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Lifewire / Kelsey Simon
Good balance of varied gameplay
Resident Evil 2 is a well-made remake of the original, with updated graphics, smoother controls, and fun gameplay.
A modern remake of a classic many fell in love with when it was originally released in 1998, Resident Evil 2 is better than ever. The third-person shooter combines zombies and puzzle-solving (and the terror that comes from being constantly pursued by a seemingly invincible monster) to create a fun and tense experience.
The first time you launch the game you’ll be prompted through a series of brightness selections. Immediately you're presented with a crucial choice, to play as Leon S. Kennedy or Claire Redfield. There are some differences between the two characters, such as their weapon selection and some pathway options, and the story will also differ slightly. You’ll then get to choose if you’d like to play assisted, standard, or hardcore mode.
Resident Evil 2 starts with a cutscene of a truck driver on the road, eating a hamburger in his rig, when he suddenly runs down a woman...who then promptly comes back to life. We then shoot over to Leon (who we chose to play as) as he drives up to a gas station and notices something is off. Stepping inside, Leon finds a sheriff being assaulted by a zombie. It's during this beginning sequence that the tense “which body is going to get back up” mentality that follows through the entire game is introduced.
Just as you’re about to exit the gas station store, Claire (or Leon if you chose to play as Claire) rolls up and together you flee, deciding to search for help at the Racoon City Police Station. The two are separated on the way there, and it’s inside the police station that the first sequence of the game takes place, with the main goal of getting out of the zombie infested Racoon City alive.
Resident Evil 2 is fairly mechanically simple, which is actually quite refreshing and part of what makes the remake so appealing.
The plot to RE2 isn’t anything special―it’s actually pretty uneventful in comparison to the newer Resident Evil games. There are a lot of hidden details that you can uncover if the larger Resident Evil canon is of interest, but otherwise the focus is on the gameplay. There are several instances where Leon talks to himself in a way meant to help drive the plot, but more often than not it comes across as cheesy and unnecessary. The dialogue often feels over the top and is poorly written (in the grand "master of unlocking" Resident Evil tradition), but we’re willing to let this go as a nod to the spirit of the original.
Playing through as both characters reveals more of the plot, as some things that happen to Claire won’t happen to Leon. The differences in your route through the station and weapon selection help keep a second playthrough from feeling stale and repetitive.
Resident Evil 2 is fairly mechanically simple, which is actually quite refreshing and part of what makes the remake so appealing. Capcom didn’t try to bolt on new bells and whistles and diverge from the original (successful) formula. They stuck to the original blueprint in several key ways while drastically improving the handling and controls.
If you aren’t familiar with the original, here are the basics: RE2 is a third-person shooter, and while the original had the series' infamous, awful fixed camera, the remake opts for a more modern over-the-shoulder setup. This dramatically improves the controls and makes a lot of the set pieces and jump scares more effective.
The horror aspects of the game are also balanced well for the average player. Things are tense as you navigate gloomy hallways with only a meager flashlight. The bodies lying on the floor in certain rooms will keep you on your toes—you’ll enter a room the first time and one body might not even twitch, so you’ll assume it's not a threat. Return to that room later, however, and it will suddenly spring up and try to chew out your throat.
Thankfully the zombies aren’t overly fast, but considering you’ll be bumping into them in fairly small spaces, you always have to be ready. The game also surprised us in that zombies didn't go down after a single headshot—you can often unload four bullets into one zombie’s head before it drops. This helps keep things tense, as you're constantly balancing ammo conservation against the need to make sure the zombies you blast stay down for good.
RE2 balances the need for updated, modern graphics with maintaining a visual style that evokes the original. Leon looks like his 1998 analogue―he has the same instantly recognizable hair, and once he’s geared up at the police station, the same look. Lots of the instantly recognizable places, such as the police station library and the main lobby, have the same look and feel in the remake as they do in the original, but updated with a fresh layer of polish.
RE2 balances the need for updated, modern graphics with maintaining a visual style that evokes the original.
The graphics in RE2 stand up to other top tier games released in 2019. The rotting flesh of your undead foes is unnerving, and the perfect amount of attention has been paid to the lighting. Make sure you take the time to set the brightness just how you want it. The lower it is, the more tense you’re likely to feel as you sweep down dark halls and tunnels with nothing but a weak flashlight to show you the way. Increasing the brightness can have the opposite effect, taking off the edge as you wait for that zombie you shot four times to get back up again.
A few months out from release, RE2 is very affordable, and will likely only get cheaper. As of this writing, you can grab it on Amazon for around $27, it's well worth it. The remake is very well done, referencing the original in all the right ways, but updating things enough that even if you know the 1998 version well, there’s still enjoyment to be had―especially considering you can play through the game again from the other character’s point of view.
If you’ve enjoyed playing RE2, Devil May Cry 5 might be another game of interest. It's also developed by Capcom and is another title that builds on a fandom that was popular around the same time the older Resident Evil titles were. It’s likely to bring back some nostalgia as it has the same beloved characters, but delivers a fresh look and enhanced gameplay.
A remake of a classic done well.
Resident Evil 2 is a well executed game in an age where remakes are extremely popular but often done poorly The updated graphics reference the original but don't look dated in 2019. The plot is a slightly fresher take on a fairly simple, familiar narrative but the gameplay is a fun combination of puzzles and shooting, keeping tensions high as you attempt to survive in a zombie apocalypse. While the dialogue can be cheesy, and a few parts of the game aren’t as exciting as others, there isn’t much else we’d criticize. Capcom did a great job reworking an old favorite and fans will be pleased.