Resident Evil 2 (2019) Review

Ever since the announcement of Resident Evil 2 remake last year, I had been waiting for its release with great deal of angst. Then I shared my thoughts on why the Resident Evil 2 remake is the best survival horror yet.

Alas, the wait is no more. On 25 January 2019, the game was finally on the shelves of video game stores. I went to buy the game after work that Friday and couldn’t wait to start playing once I got home.

Now for the price tag of nearly $80, it does feel expensive considering that Resident Evil 2 was originally released back in 1998. But this is a remake and not a remaster. Capcom spent resources to re-create the whole game that not only gave it a fresh coat of graphics but also re-imagined what the game could be given the technological advances we have experienced since 1998.

After playing it over the weekend, I’ve got to say it’s definitely worth it.

It uses that 3rd-person, over-the-shoulder view pioneered with Resident Evil 4. That view make the whole gaming experience much closer and intimate while enabling you to see more of the world. The first-person view of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard though definitely increase the horror factor you experience because you can’t see what’s behind you, it doesn’t offer the same amount of tension. Just imagine what’s it like to see what’s coming at you but you can’t do shit about it because you ran out of ammunition for your weapons. Your only option was to run. In first-person mode, well, if you can’t see it, you aren’t scared of it.

To add to the tension is the game’s effective implementation of limited resources and require you to ration. There is no way you can shoot your way out of every situation. First, it takes a lot of bullet to take out a zombie. You can attempt to shoot out their limbs (looks like it takes a page out of the Dead Space playbook) to limit the zombie’s mobility but it takes up to five shots to take out a leg. Three to five head shots can take down a zombie but it doesn’t kill them. And it’s really down to chance if you can make a zombie head explode with just a single shot. For other enemies, it require a bigger weapon to take them down and ammunition for those weapon are actually even more limited. So you are better off running away.

The game also had great audio in terms of implementation and quality. Take Mr. X for example especially in the later part of the game. For those uninitiated, Mr. X is a humanoid bio-organic weapon whose sole purpose is to kill you in the game. Due to its size, every step it takes actually generate fear-inducing thump. And even if it is not in the same room as you, you can hear it moving around. There was this one situation where I’m in a room on the first floor and it is in the room directly above. I could hear the stomping sound and made me want to stay where I was, not wanting to go up for fear of encountering him. Not only that, you can also hear the groans and moans of zombies through the walls when they are hunting you. Furthermore, the music is done very well to shape the feelings you get as you move from a safe room to an open corridor.

As for the graphics, the RE engine has definitely allow for a much more realistic world. Now, the key to good graphics is lighting just like in photography. The placement of lights, how they reflect off surfaces and how they make objects look affect how you feel about a particular scene. In Resident Evil 2, the way lights are placed and how they light the world up actually make you feel like you are truly in a place where dangers lurk in every corner. If not that, they did a great job of setting the scene to make you feel like it’s a bad place to be in.

Not only that, weapon damage done to enemies are also visible and make you feel like you are making an effort to kill or injure your enemy. Let’s take this image of me having killed a zombie after dropping it to the ground with headshot and slicing it with the knife until it’s dead.

Look at the slashing damage on the body. Look at that arm. It has fallen off. This is the kind of realism that I look for in a game like Resident Evil 2. I want to feel like I’m doing something to my enemies.

Last but not least, the cutscenes are also well done in terms of fluidity, how it showcases their vulnerability and how well it transit from gameplay and back again. The characters’ voice actings are also pretty good by how they interact with each other and how they show that they are afraid in real time. There are quite a lot of times when the game character, Leon, was cursing and swearing as he tries to take down enemies or when he was being chased.

Even though I spent only a few hours on it, I’m glad that I was right that it’s definitely the survival horror game to play. There are so many times when I actually just want to put down my controller because it got all wet from my excessive sweat due to all the tension and anxiety. My heart was actually thumping pretty hard in certain area of the game and I lost count of how often I didn’t want to enter a new room because I’m not sure what I would expect. Yet, I still want to play the game despite my fears based on how often it’s hanging around in my mind. I’m always thinking about the game, having the urge to pick up the controller again even though I’ve put it aside to do other things.

Resident Evil 2 Remake – Why I think it’s the best survival horror yet

The first time I played a survival horror video game was during my early teens years at somebody’s house. This somebody was one of those temporary friends you make when you are playing with other people outside at the playground, etc. And that game was Resident Evil Director’s Cut on the Phone.

That game was one that I remembered vividly where I couldn’t seem to get past the first few zombies of the game. The reason probably could be I was too young, naive, and didn’t quite understand the game mechanics.

As I got older, I got to play every single numbered Resident Evil game. Until today, I always saw the franchise as one of the best survival horror entertainment product. And the Resident Evil film series is really enjoyable, not for its survival horror element but for what it actually is: a science fiction action series that has its own take on the franchise.

The other survival horror game that I liked was Dead Space until Dead Space 3 where Electronic Arts decided to bungle up what made the first game so good. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed all the games for the reason that I want to know what happened. I wanted to know who invented the Markers that convert organics, especially humans, into necromorphs. Until today, I hope that someone decided to buy the Dead Space franchise from EA and make it good again.

But I digress. My intention is to talk about the remake of Resident Evil 2 and why I think it is survival horror done right.

The first three games of the Resident Evil series relied on fixed-camera view of the game world as we move the characters using tank control. Due to the limitation of the hardware at that time, the implementation serves its purpose of making you panic when a zombie is coming after you since you will struggle to make the character move to get away only for the camera view to change to another angle, creating a somewhat disorienting experience where you know there is an enemy coming but you may have the best view of what’s around the corner.

Then there is the audio, limited ammunition, monsters jumping out when you least expected it on the first play through and your character do move slower when injured, with the latter being found in Resident Evil 2 and 3. All those elements contributed to making you feel more weary. I do remember quietly cheering my characters to move faster as I was running away from a horde of zombies.

Then with technological improvements, Resident Evil changed to a third-person view mode, starting from Resident Evil 4. This time, the game takes on a more action-oriented style with limited ammunition and sudden appearance of enemies, either in waves or a couple, to make it slightly more “scary”. But the real selling point by then was the storyline, the characters and environment design. As least in my view.

The remaining games just kind of further improve on the third-person, over-the-shoulder view until Resident Evil 7 where it got changed into first-person mode.

During those years between Resident Evil 4 to Resident Evil 7, Dead Space served as what I would call over-the-shoulder view survival horror done right. The dark, poorly lit game world with blood all over, necromorphs jumping out at you and attacking you when you least expected it, limited ammunition and the general creepy and eerie audio all contributed to make it the true survival horror game.

Resident Evil 7 then went ahead to redefine what it is to be a survival horror game by making you only able to see what’s in front of you with its first-person mode. But I personally found it to be nauseating because it was too close to the action. I didn’t quite enjoy that game

Then came Resident Evil 2 remake and there are a few reasons why I think it’s the best survival horror game yet.

The game went with using the same over-the-shoulder view pioneered in Resident Evil 4 but this time, it looks like they took elements from Dead Space to make it the perfect survival horror game based on the various YouTube videos I have watched. The dark corridors that are sometimes claustrophobic. With the over-the-shoulder view, you just don’t really know what’s behind you or around the corner until you turn around. Then there is good use of lighting. You need to rely on a torch light to see dark areas. Enemies like the Licker could be hiding up on the ceiling. The other game that I played which uses that to good effect is The Evil Within. I had to light up certain candles, lamps and whatnot to see what’s around me. Then there’s the enemies jumping out from certain places and hunting you. The good old jump scare technique.

Second, characters can make or break a game and there are few game characters that resonates with the players. You have got Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn that’s very well received and resonate with a lot of people. She’s a strong female character who fought against the traditions that defined the village from which she was birthed in to explore the world and understand what’s going on while still show compassion for the world around her, though she’s cold at times. Then there is Issac Clarke from Dead Space that’s memorable. And I love him because of his so call ingenuity in crafting weapons using tools used in engineering work in the game universe. He resonates with me considering that I’m a trained engineer too, though on the software side. For Resident Evil, the characters would be Leon and Claire. Unlike Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, Leon and Claire are the more average characters in terms of skills and abilities who got thrown into an impossible situation. Over the course of the game, we get to see them grow and survive the outbreak. And that’s in the original game. Now we get to see and experience their stories in Resident Evil 2 in a different way.

Third, we get to revisit a favorite location in the Resident Evil series. Raccoon City. That’s not the say the European setting in Resident Evil 4, the Africa setting in Resident Evil 5 or the multi-nation setting in Resident Evil 6 aren’t good. For the record, I actually like the Tall Oak or Lanshiang part of the game. I always love a good survival horror setting set in a metropolitan area or a place where ordinary people have to live their lives only to die from a disaster. Just like Titan Station in Dead Space 2. It’s just a personal thing. I’m morbid that way. That’s why going back to Raccoon City where it all started is a great thing in my view. And I believe there’s more story to tell there. I actually wish there are more single-player, numbered Resident Evil game set in Raccoon City to show the outbreak from a different perspective. And no don’t cite Resident Evil outbreak 1 and 2. I hated those games because they are so lacking in focus with so many characters, short missions and poor story telling.

The fourth thing is the inventory management system. I think it’s what made survival horror survival horror. And I dare say it’s more realistic. Put it this way, short of having a large haversack on your back, there’s just no way for a person to carry so much stuff. And even if you do, you won’t be nimble enough to move around zombies. In Dead Space, you also got limited space to carry your items. It makes you think about what to bring as you go through the game and then make you backtrack to a “safe location” to retrieve something if you forget it. The journey back sometimes is dangerous since enemies that weren’t there before may just appear. It adds a little bit of tension there.

The fifth reason is the limited resources. In a major disaster, I really don’t think you would be able to find caches of bullets lying around unless you raid an armory before it all began. Even so if you get to raid an armory, you will eventually run out of ammunition. So having you conserve your ammunition by having you decide what you shoot at or run is a great game mechanics. The Evil Within 1 and 2 are the two games that does a great job at this. It can contribute to creating a sense of helplessness when you run out of ammunition or health kits.

Finally, there just isn’t another survival horror game coming out anytime soon that could fill the shoes of Resident Evil. I have personally completed The Evil Within 2 and loved that game. Until the next The Evil Within or someone proceed to make Dead Space 4 the way it is supposed to be, Resident Evil is just the best-in-class survival horror game.

And I digress bit for a rant. Seriously, I just disagree with EA’s stance that they need to change a game so much to cater to a diverse market to make the most money and then killing the franchise just because it didn’t meet sales expectation. To me, it’s just not the right way to go. We have seen enough success stories where companies continue to build their niche products so that it is the best in class product and people will buy.

Now, I’m just really pumped about the game and looking forward to get it when it’s out.