August 11, 2018 at 6:26 AM #563
Resident Evil 2
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
Welcome back to Raccoon City.
The original Resident Evil 2 was notable in that not only was it the first sequel in the then-new survival horror series, but it went through a longer development cycle than intended. It was originally scheduled to release in the spring of 1997, but Capcom decided that it felt more like the same old game in a different setting, and rather than take a risk, they scrapped that build (known to many as Resident Evil 1.5) and proceeded to restart the project from scratch, pushing the release back to the beginning of 1998. The result of this meant that Capcom had the ability to design a sequel to Resident Evil that truly felt like a real sequel by adding new features to the game to make it feel more unique and enjoyable while increasing the sense of terror that the player would feel when they played. The delay may have been longer than some might have liked, but in the end, it paid off since Resident Evil 2 went on to become a big seller for Capcom.
After the original Resident Evil was remade in 2002, fans were clamoring for a remake of Resident Evil 2. Unfortunately, for the longest time there seemed to be nothing being said by Capcom about it until 2015, when they teased that they were finally starting to work on it, followed by an announcement in 2018 that it was, in fact, being developed and set for release around the twenty-first anniversary of the release of the original Resident Evil 2. It should be noted that remaking a game is a very big task since the developers have to try to take the original game’s style and features and adapt them to the modern gameplay styles that players are used to in this day and age without losing too much in the transition. It’s quite a delicate task to say the least, but fortunately, Capcom succeeded in pulling off a truly reimagined remake that not only recaptures the original Resident Evil 2’s charm, but with a whole new setting and new features that make it truly feel like a true remake.
If there’s one place where the remake of Resident Evil 2 truly shines, it’s definitely in the graphics. Gone are the days of zombies that shuffle around with bloodstains on their body while shooting out sprays of blood when you shoot them. Instead, when you shoot a zombie, the damage reflects not only where you shot it but also the type of weapon that you used. Shoot a zombie in the face with your handgun and you’ll see a small portion of their face shot off revealing the innards underneath. Blast a zombie in the chest with your shotgun and you’ll see a variety of hits on them resembling how real buckshot works.
As you might have guessed, with Resident Evil 2 being an M rated game, there’s a lot of violence and gore, and not just with the enemies either. When your character finds a dead body in a hallway, they kneel down to examine it and find that the face has a slash wound that looks actually like one of the Lickers in the game. When they examine it closer, you can see things like tendons and muscle rendered with such detail that they very closely resemble the actual thing. The developers took the time to make the living things in the game look like the real deal instead of the old jagged polygon models that we previously saw. The original Resident Evil 2 had some pretty graphic death scenes, but with the graphics made to look as realistic as they do now, they definitely make the original seem tame.
The player characters also have a lot of enhancements too. Just like in the original game, the characters double over when they’re seriously wounded, albeit with less of a noticeable limp than the original game. When characters are attacked, the wounds are reflected on them quite accurately. If a zombie bites Leon’s neck, then he’s going to have a bloody mark there until he heals himself. If Claire gets attacked by a Licker, there will be scratches on her jacket that are visible. When a character dies, you get a very notable close-up of their last moments, such as a zombie ripping out their guts or getting clawed to death by a Licker. They left nothing to imagination here.
The sound department has generally been a mixed bag within the Resident Evil series, in that the music usually good at matching the mood (with the exception of the Dual Shock version of Director’s Cut,) while the dialogue has usually come off as a bit on the corny side. Fortunately, they’ve done a good job of improving the cheap dialogue in the years since the original games on the PlayStation, and ever since then, the dialogue has been more realistic and believable. In Resident Evil 2, the dialogue isn’t as corny as it was in the original version, but there are some times where it comes off as rather questionable. For example, at the beginning of the game, Leon saves Claire from a zombie coming up behind her, and as soon as he pulls her to safety, he casually asks her if she’s OK while she responds nonchalantly, almost like they’re having a simple conversation. It seems kind of strange considering they just encountered several zombies that were intent on eating the flesh off of their bones. While this does happen a few times in the game, it’s usually rather sparse, and thankfully the dialogue is believable for the most part. One part that I especially liked was how the characters make random remarks when fighting enemies, as it makes them seem more realistic.
In terms of music, I was hoping to hear some of the original tunes from the original game for nostalgia’s sake. While it is possible to acquire this feature through DLC, the new music they included does a good enough job of retaining the atmosphere of terror or whatever is going on. However, I noticed that the music was a bit sparse in this game in comparison to the previous games. This is most likely because the game is one cohesive world instead of being a series of conjoined rooms in different areas. While the silence does make things seem a bit more scary, it’s used a little too much unfortunately and is a bit unbalanced in terms of when it’s played. I feel that having music that plays more often based on where you are and what’s happening makes it feel more enjoyable. Thankfully, this isn’t much of a gripe and doesn’t detract from the game too much.
One thing I definitely will say is that the way the zombies groan and shriek is a lot creepier than in previous games. In the original, the zombies sounded like people who were drunk with hangovers. In this one, their shrieks are a lot louder and sound more like real monsters. In fact, the female zombies sometimes sound like Lickers when they shriek. Other sounds made by the monsters, like the way the Lickers actually do shriek, have been enhanced as well.
The original Resident Evil 2 was known for its ‘trademark’ style at the time of using fixed camera angles and using tank style controls. Over the years, that style of playing was replaced with the over-the-shoulder third person view that has been the more modern style ever since the release of Resident Evil 4. While that style has been incorporated into the new version of Resident Evil 2, it should be noted that some changes have been made. For example, players can no longer stun an enemy then run up and press a button to deliver a melee attack of some kind. This naturally makes sense since you’re playing as either a rookie police officer or a college student with basic firearms training.
Some elements are still retained, such as the ability to aim and move at the same time, albeit at a slower rate of speed. The laser sighting system is only featured with certain upgrades, but you still have a crosshair that allows you to aim carefully and judge your accuracy. However, it should be duly noted that, unlike in previous games where you could easily take out an enemy with a couple of shots to the head, the enemies in this game are a lot tougher than they were before. Zombies soak up bullets like sponges soak up water, meaning you could easily shoot a zombie nearly a dozen times and still not destroy their head. Even shotgun blasts aren’t guaranteed to take off a zombie’s head anymore. On the other hand, you can easily shoot a zombie’s legs and cripple them so that they can only crawl giving you the ability to run past them.
It should also be noted that the locations are no longer what you’re used to. The police station has been rebuilt from scratch with new secrets and puzzles to discover. Other areas like the sewers and the surrounding areas have been redone as well, and some areas, like the orphanage, are brand new to the game. Some of the boss characters also have new mechanics that you have to work with in order to defeat them, making the game feel a lot more unique in comparison to the original game.
Another notable change is that zombies aren’t guaranteed to be finished after two knockdowns like in the previous games. You may think they’re dead after knocking them down once since they aren’t standing up right away. However, you might return later and find that the zombie was waiting for you to come back and rises to attack you again. Another thing is that zombies aren’t just simple creatures that wait in prearranged spots until you enter the room, at which point they shamble towards you. The game is now one cohesive world where everything is linked together, meaning that zombies and other monsters will continue to move around and may not be in the same spot you saw them before.
On the subject of zombies moving, another notable thing is that zombies can force their way through doors and attack you, meaning there’s no more changing rooms to avoid becoming zombie bait. Sometimes they’ll follow you after they’ve spotted you, while sometimes they’ll just happen to detect you inside a room and force their way in. It adds an even greater layer of terror to the game as you realize there are very few rooms where you’re actually safe from being attacked. There’s also the issue of broken windows that the zombies will try to use as a way to get in. You can barricade these windows with wooden planks, but there’s not enough for all of them, meaning you have to think carefully.
Perhaps the most notable change has to be the fact that there can be multiple enemy types in the same room. You might have a Licker confronting you in a room while zombies are still shambling around waiting to get at you. Or you might be trying to deal with a few zombies when the infamous Mr. X comes after you. This time, he proceeds to stalk you constantly instead of just appearing at certain spots, and he’s even tougher than before.
One gripe I have with the game is that, while you can use defensive weapons to defend against attacks from monsters, such as daggers, which can be used as regular weapons as well but have the risk of breaking, and grenades, this is the only way to escape from the grasp of an enemy. In the previous games, you could rapidly press the buttons to break free, or wiggle the joystick rapidly in later games to fill up a meter before it was too late. If a zombie grabs you and you have no defensive weapons on you, then you will be bitten and you will lose health. It really makes the game a lot tougher than it should be.
The truth be told, the original roots of survival horror have been restored here. You have to conserve your ammunition and pick your fights carefully. Dodging zombies and other enemies is the best strategy, or at the very most stunning an enemy and then running past it. The ammunition resources and healing items are in a more sparse supply than in the original Resident Evil 2, and attempting to kill everything that moves will leave you trapped with nothing left to do but start over from scratch. It’s how the series was meant to be, but later games in the series moved away from that in a more action oriented style.
The story is still somewhat faithful to the original, with rookie officer Leon S. Kennedy coming into Raccoon City for his first day on the job and Claire Redfield searching for her brother Chris. Both of them encounter one another and get caught up in the zombie outbreak caused by the Umbrella Corporation’s T-Virus. They both head to the police station for shelter, only to discover it’s no safer there, and as a result their goal is to find survivors and escape from the station. However, some elements of the original story have been changed up to give returning players some new surprises while making it seem even more interesting at the same time. I won’t go into full details, but it feels a lot more deep than the original game’s story was. Coupled with the well done voice acting, it really feels more believable and you feel connected to the characters quite a bit.
Just like in the original, you can choose to play as either Leon or Claire. After you complete the game, you’re given a chance to play again as the other character to see things from their perspective. However, unlike the original game, where the story was significantly different based on the order you played in and certain actions could affect what happened in the second scenario, the differences are minor and not as notable as in the original. Some encounters are different and some items are placed in different locations, but there’s no big difference in what happens for the most part. The final result is the same regardless of who you play as first, but just like the original, you still have to play the second run to see the true ending for what happens.
The famous ‘Fourth Survivor’ mode where you play as agent HUNK is still retained, and given how things are a lot more different, it’s a lot more challenging than the original was. There’s also the somewhat-famous Tofu Survivor, which has a little more depth to it. There’s also three difficulty settings to play on, two of which allow you to be given a ranking based on how you do. To get the coveted S+ ranking, you must complete the game in a short period of time on the hardest setting using only a few saves. It should be noted that on the easy and normal difficulty settings, you can save as often as you like and checkpoints are included, but in the hardest mode, you must find ink ribbons like in the original game and there are no checkpoints. Meaning that achieving that S+ ranking is more of a challenge than you might think and might have you trying again and again to improve your final time in the game while trying to find new tricks to get through the game faster.
Despite a few flaws here and there, Resident Evil 2’s remake is an exceptional game. The graphics have been completely overhauled and the the gameplay has been adapted to work with the modern style of play that players are used to. The story has been rewritten exceptionally well to have a lot more depth to it and new surprises not found in the original. Most of all, the roots of survival horror have been restored and are definitely going to test the skills of even the best survival horror fan. It’s definitely worth returning to visit Raccoon City again, now that it’s a lot bigger and better than it was before.
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