It's been a while since I did a game review as the last time I tackled one was back in August last year with the Silent Hills teaser, P.T, as I do tend to stick to reviewing those in the horror genre and nothing had really whet my appetite until recently.
Resident Evil 2 was released by Capcom on January 25th this year, and has become one of the most talked about games of the year so far.
I myself am a big fan of the franchise and have been since my first experience of Resident Evil 4 almost 15 years ago which is mad to think about. I even have the Umbrella logo tattooed on my left arm. Sure the series morphed into something really silly by the time the sixth instalment in the main series was released, but I've always had a blast with these games.
Back in January of 2017, Resident Evil 7 was released to a huge amount of hype as the series was going back to it's survival horror roots and it's a game I still pick up to try again time after time because I love it so much. It was pretty common knowledge that fans of the series had been crying out for a remake of the second game from 1998 after the remake of the very first Resident Evil proved that there were still plenty of scares to be had from the old days. Our wish was granted and Capcom totally outdid themselves here.
As well as this being the best looking game in the series by far, it might just be the best one we've had yet in terms of gameplay. The series has gone back to the over-the-shoulder perspective rather than the fixed camera angles of the previous remake and it makes all the difference as it's the smoothest it's ever been.
In terms of the story I only know bits and bobs from the original as I haven't played much of it despite owning a physical copy of the original game so I can't comment too much on the similarities but from what I've heard, most of it is intact like the original bosses and layouts of the maps.
As you begin the game, you have 2 campaigns to choose from as you can play as rookie cop Leon Kennedy, or Claire Redfield who is searching for her brother Chris from the original game. After having played through the campaigns around six times now, I don't really have a recommendation of who to start with as both campaigns are pretty similar but I think Leon is perhaps the best place to start as Claire has to deal with tougher enemies early on. Playing as Leon first will give you a chance to have some experience with these enemies.
Both characters aim to get to the police station to get off the zombie infested streets and find a place of sanctuary. Sadly the police station may be just as dangerous. As well as having to fend off the undead found inside, you find that the police station used to be a museum which is why there's so many strange puzzles involving old statues that unlock underground tunnels to sewers and other items you need. I did say that this series is a bit weird.
As you explore the police station you start to find branching paths between the rooms and after a couple of playthroughs, I knew the layout of the station like the back of my hand and knew which areas to avoid and which ones I needed to get to for vital items. It's pretty fun to start trying to speedrun and now that I know my way around I've been able to complete one run in less than 3 hours which isn't very impressive now that Youtube is filled with people finishing a run in less than an hour.
Let's talk about the enemies. I'm of the opinion that zombies aren't scary. I've never found them scary and my interest in them has only waned with pop culture's obsession with the undead freaks in the likes of The Walking Dead and so, so many games involving them. That being said, I've never been more freaked out by zombies than I was here. These things are just spot on with the sickening sounds that they make throughout the station and their movements are just so unnatural. Seeing the shadow of one stumbling across a hallway towards you while you try to decide if it's worth it to waste the few bullets you have left is nightmare fuel that'll stay with you. They aren't as dumb as they used to be either, as you can risk just trying to run by them to conserve ammo, but some will just immediately lunge right at you and take a chunk out of your neck. They also like to stay silent behind corners until you blindly walk into them and jump out of your skin in fright. Some like to play dead and only wake up when they have you trapped. They're fantastic and I want more games with zombies like these.
The Lickers have also made their anticipated return and my god these things are terrifying. When you know you have to deal with one, it becomes a game of choice as you can either try to take it out which will most likely end in your death or a lot of health and good ammunition lost, or you can choose to sneak by them as they are blind, and that is a tense experience you won't soon forget as you're just waiting on them to suddenly realise you're in the room with them and slice your head from your body. Or you can get to a point where you have to fight two of them at once and you turn the console off for a while because you really don't need that kind of stress in your life.
In terms of bosses, the one that appears the most is William Birkin, also known as 'G', as he has infected himself with the G-Virus and is slowly mutating into something almost unworldly. He's the first boss you face in the basement of the station and it's like a game of cat and mouse except the cat is a mutated man with a big eye protruding from his right arm and trying to hit you with a pipe. It's an easy fight if you know what to do but can lead to your death if you're not careful. The future battles with Birkin do get progressively more difficult as the mutation increases each time, but I always have fun with these.
And now we have the star of the show: Mr X. Oh how I love you Mr X. I'm not gonna lie, I did laugh a little when I first saw him as he looks adorable in his little fedora and trenchcoat (Pink Panther theme playing in my head the entire time), but once you realise he's a total bullet sponge and will stop at nothing until you're dead, he can become a pretty scary Tyrant. After you first encounter him, he continues to stalk you throughout the station and you now need to plan your routes in order to avoid him. Hearing his footsteps echo through the halls and sounding like they're coming ever closer to you is some unnerving stuff and trying to avoid him can lead to some fatal moments like running through a hall that also has zombies and a Licker you forgot about which quickly becomes instant death.
In my fourth playthrough while playing as Leon, I found for the first time that Mr X can burst through an area on the ground floor to get to you and I have to say that many bricks were shat in that one moment. The game's filled with moments like this and I love it.
The only real complaint I have is more of a nitpick, but I do wish that the 2 campaigns could be just a bit more different to each other. Thankfully it's not exactly the same as there are different enemy placements, item locations, and new puzzle solutions to keep it feeling a little fresh, but it's annoying having to kill the same enemies or unlock the same doors as you did the first time. Still though at least it feels different in a few ways and even has a different final boss and story elements that do help a lot. Plus walking through a hallway expecting a Licker and instead having Mr X head straight for you out of the darkness is an "Oh fuck" moment I'm sure a lot of players have had.
Outside of the main campaigns, you can also unlock a bonus mode known as '4th Survivor' where you play as Hunk and have to get through to the police station with only the items you have on you. I've only played it the once and need to try it again, but it is a good bit of fun and a good way to test your skills. Capcom has also recently released free DLC with 'Ghost Survivors' which is similar to the other campaigns but with different characters, pickups and even new enemies to deal with. In today's world of microtransactions it's nice to see game companies do something for free for once.
If it isn't obvious I totally love this game and I really feel like it could revitalise survival horror as it has become a bit stagnant in recent years with only games like Alien Isolation and Outlast keeping it going. With Silent Hill now out of the game (fuck Konami), Resident Evil can stay happy in the knowledge that it's still the master of the genre. It's the first game I've had a proper obsession with in what feels like forever and I'm happy to have that love of gaming back again.
I urge you to pick this game up if you haven't already, whether you're a horror fan or just love games, this is a game you need to try. You won't be able to put it down and you get so much for your money in terms of replayability and unlockables. This is a remake that is going to hold all future remakes to a higher standard and I can promise you won't be disappointed. Welcome to Raccoon City.