Off the top of my head there have been exactly two remakes in video game history that I was eager to play: Resident Evil for the GameCube (affectionately referred to as REmake) and the just-released remake of Resident Evil 2. This is not so much proof of some kind of extreme love I have for the Resident Evil franchise but more an indictment of video game remakes in general. I find them to mostly be HD makeovers, which is convenient for a lot of gamers who might only have one console and don’t really have an interest in old systems. On the other hand, I don’t see them as particularly interesting if you’re willing to spend some time and money to own all that old stuff. Not a criticism of anyone (believe me, it’s a blessing and a curse to own a dozen systems), just saying that there are two camps to consider here and I’m in the other, albeit smaller one. I’m also totally in favor of any remakes companies want to crank out even if they’re not my thing. Having the option is always good.
I admittedly had high expectations for this current iteration of Capcom’s survival horror stalwart. The engine looked great, with characters and cut scenes that seemed like they belong to a brand new IP (save for obvious familiarities). Capcom has certainly stumbled here and there lately, and sometimes they even seem like they’re headed the way of Konami, but I was confident in their bread and butter game development. I was also not quite sure just how far Capcom would go as far as “updating” this game though. What I expected was bold, contemporary-looking cut scenes and generally great sound, all while retaining the core gameplay from the original PS1 game. I didn’t want any crazy new gameplay mechanics or a completely new game. I wanted the old game, but awesome by 2019 standards.
So far I have to say that Capcom mostly hit the mark and met those expectations. The biggest compliment I can give this game is that the developers handled the original property with care. This was not a slap dash effort, nor was the original game a foundation for some hot shot young developers to run roughshod over with new ideas. For better or worse, this is the original RE2 being treated with reverence and respect as it is brought into the current generation of gaming. Thankfully, it’s almost always for better.
From the very beginning the game exhibits the power of the RE engine and delivers on the trailers that got everyone’s hopes up in the first place. It’s crazy to go back and watch this same sequence (with some changes of course) on the PS1 hardware. I didn’t realize it until I purposely went back and viewed it, but it’s somewhat cringe-inducing to be honest. A simple HD remake here likely would have been somewhat embarrassing, so the complete overhaul was a smart move. As many of us would have expected, Leon and Claire move in a way that’s reminiscent of Resident Evil 4 onward, with a third-person, over-the-shoulder perspective that updates the old tank controls that grated on many a gamer’s nerves or prevented them from enjoying the series entirely. Fixed camera angles have been done away with as well save for tight spaces where it makes sense. It’s only done out of necessity here though. I kind of miss the fixed angles if I’m being honest, but I can also admit that getting rid of them makes this a better video game overall, even if a little bit of atmosphere is lost.
Aside from the movement, camera, and other practical decisions that improve how the game plays and flows, the graphical engine itself really does make the game more visceral and scary. Zombies and other enemies look simply fantastic and a far cry from the polygonal compositions of the past. Nothing needs left to the imagination in this remake, as anything that oozes, bleeds, or grotesquely glistens does so in marvelous visual rendition. The sound is quite good as well. The effects in particular do their part and more to fully immerse you in the story and setting.
Gameplay-wise, Capcom took great care to make this feel like Resident Evil 2 and not something vaguely resembling it just for the sake of mimicking current game trope. There’s no long list of side quests or additional areas, no absurd increase in firepower options, no tacked on multiplayer. These are good things. Reason being, when we want to go back and experience an old game, but it’s always with caveats. By that I mean we don’t really want to play the PS1 version of RE2. We want to play RE2 as we remember it in our heads, which is usually influenced by the latest games we’ve been playing. This is why you stand about a 50/50 shot (at best) of still enjoying an old game that you used to love back in the day. Like anything, games age and can become obsolete in many ways. We want that RE2 nostalgia but with the ease-of-use that we’ve grown accustomed to since its initial release in 1998, and most of us probably don’t want something brand new and unfamiliar that amounts to being “inspired” by RE2. Basically, we want the old game……..kinda. Thankfully, Capcom understood this and it’s the biggest reason why this remake is an overall success.
On the whole I am thoroughly pleased with the game, though a handful of very small annoyances did creep up. For one, I feel like I’m desperate need of a Kick button. For how many zombies I encounter on the ground, it’d be nice to just kick the hell out of them since my character would be perfectly capable of doing so. Also, the knife deteriorating and breaking is simply ridiculous. You can find more, but 4-5 slashes to a zombie won’t do a whole hell of a lot, with the exception leaving you with about 25% durability left. That’s insane. Lastly, the Tyrant is annoying as shit, but he was before too so I suppose I can’t count that as a true complaint. I’m just not a fan of the device. I’d rather the rest of the game be a little harder and to just leave him out to be honest.
For awhile, I was hoping for a $50 price point on this game just because the devs did have something to work with when they began recreating the original game. This is a totally new game other than having the PS1 version for reference though, so I’m not going to complain. This deserves to be seen as a full-fledged release. It’s scary, it looks amazing, and it’s well-produced. It’s Resident Evil 2 just like you remember it but exactly how you want it in 2019. If you like survival horror, get this and then hope for more like it. Code: Veronica anyone?