The highly-anticipated Resident Evil 2 remake rides a thin line between new and old. It instantly pulls you in with familiar characters and locales, but finds new ways to make you feel uneasy with its new interpretation of classic events from the original. If you played the game back in 1998, you’ll likely to feel a nostalgic wave of emotion when you first pick it up; there’s a lot here that has been painstakingly recreated. Whether or not you played Resident Evil 2 back when it released, the upcoming remake is shaping up to be a satisfying jaunt through a horror classic well worth looking out for.
My time with the demo began in the main hall of the Raccoon City Police Department as Leon S. Kennedy–who’s just as strong willed and naive as we remember. He’s no longer the invincible superhero that latter entries transformed him into; he’s desperate and vulnerable. These qualities should come as no surprise to fans of the original version, but the remake really leans into them, making your time spent as the rookie cop all the more tense and dire. And with higher-quality voice performances, Leon’s circumstances feel grounded and believable.
It helps that the Resident Evil 4-style, third-person over-the-shoulder camera provides a far more intimate view than the original’s fixed camera angles. The remake faithfully recreates the original RPD’s narrow halls and pathways; its floor layout is nearly identical. The third-person perspective plays well with the labyrinthian police department, making exploration feel unsettling and claustrophobic; gone are the door-opening loading screens.
All throughout my plodding trek across the RPD, I rarely felt safe. An area would be recreated exactly as I remembered it, but then the game would completely mess with my expectations. For example, in the southwest corridor, I expected to fight the infamous Licker, but in its place was the body of an RPD officer whose mouth has been cut into a Glasgow smile. Despite having played the original countless times, new details like this ensured that I was always on my toes.
The feeling of desperation intensifies when you run into your first zombie. The empowering over-the-shoulder shooting featured in latter games has changed. When you aim, the cardinal markers on your reticle slowly move until they’re closed in on the center, allowing you to fire a more precise shot. But when you move, the reticle resets and must take time to close in again. Shots take time to line up; you can’t just instantly fire from the hip and expect to hit your target. It’s a small change, but it completely alters your sense of control. Every bullet counts when you’re cornered by a pack of zombies, forcing you to pick your shots wisely.
There’s a deeper focus on exploration in the remake. Scattered throughout the environment are doors to unlock and puzzles to solve. Thanks to the more seamless navigation, the game feels more akin to Metroid. You’re constantly investigating new pathways, gaining new items that might help you open up the way to your objective. There’s more freedom overall to explore and discover secrets at your own pace and in varying orders–which is a welcome change of pace from the more constricted adventure game-like progression of the original.
I walked away pleasantly surprised from my time with Resident Evil 2 remake. As a massive fan of the original, I had reservations going into the demo. But after playing it, I can’t wait to jump back in. There’s something so special about the way it takes advantage of your knowledge of Resident Evil 2, pleasing you with its faithful renditions of well-known locations, while at the same time terrifying you with everything it does differently. This persisted all throughout my experience with the game, and I can’t wait to see all the changes it makes once it finally releases early next year.