The original Resident Evil was the game that made me want a PlayStation.
I saw a demo of it being played in GAME, and it absolutely blew me away. Suffice to say, shortly after, I traded in my SEGA Mega Drive and huge haul of games for a PlayStation with a smaller but still impressive haul of games. And of course, one of those games was Resident Evil.
It should come as no surprise, then, that when the original Resident Evil 2 came out, I was on it like a car bonnet. Honestly, I didn’t quite think it was up to the calibre of the first game, but it was still mighty good nonetheless. But then that’s my general experience with the Resident Evil series after the first title: each main entry hasn’t been quite as good as the last, with the exception of the brilliant Resident Evil VII. And yeah, you read that right – I don’t think that much of Resident Evil 4.
There’s a simple reason: as the numbers have gone up, the stories have got sillier, and the gameplay more action-focused. I fondly remember Resident Evil as the first true horror game I played, and it pained me to be punching rocks and jumping unscathed from tall buildings while wielding a huge arsenal in its follow ups. That’s why I was very glad when Resident Evil VII brought back a focus on horror, even though it did still have some silliness. And that’s why I’m over the moon that the new Resident Evil 2 is everything I could have ever wanted it to be.
Resident Evil 2 is classic Resident Evil. It has puzzles that will have you traipsing around areas looking for useful objects, it has inventory management, and it has zombies. It achieves an impossible task too: making those zombies scary again. Zombies in Resident Evil 2 are resilient, even when you shoot them multiple times in the head, and they can be sprightly when you’re in close proximity to them. Come up against a few of them at once, and you’re likely to find yourself in trouble.
There are more adversaries for you to contend with, of course, including the iconic Lickers which are truly frightful. You can try and sneak past them if you dare, but it’s not always that easy when there are zombies on the scene – or maybe even a giant pursuer who just won’t leave you alone. The crux of it all is: Resident Evil 2‘s enemies are hardy and relentless, making every encounter fraught with peril. As a result, you’ll constantly find yourself on tenterhooks, just wondering what’s around the next corner.
What Resident Evil 2 doesn’t have is loading screens during gameplay. No longer do you have to watch scenes of doors being opened or stairs being traversed, making your adventure all the more immersive. You’ll move from one area to the next seamlessly, making your first playthrough – which is likely to take around eight hours – absolutely fly by. But don’t worry, there are additional campaigns to tackle, as well as many unlockables. The game also employs a ranking system, so those who wish to obtain a coveted S-rank will be playing though it more than once for sure.
Ink ribbons – that’s another thing Resident Evil 2 is missing, at least if you play the game on its easier two difficulty settings. If you first tackle the game on standard or assisted difficulty (which enables aim assist and allows you to replenish a small bit of health naturally), another playthrough on hardcore is probably in order, which brings back the need to use ink ribbons to save the game. It also disables the game’s helpful checkpoint system, and increases the strength of your enemies. It’s only for the brave, though, as Resident Evil 2 is no cakewalk even on standard difficulty.
It’s not only the zombies that are more troublesome than ever in Resident Evil 2; everything you encounter seems to have been given more of an edge. It doesn’t help that ammo is thin on the ground, either. While running past many of your adversaries is still a valuable tactic, it now needs to be done in a calculated manner, and sometimes your best – or only – option is to fight. If you do get caught by surprise though, items such as knives and grenades can now be used defensively, letting you escape an enemy’s grasp without being harmed.
Playing on standard difficulty, I was impressed at how Resident Evil 2 always provided me with just enough ammunition to proceed, but never made me feel like I could run confidently into an area, all-guns-blazing. It helps that a huge amount of the ammo you acquire is made by combining gunpowder, allowing you to use the weapon you’ve taken a real shine to the most. For me, that was the shotgun. I was also impressed that your limited inventory space can be expanded throughout the game, alleviating much of the frustration experienced in the original game.
That’s one of the best things about Resident Evil 2: despite being challenging, it never feels frustrating. You’ll rarely find yourself at a loss as to what to do or where to go next; managing your inventory won’t make you curse under your breath unless you really do try to hoard everything; and combat never feels unfair. The only real gripe I’ve had while playing is that zombies sometimes stand behind doors that you need to go through, leaving you open for a good biting. It’s a small problem, but one that can also break your immersion when you realise that forcefully opening a door into a zombie doesn’t push it back, either.
As remakes go, Resident Evil 2 is masterful. It preserves the spirit of the original game and its gameplay, but enhances it by employing responsive and intuitive controls and introducing new features that make it feel fresh. If you’ve ever played the original Resident Evil 2, you’ll experience a fair bit of déjà vu and revel in moments that have been wonderfully recreated – but you’ll also be kept on your toes with the surprises that are in store. It’s not so much Resident Evil 2 remade, it’s Resident Evil 2 re-imagined. And lord, the graphics; Resident Evil 2 is one of the most beautiful looking games I’ve laid my eyes on on Xbox One X, and it runs flawlessly.
Put simply, this re-imagining of Resident Evil 2 is everything a Resident Evil fan could ask for, taking the series back to its roots without feeling old. It is single-player survival horror at its finest, and quite possibly the best Resident Evil game ever made.