Capcom Co., Ltd.’s Resident Evil 2 for Sony Corp.’s PlayStation was a landmark title in 1998. The title refined the survival horror genre pioneered by the first entry and subsequently sold five million copies. Twenty one years later, Resident Evil 2 is a remake that is staunchly faithful to the original, but like the G-Virus, finds new ways to terrorize its victims.
In his first day on the job, Leon S. Kennedy stops at a gas station in Raccoon City. During his escape of the infected station, he runs into Claire Redfield. He learns Claire is searching for her brother Chris Redfield, member of S.T.A.R.S. and protagonist from the first Resident Evil. The two are separated after an explosive car accident and agree to meet at the Raccoon Police Department.
The R.P.D. is darker and grittier than the original. Many hallways and rooms are illuminated only by flashlight to create a consistent air of unease. Items are still scattered throughout the area, including bullets, key puzzle items, and notes left by the dead that provide helpful clues. Defensive items like combat knives and grenades can be deployed when the player is grabbed by the enemy. In addition, wooden boards can be placed over open windows to prevent new zombies from breaking in. Finally, ink ribbons have been discarded and users can now save anytime at a nearby typewriter.
While zombies have become somewhat ordinary in the Resident Evil franchise, the AI in Resident Evil 2 is undoubtedly impressive. Zombies can stalk the player with an unusually dynamic cadence and intense vigor not seen in previous entries. The unorthodox animations and increased hordes make even a standard zombie a worthy and formidable foe to combat.
Another key figure from Resident Evil 2 returns – the Tyrant. Known to fans as Mr. X, the Tyrant is unrelenting as he hunts to kill by tracking player noise and pops in unexpectedly throughout the game.
Thankfully, Leon and Claire are well-equipped for the challenge. The third-person tank controls and over-the-shoulder aim introduced in Resident Evil 4 are superb and allow for agile movement and precise weapon aiming. Bullets have an increased effect when piercing different parts of the zombie, from the trademark headshot to new flesh-tearing wounds made to the face or limbs. Ammunition and herbs are deliberately scarce to maintain the difficulty of the original, however, new gunpowder items can be combined to create more bullets.
Puzzles, a gameplay hallmark that became secondary in later sequels, return mostly untouched. Many are streamlined and require a sequence of item discovery and backtracking, with none that are too obtuse to solve.
The RE Engine, first used in Resident Evil 7, is a marvel to behold in Resident Evil 2. The entire game relays a photorealistic experience, from beautifully terrorizing animations, emotionally expressive characters, to haunting environments. The RE Engine processes and handles all the complexity with ease on all hardware platforms – 30 frames-per-second for the PS4 and Xbox One S and 60 frames-per-second for the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One S. The PC version can relay 60 frames-per-second fidelity and 4K at 30 frames-per-second.
Music in this version is muted ambiance peppered with zombie shrieks, footsteps, and character breathing. However, the Deluxe Edition allows users to swap to the 1998 soundtrack, a masterful work of orchestral audio, including in the infamous save room music. Voice work is a stark improvement from the B-movie vibe of the original, with both Leon and Claire providing a realistic context without falling into a dramatic wormhole. Even side characters Marvin Branagh, Ada Wong, and Annette Berkin are given an extra dose of depth.
Resident Evil 2 is a truly satisfying remake. While not as unnerving as Resident Evil 7, it accelerates the tension of the original with 3D environments, fluid controls, and AI that packs a viscous bite.