Resident Evil 2‘s upcoming remake rides a fine line between new and old. When it triggers nostalgic memories with its familiar characters and locales, it instantly makes you uneasy with its new retelling of events from the classic survival-horror game.
My time with the demo began in the main hall of the Racoon 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 heavily leans on them in his characterization, making your time spent as the rookie cop all the more tense and dire. And with higher-quality voice performances, Leon’s circumstances are made more 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 loading screens, and in its place is a more seamless and hostile environment.
All throughout my plodding trek across the RPD, I rarely felt a sense of safety. 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 with his face sliced in half. New details like this ensured that I was always on my toes–despite having played the original countless times.
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.
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I walked away pleasantly surprised from my time with Resident Evil 2. As a massive fan of the original, I had a feeling I’d like it. 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.