Resident Evil 2 Remake Preview – REmaking Survival Horror

There are certain games that hold a special place in our hearts and minds. Games that we played and felt connected to, or could relate to. The games that changed something about you or your life.

These games are few and far between and in my case, the prime example is Resident Evil 2

For a long, long time, if ever I’ve been asked to name my favourite video game, my answer has always been the same. 

Resident Evil 2.

Without hesitation or a second thought, I always answered the same way. And now, my favourite game of all time is being remade. Not remastered mind you. Totally remade from the ground up.

Resident Evil 2 Remake Preview

When the Resident Evil 2 Remake was announced, I was equal parts excited and trepidatious. Resident Evil 2 is only as good as it is because of when it was made. 

Sure, I can still play it today and enjoy it just as much as I always have, but that’s because I have the benefit of nostalgia pushing me along. Without those heavily rose-tinted glasses, Resident Evil 2 is a plodding, unfair, cheesy and impossible to control slog.

I still love it though.

And in spite of their inherent terribleness, it’s these qualities that make Resident Evil 2 what it is so, how could a remake possible recapture that magic? Thankfully, for the most part, Resident Evil 2 Remake seems to be succeeding. 

I recently spent around four hours playing as both Leon and Claire and aside from a few quibbles, I could not be more excited to play Resident Evil 2 Remake in 2019.

Stepping back into the rookie boots of Leon S. Kennedy before he rescued the President’s daughter is a real thrill. As is taking control of Claire prior to her battle against the Ashfords.

Back to the beginning

Resident Evil 2 comes from a time in the series when the stories were more personal, smaller in scale and much more relatable. Well, as relatable as stories set during zombie outbreaks can be.

Resident Evil 2 also comes from a time when both the ‘survival’ and ‘horror’ elements were heavily emphasised. As the series progressed and the stories became more outlandish, that personal, small-scale survival horror fell by the wayside.

Resident Evil 7 managed to bring survival horror back to the fore and it had a small personal story to tell. However, it had to largely remove itself from the series’ mainstay characters and settings, which meant it didn’t have as hard an impact as it could have.

Taking things back to Raccoon City and back to the beginning of the outbreak is the perfect way to introduce new fans to the series’ lore and to win back lapsed fans. 

Getting re-acquainted with some of the best the series has ever had to offer is the icing on the cake.

I’m not just talking about Leon and Claire here either. Resident Evil 2 marked the first appearance of many of Resident Evil’s most well-loved characters; Ada Wong, William and Sherry Birkin, Mr X/Nemesis and, of course, the Raccoon City Police Station.

And yes, the police station is a character in and of itself. 

Same, but Different

Remaking a 20-year old game is no easy feat, especially one as rigidly created as Resident Evil 2. Tank controls, forced perspectives, pre-rendered backgrounds and door opening animations to disguise loading all have no place in games in 2018.

However, as I mentioned earlier, these elements are all integral to Resident Evil 2 and without them, any remake is at risk of feeling like a different game altogether. 

Unlike Resident Evil RemakeResident Evil 2 Remake is a new beast, but one that still feels like the spirit of the original is intact. 

Instead of Tank Controls, Resident Evil 2 makes use of the industry standard controls for third-person games. Moving and strafing are controlled with the left stick while looking and turning are controlled with the right. Unlike Resident Evil 6 though, Resident Evil 2 doesn’t feel like a third-person shooter.

Even though the forced perspective is long gone, Resident Evil 2 Remake uses camera angles, shadows, lighting and objects to evoke a similar sensation. Zombies are often obscured cleverly which allows for some great jump scares. More often than not, you’ll hear a zombie before you see it, which only ramps up the fear factor. 

That’s a Door?!

Thanks to the power of current-gen consoles, Resident Evil 2 Remake doesn’t need to load in between each room as the original did. However, Capcom has come up with an elegant solution to make sure you still feel the tension every time you open a door.

When you come to a door, you have the option of pressing the action button to open it slowly or you can simply barrel forward and open it more forcefully. If you choose the former, the door slowly opens, whereas if you barge on through you’ll be in the next room in an instant. 

The beauty is, that no matter which option you go with, there’s always a level of uncertainty and fear that goes with it. Slowly opening the door makes you feel each moment pass and the dread mount as you come to terms with what’s on the other side.

Conversely, pressing forward without patience means you could come face to face with an angry, startled zombie. In my hands-on time, I pushed into room after room and on more than one occasion screamed out loud as I ran right into a waiting zombie.

Even with all of these changes having been made, it still feels like Resident Evil 2. Resident Evil 2 Remake is just the game Resident Evil 2 always would have been, had it been made in 2018.

Mr Scott Kennedy

Two scenarios were available to play during my hands-on time. The first was Leon’s and the second was Claire’s. Leon’s section was set during the later stages of the game as he and Ada make their way into the sewers in an effort to locate Umbrella’s secret underground lab.

Right off the bat, I noticed that while the map was similar, things were quite different. Rooms had been enlarged and their locations slightly changed. The route I had to take to get from A to B was, in some cases, entirely new and there was an overall larger sense of scale to the environment.

That being said, many of the rooms were instantly recognisable, even if they were vastly transformed. This is a real testament to the creative team at Capcom. To be able to change the environment so heavily and still have fans recognise it is a sign of true reverence for the source material.

As I made my way through the sewers and fought off zombies I noticed that I was really low on ammo. Resident Evil 2 Remake isn’t masquerading as a survival horror game, it is one. Ammo is scarce, enemies are plentiful and you best be ready to run should you mismanage your inventory.

Having played Resident Evil 2 so many times, I was waiting for familiar moments and I wasn’t disappointed. Series fans will be pleased to learn that the homage to Jaws remains in Resident Evil 2 Remake, however, it’s been altered in such a way that it’s far more impactful and terrifying. 

Operation Ada

During Leon’s section I was able to take control of Ada, however, this is wildly different from what appeared in the original game. Ada now comes equipped with an EMF scanner which is used to solve puzzles.

Mostly, these puzzles involve turning switches on and off, but there are some tense moments as you frantically try to solve puzzles while being hounded. I panicked more than once and had to replay the same section quite a few times. 

It was brilliantly terrifying. 

Another important thing to note is that Ada actually appears to be an Asian person in Resident Evil 2 Remake. Having the surname Wong always seemed odd in the past as Ada was entirely Caucasian. Thankfully, that’s been changed in RE2 Remake and while it’s a minor change, it’s an appreciated one. 

Once control was returned to Leon, I continued to make my way towards Umbrella’s secret lab with the section ending once I’d rejoined Ada. Which meant it was time to see what Claire was up to.

The Best Redfield

Where Leon’s section was more basic survival horror and your standard Resident Evil 2 fare, Claire’s had a bit more going on.

In the original game, at certain points, Mr X would appear to terrorise Claire. Once you downed him, he’d disappear before returning at a later point. In Resident Evil 2 Remake, Mr X acts like his successor; Nemesis.

In my hands-on, once Mr X was on the scene he wasn’t going anywhere. If I did enough damage to him, he would take a knee and stay that way for a while, before getting back up and stalking me again.

This meant that I’d have to run and hide from Mr X so that he’d lose track of me and then try to stay quiet and out of sight. No matter where Mr X was if I fired my gun or a zombie moaned, he’d come running. 

This adds an incredibly scary cat and mouse element to Claire’s scenario that sent my heart rate through the roof. Not to mention that in this section I was having to deal with Lickers in addition to zombies. 

Still the Best

There’s a lot that can be said about Resident Evil 2 Remake, but honestly, it’s really just shaping up to be a hugely successful recreation of a 20-year old game. 

It looks, feels and plays just like Resident Evil 2 should, albeit with modern sensibilities and that’s all anyone can ask for. 

While I spent around four hours with it, Resident Evil 2 Remake has been expanded and improved so that the game’s runtime will far exceed the original. Not to mention it’s easily the scariest game of this generation. 

Somehow Capcom managed to make zombies scary again. Bravo.

At the end of the day, I’m a super fan and I went in as a sceptic. My fears have been all but silenced and if the full game is as good as the bits I got to play, Resident Evil 2 Remake may just take its rightful place as my favourite game of all time.

PowerUp! was invited to and attended a Resident Evil 2 Remake preview event in Melbourne by Capcom.

Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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