Resident Evil 2 Hands On Preview

For all the acclaim that 2017’s Resident Evil 7 scored from critics and newcomers alike, Capcom’s reinvention of the series just did nothing for me.

I’ve always been a big fan of the franchise but, to me, the hook and appeal of Resident Evil comes down to the camp of it. The iffy acting, the cringe-worthy dialogue, the bizzare adventure game-inspired puzzles, the absurd boss fights and the excessively hard-to-follow storylines. If we’re talking actual scares: there are plenty of other options out. But if we’re talking trashy B-level horror action-adventure, nobody does it like Resident Evil.

And, at least from the outside looking in, it felt like Resident Evil 7 was this breakaway from all of those things. It was legit-scary - but it wasn’t really what I was looking for. It felt like a hard rebuke of what the franchise was and a soft-reboot that cleansed the slate going forward.

By contrast, Capcom’s upcoming remake of Resident Evil 2 looks to be all of those things that I've always found endearing about the franchise. And after a few hours with an early build of the game, it feels like the thing I love is coming back into style. We’ll reserve our judgement until it releases but, right now, I'm a lot more excited for Resident Evil 2 than I expected to be.

More a remake than a remaster, the new version of Resident Evil 2 (due out in January) revisits the series’ iconic locale of Raccoon City and retells the story of the initial zombie outbreak that ultimately brings down the metropolis - sorry, spoilers. Originally released in 1998, Resident Evil 2 is a pretty important chapter in the series’ larger mythology and a game considered by many diehard fans to be one of the series’ best.

Like the numeral suggests, Resident Evil 2 is set between the events of the first game and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. The action picks up where the former left off, with players able to experience through two different playable characters.

As with the original, you can either play the game as either Leon Kennedy or Claire Redfield. Each character offers up a slightly different play experience with varying stories and levels to explore.

The new Resident Evil 2 isn’t afraid to harken back to its source material, nor does it shy away from the modernisation and user-friendliness of more recent Resident Evil games. It blends together the old and the new. The level, puzzle and encounter design all feels right out the earlier games in the series while the combat, movement controls and graphical style evokes more recent Resi games. It's a remake that revisits classic material paired with a fresh perspective.

Unlike the original game, however, there are no so-called tank controls in the new Resident Evil 2. You can aim, move and shoot at the same time - but you’ll still have to play Tetris when it comes to managing your inventory. You’ll need to find a typewriter to save your game, but you’re also able to seamlessly run from room to room with no loading screens. 

For better or worse, Capcom have gone to the trouble of not only re-recording all the voice acting and re-writing a lot of the dialogue. They’ve also expended the effort of adding new areas and expanding sections of the original Resident Evil 2. These changes promise to provide new thrills for fans of the original game while offering a better overall experience for those who haven’t.

Our time with the game was a little limited but we definitely came away with an appetite for more. We were dumped into a pair of encounters set around and within Resident Evil’s iconic Police Station and played through the level as both Leon and Claire.

And regardless of which character we were playing, each sequence provided a really tense experience that did well to echo the heights of the series’ past. Zombies were slow, headshots mattered and it didn’t take long for me to fall back into the groove of harvesting and mixing herbs in my inventory.

As someone who outright skipped more recent games in the series, I found this approach really resonated with me. If you’re in the same boat, you might well feel the same way.

The sense of danger here really palpable in a way that more-recent entries in the series just haven’t been able to achieve. In those games, you’re playing as characters who know what you’re doing. People who have all the tools and knowledge they need to tackle the legions of lickers, zombies and tyrants each Resident Evil game throws your way.

Winding back the clock to the second game in the series resets this dynamic. Both Chris and Claire feel vulnerable again. And when even a single zombie can do you harm, you have to stay careful. What’s old is new again, and the series’ slow-moving undead hordes are granted a renewed sense of dread.

When it comes down to it, Resident Evil 2 is a chance for Capcom to recapture some of the series former glory. And based on our early-hands on with the game, the final product might just succeed in breathing new life into a classic.

Resident Evil 2 is due to release on PC, Xbox One and PS4 on January 25th 2019.

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Fergus Halliday
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