Resident Evil 2 was somewhat of a masterpiece at the time, creating a critical, commercial and social groundswell that few titles manage to grasp. It remains a fan favourite and a real nostalgia trip. So it comes as little surprise that over 20 years on, Capcom have decided to go back to the police station of Racoon City…
Having said that, tank controls just don’t hit the spot anymore. Zombie games are hardly in fashion in comparison, and the original game emphasised the ‘survival’ part with inventory tetris, dreadful controls and very limited saves. Is this the kind of game which can be moved into the modern era successfully?
Obviously, being a remake, very little has changed from a story perspective, a move which will likely delight long-term fans of the series and could maybe puzzle newcomers. Resident Evil has always been pretty whacky, until the most recent game, and RE2 was no exception. Whilst some things have been toned down (there’s no giant spiders, boo!), the cast of characters are larger-than-life (Ada Wong in particular comes across as completely OTT), and some of the enemies aren’t exactly the shambling zombie horde the series and genre are known for.
Either way, you still play as either Clare Redfield or Leon Kennedy, who arrive in Raccoon City a couple of months after the events of the first game, and find that everything has gone to pot. They’re soon trapped in the Police Station, which was supposed to be a safe area, and have to find a way to escape…
Returning players will immediately notice this is not a basic up-res, or even just a higher-quality re-skin like the Gamecube RE1 remake was. This is for all extents and purposes a completely new game using the themes of the original. So you’ll play from a 3rd person view, like RE games from 4 onwards, and this will affect the way in which the game plays too. You’re obviously more accurate this way, so zombies are generally somewhat more bullet-spongey than the original. However, most of the improvements are way, way smarter than this.
The game no longer forces you to find an ink-ribbon to save, although you will need to come across a typewriter to manually save. But there’s a relatively generous auto-save on top of this which is certainly welcome. You still have inventory slots, but you no longer have to puzzle them together, rotating things and squashing them to fit. Each item takes one slot, and that’s it. Yes, you still need to combine items to make the most of your space, but the most frustrating elements have been removed.
Best of all though is the map, which marks items you’ve spotted but not picked up against each room, and also colour codes whether you’re done in a room or not. The game is much better at helping you pathfinding without holding your hand, and overall, these quality of life enhancements help the game remain challenging without being frustrating or dull. I frequently remember not knowing where to go next in the original or endlessly pacing back-and-forth as I forgot where I’d left items.
RE2 was never the longest game, but each campaign will take 6-10 hours to get through. I’d recommend completing one campaign before starting off with the other (both Leon and Clare are options from the start), because the second playthrough offers a little bit more variety, with items replaced in different rooms and a few small story changes. It’s not a huge amount of extra variety, but it’s better than a standard playthrough, which doesn’t have sufficient variation to make it worth another few hours of your time.
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