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June 2019

Resident Evil 2

Platform(s): GameCube, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: Jan. 25, 2019


PC Review - 'Resident Evil 2 Remake'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 22, 2019 @ 8:00 a.m. PST

Resident Evil 2 begins as Raccoon City continues to endure an onslaught of terror and fear as a mysterious, flesh-eating virus spreads into the town that turns everyone it infects into zombies.

Buy Resident Evil 2 Remake

After remasters and remakes of various games in the series, it was only a matter of time before Capcom would set its focus on remastering Resident Evil 2, often considered to be the best and most loved entry on the original PlayStation. The clamor for a remaster of this game was always going to be high, especially since previous remasters and remakes were all well received by fans. Resident Evil 2 Remake doesn't simply upgrade the graphics and call it a day. While the changes make this title very different from the fixed-camera masterpiece of yesteryear, it also makes Resident Evil 2 Remake a must-play for fans of the series and the genre.

The main storyline hasn't changed at all from the original. It is September 1998, two months after the events that occurred in the mansion located on the outskirts of Raccoon City in the Arklay Mountains. The T-Virus had spread beyond the mansion, and all inhabitants of Raccoon City have been infected, turning people into zombies and other monsters. In the midst of the chaos are two complete strangers who have been thrust into the situation: Leon Kennedy is a rookie cop on his first day on the job, and Claire Redfield is looking for her brother Chris.

From the outset, the story is quite different from the original. Almost all of the major story beats are present, and the characters who have some significance in the story remain, but a good number of the details have changed. The meeting between Leon and Claire, for example, occurs at the gas station on the border of the town instead of when they're both in the city. The police chief is sitting in the middle of the station instead of in a locked room. Ada and Sherry still meet up with their respective partners in their campaigns, but the meeting times differ a bit from the original. Those changes and more don't alter the story in a significant way, but it makes the tale different enough that even longtime fans will find themselves engrossed in something that is otherwise very familiar.

The immediate advantage of remaking a game this old is that the overall presentation has improved immensely. On the audio side, this means that the sound effects are much cleaner. With a good number of surround sound codecs built into the game — including 5.1, 7.1, and even Dolby Atmos — hearing things like creaking doors and the drop of an empty bullet casing is both fresh and essential to creating the series' horror vibe. The same can be said for the music, which is actually muted. Compared to the original, the soundtrack isn't as prevalent, and when it does appear, it does so to build up the suspense and to let you know if you're in a big fight. There's never an instance where it feels like it's droning on, since other effects like barks and zombie groans make up the majority of the soundtrack. As expected, the characters have had their voices recast, and no one would accuse the series of going back to its roots in this respect. Every voice suits the character just fine, and the delivery is pitch-perfect. The dialogue sounds less silly this time around, and there are even bonus lines when someone is trying to kill a monster and is frustrated by how many bullets are needed to take it down.

Graphically, the game is vastly different from the original, with a leap that is comparable to the one seen from the PlayStation version of Resident Evil to the GameCube remake. The decision to go with the RE Engine, which was last seen in Resident Evil 7, gives the game absolutely realistic textures on every possible surface and lots of lighting tricks to accentuate them further. The lighting and shadow work is excellent, especially since most of the game is now dimly lit, and several different light sources provide their own shadows that dance playfully in the environment. Character modeling is exquisite, especially when you see the pale skin on zombies, and the chunks of flesh that come off when enemies are shot or stabbed are especially unsettling, whether seen up close or far away. The blood splatter is gruesome, and the animations are top-notch, further emphasizing the engine's capabilities of producing great in-game cut scenes that look like pre-recorded video.

The biggest visual change comes from the camera angle, which eschews the fixed camera angles of its predecessor and embraces the behind-the-back view from Resident Evil 4 onward. In addition to showing off how good the game models are, the camera angle change also means that zombie attacks are more visceral. The only unfortunate side effect of this change is the typical camera issues that stem from the behind-the-back viewpoint. Back yourself into a wall or go near an object, and the camera zooms in closer before snapping back to the normal distance once you clear the object. It isn't terrible since the snapping isn't abrupt, but it's worth noting.

The camera angle change has a transformative effect on the gameplay. Aiming has become more important, since you can't just point in the general direction of a zombie and shoot. Conventional third-person shooting mechanics are at play, so different guns have different aiming reticles, and moving while aiming means less accuracy. Manual reloads can also be performed, and that's something the original never had. The new camera angle also means that the controls are more in line with recent series entries as opposed to reverting to the original tank controls, so movement is much smoother and more intuitive for modern players.

While the camera angle change is the most apparent one to affect gameplay, there are others that make a huge difference. For example, doors are opened just by pushing them, so you don't have to manually input the command to open a door unless it's locked, and you don't have to go through a small loading screen whene you go from one room to another. This also gives you the advantage of peeking through a door by pushing against it and backing out in case you don't want to commit to the move. Saving is also made easier due to the fact that you don't need ink ribbons. You won't take up precious storage space by keeping ink ribbons around, but you're also allowing infinite saves for yourself.

The maps for each location are color-coded, so you'll know at a glance whether you've gotten everything there. As long as you've seen an item and haven't picked it up, the map conveniently places an icon to remind you of its location, so you can come back for it later. Entering a room also means that you don't have to mash on the interact button to find objects of interest, as the game automatically marks them when you go near them. That excludes anything that gives you a description for the sake of world-building. The game automatically brings up your inventory when you interact with something that requires an item. Finally, the game features a task list for any big progression-related quests, so you always know what you should be doing to advance.

Although everything mentioned above would seem to make the game easier, there are others that balance things to keep it just as difficult as before. All of the monsters you encounter are more resilient, so even if you only deliver headshots, you'll still spend a considerable amount of ammo to take down enemies. The monsters also have better reach, so simply running by them doesn't mean you can go unharmed, especially since most of the encounters occur in narrow hallways. Windows now have to be boarded up because zombies are more likely to break through them, so if you leave windows unattended, that'll increase the number of enemy encounters. The layouts have changed slightly, so rooms may be in different locations, and some puzzles have changed drastically. If you're aiming to use an old walkthrough to get through the remake, it simply won't work.

With all of the changes to the game, players will be relieved to hear that the perfect balance between combat and puzzle-solving remains intact, so it rarely feels like you're doing too much of one or the other. Fans will also be relieved to know that the horror aspect remains tight thanks to the presence of old intimidating enemies and new scares. For the latter, this means that there may be surprise appearances of bodies, insects or zombies in places that you didn't expect before. For the former, this means that boss fights, like the alligator in the sewers, will still make you jumpy. It feels like the game went back to the core roots of what made the original entries so memorable.

Players will also be happy to know that all of the extras from the original title are still present. The A and B variations to Leon and Claire's stories provide the motivation to replay the campaign a few times after initially beating it. A Hard mode exists, and the new save system has been replaced with the ink ribbon system from before, so save conservation becomes a thing again. The 4th Survivor and the Tofu version are also here, so anyone who's playing this version of the game for the first time won't miss out on anything that players of the original have already experienced.

Resident Evil 2 Remake does more than make a great game look prettier for the modern crowd. The changes make the game a brand-new experience for those who have played the original, but the title keeps a sense of familiarity that prevents it from being totally unfamiliar. The game remains a horror title, as jump scares have been pared back in favor of lingering dread and expert use of sound to amplify the terror. For horror fans and those who don't mind a bit of a scare, Resident Evil 2 Remake is the first must-have title of 2019.

Score: 9.0/10

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