After my 20-minute hands-on demo at PAX Australia in October this year, the Resident Evil 2 remake (due out on January 25, 2019) was firmly rooted as my most anticipated title of 2019. It shouldn’t come as a surprise though, given the original is my favourite game of all time, and I didn’t think I could get any more hyped for the game. However, after attending a preview session last week where I got to spend over three hours with the game, I have no doubt that RE2 is going to be a contender for my game of the year.
During my hands-on session I was able to play sections from both Leon and Claire’s campaigns, and aside from harvesting a greater sense of nostalgia, the extended hands-on highlighted just how well the 1998 survival horror chef-d’oeuvre has transitioned to the current-generation thanks to Capcom’s impressive balancing act of gameplay modernisation and remaining faithful to the source material.
Here we go again, old friend
I kicked things off as Leon, accompanying Ada through the eerily-deserted streets of Raccoon City before heading through the sewers that run underneath it. Instantly there were several throwbacks to the game of yore, such as Kendo’s gunshop (although I was slightly disappointed I wasn’t met with the iconic dialogue from the original game) and the big bad gator prowling through the sewers.
After a chance encounter with Dr. Annette Birkin (the person Ada is looking for), the gameplay switches from Leon to Ada, and here the gameplay takes on a different spin, with the focus becoming more about puzzle-solving than zombie killing. Don’t worry, there’s still zombies to be slain, but Ada’s limited ammo means you have to really make your shots count. Eventually the game switches back to Leon, and it was here I got to use the arsenal at my disposal to kick some zombie arse, with the shotgun again being a favourite. The visceral nature of how zombie heads explode as you pump a 12-gauge bullet into them from close range never got old.
“I thought you were one of them” – Robert Kendo, 1998
After reaching the end of Leon’s demo build, I then booted up Claire’s demo, with the build appearing to be set after the early events of the PAX Aus demo. Claire, who is accompanied by Sherry, is accosted by a man in the Raccoon Police Department car park who nabs Sherry, and as a result Claire’s objective becomes to rescue Sherry.
However, this is no easy task, with Claire having to trek through the licker-infested RPD station to do so, and our first look (gameplay-wise) at the new lickers creates a sense of trepidation as they scurry across the walls and ceilings towards you with that predatory look as they lick their hungry lips. Being the badass that Claire is, she’s packing a fair amount of heat thanks to her grenade launcher, and a few rounds from that send those spawns of Umbrella back to where they came from.
But that’s not the worst of Claire’s problems, with the good old T-00 (also known as Mr. X) stalking you throughout the police station trying to beat you to a pulp. It’s both terrifying and adrenalising, and with the lickers out to get you as well, you’re going to be doing a fair amount of running.
There’s nothing to suggest that Resident Evil 2 won’t reaffirm the game’s position as one the greatest survival horror experiences of all time
While I have been rather vague on story and gameplay elements, those of you that have experienced RE2 will already know what happens, but it’s worth noting that Capcom has done a great job of modernising and refreshing it for both new and old players thanks to new and revamped gameplay sections, new and improved writing and voice acting, and a tremendous amount of attention to detail in both the visual and audio departments. Seriously, this game looks amazing, and if this is the amount of love they put into bringing their classics back, I can only hope that Onimusha and Dino Crisis are on the horizon.
The gameplay feels a lot like a blend of Resident Evil 4 and The Evil Within, which is unsurprising given that survival horror legend Shinji Mikami is the mastermind beyond both of those series and directed both of those games (as well as the original RE2). While the tank controls and fixed cameras may have gone the way of Old Yeller, the over-the-shoulder view brings you closer to the action and it excels as a result. Furthermore, the series’ iconic puzzles remain, I mean there’s all the different symbol-shaped keys, there’s a puzzle with chess pieces, and of course, clues and safe combinations are hidden in memos scattered across the police station.
While I’ll reserve my final judgement until the game is released, from the parts I’ve played there’s nothing to suggest that Resident Evil 2 won’t reaffirm the game’s position as one the greatest survival horror experiences of all time.
Resident Evil 2 releases on January 25, 2019, on PS4, Xbox One and PC.