Ever since the Resident Evil 2 remake was announced in a YouTube video with Capcom Producer Yoshiaki Hirabyashi wearing a shirt that said “WE DO IT” about three and a half years ago, I’ve been very excited to see how the game shapes up. The original version of the game is one of my favorite games in the series, and is arguably the best of the pre-RE4 games. When the game was finally shown at E3 this last year, it looked great, but it looked like it was Resident Evil 4 with 2’s story, which might be good for new fans, but could cost the original game some of its identity. Well, earlier today, Capcom released a thirty minute demo, giving us a taste of what we can expect.
It took almost no time at all for my worries to completely go away. Yes, this game plays closer to the more action-oriented Resident Evil games that started with 4, a style we had just stepped away from in VII. However, as you enter the Raccoon City police station, you’re immediately presented with some old-school staples of the series. There’s a typewriter for your game on the desk, there’s an item storage box for putting away items that you’ll need later, and there’s the start of puzzles everywhere.
Puzzles were one of the defining qualities of the series before they were all but dropped in 4, and then forgotten entirely in 5 and 6. But in just the first room of this demo, you find a statue that needs three emblems inserted to reveal a secret, a combination lock with three different symbols, and several doors that require specific keys to unlock. This is not Resident Evil 4 with 2’s story. This is Resident Evil 2, and it just happens to play closer to the newer games.
Before this demo came out, I actually started a new save file in Resident Evil 4, mostly out of excitement for the new game coming out soon. While 4 is still a really fun game, I was surprised by how much I struggled with the controls. You can’t turn with the right stick, aiming isn’t as smooth as I remembered it being, and I was constantly getting hit by enemies that were just out of view, due to it being harder to look around. 2 plays how I remember 4 playing, rather than how it actually is. Everything feels smooth, and aiming your weapon is as easy as in most shooters. You can even move while aiming, one of the few welcome changes that 6 brought to the series. I’ve heard the arguments that not being able to move while shooting adds to the tension, but I disagree. I think this is a good thing, and only adds to the enjoyment.
Obviously, when remaking a game, the graphics are one of the most important parts. Yes, making sure the game itself still has the essence of the original is a big thing too, but if the game doesn’t look great, why not just play the original? Thankfully, Resident Evil 2 looks phenomenal. I played the demo on my Xbox One X in 4K and with HDR, and everything really popped. In a few points, you have to go through dark hallways with a flashlight, with only a few bits of sparking electricity lighting up the room. It’s wonderfully creepy, and is the kind of atmosphere the series used to be known for that haven’t seen in a long time.
The demo is only thirty minutes long, and you can only play it once (although there’s pretty easy ways to get around that limitation), so it’s hard to say how well the game captures the original story, but I’m happy with what I’ve seen so far. Since I had just recently played 4, it was fun to go from cocky, wise-cracking, working for the President of the United States Leon to unsure of himself, suddenly having to deal with a zombie outbreak on his first day as a police officer Leon. While fighting zombies, Leon often mutters to himself, trying to convince himself that he can get through this. It’s a little thing, but it goes a long way to making him a believable character. It also helps with making the game scary. It’s always been a little hard to be too scared in these games, because you’re always a member of some elite special forces team, whether it’s S.T.A.R.S. or the BSAA, but here you’re a newbie. That was always one of RE2’s strengths, and I’m glad it’s even better here.
I’ve been excited for this remake since it was first revealed, by now I absolutely can’t wait to play the whole thing. Resident Evil 2 is one of the best games in one of my favorite series and this seems to be an upgrade in every possible way.