Resident Evil has to be one of the game series that’s reinvented itself the most. Is it a shooter? Is it survival horror? Is it a co-op action game? Who the hell knows anymore. The one thing I can say for relative certainty is that it’s been a wild ride between bad games and great ones, and that they’ve been very clearly leaning on the great side of the scale with all releases in the last few years.
Honestly, I’d never played the original game so it’s hard for me to judge it against it. My wife swears that she enjoyed it though, and they continued making sequels so it must have been ok. I’ll be judging this game as a standalone though, rather than as a comparison to the original.
Taking the role of either Leon Kennedy, on his first day on the job with the Racoon Police Department; or alternatively as Claire Redfield, a woman looking for her brother Chris. Both stories follow similar beats, but around half way split off to different areas before rejoining for a penultimate segment.
Gameplay wise, they’re quite different to play, if only due to their arsenal and their demeanor. Claire gets access to a grenade launcher surprisingly early, and starts with a truly terrible handgun. Leon started with a much better handgun but his later weapons are less interesting. It’s a balance. Personally I prefer playing as Claire for the sheer fact that she vocalises her dissatisfaction with the zombies much like I did; “Son of a bitch!” and other exclamations whenever her headshots didn’t quite kill the zombie.
When it comes to what has become the incredibly loose term of “survival horror” as a genre, I think RE2 nails it, frustrating as that is to say. Getting a headshot on a zombie isn’t guaranteed to kill it, and “killing” a zombie isn’t a guarantee that it’ll stay dead. Sometimes they like to surprise you and come after you again after staying down for a bit. It’s a huge risk too, do you shoot them and “wake” them up in an effort to try and pop their head like a grape, or do you leave them down and hope they don’t get up when you’re walking back through? Sometimes though, that single headshot headpop is super duper satisfying. Ammo is also decently scarce too; more than once I had to run back through an area with no ammo because I’d used it all up and had none in my supply box either. It adds a lot of tension to the game.
From a level design perspective, the game reminds me a lot of Dark Souls. Obviously not the first game to use a hub system, but that’s always the game I come back when when remembering these things. Whilst much of the game is set in the police station, you’ll spend a lot of the time looping back around the foyer, opening up new doors and other entrances so everything kind of folds back in on itself. Even in later areas, things slowly unlock and change as you backtrack your way through them, which keeps things feeling fresh. These doors come in very handy as you’re fleeing from Tyrant, an unstoppable force who can be slowed with bullets but otherwise exists to completely ruin your day. He’s extra ominous because you can hear his heavy footsteps from far away. It works counter-intuitively to standard playstyle, amping up the danger by making you hurry which can leads to mistakes like running headfirst into zombies.
Once you’re finished one person’s story, you can go through the other person’s. Each of those has a “B” path as well, which changes up some locations, puzzles and enemy placement. They’re a novelty mostly, but it does add to the overall value of the game. On top of this there’s the harder “hardcore” difficulty and two side characters to play through. I didn’t play these, but they look to be a mixture of overpowered and joke modes, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The game also encourages you to get moving too. Many of the unlocks come from beating the game at “S” rank times (3 ½ hours I believe), and shorter on their B paths. These exist as a fun challenge, but man you really do have to book it if you want to get through in that time.
Over the last few years after ignoring it for most of its history, I started getting into the Resident Evil series. I love the movies (I know, I know) and the games I had played were always fun. Thankfully with the gaming industries trend on retreading old ground anew, I’ve been able to play these older games with a fresh lick of paint. Honestly, I loved my time with Resident Evil 2. It certainly has issues, but this was a great way to spend a weekend, and my wife loved looking on whilst I was playing, swearing at zombies who just wouldn’t die as much as I was.
Resident Evil 2 was provided as a review copy by the publisher. It was played on PlayStation 4. Both campaigns were played prior to launch, each taking around 5 to 8 hours. I have not played the previous release of this game.