‘Resident Evil 2’
Who it’s for: Fans of puzzles, exploring and creepy creatures
Console: PS4, Xbox One
I have a complicated relationship with Capcom’s “Resident Evil” series. The early ones were OK, but the RC car control scheme (in the days before analog sticks) always rubbed me the wrong way.
I greatly enjoyed “Resident Evil 4,” but by then, the series was shifting from survival horror to straight-up action. I hated No. 5 and thought No. 6 suffered from a serious lack of direction.
And as excellent as “Resident Evil 7” turned out, it’s barely a “Resident Evil” game.
Now we have a remake of “Resident Evil 2.” To be clear, this is not an HD remaster. Capcom rebuilt this game from the ground up, using the engine developed for “RE7.” More than just receiving a face-lift, “RE2” reimagines the original game and applies modern technology and game design to a fan favorite installment of the series.
Twenty years on, “RE2” remains a fan favorite for good reason. While the series’ first installment took place in an appropriately spooky mansion, moving the action to a police station and its surroundings increased the sense of foreboding. After all, creepy mansions are expected to be creepy. Police stations are supposed to be safe.
Players choose between two characters — rookie cop Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, in Raccoon City to look for her brother Chris, the protagonist from the first game.
Each character has their own narrative to explore, ones that are just different enough to warrant a playthrough. Gone, however, is the “zapping system” that made decisions in one character’s story affect the other. And after you’ve played through the game with each character, there’s even a New Game Plus mode for yet another, different experience.
Other quality-of-life changes, both big and small, abound. The free-roaming, over-the-shoulder, first-person camera makes navigation a breeze, and although you still need to find a typewriter to save, the number of saves is no longer limited to the number of ribbons you can find.
Puzzles now make more sense and sport a greater variety. Still plan on running around like crazy and backtracking a bunch, as that’s just the nature of the game.
Fans of the original will also find a few things missing, including some enemies like the giant sewer spiders (as an arachnophobe, I do not miss them). This was to try to bring a little more realism to the game. Sure, there are still grotesque, mutated humans ranging from zombies to much worse, but no more spiders the size of horses.
The game’s pacing remains intact. Unlike newer installments, “RE2” plods along at a slow, dread-filled pace. You must completely explore your surroundings in order to solve the game’s myriad puzzles, but you never know when a creature is going to pop out and try to eat your face.
Action sequences will still get your blood pumping, though the weapon controls feel much smoother than any “RE” game before. However, you’ll need to carefully manage your inventory and keep an eye on your resources. It’s easy to unload your pistol into one zombie only to have another pop up to find you out of bullets.
Even if you’ve played other versions of “Resident Evil 2” before, you’ll find plenty of twists and surprises here.
Sequences of events and paths have been tweaked, and even familiar scenes feel fresh thanks to the new graphics.
Even the game’s sounds have been reworked to great effect. Very little music plays while you’re exploring, giving the creaks and moans a better chance to shine through. There are times you’ll feel more like the hunted as bosses track you from a distance, their footfalls the only indication that confrontation is inevitable.
Ultimately, “Resident Evil 2” doesn’t play quite like any of the franchise entries that came before it, either mainline or side stories. I can’t call it a return to form, because I never experienced a “Resident Evil” game this good. Instead, it feels like the “Resident Evil” game I always wanted to play. And if Capcom has half a heart, they will make a few more like it.