Review: Resident Evil 2
The Resident Evil 2 remake is something of a paradox. For anyone who has played the first version of the game (released twenty years ago) it will initially feel nothing like the original. And yet, a few minutes in, the familiar Resident Evil feel resurfaces.
Much like the original, Resident Evil 2 sees these characters dropped into Raccoon City shortly after the events of the first game. The small town, a sleepy hamlet whose main source of income comes from the shadowy Umbrella Corporation, becomes overrun with zombies infected by the T-Virus. Much of the game’s early portion takes place in a police station that used to be an art museum, an interesting location that lends itself to some great set pieces.
Players take control of either Leon S Kennedy or Claire Redfield, whose stories branch in slightly different ways. The full story is only accessible after multiple playthroughs. The usual survival horror tropes are present, with the player constantly left with slightly too many enemies and slightly too little ammo. The emphasis here remains on escaping in order to survive and it is sometimes better to avoid directly confronting the zombies. Players also once again find themselves needing to tightly manage resources, allocating only that which they really need for the given situations. The puzzles in the Resident Evil series often stand out as one of the game’s most fun and addictive gameplay features.
The Resident Evil series has always embraced the campy side of the horror genre, with plenty of cheesy dialogue and over the top set pieces and events. Insights’ time with the game had as many moments spent laughing out loud as it did jump scares. The game does manage to be unnerving, but many of its surprise moments bring relief as well as shock.
As with the original game, and the zombie genre in general, Resident Evil 2 has a deeper significance that highlights much of the problem with late capitalism. With its villain a shadowy corporation that essentially owns Raccoon City and remains unchecked in its power, the real evil that lurks under the surface is not the zombies. Nick Reuben explores some of the implications of the game’s setting in an interesting piece for Eurogamer.
“If Romero’s undead shoppers endure as a sneer at the narcotic lullaby of consumerism,” he writes, “then what more succinct symbol of a city helplessly disarmed is there than a police station commandeered by the dead?”
With Resident Evil 2, Capcom have clearly taken on board feedback from their prior efforts. One noticeable improvement is the removal of button-mashing with quicktime events.
Graphically, the remake nicely demonstrates how far games have come since the original, taking full advantage of this generation’s hardware capabilities.The remake sits partway between the first few Resident Evil games and the ascetic and gameplay features introduced in 2017’s Resident Evil 7.
Resident Evil 2 has been anticipated for a long time. The first Resident Evil remake came out on the Gamecube in 2002, and has since made its way to most other consoles. Thankfully, Resident Evil 2 lives up to this long-term hype. It meets, and even surpasses, the original.
Following the release of Resident Evil 2, Capcom have indicated that they will wait on fans’ demand before committing to a remake of Resident Evil 3. It’s safe to say that the demand will be there.
Needless to say, being an R-rated game, Resident Evil 2 is not suitable for children.
Resident Evil 2 is rated R and is now available on Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor