Not only considered one of the best games on the Playstation, but also one of the best video game sequels of all time even when modern players get frustrated by tank controls. The Resident Evil series is known as one of the founders of the survival horror genre alongside Alone in the Dark and Silent Hill. And its first installment was lucky enough to be graced with a remake on the Gamecube that got ported to current gen systems. Unfortunately the more favored sequel had to wait 21 long years to get its moment in the spotlight as the fourthquel got the Dragon’s Lair treatment of seeing a release on every platform known to humankind. Granted the rail shooter Darkside Chronicles on the Wii showed how diverse gameplay could bring an alternate spin on a classic, but unless virtual reality starts to bring rail shooters back from life support, there’s not a lot of access to that title with the mandatory motion controls. The reason I didn’t review this back in its January release is because there was another highly anticipated game coming out the same release day: Kingdom Hearts 3. Both sequels were trapped in purgatory to the point where they were at each others throats for attention upon release. One of them had to take the bullet in order to fully complete the other, or this case go into hibernation until Halloween season. So let’s wrap up this month of scares and screams with what people have been begging for alongside McDonald’s Szechuan sauce and the ever elusive Half Life 3.
Depending on whether you choose Leon Kennedy or Claire Redfield, they’re both headed to Raccoon City. Leon is the new rookie officer at the Raccoon city police department, while Claire is looking for her brother Chris Redfield. Of course the area is dealing with a viral outbreak similar to the one from the mansion on a citywide scale courtesy of the much loved (sarcasm) pharmaceutical corporation Umbrella. In the process Leon bumps into FBI agent Ada Wong, who’s got her own mission and gameplay segments to go along with her newfound chemistry with the rookie. Claire on the other hand stumbles upon a lost child named Sherry, who’s parents are Umbrella Corp scientists. And that line of work can only lead down a dangerous rabbit hole of trouble.
Nothing much can be said about the story except that if you’re a fan of the unintentional comedy (Jill sandwich anyone?), this might not be your cup of tea because the experience is downright depressing when iconic moments are recreated. Particularly those involving Sherry and how her parents are linked to everything going on. Further proof is in the voice acting which is much more down to Earth without multiple awkward pauses between sentences. That might be what made the original enjoyable on a different level, but there’s so many new takes on the familiar material to make it feel fresh and able to stand on its own. Make no mistake, this is a straight up bleak story to play through with both characters surviving some of the worst Umbrella has to hide from the public. But it makes classic moments that more memorable with the new twists and turns.
Even if you know the story, there’s always something to throw your expectations off guard. When campaigns clash, it’s very satisfying seeing what one person was up to prior to the friendly banter. So many characters get their chance to tell their part of the story and unlike Resident Evil 6, it doesn’t feel like wasted fan service. In fact it’s interesting seeing how this continuity changes these characters looks and personality in a post Resident Evil 4 update, starting with Leon. Here’s a guy who’s not yet the snarky yet likable professional he eventually morphs into, but there’s small traces of that future coming to fruition from humble beginnings. Claire is just as likeable as ever. Both as a badass willing to take on the undead, but also protective of those who are in danger. A few chuckles are found here and there, but the story as a whole changes enough to bring a new experience to something familiar. Which should be the standard for remakes in all media.
The RE Engine that began life in the equally magnificent Resident Evil 7 is spared no expense to make this one of the most unsettling environments the series has to offer. And this was all on the standard PlayStation 4. Something as simple as a truck driver chowing down on a bacon cheeseburger really shows how far in game cutscenes have come since the days when full motion video was the crutch used to scare many gamers years ago. Lighting is constantly changing in all corridors to show which areas are dangerous and which are safe. Flesh wounds in all infected creatures standout more when contrasted with the lighting, and it’s very terrifying to have a pack of dogs charge at you from out of nowhere. There’s also so many creepy sights to behold like a seemingly safe police department, a grotesque, slimy sewer, and a laboratory that’s devoid of all human life (*cough*YouTube*cough*). And all at 60 frames per second. What more could anyone ask when craving a game that will give them a stroke at any moment?
The gameplay will separate the veterans from the newcomers who were introduced to the 2005 overhaul. You’ll play as either Leon or Claire and utilize your one person arsenal to fend off the infected while trying to accomplish your goal. But don’t go in guns a blazing. This isn’t the same ammo expendable gameplay like Leon’s trip to save the president’s daughter, this is a scenario where you have to decide on when to shoot and when to run, because ammo is very scarce and the zombie population outweighs every bullet. And this time the infected will redefine the term bullet sponge, even if you combine different gunpowders in various combinations. The same goes for your inventory which can only hold so many items unless there’s additional slots to stumble upon. Thankfully there’s a handful of defense weapons to utilize should one of them go Harvey Weinstein on you. From knives, to grenades, to flashbangs, this is the ultimate test against the worst of humanity. But it’s not all shooting and running, there’s also plenty of puzzles to tickle your brain in between blood splatters. If you find yourself being gorged upon or poisoned by unwanted company, herbs are available to both heal and cure any trouble that comes your way. This is what survival horror was made for, and everything from the controls to the boss fights have been reworked to fit the mechanics of today’s gaming expectations.
And don’t forget the worst enemy of them all, Mr. X: A towering abomination that will put a stop to anyone who dares to investigate what Umbrella is up to. This guy takes the survival horror genre and turns it into a one sided game of hide and seek. He can’t be killed with any weapon and will relentlessly hunt you down with thundering footsteps. Should you decide to shoot any bullets, he will here it. So not only do you have to use the fight or flight decision sparingly, but also make sure he’s unable to detect your presence when figuring out a puzzle. While it’s not as experimental as RE7 since it relies on the standard over the shoulder mechanic, the series did make it popular in the first place, so why not come full circle? Though it would’ve been neat to see how the fixed camera angle edition would fair in this day and age since the REmake took the same approach. Choose your difficulty carefully though, as there’s no auto saving in hardcore mode and you can only save via the ink slots just like in the original. Even if you have played the original game, the puzzles are very different from last time so you won’t be able to YouTube any video of the PlayStation edition just to sidestep any hard parts you remember. This puts both fans and new players on the same level and will leave both with an adventure they won’t forget anytime soon. And that’s not even mentioning the hefty free post game content that can be downloaded for free (No Spoilers!).
Resident Evil 2 completely meets the standards set by the PlayStation classic, but considering how high those standards were 17 years ago, this is one of 2019’s best achievements in gaming. The new RE Engine goes a long way in making the most horrific details feel so similar to real life, the story always has something to hide for those who think they know every beat, and the gameplay proves that single player survival horror is just as popular as the resurgence of the genre in recent cinematic history. This is the kind of remake I want to see in any form of media nowadays since they’re becoming more common. Something that’s true to the original’s spirit, but with a different perspective to stand on its own. If you’re a fan of the series, definitely add this to your gaming shelf cause the wait was worth all the time in the world. And for maximum atmosphere on this modern horror classic, play it when all the lights in the world turn dark. No sun, no stars, no moon, no lamps. It’ll just be you and your worst nightmares, foot to foot, face to face.