Out of the three original PSX Resident Evil games, the Resident Evil 2 REmake is my favorite of the bunch and it always has been. I love how the game immediately throws you into the deep end and continues to throw life or death scenarios your way at a decent clip. When the new wave of REmakes began, RE2 was the first to get a facelift for the (at the time) current-gen consoles. Using the RE Engine that was used for the acclaimed Resident Evil: Biohazard (RE7 in the mainline series), the game uses the over-the-shoulder perspective used since RE4.
Right from the start, you could see just how much care went into this remake. Peep that gooey, disgusting burger that truck driver is eating in the intro! Look at the detail in the character’s faces! Look at how glossy (and slightly unnatural) everything wet looks! PS4 is the generation of glossy (and slightly unnatural) visuals.
The opening cutscenes for either Leon S Kennedy or Claire Redfield transpire much as they did in the PSX original, culminating in the pair being separated by fate (and the aforementioned, now-infected trucker who causes a major accident) and having to make their way to the Raccoon City Police Department, where they hope to get some answers about the mysterious outbreak and the anarchy and destruction it has caused.
Cut to the opening credits, which are stylishly done, and meticulously well designed. The graphics, coloring, and music marry together in a cohesive style that gets you ready to experience an old favorite made for the modern gamer. Whereas the old games created a cinematic experience by using FMV (full motion video), here we have cutscenes interspersed with actual video and it’s SOP now, but it’s still impressive to see a familiar game redone so well.
While plenty of people rightfully have disdain for the tank controls that remained a mainstay up until Resident Evil 4, I happen to like them in the older games. I have a feeling the difficulty pendulum would swing too far in the other direction were they implemented.
Even when playing Resident Evil HD Remake and Zero on the PS4, I leave the control scheme set to old-school. Having “up” always move your character forward just works better, especially when the camera angle changes.
Speaking of controls, while there is no tank control here, headshots are a real issue in RE2, mostly because there is almost never a reward for landing one. You can rattle off a series of headshots and it will still waste just as many bullets as hitting zombies in the body. In RE4 a headshot would be an effective way of taking down an enemy (provided the Las Plagas mutation wouldn’t sprout aggressive tendrils once the head was removed), but here the head is just another bullet sponge.
As is the case with almost all the non-linear RE games, you need to decide whether you want to kill or avoid enemies, since item management and resources are an integral part of the challenge, and because you will often have to traverse the same areas multiple times.
RE2 does have boards you can use to block open windows, and you’ll want to use them in high traffic areas such as the 1st floor west hallway, which will become overrun with zombies around the time Mr. X starts showing up to haunt you.
Let’s talk about Mr. X. In the original game, he didn’t show up until your second run. In the remake, he shows up around the midpoint of the police station segment. He’s still a slow walking, Michael Myers killer.
Just the sound of his boots thumping on the ground will cause your nerves to amp up. I know personally, the part I dread every time I play this game is moving those damned bookcases in the library. The room is already (usually) filled with zombies that can grab you when your back is turned, and the interminable amount of time it takes to move the bookcases from left to right (in order to form a walkway above) is stressful as is. Adding in the fear that Mr. X can enter the room and can grab you at any second is terrifying.
RE2R is good at creating fear. While the original RE2 was excellent, it wasn’t one of the scarier entries. The original had those dogs crashing through windows. It had Hunters suddenly showing up just when you thought the mansion was mostly clear. Even RE4, action-oriented as it was, had Ganados sneaking up on you; not to mention Dr. “Chainsaw Man” Salvador and my own personal nightmare, Garrador.
This version of RE2 is darker, moodier. Things lurk in the shadows. Noises are helpful clues but will keep you on edge (especially with headphones on). And once Mr. X shows up, you also have to be as quiet as possible, since gunshots and other noise alert him as to where you are. While I will admit it’s often frustrating when you don’t exactly know where to go and you have to run in circles to lose X, you very rarely get cornered somewhere you can’t escape (even if you may need to take some damage in the process).
The Side Characters
Characters like Marvin get more fleshed out (I suppose that pun was intended). In the original, he was just a dying exposition machine. Here, he saves Leon’s life and assists in his finding the secret entrance below the station. Sadly, his fate remains the same, and he will eventually turn and wander the police station. I’d put him out of his misery but bullets are sparse in RE games.
Chief Irons is as dastardly and semi-vaguely lecherous as ever. Poor Katherine Warren still ends up on a table, although she does get an alternate fate in one of the difficult Ghost Survivors scenarios the game offers.
Speaking of which, Robert Kendo (the beloved gun shop owner) is given a more tragic backstory this time around. And yes, I know he was torn to shreds in the original RE2. There are fates worse than death, and even his alternate Ghost Survivors scenario doesn’t retcon this aspect.
Ada is still Ada. Obtuse as ever. The Birkins are still the Birkins. Annette doesn’t get killed by a random falling pipe this time, so at least she doesn’t suffer such an ignominious end. Ben the reporter is here one minute and walleyed the next. The overall structure remains intact.
The plot unfolds in mostly the same fashion (aside from a brief, new section in a nursery) as the original. There are some small changes here and there, and I feel like this is done to tie-in the plot threads from Resident Evil 7.
Having played RE3R, I noticed that some of the zombies would mutate into creatures that were similar to those found in RE4. If I had to guess, they will probably try to make a clearer connection between the zombies that came from the T and G viruses, and those that came from Las Plagas.
I’ve never cared much about the plot of RE games. They’re campy, and (I’m pretty sure) they know it. I’m OK with that. I know Cobra Kai is earnest and cheesy, and that’s why I love that show. RE games are insane and silly, but when Chris is super-punching things in RE7, I can only assume they are in on the “rock punching” jokes that sprung from the end of RE5.
I’m from an era where games had instruction manuals with poorly translated storylines that often didn’t match up with in-game text, so that stuff doesn’t matter much to me, but it is the right thing to do trying to make the remakes (and the series as a whole) have some sort of cohesiveness.
However, the game needed a Mercenary Mode and it didn’t get one. RE3R skipped it too. Luckily, I think the fans have made it known that RE4 Merc Mode is highly necessary. Don’t do us dirty, Capcom.
Overall, I love this game, but it’s not perfect. I’ve played through the game (both characters and scenarios) several times. As with any good RE game, there are unlockables. Hunk and Tofu (several varieties!) are here! Alternate costumes, weapons and items are as well. The original soundtrack is also available as paid DLC, which is pretty lame if you ask me. You want to buy DLC that will make the game easier for you, that’s one thing, but that’s an option that should either already be included, or added after the fact as free DLC.
Also, no Brad Vickers, that yellow-bellied coward. Although there is an Easter egg of poster boy in the game. The original trilogy does—after all—hinge on ol’ Brad stranding everyone at the mansion in the first game. Oh well, he’ll face a reckoning soon enough.