When Resident Evil 2 released in 1998, it had to follow up on a game that defined a new genre of horror. Not only did it manage to improve the formula, it went on to be what many people consider the best game in the series. After a long stretch with no new information besides “it’s coming,” we’ve finally seen Resident Evil 2’s remake in action, and it’s very different from the original.
Resident Evil 2 follows rookie cop Leon Kennedy and survivor Claire Redfield as they are caught in a zombie outbreak in the fictional Raccoon City. The pair hole up in the city’s police department and are eventually drawn into a B-movie plot’s worth of evil scientists and freaky monsters. I wasn’t at E3 this year and regrettably didn’t get to play the game myself. I have a long, fond history with the Resident Evil series, and looking over the footage and gameplay coming out of E3, I’m finding that where I was originally skeptical, I’m now excited.
One of the things I appreciated about the Resident Evil Remake (affectionately called REmake by fans) was how it retained most of the original design of the source material. Full game remakes weren’t as common when REmake released on the Gamecube in 2002, and instead of try to drastically changes the game, it was mostly about new content that built upon the original. REmake still had tank controls and pre-rendered backgrounds, keeping the gameplay the same while sneaking in fresh additions. The Resident Evil 2 remake takes a different approach and completely reimagines how the game plays.
The biggest change is the perspective. Resident Evil 2’s remake embraces an over the shoulder camera style similar to Resident Evil 4, allowing players to control Leon or Claire with much more fluidity. I’m a big fan of how tank controls work in Resident Evil; they stifle movements and make dodging enemies consistently tense. Seeing the camera change in RE2’s remake was disheartening at first, but watching the game in action is changing my mind. Zombies seem particularly nasty, able to withstand tons of bullets and lunge quickly at Leon if they get close. Quite a few gameplay demos I’ve watch have shown players sneaking around enemies instead of engaging, and I enjoy the idea that the Raccoon City Police Department will always remain dangerous. Resident Evil 2’s action looks quick and there’s plenty of gunplay, but the increased enemy toughness should keep things from feeling too safe.
I’ve also noticed how bloody the game is. Resident Evil 7 leaned into grindhouse violence, and Resident Evil 2’s demo shows an equally gleeful use of gore. This time, it’s less The Devil’s Rejects and more Day of the Dead. Shotgun blasts can peel the skin from a zombies face, police officers are torn apart at the waist, and it’s even possible to shoot at limbs until they stretch apart into a sinewy mess, bones clattering to the floor. Resident Evil’s always had its share of decapitations and torn throats, but Resident Evil 2’s increased visual fidelity really helps the gore shine. I can’t wait to see what happens if Mr. X or the mutant crocodile lays hands on the player.
The Resident Evil 2 remake seems to pull heavily from many of the different projects involving Leon Kennedy. The camera recalls Resident Evil 4, while the dark environment—which requires a flashlight to properly traverse—calls to mind the “Hook Man” concept video for that game, which was a Resident Evil 4 prototype game set in a dark mansion. Seeing Leon wander the dark RPD halls feels like a long term validation for that concept, which relied heavily of light and shadows. This is a dark game, and if Resident Evil 2 takes advantage of that, it could be make for tense encounters and exploration.
I wasn’t sure about the Resident Evil 2 remake when I saw the reveal trailer at Sony’s E3 2018 press conference. I’m a sentimental fool who would have preferred a very literal remake, without much risk taken or changes made. But watching the gameplay in action, I’m intrigued. The designers seem to be assembling a devious little Frankenstein’s monster, cobbling together pieces of various games and aiming to unite them into a game that matches the original’s reputation. So far, it looks like they’re on the right track.