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Game review: ‘Resident Evil 2’ still scary after all these years

Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, May 20, 2019  /  12:01 pm
Game review: ‘Resident Evil 2’ still scary after all these years

Thrilling: 'Resident Evil 2' sets a benchmark of video game remaking. (Courtesy of Capcom/-)

As thrilling as its original version, released in 1998, and arguably even more terrifying and wonderfully grotesque, Resident Evil 2 is a benchmark for what a video game remake can actually be.

The remake was originally planned for a 2015 release, but Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami wanted to focus on the series’ 4th installment, which was then in development.

The original's director Hideki Kiyami was key in pushing the game's developer Capcom to do the remake, with production finally starting in 2018.

Rightly leaving the game as it was, with only a few notable tweaks to modernize it, the remake is still a creepy experience that feels constantly – and gloriously – unnerving.

It's no easy feat to create a remake of a game that was very attached to the time of its release, but the remake does have the benefit of terror, an element that the original had in spades and which never expires. Fear is everlasting.

The most notably change is a new camera angle, with the player looking over the character's shoulder, improving your overview and making it less frustrating when a zombie hangs just outside of your frame (the original's camera was fixed in the corner, frustratingly), ready to leap and bite your flesh off. Another is the ability to turn on auto aim, which certainly helps a lot in blasting a zombie's head off.

These are updates that make sense, making the gameplay feel current instead of simply retro. But they certainly do not make the game easier. For one, the landscape that players must traverse is much grimmer overall – darker and laden with constant fogginess, so the ease of the new camera is offset by notably harder areas to go through.

Light and smoke also play a major role in concealing zombies. This is something the developers did on purpose, as the high frequency of zombie appearances in the original version made them less scary.

Scary still: The remake retains the element of terror.Scary still: The remake retains the element of terror. (Courtesy of Capcom/-)

Similarly, the auto-aim does make shooting zombies easier, but not necessarily killing them. This time, they require more shots before going down. Players looking for more of a challenge can do so by turning off the auto-aim feature. (Of course, Resident Evil veterans know that it is often smarter to simply avoid zombies than trying to beat them).

These changes are as good a balance as a remake can be, keeping intact the essence of the original but tweaking its playability to catch up with modern games.

Other changes include a new save system that is certainly needed in a game of such length and difficulty; something the original definitely lacked, making it an often-frustrating experience. This change definitely adds a lot to the gameplay and the sense of it giving players a fair chance.

The characters are also given updated looks, including hero cop Leon S. Kennedy, whose bulky shoulder pads have been taken away. In the original, the pads were there to distinguish characters clearly from each other.

More shots: The auto-aim feature makes shooting zombies easier, but not necessarily killing them.More shots: The auto-aim feature makes shooting zombies easier, but not necessarily killing them. (Courtesy of Capcom/-)

The remake also makes use of the graphic abilities of the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X, offering a 4K resolution at 60 frames per second.

This translates to a lot more detail in the game's gory offerings, including brain and body parts strewn about. The developer's concern about zombies no longer being scary is certainly allayed by the game's tense atmosphere.

Some of the layouts have been redone, such as in its Racoon City police department and its massive sewer system, which – depending on who you ask – is either the game's most dull section or its best.

The game's plot remains essentially the same, with players either controlling Leon, a rookie cop on his first day on the job, or Claire Redfield, who is the sister of Chris Redfield, hero of the first Resident Evil game.

Upgrade: The most notably change is a new camera angle, with players now looking over their character's shoulder.Upgrade: The most notably change is a new camera angle, with players now looking over their character's shoulder. (Courtesy of Capcom/-)

As the game starts, both are stuck inside a police station as a zombie outbreak occurs. The story differs in minor details depending on which character you play, such as solving certain puzzles or unlocking certain doors, but the gist of the story is the same.

With the Resident Evil series, developer Capcom has tried various ways to make each sequel in the game feel like a fresh adventure.

This is commendable but hasn't always resulted in the best gaming experience. With this remake, the developer has somehow managed to strike the perfect balance between adding new goodies and keeping the series' signature elements. Here's hoping that the next entry offers the same pleasures. (ste)

 

Resident Evil 2

Developer: Capcom

Engine: RE Engine

Publisher: Capcom

Mode: Single-player video game

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

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