Resident Evil 2 is my least favourite game in the original PlayStation trilogy. There, I said it! Come at me.
To clarify, the original Resident Evil 2 is far from a bad game. It ranks highly purely for its atmospheric design and soundtrack. But its Racoon City siblings have always pipped it. Whereas 1 felt like I was peeling back layers of the Spencer Mansion, and 3 was a pressured push forward, 2 was huge. Off-puttingly huge. I completed it with Leon, but only dabbled with Claire’s ‘B’ scenario before moving on. There was no urge to finish it a second time.
With REmake now seventeen years old the biggest surprise is that it’s taken so long for the second game to receive similar treatment. Fortunately it’s well worth it, building on the already solid foundations of the original but with enough newness to make it worthwhile.
For the RE veterans among you, there’s a pretty simple way to describe this game: it looks like 7, with the overall design of 2, yet plays like Revelations (the first to include simultaneous moving and shooting). Strong.
So much is the same yet so much is different. Floppy hair, the Police Station, bent cops and a tonne of zombies…it’s all there. But the differences are welcome. For starters, Raccoon City finally has a sense of scale. It’s a big place, and finally feels befitting of having a hospital and everything else that seemed off for a Mid-Western Town. Then there’s dispatching enemies, which has taken a turn with head shots no longer being your reliable friend. More than ever you need to consider your actions. Can you take on this room? Is it wise to? Between the far more resilient zombies, lickers, and the constant threat of Mr.X, you’ve got a game worthy of being called Survival Horror despite you’re improved mobility.
Speaking of Mr.X, what an addition to the game he is. After this, I have to wonder if we even need Nemesis (I’ll follow this up later). He’s menacing, stoic, and bloody terrifying, forming part of a nicely progressive enemy curve.
My concerns regarding adding a new control scheme to such familiar surroundings proved unfounded. Leon and Claire move smoothly but never too fast. It feels natural, and a great mix of what we expect from a game nowadays and how RE should feel.
There are some set pieces, with a couple really messing with me. Fortunately, not only does the game not bother with QTE’s (shakes fist at RE4), but it also manages some real emotion. Who would have thought an RE game would make me legitimately sad, and not in the way that RE6 did.
Initially the ending fell flat, as though it was only half complete. Turns out that’s exactly what it is! Second time around (yep I went straight into a second play, good omen) I realised that I was going to receive the full ending. The ‘true’ ending was crazy, both in terms of Berkin and weaponry, but it was definitely better than the usual ‘leave on helicopter with barely a word’ ending. Playing with both characters is a must here if you want the full picture.
Moving onto the DLC, it’s been decent. The basis of it all is 4th Survivor, a challenging extra mode borrowed from the original that gives you control of Hunk! It’s tricky but gives you some invaluable tools to tackle the main game with. Most of those tools revolve around how to not use your weapons. Very useful, especially if you really fancy the second play through or the harder difficulty levels.
Earlier I mentioned how we might not need the Nemesis, with Mr.X fulfilling the same brief rather well. The larger thought emanating from this is how do Capcom follow this up? Could RE2 be a kicking off point for a new story? Could REmake 3 be something different entirely? From what I can see the remakes aren’t linked, so perhaps Capcom have a chance to build on this.
They’ve definitely earned the chance to try something else. High praise from someone who thought the original second was the weakest.
NOTE – Look out soon for where RE2 places in my rankings!