Resident Evil 2 Remake looking to channel the horror’s greatest hits in the thrillingly modern update;
A good few hours with Capcom’s lavish remake of Resident Evil 2 has already thrown up a few certainties. One: that this is as comprehensive a remake as you can imagine, essentially an entirely new game ‘inspired by’ the events of the brilliant 1998 original.
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Two, Capcom are doing a fabulous job with it; capturing the tone and horror of that original in a thrillingly modern game that draws on the action-beats of Resident Evil 4.
And three: that Mr. X is still a terrifying, gigantic bastard.
Players of the original game might remember the muscular tyrant, smashing through the walls of the Raccoon City Police Department and you explore its labyrinthine corridors. Heart thumping in your ears as you fumble with locked doors wondering when the almost indestructible, trenchcoat-wearing terror would come from next.
All of that still applies, and then some, for the Resident Evil 2 remake. Old Trenchy is a towering menace as I play through a section of the game as young Claire Redfield, his measured thundering footsteps ringing behind me as I desperately try to slide hulking bookshelves across the library to form a bridge to escape. Get too close and he uses an enormous hand to slam you into the ground.
Resident Evil 2
The Resident Evil 2 remake revisits the Raccoon City Police Department, blending the exploration, horror and puzzling and action that has variably defined the series over the years CREDIT: CAPCOM
Whenever you hear those thuds behind you, invisible spiders creep up your back as you wrestle with how far you can shove the bookshelf before breaking off, leading Mr. X away from your objective and trying to lose him in the open halls of the ornate police station.
You never do, of course, not until you scarper truly out of reach. You can hold him up, blinding him with a flash grenade or bringing him to his knees with a grenade launcher. But never for long. He is ever present in this section and ever terrifying. And if he wasn’t enough of a git, he wears a fedora now too. Hipster horror at its worse.
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The tyrant sticks in the mind from the Resident Evil 2 demo as he is a memorable presence. But he also demonstrates the technical prowess Capcom is bringing to the game. Of Resi 2’s detailed, precise character design and animation.
And of the terrific sound design, whether it’s those footsteps, the moan and shuffle of a zombie or, yes, the clicking claws of an approaching Licker, Resident Evil 2’s most famous and macabre monsters.
The detail allows for an altogether more persistently frightening horror. The zombies are probably the most convincing and disturbing undead that video games have produced, simply because they look like individual human beings turned monster. Otherwise honorable cops that have met a tragic fate, rather than indistinguishable gray shufflers.
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It is an effect only heightened by the disturbing thud and flash of gore when you put a bullet in one. ‘Wet’ gore, as the developers are calling it, is a surprisingly important part of bringing Resi 2’s Grand Guignol to life; icky location specific damage showing off hits even as they continue to bear down on you, moaning and clawing.
They are tough too, often taking several of your precious bullets to take down. The perspective has moved behind the shoulder, Resi 4 style, rather than the fixed camera of the original or claustrophobic first-person view of Resident Evil 7.
This makes Resident Evil 2 more action-focused than the original without turning it into an outright shooter. It is panicked but snappy, with the durability of enemies and paucity of ammo meaning that flight is as important a tactic as fight. As long as you realise you may have to face stragglers again, as you double back on yourself as you find keys and puzzle pieces needed to make your way through the police station.
There looks to be plenty of variety too. Be it in the puzzling or combat. Methodical dispatching of shuffling zombies with a handgun can give way to flusteredly launching incendiary grenades at the monstrous Lickers. (Once I managed to trap myself in a room with Mr. X and a Licker, all the grenades in the world couldn’t help me as I collapsed into a maelstrom of swearwords and death).
Resident Evil 2 remake
Mr. X and a licker in one go is a recipe for disaster CREDIT: CAPCOM
And as in the original, the game is split into Claire’s campaign and that of rookie police officer Leon Kennedy. And while they both scrabble through the same locations, their paths are already feeling quite divergent, helped by the appearance of some guest characters.
The mysterious agent Ada Wong is now playable, at least in one part of Leon’s campaign, as she helps the rookie through the sewers underneath the station. Ada’s section left me with very few bullets indeed, but equipped her with a special visualiser that could track power cables through walls.
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You would need to follow these cable to air vents and doors, shutting off and powering up different aspects to get you through. Even this is effective. While following a yellow cable might not sound like the most thrilling task, those zombies lurking in the shadows as you go about your work makes for another tense trek through the darkness.
There is a tremendous mix of the old and new here, successfully bridging the gap between the first two Resident Evils mix of puzzling and terror with the quality of action that Resident Evil 4 pioneered. It comes with a lot of modern modcons too.
An ‘Assist Mode’ prompt appears if you die too many times on a particular section, offering you the chance to tone down the difficulty. While modern technology has allowed Capcom to expand on the story side of the game.
Resident Evil 2 remake
Our demo ended as it revealed a playable section for the captive Sherry Birkin
As well as a more prominent role for supporting characters, the section I played gave more space for exploring the effect of the viral outbreak outside of the police station.
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Occasionally it could be sombre, witnessing the turmoil of a father with a recently turned child, for instance. But on the other hand, Capcom have sensibly not done away with the campness that helps define its 90s style horror. “Chew on that, you overgrown son of a b—h” yells Leon triumphantly after a pitched sewer battle.
Yet even in this all-too-brief encounter with the game, it feels that Capcom is doing a splendid job of blending its action, horror and tone. While Resident Evil 2 may be the name of the game, this could be the series’ greatest hits package.
Resident Evil 2 is released for PS4, Xbox One and PC on 25 January 2019