I have been a gamer most of my life. I have owned just about every console between the OG Atari 2600 all the way to the current crop of Xbox One and Ps4. I’ve also just about played every major gaming franchise one could think of as well. Some of my favorite franchises are Gears of War, Fallout, Final Fantasy and Halo to name a few. However, the granddaddy of them all, the one series I’ve been a hardcore fan of since my earliest days as a gamer has always been and will always be Resident Evil. These games almost perfectly encapsulate and deftly weave together everything I love about gaming and horror related entertainment. While some of the latter entries skewed from the intimate horrors of the first couple of games and focused more on bombast and propulsive action, this was still a series that had plenty to say and plenty to love about it.
I remember back in the day when my father took me to Target so I could buy my very first gaming system with my own money. It was the original PlayStation and I was allowed to get two games. So I picked up an oft forgotten about action title Syphon Filter and what would become one of my top 3 favorite video games of all time…. Resident Evil 2. Popping this disc in for the first time and watching all the grotesque visuals and letting the extremely haunting score wash over me as I traversed the gothic structures of a nearly post-apocalyptic Midwest town overrun by zombies completely changed my perception of what gaming could be. Up until that point it was all Mario style platform games or run and gun shooters, fun distractions and overly ornate puzzles but nothing of substance that could elevate gaming past a novelty for children. This game changed all that for me. This proved that style and substance could mix well and deliver us a product that was something more than a mere distraction. Resident Evil 2 was a game that you could actually invest in. This was a story that, while it became a little more fast paced towards the end few missions, was a turning point for the gaming industry in my opinion.
As gaming grew up and consoles and hardware became more and more advanced, so did the Resident Evil series. Sadly… bigger budgets didn’t necessarily mean better quality. While the series never completely bottomed out, there have been more than a few entries that have completely lost their way as to what made the first few games so special. However, fans never lost sight of what mattered most. That despite all these advancements in technology allowing bigger and more technically marvelous feats, sometimes it was the old school that still holds the key to what made things so magical. So when Capcom made the announcement that they were “re-imagining” Resident Evil 2 from the ground up for the current console generation (Ps4 and Xbox One) fans were excited but nervous at the same time. Would this new version of what many considered to be the high point of this venerable gaming institution be more in line of the action spectacle of Resident Evil 5 and 6? Or would Capcom make a game more in line of the classic definition of what survival horror could accomplish? Well my friends… I am a huge nerd for the entirety of the Resident Evil universe (movies, books, games, comics, etc….) so while I usually try to be biased in reviewing something… this is an instance where you should probably be aware upfront of the writer’s attachment to the material they’re talking about.
Also, I’ll be talking about the deluxe edition for the Ps4. I figured since I bought the first game for the PlayStation, I might as well keep the synergy and nostalgia flowing for Sony’s current console as well.
Dudes…. Resident Evil 2 Remake for Ps4 blows every other survival horror game of the last decade out of the water with an atom bomb to the head.
Much in the same way that the first RE2 elevated gaming in the late 90’s this new version also blows down gaming’s doors and announces its arrival in bloody and scary fashion. However, instead of looking forward and introducing new concepts and forward-thinking ideas…. Resident Evil 2 goes back to what worked in the old school days and re-introduces what made old school horror games scary while also bringing some of its more archaic mechanics into the mainstream. Gone are the frustrating tank controls and fixed camera angles. In their place is an over the shoulder view which was first popularized in Resident Evil 4 and the control scheme is more in line with modern titles as well.
The biggest and most noticeable difference upfront are the visuals. This game makes complete use of the current hardware standards and is a beautiful visual buffet to behold. Its use of the new Re engine which Capcom studios brought in the last mainline entry Resident Evil 7 is used to maximum effectiveness here. The graphics are crisp and horrifying at the same time, this is not at all a game for the squeamish or the faint of heart. Every bullet hits with a disgusting and wet thud showing realistic signs of damage to the zombies themselves. Whether you shoot them in the legs and arms to incapacitate them or are brave enough to go for the head… these monsters are bullet sponges and the wear and tear is beautiful to behold. The setting as well is a huge gothic monstrosity and you never once feel safe in your surroundings. The RPD building in this game is a renovated museum and the whole thing gives off a haunted spook-house vibe. Clearly something very bad happened here as every room and every hall gives off the feeling that a war with the undead took place here and you’re wandering into it long after the zombies had won. At one point the action goes underground as you fight your way through the sewers and eventually an underground lab where the Umbrella Corporation seems to have created the horrors that got unleashed on the world above. The visuals still hold up in these sections and are appropriately creepy and grimy but that initial introduction into the police station will definitely talked about for some time.
Going back to the actual mechanics… while some of the more dated ones were left behind, not all were let go of and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Item management in this game just adds to the overall tense nature of the game you’re playing. Most triple A titles that come out give you an almost infinite amount of backpack space to store items and weapons to make you feel like a death dealing god. Here in Resident Evil 2, you’re given a very limited amount of space on your character to hold weapons and healing items. There are item boxes placed throughout the game, just like in the original, but they are spaced out in a way that it makes traveling to them a stressful journey dealing with the horrors that lie in wait along the way. Horrors and monsters and all manors of creatures await at every turn. Even in so called safe rooms, you’re never truly safe from these things so managing your inventory and knowing what to carry with you at the right moment becomes just as scary and stressful as fighting the undead themselves. I’d often think I was carrying just the right amount of ammo and first aid spray only to come across a key item I needed to advance the story that I couldn’t pick up because my own personal inventory space was full. So now I had to wander back to the nearest item box, which was often almost comically far away, and use up all the ammo I accrued up until that point just to stay alive. I can see how backtracking as often as you might in this game can be cumbersome and annoying to some… but to me it just adds another layer of fear to an already scary experience.
Another difference is the difficulty spike. Typically, when I pick up a new video game, I always start it on whatever the normal difficulty is so I can get a feel for what the game is trying to have me experience while giving me a moderate challenge as well so I can leave the experience feeling accomplished. Here on Resident Evil 2… even on normal mode… the game becomes very tense and much more difficult than one typically expects. Ammo at the start of the game is very scarce and the zombies here, like I mentioned earlier, are bullet sponges. Even on normal, it takes almost a full clip of pistol ammo just to drop a zombie to its knees and even then, they’re not always dead. So, then the game becomes less about killing the undead and more about just getting them out of the way to make it to your next objective unscathed. There are also other monsters that make themselves known throughout as well. On top of your typical zombies, there are rabid zombified dogs, Lickers which have to be seen for themselves, plant like bi-pedal monsters that spew poison gas, giant mutations made of disgusting rotting muscle mass called “G Creatures.” These things are all your worst nightmares personified and are even more difficult to kill than the zombies. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also address the “boss” fights in this game as well. While it’s not on the level of difficulty that say Dark Souls operates on. I will say that you will die often. You can choose from the very beginning of the game to play as either rookie cop Leon S Kennedy or college student motorcycle enthusiast Claire Redfield who’s in search of her brother… series mainstay Chris Redfield. Depending on which character you choose will also kind of dictate which bosses you encounter throughout your playthrough. There’s a monster that stalks both characters throughout the story called Mr. X. He’s big, super strong and super imposing. It is strongly advised that you avoid him at all costs if he shows up in your area. The best you could hopefully do with some well-placed headshots is to temporarily incapacitate him long enough to hoof it to another room but then he just gets back up and starts following you again. If you chose to play the game as Leon, not only do you have to deal with him stalking you everywhere… he actually becomes the final boss in a very claustrophobic battle that requires you to be very precise or you will suffer the consequences.
Can you sense a common theme throughout this review? This game is tense and frightening to witness. Even after you’ve played through the story multiple times, it’s still no less a stressful and fear inducing experience. However, make no mistake, despite the constant fear and dread, this is an incredibly fun game to play made doubly so if you’re fan of the original. The puzzles strewn about the precinct are fun but challenging enough to make you feel smart after having solved them. The enemies are tough but not unstoppable never giving you a sense of being an overpowered killing machine. The story and the setting are top notch horror entertainment that will satiate all fans of the genre. This remake of Resident Evil 2 is just about as perfect a survival horror experience as anyone is likely to partake in. I do have some extremely minor nitpicks and quibbles… but nothing that detracts from the overall experience the developers wanted you to have.
Resident Evil 2 is a highwater mark for gaming and starts off 2019 in superb style. It is a scary yet exciting game full of fun and frights and all manner of horrifying beasts and ghouls for you to contend with. I know many might approach this title with trepidation, that the horrors contained there within might be a bit too much for them to deal with. I say try to work past that and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most exciting gaming experiences of the last few years. I’ve been playing it for the last 3 days straight and I show no sign of growing bored of it anytime soon. This is easily a 10 out of 10 and starts off what promises to be an excellent gaming year on the right foot.