Being pretty partial to this instalment, I was slightly wary of approaching the remake, bearing in mind the RE 6 remastering fiasco. I’m encouraged and relieved to report, however, that the Resident Evil 2 remake managed to retain all the charm of the original, while isolating and eradicating its predecessor’s more technical weaknesses, to produce a nuanced and accomplished remake which was a joy to revisit.
Capcom got it right, almost to a tee. They didn’t simply slap a fresh coat of polish on the 1998 instalment, injecting a few new character perspectives, puzzles, or storylines here and there.
No, the meticulous attention to detail that’s exerted here is a fitting tribute to the original classic genre-pioneering sequel, and care was clearly taken to streamline atmosphere and horror.
The familiar locations – police stations, alleyways, parking lots – are now strewn with bodies (dead or undead, you won’t know until you’re within the ankle-grabbing vicinity), the light, blood and grime effects are perfectly rendered, and the movement and shooting mechanics have improved enormously.
The character interactions, weapon upgrades and ammo are all positioned and dispatched more strategically, but not to the extent of making the plot too linear and guiding the player by the hand.
The undead themselves are no longer awkward, lumbering oafs but grisly and agile adversaries, more sensitive to sound and location. In short, the ambiance of a full-on zombie apocalypse is distilled and purified to create a joyride of a run-through.
This likewise gives a fresh perspective to the wider Raccoon City, which you revisit nostalgically as you would a childhood friend, and can still discern the familiar charm in, but which you now find sleeker and, well, grown-up.
Apart from the zombies upending your former expectations of how they were supposed to behave, you encounter fresh hells of obstacles, are constantly tempted by new enemies to spend what precious little ammo you have, and are encouraged to approach missions differently.
Yes, you are still Leon and Claire – the cop and college student who attempt to traverse the city in search of answers, before becoming separated and each facing your own demons. However, this incarnation of Leon and Claire, as well as the intricateness of the puzzles each of them encounters, feels refreshingly new, while remaining organically loyal to the original – as though you’ve managed to unlock a bonus story you’ve been after for a while.
The characters retain their essence, but their near-flawless rendering (bar the occasionally wonky aiming) makes their stories seem yet more engaging, and just plain fun.
Finally, the game demands replays: both Claire and Leon have individual storylines, unique enemies, and singular paths which make a single playthrough incomplete. Their perspectives and reactions, even their minute movements, are likewise nuanced to an impressive degree, offering a wholly new approach the second time around.
Additionally, both characters have a ‘second run’ scenario, which lets you see what Leon was up to while you were following Claire, and vice versa.
It’s small delicacies like these that keep the game’s tension ongoing and make you want to revisit, rediscover, and explore this old friend in its new guise.