Welcome back to Raccoon City, please excuse the horrifying monsters.
The Resident Evil series is known for reinventing itself for the times, with varying degrees of success. This approach got us a spectacular remake of the 1996 original six years after its release, 2005's Resident Evil 4 (one of the greatest games of all time), 2012's Resident Evil 6 (an overstuffed but fun mess) and 2017's scary first person .
So a lot's changed with the survival horror series in the 21 years since Capcom unleashed the original Resident Evil 2 on the PlayStation. From Jan. 25, PS4, Xbox One and PC gamers can sink their teeth into the remake and we're pleased to report that it's a tasty meal -- Raccoon City's 1998 descent into zombie apocalypse has never looked, sounded or felt this good.
Like the original, you play as rookie cop Leon Kennedy or biker Claire Redfield. Both are just getting into town, not realizing that it's become an undead nightmare until they're trapped. You'll spend the majority of the game trying to escape via the zombie-infested Raccoon City Police Department, and this iconic setting is beautiful in a terrifying way.
The horrifying gore, deep shadows, eerie growls and ferocious shrieks make it an oppressive, nerve-wracking place to explore -- especially with the notes you find hinting at the horrors that have gone down, pushing the engaging narrative forward and offering hints about how to progress.
The developers' decision to ditch the original game's fixed camera angles in favor of an over-the shoulder viewpoint might bother the hardcore old-school series fans, but the ability to look around freely really brings the environments to (undead) life. Clever design choices make it so satisfying to explore, with areas that link up likeand offer plenty of rewards for those who investigate every nook and cranny.
The tank-like controls seen in the first few Resident Evils have been updated for the new perspective, and feel a little like those of the sixth game (albeit with much less agility).
The most common threat are zombies, a series staple that are more impressive than ever as they lurch around unpredictably and leap from the shadows to grab you. You can gun or knife them down, but can never be sure they're dead unless you blow open their heads with a lucky shot. Blasting off legs and arms is a whole lot of fun, though they'll probably come crawling after you.
Anything other than a headshot feels ineffective, so enter combat with caution and aim carefully. A little nimble footwork or quiet creeping can get you past many enemies if you're low on bullets… which you will be. Tougher enemies like Lickers (whom you're much better off sneaking past) and the various bosses can soak up ammo, forcing you to manage your resources carefully.
And that's a very good thing: Resident Evil 2's harsh gameplay seldom feels unfair, but it'll challenge Raccoon City veterans and newcomers alike. The incrementally upgradable inventory is pretty much the same as it was in the seventh game, so it's smooth, easy to use and doesn't hurt the pacing.
There are plenty of modifiable weapons to blast undead with, and each character has a different set. As is the series' tradition, handgun ammo is by far the most plentiful and those guns are fun to use (though Claire has a confusing number of them to choose from).
But the real joy is in Leon's shotgun and flamethrower -- great for blowing chunks off or burning enemies -- and Claire's grenade launcher -- which has interchangeable ammo that can ignite or drench them with acid. Figuring out which enemies each weapon is best suited to is a real treat too.
The character models are impressive to look at, with nice design updates to the PSOne-era original looks, and little touches make them seem more human than ever. It's one of those games where you'll find yourself spinning the camera around just to admire how much work the developers put in.