Few series have tried harder to reinvent themselves more than Resident Evil. Capcom’s survival-horror has morphed into a first-person spook-fest in recent iterations, more akin to games like Amnesia and Outlast. So the choice to return to their third-person roots with a remaster of one of their most popular games, Resident Evil 2, is certainly an unexpected turn for the franchise.

The game throws players back into Raccoon City as either Claire Redfield or Leon Kennedy, and to everyone’s surprise the evil Umbrella Corporation has been up to their usual dodgy tricks of unleashing bioweapons that turn the population into flesh eating zombies. Although familiar, it’s nice to see these well-known characters, places and story with a fresh lick of paint. With the recent influx of remasters, it’s worth asking whether a game truly deserves all the modern bells and whistles; Resident Evil 2 is certainly iconic enough to justify this decision.

Nothing reflects this more than the gameplay. As legendary as the early Resident Evil games are, the janky isometric camera and tank like controls haven’t aged well. Resident Evil 2 plays like a dream, benefitting profusely from its revamped mechanics. Coupling this with gorgeous lighting effects and a strategic structure means the game feels challenging and scary but never frustrating.

Some players may have a gripe with Mr. X, an ever-present invincible goliath who stalks the player with one goal in mind: smashing your head into teeny tiny pieces. Whilst the more slow-paced methodical players will find avoiding this horrible hulk tedious, it’s just one of the many ways Capcom keeps players on their toes. There’s never a moment’s rest, with tensions high; when the suspense snapping moments finally come, they’re even more satisfying and of course, terrifying.

There’s a valid argument that the package offer lacks enough content to warrant, not just the price tag, but the effort of remastering altogether. Each character’s campaign takes less than 10 hours to complete, with little variation between the two. But there’s enough difference along with genuine quality to justify double playthroughs. New game plus offers further deviation to sweeten the deal.

In a world of lazy reboots and remasters it’s so refreshing to see one done so well, somehow breathing new life into a game over two decades old. Perfectly combining a vintage nostalgia with contemporary spin, Resident Evil 2 is ideal for long term fans of the series and anyone who simply loves the horror genre. Piece of advice for anyone wanting to avoid heart attacks though: play with a friend.

5 stars

Image: Resident Evil 2 | Capcom

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