We dare with the analysis of Resident Evil 2 Remake for PS4, Xbox One and PC, a “survival horror” of classic development that stays true to the original PlayStation (which has already reached 20 years) but with a control, a technical section and an updated script.
How do you recognize a masterpiece? We’ve been playing Resident Evil 2 on PlayStation for more than twenty years, and we still remember every moment as if it had been yesterday; zombies crawling through the streets of Raccoon City bathed in the light of fire, the sound of broken glass and bodies rushing into the Kendo armory or the frightening CG video in which we knew the licker, the most monstrous creation -until date- Umbrella Corporation.
They were so shocking sequences that now they are part of the popular imaginary of video games. And that’s why this remake of Resident Evil 2 for PS4, Xbox One and PC is preceded by so much anticipation.
If the PlayStation game was a work of two talents like the producer Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil, Shadows of the Damned, The Evil Within) and the director HIdeki Kamiya (Bayonetta, Devil May Cry), in this case, it has been Jun Takeuchi, who worked as a designer in the first one, who has been in charge of the production.
The team has taken the necessary time, since it was announced in 2015, and has been revealing little by little what we will find (although in our opinion it has been shown too) and now invites us to accompany Leon S again Kennedy and Claire Redfield in this nightmarish adventure, which consolidated the bases of “survival horror”.
If we have to look for a precedent, perhaps the most similar is the version of Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Both are an interpretation of a classic of terror, both the film and the game are very faithful to the original material, but both have managed to adapt to a modern language and are more ambitious in the audiovisual display.
In its day Resident Evil 2 supposed a perfect tribute to the trilogy of George A. Romero in the cinema (the night of the living deads, the dawn of deads and the day of deads). The style of game, with three-dimensional characters that moved on pre-rendered scenarios, was perfect to reflect these enemies, slow but implacable.
In addition, the system of fixed cameras kept us constantly in tension because you did not know where the next monster could approach. And to top it off, the video sequences were the most advanced we had seen to date. Well, the remake manages to replicate the same sensations.
We are still facing a pure survival horror, in which exploration and fighting against Umbrella’s creatures are as important as escape or good inventory management. In this case, the camera is placed over the shoulder of the protagonist, and the controls are much more intuitive.
Charging times between rooms have disappeared – with the characteristic doors – and we can use a flashlight to explore the darker locations. But almost everything else is preserved. Not only are the characters and scenarios, but the use of trunks to store weapons, plants and keys, or typewriters to save the game.
Of course, the possibility of successively playing with rookie “cop” Leon Kennedy or with Claire Redfield, who goes in search of his brother Chris disappeared at the end of the first Resident Evil, remains one of his hallmarks. Both characters share the prologue and cross paths a couple of times during the adventure, but each of them has unique elements, and visit exclusive areas.
In the case of Leon, we also take control of Ada Wong (whose character is deeper than in the original) and during Claire’s adventure we accompanied for a few minutes Sherry Birkin, the daughter of Dr. William Birkin.
And maybe the levels starred by little Sherry (which is not armed and must be kept hidden) are the most “risky” of this remake, because in general we have the feeling that the rest has been adapted with excessive detail. In fact, on several occasions we have found ourselves anticipating what was going to happen, although that will depend on how well we know the original.
But let’s get back to the changes: the aiming system – on the variant introduced by Resident Evil 4 – has a little extra twist: if we keep the focus on a target for a while, it becomes more accurate and the shots have more effect, as “prize” to the concentration. It also recovers the possibility of equipping a secondary weapon (combat knife, hand grenades or flash grenades) to rid us of a zombie when it jumps over us (as in the remake of the first RE). And if we play in easy mode, we can opt for an automatic saving system, without the need to use the machines.
The puzzles have also improved a lot (based on locks, keys and fuses of the original) and the final confrontations, against the different evolutions of the biological weapons of Umbrella (and worse) have been more balanced. In addition, the argument is less naive, with more credible characters and a solid story.
Duration and extras
Of course, it is the version that any fan of the original would have dreamed of, and a demonstration that “survival horror” in the classical sense can still work. But of course, this also has its drawbacks. The first one is that we can finish the game in less than ten hours (both adventures).
We can always replay it by changing the order in which we select the protagonists, and also unlocks the special mode, the 4th Survivor, in which we control a member of the special forces, Hunk, who has to return from the sewers to the police station (with a number of weapons, herbs and limited ammunition). It is not the only character that can be unlocked, along with other extras, such as extra costumes for Leon and Claire, new weapons or the designs of objects, characters and scenarios.
In addition to the achievements and trophies that are overcome in the usual way, Resident Evil 2 incorporates a system of own challenges, and if we are connected to the internet, the network RE Network proposes weekly challenges, so that we demonstrate our expertise by returning these creatures to the tomb.
And it has already revealed what will be the first of these additional modes, which will arrive free for all players: it is The Ghost Surivors and allows us to play with different characters (such as Robert Kendo or Katherine, the daughter of Police Chief Irons) in random situations of the game. It’s about staying alive and getting money – that we can invest in a store without microtransactions – to buy weapons and equipment.
Not only is it a way to multiply the duration of the game, but it gives us another perspective of what happened in Raccoon City during that fateful night.
Classic game, modern technique
The RE Engine graphic engine, developed by Capcom itself achieves great performance. It is the same engine that was used in Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, and in this case shines for details such as the dismemberment of zombies. The firings to the head are those that allow to lower to the enemies of a simpler way, but we can start (with the suitable caliber) arms and legs, or even split the bodies in the middle.
In case the previous paragraph does not make it quite clear, the level of “gore” that we find in Resident Evil 2 is quite wild and contributes to a fantastic atmosphere. The same applies to lighting and the sound section in general. In this sense we must make two notes, the first of which is that we will have the possibility to choose between the new soundtrack or the classical themes.
In the second place, there is a part of the community that after playing the 1 shot demo of 30 minutes has complained about the dubbing into Spanish. As far as we are concerned, the voices are at a great level – perhaps the tone of Sherry Birkin is the one that least fits with the rest – but that is a matter of taste. We always have the opportunity to select the voices in English and play with subtitles.
A perfect remake
When Resident Evil 2 appeared, almost 21 years ago, I played it in an almost obsessive way. It had a perfect combination between the development of the first part and a cinematic style, and added new creatures to the zombies, cerberus, hunter and tyrant of the first installment. It also explored for the first time the sense of anguish to which the relentless persecution of Mr. X submits us. As we recalled at the beginning of this text, it was full of memorable moments, which have consecrated it throughout time.
And the best we can say about this new delivery is that it does justice to the original. Our advance from the Raccoon City police station, through the sewers, to Umbrella’s NEST lab has given us back those feelings. Maybe it is not such a terrifying experience (you can see that it has drifted slightly towards the action), but everything that made the first great remains.
The adapted control, the technical section and the improvements in the script, which better cements some situations and dialogues, are enough for those who will experience this experience for the first time, also perceive it as a new and current development.
And inevitably, after immersing ourselves in RE 2 we are left wanting more. Hopefully this is only the first of other remakes of the saga, that would win a lot with the same treatment. Without a doubt, it is the first great game of 2019, and a masterpiece of the genre.
Capcom has given us a lesson in how to make a remake. True to the original development in “survival horror” type, with a perfect recreation of characters and locations, and an updated, more accessible control system. One of the best horror games of all time “resurrected”.