The Resident Evil franchise and I have troubled history. The franchise has had an undeniable influence on modern 3D gaming as its first entries redefined the survival horror genre. Considered by many as some of the best atmospheric games on the market, its fixed camera position has always been off putting to me. As a result, I haven’t touched one of those games for nearly a decade.
The games suffered from an identity crisis until the mid-2000s. Fans were displeased by the direction the franchise was going in, moving away from its horror roots and embracing a more action-oriented experience. It wasn’t until Resident Evil 4 (2005) that the franchise regained some track. With the increased power of Sixth generation of consoles, RE4 focused more on providing a cinematic survival horror experience. It finally ditched the fixed camera for an over-the-shoulder one for more immersion and perfectly blended horror and action elements. As a result, the game received critical acclaim and expectations for a sequel were at an all-time high. Improvements and critical acclaim aside, as I felt so out of touch with the franchise at this point, I never gave that game chance.
It wasn’t until 2009 that the franchise managed to regain my interest with Resident Evil 5. I was mainly impressed by the graphical fidelity demonstrated in early trailers as well as the co-op game mode. RE5 was the first RE game I played through from start to finish. Sure it was a few years ago but I can’t remember a thing. Which, I guess, proves I was generally unimpressed.
Return to evil.
And that brings us to 2019. After Resident Evil 6 (which was, from a narrative point of view, a disaster) and Resident Evil 7 (the first FPS in the series) Capcom released a remake of Resident Evil 2. They had been toying with the idea for years but the new tech developed for RE7 (subsequently dubbed the ‘RE Engine’) was crucial in making sure they could modernize gameplay. Changing the camera perspective meant the team had to look for new ways for the game to retain its horror vibe. Early in its design, it was decided the fixed camera position had to go and that horror would be prioritized over action. By using clever ways to conceal enemies, as well as room layouts, lighting and smoke, the team hoped to achieve a claustrophobic feel while staying true to the original.
Not having played the original myself, I came into Resident Evil 2 as a freshman. Perhaps a good thing as nostalgia is not able to influence my opinion on this one. I’m not entirely sure what exactly it was that drawn me into playing this one. From the previews and footage I’ve seen so far the game just looked appealing and I looked like a great way to re-enter the franchise. After starting the game up on Friday, I did not put down the controller until Sunday afternoon…..finishing the campaign. Yes, it’s good. Adrenaline pumping good.
From room to room.
As soon as I started my adventure in the Raccoon Police Department, one thing became abundantly clear. The atmosphere in this game is unlike anything I experienced before. Apart from amazing graphics, the game really stands out when it comes to atmosphere. That level of fidelity is not only achieved by it’s amazing cinematic effects (like volumetric lightning and shadows) but also by its sound design. Sound is directional and becomes a key gameplay element to gain a competitive edge when you’re being hunted by the Tyrant. As you are venturing forth through the Police Department (where about 50% of the game takes place) this unkillable enemy hunts you down. When he strikes, he can deal massive damage. It’s best to avoid him at all times and plan your routes carefully. Another aspect in which this game shines. Planning is key. Your inventory space is limited so you need to carefully consider what items you’ll bring and what you’ll leave behind. Some areas in the police station will only open up after collecting an item later, so you’ll often find yourself crossing back and forth from room to room. While this may sound repetitive it surely is not. A new type of enemy might show up to spice up the action and enemies presumed dead might often catch you off guard. Some routes that were blocked before can be opened, while other might be blocked. Generally speaking, the unpredictable nature of this game is adrenaline infusing and will keep you on the edge of your seat till the very end.
That ending might appear a little sooner than expected. You’ll have to play the game through each of the lead character’s perspectives, as they get separated from the start: Leon Kennedy’s and Claire Redfield’s. I started playing from Leon’s perspective and managed to reach the end of the campaign in about 6 hours. With Clair’s I finished even quicker. This was largely due to the fact by this time I was familiar with many of the levels. She doesn’t take the exact same route as Leon though. Some rooms and levels are unavailable for the other character, keeping things fresh. Even the solutions to some of the puzzles you come across might change. Puzzles are very well implemented actually. They are accessible yet challenging enough for you to stop and think for a minute. Sometimes the solution just falls into place when you’ve collected an essential piece of equipment after wondering for hours what to do.
Masters of Horror.
All in all, both campaigns will occupy you for around 10 hours. Completing both campaigns is the only way to get to the true ending. It’s short but it’s worth it. Afterwards you’ll unlock a few extra ‘survival’ type modes that will put you to the challenge, extending your playtime with another hour or so. Having never experienced the ‘true’ RE experience, I finally get what longtime fans have been asking for. It’s graphics and presentation, audio and gameplay combined provide an unique experience that’s intense, thrilling and immersive. Apart from the fact that you can finish the game rather quickly, there’s not a single downside to this title. Thus, I highly recommend you’d give it a try if what you’ve read sounds appealing. The masters of the horror franchise are back.