Resident Evil 2 (2019) Review

Fast approaching footsteps are the sounds of death. Never have I had so much anxiety while playing a video game. REmake 2 is everything I have ever wanted from a Resident Evil game and it does so much right in terms of survival horror. Indeed, Capcom seems to have left the blockbuster action out of their newer RE releases, favoring pure horror as the series originally intended. They do it so brilliantly as well, leaving me to wonder why they abandoned this formula since the release of Resident Evil 4. However, it is very apparent that the developers are trying to appeal to both old and new fans alike, resulting in somewhat of an identity crisis.

There are two characters to choose from at the onset. Leon, the male protagonist is a rookie cop heading to Raccoon City after not hearing from the RPD in a while. Claire, the female protagonist is a college student travelling to Raccoon City to find her brother, Chris Redfield, from the first Resident Evil game. After meeting at a gas station where Leon saves Claire from the undead, the two are surrounded by zombies and they narrowly escape into the city together. They are eventually separated from each other and agree to meet at the police station that they assume to be safe. When they get there, they enter the survival horror as they realize there is no safe haven in this city.

Both Claire and Leon’s stories play out similarly, with minor differences in supporting characters. There are four variations of the story between first and second runs of the game. 1st run Claire and 1st run Leon have identical puzzles to solve, and minor changes in explorable locations and characters, which didn’t motivate me to play both. Once the story is completed initially with either Leon or Claire, a 2nd run variation of the story opens for the opposite character, changing the starting location and items. Even here there is no drastic distinctions in puzzles, with minor tweaks here and there. Again, there was no incentive for me to replay the game with the opposite character.

What I had imagined the second run to be was a story that intertwined with the first run, so I was sorely disappointed when I found out there is very little impact the first run has on the second. I was forced to face the same bosses, I had to put out the burning helicopter, and I needed to replace the gears in the clocktower… again. There was so much potential for unique and intertwining storylines that wasn’t met, and it felt almost lazily put together. The interaction between Claire and Leon left me wanting for more as well. There are only a couple of occasions the two protagonists meet, and the meetings never hold much significance.

The difficulty of the game should be addressed. On standard difficulty the game is seemingly well balanced, although most zombies are bullet sponges, leaving zombie deaths to be a result of some obscure RNG. Even if you land every shot in the head it takes a while for an enemy to stay down. And that is just the basic zombies. All other virus mutations take an unruly amount of ammo to defeat, making avoidance the best course of action.

Increased enemy health does not make a game more difficult, it just makes it more annoying. Stealth has become a factor as well, featuring some enemies that use more than just sight to triangulate your position. At times this makes trekking through some hallways unbearably slow as you tip toe to avoid making excessive noise. There is also a new level of difficulty that comes with the Tyrant being able to follow your movement throughout the entire police station, only losing you when you dash into a safe room. This slows progression a little while you wait for the Tyrant to leave the area so you can get to where you need to be.

These are all valid criticisms of the game, however there is a lot of good to be said about REmake 2. As Capcom has done in earlier installments, the puzzle solving is entertaining while not being overly difficult, empowering the player with a sense of progression after each solution. Add the footsteps of an approaching Tyrant and you have the feeling of urgency to your problem solving. And herein lies the true beauty of this remake. A creepy museum-turned-police station leads to a very spooky atmosphere, comparable to being trapped in the Spencer Mansion in RE1.

If you prefer horror games to give you power over your enemies, this is not the game for you. For the most part you’re alone in a giant building teeming with zombies. Being severely outnumbered and lacking the resources to kill everything in sight makes this game feel like you are struggling to survive. An unkillable enemy that follows the sounds of your footsteps serves to compound the horror in this game. There were moments when I first encountered the Tyrant that I had to stop playing because the anxiety accompanying the monster’s approach was too much for me to handle. Even after beating the game once, the anxiety was still present during my second playthrough which I didn’t think possible for someone who has overcome the challenge already. After a while though, when the stress subsides, the Tyrant becomes more of an annoyance than anything. Experience is what separates the cowering gamer from the action hero.

Gamers who are not seasoned in OTS shooters may find this game to be too difficult, even on standard. The gunplay largely relies on skill, but fear not, for there is an assisted mode that will help you aim and recover health automatically. Should this be too easy for veterans of Resident Evil games and third person shooters, a hardcore mode exists that greatly increases damage taken while also reintroducing a finite amount of ink ribbons required to save your progress. There is a little something for everyone in this horrifying experience.

The visuals in REmake 2 are absolutely stunning and are worth a mention. The realistic facial expressions, blood filled hallways and detailed background objects do not leave me wanting. This game is beautiful. Shadows cast by objects and people in different angles of light add an eerie sense of realism. The flashlight that you are graced with reacts perfectly to different situations. The light shimmers and reflects off water in hallways, adding to the realism. Everything about the lighting and graphics immersed me in the experience. Campy dialogue that has become standard in the series has been replaced by a more serious tone. While both Leon and Claire work their way to becoming “masters of unlocking” as they open one door after another in the station, there are no Barry Burtonisms in this game. The dialogue serves a more mature audience. The game is littered with profanity, which may put some people off; however, I found where Capcom has taken the characters is a step in the right direction. I imagine how I would react in this survival situation and I conclude that the profanity and blasphemy serve to add realism to the game. However, this game will not win favors with people who have “virgin ears” and may acutally take them out of the experience, so be warned.

All in all, Resident Evil 2 (2019) was a load of fun and is worth a try for any fan of the series or survival horror in general. I may even be so bold to say it is my favorite RE entry to date.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 2/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 1/5

Total: 18/25, or 72/100

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