Everything’s coming up Milhouse for Capcom in recent years. Not only did they successfully bring Monster Hunter into the forefront, but they’ve greatly renewed interest in the Resident Evil franchise after Resident Evil 6 lost them some goodwill in spite being a sales knockout. In a lot of ways, Resident Evil 7 righted the ship, leading us onward, but one mustn’t forget the damage-control and faith restoration brought by our topic of discussion – Resident Evil 2.
By no means do I want to open the can of worms of which one is and which one isn’t, it is oftentimes agreed upon by Resident Evil loyalists that the best of series comes down to two significant titles – Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 2. Both of them, in turn, are very different. Resident Evil 4 is more combative, explosive, and in your face, whereas Resident Evil 2 has a smaller, more calculative approach to it. Whether you criticize Resident Evil 4 for introducing the high-octane action or the original PlayStation game Resident Evil 2 for its archaic tank controls, no one can deny their influence on the genre and their respective series’.
That’s why I was excited when the Resident Evil 2 Remake was first announced. I had dabbled a lot in the series by then, but I still felt a lot of the stones were left unturned. In spite my appreciation and respect for the Resident Evil remake and its subsequent remastering for modern consoles for staying faithful, I wanted something more modern and state-of-the-art for Resident Evil 2’s facelift.
Developed and published by Capcom, Resident Evil 2 offers exactly that, in an experience available for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The videogame brings everything “up to code,” as it were, with a graphical overhaul, and gameplay more on-par with the modern era. At the same time, very importantly, it stays faithful and respectful of the set-design, as well as a lot of what made Resident Evil 2 be held in such high-regard.
Players control rookie police officer Leon S. Kenny and college student Claire Redfield. For Leon, it is his first day on the job when he arrives at Raccoon City, finding himself in the midst of a zombie outbreak. Claire, on the other hand, is a little less ready for duty (not saying you can be all that ready for such a thing), in search of her brother Chris, who players will remember as one of the main-characters in the original Resident Evil.
Resident Evil 2 has never looked better, benefited by a stylish and thematic overhaul, sprucing up the graphics and bringing the way you control Leon and Claire to a modern standard. With an over-the-shoulder perspective, I traversed through the graphically impressive Raccoon City, remembering locations from the classic game, and appreciating the new details as well.
The storyline is par for the course and about what Resident Evil always is, although right now I’m feeling like it might be the best pound-for-pound story in the series, which doesn’t say a whole lot. In spite the arguments of survival horror versus action videogame, and this and that, Resident Evil has always had the heart of a b-movie action-horror film. The acting is hit-or-miss (especially with the original), the dialogue is, at best, true to the standard, and the storyline stays the course of what’s intended. Although you will have the occasional scenario that highlights the severity of the zombie outbreak, like Robert Kendo and his infected daughter, the storyline is kept grandiose and of a larger scale. This isn’t The Last of Us, with in-depth characterization and emotional weightiness, nor is that what Resident Evil at all attempts. This is a videogame more amount the moment, and surviving the creatures around you.
One such creature is Tyrant, or Mr. X, a weapon created and deployed by the Umbrella corporation as a way to suppress evidence of Raccoon City, targeting police officers and civilians alike. As you might have gathered, Tyrant is not to be underestimated. The hulking man wanders the precinct, seeking you out for a good old fashion sparring match.
Simply put, when Resident Evil 2 works, it works well. Like, really well. I completed Leon’s campaign when the videogame was first released, and then, I completed Leon’s campaign again with my fiancee. In the present, I have now completed Leon’s campaign a third time and have only now come around to complete Claire’s. Each time, as much as I liked it, I can’t help but feel like my enthusiasm has scarcened. For me, Resident Evil 2 was a videogame of significantly diminishing returns overall.
Let me explain, – at first, I really liked the Tyrant. I loved the unscripted encounters between him, and I loved creeping through the hallways, caught off-guard by his footsteps. Sometimes I would even find myself unnerved by my own footsteps, thinking Mr. X was hot on my tail. By game’s end, however, I no longer met him with that same intimidation. Similar to Alien: Isolation or other videogames that offer the wandering A.I. aggressor, once the cat’s out of the bag, it’s difficult to hype oneself up in the same way. By my most recent playthrough, I started to look at him as an irritation more than anything fearful. Likewise, smaller details, like how the camera jitters and breaks when you’ve been attacked, or certain zombies serving as real bullet sponges, can start to feel obnoxious.
Thankfully, Resident Evil 2 has a lot to offer otherwise. Certain quality-of-life conveniences have been added, for instance, I love how the map system reacts and charts your progression. The sound design is on-point, knowing when to be loud and thematic, and when to be quieter and more subdued, like how I highlighted the creaky wood floors. After you have completed the campaign as Leon, you can now play as Claire Redfield, and although it is no doubt similar, by no means is it throwaway or a straight-up replay with a new character model. I found the campaign to be faster and more challenging, and although it isn’t exactly a fully unique experience, it no doubt offers more bang for your buck.
The puzzles, as well as the necessity of proper item management, are facets in the Resident Evil series that have been sorely missed in recent installments, and ones I appreciated tackling in Resident Evil 2. Sure, some of them are a little gamey. They aren’t moon logic puzzles, per se, but they are certainly contrived. And sure, Resident Evil 2 depends a little too heavily on documents and reading material, that, for the most part, does not enrich the storyline in a meaningful way. However, for the most part, they are fun, rewarding additions that make Resident Evil 2 feel like night-and-day compared to some of the sequels that came afterward.
I enjoyed and would recommend Resident Evil 2. I highlighted certain criticisms I had with it, but, by no means, are they damnations for it. The videogame operates on a high-standard, and is, by my account, one of the best videogames in the Resident Evil franchise and a good videogame in its own right. I think Capcom did a great job and I look forward to starting my playthrough of Resident Evil 3.