Resident Evil 2 is a remake of a classic survival horror game from 1998, but fully remade and released in 2019. It’s changed from the fixed camera angles of the original to a third-person view which is more familiar to players of Resident Evil 4 and beyond.
As a remake, Resident Evil 2 had a massive legacy to live up to. Resident Evil 2 was quite beloved, and the fact is, the remake has captured much of the classic design and style while still creating an improved experience for players.
The story in Resident Evil 2 is similar to the original. Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy arrive at the police station in Racoon City and must try to find out what’s happened and escape with their lives. Players can choose either character to start with, and both characters will have a slightly different path through the police station, though mostly it’s due to a different key being available to Claire and Leon as well as which secondary character they meet.
The combat has also been improved, with the third person over the shoulder view being preferable to the strange fixed cameras of the original game, and the less said about the tank controls of the original game the better.
However, the combat in Resident Evil 2 is not what players might expect. Zombies are aggressive and players have limited resources to engage enemies. I found on my first playthrough with Leon where I tried to shoot zombies I needed to get out of the way in the head, I was quickly running out of supplies.
This creates a more tense situation, but after checking online I found that the better solution was to shoot zombies in the leg. On the second playthrough with Claire, shooting zombies in the leg, and I was suddenly swimming in ammo by the end of that playthrough. This is something that bothers me though because it feels wrong to not teach players the right way to play your game.
If the designers wanted the leg to be a better spot to hit, that is fine. However, correcting the players’ misconceptions is important. Shooting zombies in the head is a pretty universal trope, feels like the game designers were purposefully hiding something that could have been shared. Or perhaps the leg takedowns are an unintended benefit.
Much of Resident Evil 2 is about traversing the map and trying to solve small puzzles while dealing with the horde of zombies, and in this Resident Evil 2 does well. The tension of the mounting horde is great, and the enemies who harass the player both feel dangerous, and manageable at different times, and players get the feeling there is danger around any corner because there usually is.
The bosses too are great, even if it’s mostly the same enemy attacking the player over and over. The feeling of a growing power differential between the player and the boss as it grows and becomes overwhelming is incredible and it’s a highlight of the entire game.
One of the best parts of the original Resident Evil 2 was the ability to replay the game and see the same story with the other player. This is possible in Resident Evil 2’s remake, however, I find this to be the big problem with Resident Evil 2. I played as Leon the first time through and experienced the game as it was meant to be. I was quite excited to play through the game a second time as Claire and see what has changed.
The fact is, not much has changed in the second playthrough. Claire entered through a different door, and there was a small amount of content to get to that door. As mentioned the Claire and Leon have different keys so there’s approximately ten percent of the game that Claire sees that Leon won’t, and visa versa.
The problem is for much of the rest of the game, Claire goes through very similar motions as if she was playing through the main story. Claire has to open the same doors she would and fight the same bosses.
Claire and Leon fight the same three of the same bosses in the same arenas. While both characters have different weapons, it’s not a big enough change to make it a different experience. Both characters do have a fourth boss that is unique to their playthrough and there is a final boss, at the end of the second playthrough, but having to fight the same bosses, characters, and enemy on a second playthrough doesn’t make for a better experience.
What’s worse is that Claire and Leon rarely cross over. I believe they only have three scenes where they can even see each other, and that limited amount of connection is made even weirder at the end of the adventure where they look at each other like they have made a connection. Granted they both survived through horrible circumstances, but the way the playthroughs are set up and the limited time that our characters have spent together really make this a strange system.
And I realize that Claire and Leon were both playable in the original game, but in 2019, I would expect this to be improved. Imagine if Claire saw some sign of Leon or Leon saw signs of Claire as they progressed through the game. If the second playthrough had some moments where players would remember what happened on their first playthrough, or puzzles that had already been solved instead of made harder, players might have thought fondly of their original time.
Instead, the second playthrough gimmick feels like a weak experience when it should have been one of the strongest parts of the game.
Ultimately Resident Evil 2 is a great game. It reminds people why this series was thought of as the very best in survival horror. It’s a perfect example of how to remake a game and please both fans and new players, something that other games struggle with
Though I do think that Resident Evil 7 is my favorite game in the series so far, but Resident Evil 2 is solid, if flawed.
On my arbitrary scale of arbitrariness, I’ll give this game a
It’s solid, but the second playthrough dulled the excitement of the first playthrough. I felt like I was experiencing the game on a slightly different difficulty, not seeing a second story. And I even found the second playthrough a bit easier at some points.
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