Monday, January 28, 2019

Resident Evil 2 Remake Review (PS4)

The Resident Evil 2 remake takes the best parts of classic survival horror Resident Evil and everything Capcom learned from Resident Evil 7 to create something new and fresh and wonderful that stands as aruably the best entry in the entire series. It isn't just a prettier version of the same experience with a smattering of new stuff like the RE1 remake, either. The Resident Evil 2 remake is familiar on the surface, certainly, but dig even a little bit and you find an almost totally new experience from gameplay feel to narrative beats to level layouts and more. The result is a game drenched in nostalgia, but also one that stands head and shoulders above what came before it because Capcom made the risky decision to change things for the better. I absolutely love the new Resident Evil 2. Continue reading our full review for all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • ESRB Rating: "M" for Mature
  • Genre: Survival Horror
  • Pros: Great visuals; awesome gameplay; replay value; original OST; difficulty options; fresh take on a classic
  • Cons: Original OST option is DLC
  • Price: $60
Buy Resident Evil 2
The gist of Resident Evil 2 is that an evil corporation has been developing bio weapons in secret underground facilities around a fictional locale called Raccoon City. These bio weapons escape and infect the populace, turning people into zombies. The story focuses on rookie cop Leon Kennedy and a young woman named Claire Redfield who arrive in town shortly after the outbreak occurs. They meet up through a twist of fate and head to the police station (yes, the huge city has just one police station, apparently) in search of answers. They are separated, however, and take their own separate (but largely similar) paths through the station and beyond. When you begin a new game you choose who you want to play as and there are some distinct differences as far as items you can find and NPCs you interact with. When you beat the game with one character you can then play a "B" scenario with the other character.

The above is all the same as classic RE2, so what is new in the RE2 remake? Uhhh, tons. The most obvious change is that the game now has a free moving camera from an over the shoulder third-person action perspective rather than the fixed camera angles of the original. The controls are also more along the lines of what we have come to expect from third-person games rather than the "tank" controls of past games. These changes make sense, honestly, because fixed camera angles and tank controls in the classic RE games were borne out of necessity (to use pre-rendered backgrounds to make the games look better) rather than practical gameplay desires. This change in camera angles and controls alone make the RE2 remake feel like a whole new experience, but the changes and updates don't end there. Some folks won't like that it doesn't stay slavishly true to the original the same way the remake of RE1 did, but I love the changes personally.

Another massive change is just how the pacing of the game plays out. You now start the game at the station pretty much with very little running around in the streets beforehand. Once you arrive at the station the layout of the station itself is fairly different than before thanks to the addition of stairs in the main lobby, which is a great change because it makes huge alterations to the path you take through the station itself while also making the station feel much more like a real building and not a maze designed for a video game. This is one of the smartest changes made throughout the remake - the areas you explore generally make much more realistic sense now. Because of this, some things were changed or moved around or omitted entirely, which will surely bother some classic fans, but I feel like all of the changes were for the better. The biggest point of contention is that there are no giant spiders in this game at all, which, personally, I'm 1000% OK with. F--- spiders.

The game still uses the classic Resident Evil style of level design with locked doors all over and keys tucked in obscure places and obtuse puzzles with required pieces flung to the far corners of the map, but it does all come together more cohesively and makes more sense than before. Interestingly, the puzzles themselves are similar to the classic game, but it is all presented in a new way. In that same vein, the police station itself, and locations afterward, do a masterful job of retaining recognizable and iconic rooms and paths while remixing almost everything into something new. You still see recognizable things, and do the same sort of things that you remember from the classic game, but everything has a new twist and a new change that makes it fresh and new. I really, really love it. It makes this new Resident Evil 2 stand on its own as being more than a mere remake but an actual new experience. 

Any discussion of the new Resident Evil 2 would be incomplete without mentioning the changes to Mr. X - a tyrant monster present in the "B" scenario of the original game. In the remake Mr. X appears in both scenarios as an unstoppable force that stalks your character throughout the police station. Depending on when you activate his arrival he can either be a temporary nuisance if you thoroughly explored beforehand or a major obstacle if you still need to run around the station for an extended period. In scenario "B" he arrives much, much earlier on and poses a much bigger threat.

Speaking of the two scenarios, this is a cool feature that was present in the original game but has been expanded here. The idea is that you play as one character and then play through the game again as the other one to see the same events from their perspective, so to see the whole story you need to play through both scenarios. It is worth noting that the puzzle solutions are different in the second play through, enemy placements are different, and Mr. X shows up much earlier. This makes the second play through generally more difficult. 

One of my favorite aspects of this Resident Evil 2 remake is how accessible Capcom made it. Similar to Mega Man 11, there are now multiple difficulty modes that allow players of any skill and interest level to actually play through the whole game and see it all. I absolutely love this. Not everyone is a big e-peen internet showoff that has to prove how hardcore they are. By including an easy mode with auto-aim, easier enemies, etc. it lets more people have fun, and that is always a good thing. The easy "Assist" mode is also a great way to get the lay of the land and learn how to play before you move on to higher difficulties. And if you want a challenge, the highest difficulty here is absolutely brutal so everyone of all skill levels can get exactly what they want. This is just a smart move that I wish more developers and publishers would adopt as well.

Presentation is another area where Resident Evil 2 absolutely knocks it out of the park. The visuals are phenomenal with fantastic character models, amazing zombie gore, excellent environments, and stunning lighting. The one area that the game stumbles just a bit is that the default soundtrack is really, really subdued and just feels a little "off". Thankfully, you can replace it with the music and select audio cues (menu sounds and the "Resident Evilllll Two" voice on the menu) from the original game, which puts the overall experience on a totally different level. I highly, highly recommend you play with the original game OST rather than the default. Unfortunately, this feature is DLC, so you'll have to pay for it (either get the $70 deluxe version of the game or pay $3 for just the soundtrack DLC. It's worth it.

When you put all of this together you end up with a fantastic blend of everything Capcom has learned while working on this franchise for the last two decades plus. It takes the best parts of classic Resident Evil - the "survival" part of survival horror, intricate level designs, great puzzles - updates them all to be a little closer to current standards, and combines it with fantastic feeling modern third-person-shooter gameplay. The result is classic Resident Evil that actually makes sense from a puzzle / exploration standpoint and features gameplay that actually feels good. The remake is also a lot more consistent than any other Resident Evil game before it. It doesn't take a huge nose dive in quality in the last third like pretty much all of the others do. Don't misunderstand, I love classic Resident Evil but I could not be happier with the risks Capcom took to update the classic experience to make it better. The Resident Evil 2 remake is the best Resident Evil by far. I absolutely love it and highly recommend it whether you're a RE veteran or a series newbie.