it falls over. Or down a hole. Or runs away. Or gets exploded.

It’s just a blemish on an otherwise amazing experience – and frankly, I’d feel things would be better if they were just setpieces more than “fights” (The sewer croc, for instance, is one of my favorite moments in the game.)

As far as other complaints go – I only really have one, maybe two. And they’re minor.

The quickturn – a staple of the series since Resident Evil 3 – can be a little finicky. It works, but it always felt like it never worked unless I was actually walking backward. It doesn’t quite feel responsive enough. Again – it’s minor, the quickturn honestly isn’t as essential here as it is in other entries, especially since sprinting allows you to turn on a dime anyway. It’d just be nice if I could actually do it from a standstill a little more reliably.

I also feel that maybe some bosses recover from certain attacks a little too fast. Just a little – to the point that they can be slightly frustrating to deal with. However, they’re completely winnable fights – it’s not like the bosses can’t be beaten, just that they can feel a little bit unfair every now and then.

Those grievances aside, though, Resident Evil 2 is a great reimagining of a classic.


Replay Value


High. Legitimately high. There’s a lot of content here.

Records are basically in-game trophies/achievements. There are actually more here than on the trophy list – and they all unlock various content.

The game does a good job tracking your progress. There are various “Records” that you can strive towards that all unlock something, be it a model for the model viewer, concept art, game modes or new weapons to use in later playthroughs.

Completing the game once unlocks alternate costumes as well as the 2nd Scenario for the remaining character (So, if you start with Claire, you unlock Leon 2, and vice-versa.). Complete the 2nd Scenario and you’ll unlock The 4th Survivor – a mode in which you play as Hunk, an Umbrella operative trying to escape after things go to hell in Raccoon City. You have a limited set of weapons, items, and ammo and can’t pick anything up – you have to reach the entrance of the RPD from the sewers in one life, using only the items you have on hand.

Complete that and you unlock The Tofu Survivor, which is the same mode – but you play as a giant jiggly block of Tofu who only uses combat knives. No guns, no grenades, no nothing – just knives.

The 4th Survivor is a fun, challenging mode that tests your knowledge of the layout of the game’s levels. Good luck.

You can even unlock infinite weapons by completing various tasks – mainly completing the game with S ranks on different difficulties.

Trophy-wise, there’s nothing too difficult. S ranking the game might be tricky, but it mostly requires memorizing the game and knowing how to beeline to certain objectives to save time and saves – you have to beat the game quickly and save very few times. It’s different for each difficulty, though.

Other than that, it’ll be a fun Platinum/100%.

There are also plans for lots of free DLC – at least 4 additional character stories will be added sometime soon, including characters like Robert Kendo, which I find to be rather interesting. I’m excited to see some story being fleshed out for these iconic minor characters more.


Final Verdict


Resident Evil 2 is nearly a masterclass in how a remake can be handled. Much like the original Resident Evil remake, it does just enough different to make the game feel fresh to veteran players, while managing to be accessible for newcomers as well. You don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of the series to enjoy this – though knowing more about the story will help appreciate the smaller details strewn about the game.

Is the game worth buying? Yes. Very much so. It’s an extremely well crafted, fun and tense game. It’s been a long time since a survival horror game has actually made me feel like this – not since playing The Last of Us on Survivor difficulty have I actually felt like my ammo management mattered so much.

After 17 years of wishing this would happen, I’m glad to say it was worth the wait and I look forward to the now inevitable Resident Evil 3 remake!

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PROS CONS
  • The game is honestly gorgeous to look at. Facial animations look amazing (if a tiny bit stiff sometimes), the lighting works to keep you tense and worried about what might be lurking in the distance.

  • The darkness. The atmosphere of the game is constantly tense, constantly threatening. Even in save rooms where you're safe - you don't feel safe. And in at least one save room, you aren't safe.

  • Much like the original REmake on the Gamecube, this is a remake that subverts veteran players' expectations and keeps them on their toes. The game is familiar but does just enough differently that your previous experience won't help you much.
  • Bosses can feel a little lackluster in the gameplay department. If they aren't a setpiece, they mostly amount to "shoot until dead" with little strategy involved (Which is more a flaw in the series than with this game specifically, really - that's just how bosses tend to be in RE games.)

  • The quickturn can be a little bit finicky. I've had moments where I was doing the input and the turn just wouldn't happen until I was actually moving backward. I also wish there were maybe a few other movement options - or perhaps other ways to break a zombie's grasp.
  • FINAL VERDICT
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    About James Headrick

    Gamer & Fractal Artist. // Lover of giant robots & Fighting in Streets. I've been gaming for over 20 years, and writing reviews for over 10 now. ReviewHaven is my baby.
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