The story kicks off the same, depending on which character you choose, if you select Leon, it is his first day on the force and everything has gone to hell, for Claire, she is on the hunt for her missing brother Chris. Choosing one story over the other at the start does not change how you will experience the game, as choices made in one do not impact the other, what does happen is that you will start to see a lot of similar locations and puzzles, when you play through the second story. If you are like me and have enjoyed playing the original game, in its many releases, then you will likely feel the pull of familiarity quite quickly, but whilst there are moments when nostalgia will stand up and grab your attention, there are enough changes to the locations, puzzles and story beats, to make it feel fresh.
If you have played Resident Evil 7, expect this to be quite different, there are a number of reasons why, the first being the camera is now back behind the character, rather than in the head, letting you see everything. This is more like Resident Evil 4 than anything else, both Leon and Claire are nimble, but not ninja so like Resident Evil 5 or 6, movement also loses the tank controls that the Resident Evil 1 remake maintained, improved as they were, so players thinking it will be faithful to the original need not worry about that. Of course, you would be hard pressed to ignore the visuals and just how impressive it looks, while there are some issues with them, overall it is super impressive, the first time you walk into the police station and see how different it looks, you will be surprised. The visuals are not just limited to a new coat of paint, things now make more sense, an example from early on, is that there is a room in the original game that is full of gears, nothing to fancy, but a room full of gears in a police station is odd, now it is the base of a clock tower, so it had been improved to ensure that things make sense.
Of course, exploring rooms, above ground and well below is not something you can do without thinking about what is around you, from zombies and beyond, danger is everywhere in the game. Your character uses the now standard inventory system that Resident Evil has become known for, which means you need to constantly juggle the fine balance that is ammo vs herbs. One exception to the rule is that you should always have a knife on your person as they make escaping from zombies much easier, should one grab you, however they now break, which means you need to ensure you have a good supply of them. There is the usual assortment of weapons, pistols, shotguns, grenades and such, and they come in very handy, once you start to get through the game, some enemies, like the standard zombie, can be easy one on one, but a few of them in a group and there is trouble. The game now supports a full range of taking zombies out, headshots still work the best, but if they are to close, sometimes getting the hit can be tricky, if you take out its legs, it will fall to the ground, letting you line up the shot, again if you are outnumbered, taking time is a big risk.
There are more enemies than just the basic zombie, the licker returns and they are as dangerous as previous experiences with them, if you surprise them, you might get lucky with the right weapon and take them down, but there are a number of ifs there. They still have that slight weakness in that they have no eyes, so if you are quiet you might sneak around them, other creatures like the dogs require more direct action against and then there is Mr X. Fairweather Resident Evil fans might think Mr X is like Nemesis and to a degree they are correct, he is large, dangerous and one of the most threatening creatures to exist in the game, but unlike Nemesis who just stuck around the room he was in, Mr X will hunt you down. There is nothing quite as terrifying as walking through a corridor and then hearing that thunk thunk of large feet as they are approaching your position, you get a few choices at this point, find a place and hide and hope he does not find you, run away as fast as you can and hope he does not give chase or that you run into anything or fight.
Fighting Mr X is not a smart thing to do, whilst you can stun him, it takes way to much ammo to do so, running is honestly your best bet, because if you hide, he will still look for you and the tension that exists as you wait and prey he does not find you is astronomically high. The upside to Mr X moments are that it helps prepare for the final boss and in the odd chance that you have not played the game before, I won’t spoil how it plays out, but William is much cooler here than before. The boss fights are as tense as they were in the original, except there is now an issue with them, originally, when you beat a boss as Claire, then played the game as Leon, the fights were very different, with outcomes that changed things for that character, here, excluding Mr X or William, most of the fights feel like you are just repeating them, something that is odd, given the attention to the game as a whole.
As mentioned earlier the visuals in the game as beautiful, from the ruined streets of Racoon City, to the inners of a destroyed police station and even underground secret labs, everything looks great. The characters Leon, Claire, Aida, Sherry and the rest of the alive folks, all look wonderful, with a lot of micro expressions on their faces, watch a cutscene again and you will see what I mean. The creatures also look a treat, lickers and zombies for sure, but G-Tyrant and of course Mr X are menacing, and their designs help sell that point. There is something that bothers me with the visuals and that is that each and every surface is shiny, I get the police station with its marble floors, or the asphalt outside in the pouring rain, but the blood has a shine, lickers have a shine, Leon’s uniform has a shine, everything shines in this game and its odd.
The games audio shines and I mean that in a good way, there are times when the music ramps up, more so when you meet Mr X for the first time, but there are times when it fades way down and leaves you with more sounds from around you, which can really ramp up the fear factor. There are no real jump scares, like Dead Space did, but there are times when the lack of sound can be just as terrifying. Perhaps the part I like the most is that the cast sound realistic, well as much as they can at times, given that the script still feels as dated as it did in the original game. If you have a proper sound system or a decent set of headphones, then you will enjoy the game from an audio point over view, though if you go for the headphone route, Bluetooth is your friend.
Resident Evil 2 is a game that could have easily been just a simple remake of the original and while that would have been fine, Capcom have managed to take what we remember and what made the original great and surpass it. Some more difference between the stories of Claire and Leon would be nice, as it stands now you feel like you get one story and then a few extra scenes, rather than the full other story it should have been.
Review copy provided by Capcom