Resident Evil 2 Review (PS4)
Can Capcom's remake do justice to one of the best games in the popular survival horror series, or is it just another braindead cash-in?
OverviewThe original Resident Evil 2 is the best game in the series. There, that got your attention, huh? It's a contentious viewpoint, especially given the quality of later games like the action-packed Resident Evil 4 and 2017's first-person reinvention (not to mention the enduring charm of the original and its remake), but there's certainly an argument to be made for this to be the case.
It's just so densely packed with amazing moments, an iteration on the original game's framework that improves on it in practically every way and never lets up. Remaking this fan favourite was never going to be an easy task, and we've been wondering since the project's 2015 announcement just how much the new version would change things up.
The 2002 GameCube remake of the first game took a lot of creative liberties to expand the creepy Spencer Mansion far beyond what we saw in the original release, but what of this? Well, it turns out Capcom has stayed a fair bit more faithful to the source material this time around, but don't assume that means you'll be ready for everything this masterful remake throws at you.
First ImpressionsSeeing all these familiar locations in glorious HD is like taking a snapshot of what our minds and imaginations worked together to produce when we saw the jaggy, low-res original game back in the day. Something we're not quite so familiar with in 2019, though, is the concept of classic survival horror – Resi itself branched out more into action gaming territory after the PlayStation era and its many imitators fell foul of all manner of horrible fates over the years, so it's easy to forget just how punishing these games can be. Stop to take down every enemy you see and you'll be out of ammo and healing items before you know it, leading to constant fight-or-flight decisions where often the best course of action is to try and run or sneak past threats.
There are some concessions to modern game design here, however. Save points (still the classic typewriters) can be used freely on all bar Hardcore difficulty, where limited ink ribbons are still required, a loose auto-save option prevents you from ever losing too much progress (again, disabled on Hardcore mode), and inventory space can be gradually upgraded by collecting storage packs – by the end of the game, you'll wonder how you ever managed to beat the original with just eight inventory slots. Enemies still also adhere to classic video game logic and won't breach certain 'safe' rooms for the most part, although that only makes it even more terrifying when the game decides to break that rule from time to time.
A constant sense of dread
Even with the more user-friendly carrying capacity, inventory management is still a crucial factor. Balancing weapons and ammo, curatives and puzzle items is a skill you'll need to relearn as quickly as possible, as is learning the locations of those ever-useful magic item boxes for when you need to grab a spare First Aid Spray or deposit an empty weapon to free up space. The improved map certainly helps with this, marking up not only the locations of such useful facilities but also any items you may have seen but not collected and any unsolved puzzles or locked doors. Rooms flagged in red are always worth returning to whether for progress or extra supplies, and it's easier to keep track of all that this time around, even if it's not necessarily as easy to actually reach those areas.
Rooms cleared of enemies don't always stay cleared (another reason avoiding combat is often wise), and when you reach a certain point, you're going to find yourself with a stalker to deal with as well. Tyrant (aka Mr. X) doggedly pursues you around the police station once he is unleashed, and hearing him stomping around in a nearby room is all kinds of terrifying. While you can technically 'defeat' him, he never stays down for long – taking him on is just another way to deplete your supplies unnecessarily and is only advised in the most dire of circumstances. He feels more like Resi 3's Nemesis in how relentless he is, but thankfully this cat-and-mouse game only makes up a limited portion of the game.
As the game goes on, some of the greater divergences from the original template come to light. Supporting characters Ada and Sherry still get their own brief gameplay segments, but these are radically different to how they were before, just as a lot of the events surrounding them have changed considerably. Some of these are for the better, others for worse – which fall into which category will depend largely on personal preference, but it sure does keep things interesting for people who played Resi 2 a bunch back in the day and assume they know what's going to happen next.
There are also some changes to enemies, perhaps the most notable omission being one that will no doubt delight arachnophobes. Several other threats from the original join the giant spiders on the cutting room floor, although a handful of new and reworked creatures mean that there's still plenty of variety – even the basic zombies do their part to aid with this, since the gruesome dynamic damage system can see them throwing themselves at you as undead torpedoes when their arms come off, hobbling around like rubbish pirates if they lose a foot, and even somehow managing to wriggle their way into your personal space after you've blasted all their limbs off.
Support items, as seen in the original REmake, help fend off these relentless hordes and you can force most creatures off you by lodging a knife in their neck or by jamming a grenade in their mouth (no prizes for guessing what happens next...), but these also take up valuable inventory space so you might not always have room for this handy Plan B.
It's easy to forget just how punishing these games can be
Your first run through this revamped nightmare will likely take 8-10 hours, with a main scenario run of the other character probably coming in an hour or two shorter as you'll be a little more familiar with the layout of a lot of locations and more in tune with the mechanics. Finishing either will unlock the 2nd Run campaign for the other character – a slightly shorter modified version meant to follow what Leon was doing while you were busy as Claire or vice versa. Which is to say, solving a lot of the same puzzles, fighting a lot of the same bosses and unlocking a lot of the same doors (because video games), although the slightly accelerated nature of the 2nd Run mode can make ammo and health management even more scary, especially if something goes wrong.
While it's similar to the main mode in a lot of ways, that's still four separate campaigns to run through and like in the original, there are hidden extras for certain completion times and grades should you consider yourself a master of unlocking, and it's a short enough run once you know exactly what you're doing for these to be well worth shooting for – the modes you unlock for doing so will add yet more play time, so it's hard to see Resi 2 as anything other than great value for money.
It sure does keep things interesting
- Looks and sounds fantastic
- Genuinely terrifying
- THIS is how you do a remake
- Can be incredibly stressful
- Sherry is still in it
- They might do Resident Evil 3 next
Resident Evil 2 Review (PS4)One of the greatest survival horror games ever made, now with a fresh lick of paint to make it just as terrifying and exciting as it was 21 years ago. Capcom proves once again that it is the master of this kind of ground-up remake and even though the game ends up a lot closer to the original in terms of structure and progression than we were perhaps expecting, we're sure as hell not going to complain about a stunningly realised overhaul of an all-time classic.
With this masterful return to classic survival horror, Capcom has proven itself to be capable of progressing the series on three different fronts – this shows just how well the classic formula holds up with a few tweaks, Resi 7 adeptly slid into the more common first-person perspective of other modern horror games, and there's definitely room for the action-heavy approach pioneered by Resident Evil 4 too, especially in the sad absence of any more Dead Space games.
The series is born anew, free once again to surprise and delight with each frightful new entry to the series, and we can't wait to see how it mutates next.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £49.99
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