Resident Evil 2 review for PC, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PC
Also On: PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

Let?s get the disclaimer out of the way first. I am a relative newcomer to the Resident Evil franchise. Resident Evil 5 was the first one I truly remember playing. I enjoyed 5 a lot, but after playing through Resident Evil 2, I completely understand the complaints that fans had. Resident Evil 6 was worse, but the series really seemed to shine again with Resident Evil 7. I was a huge fan of Dead Space when it launched during the 360/PS3 era, and a lot of people said it played like ?old Resident Evil?. This had very little meaning for me, because as I said, I did not really play anything prior to 5. This experience, or lack thereof, put me in a unique place as a reviewer. I do not have any old memories, or the ?nostalgia filter? to worry about. I approached Resident Evil 2 as a completely new game, and if the reports from other industry folks and some of the super fans here at Gaming-Age are any indication, it really is just that.

The scare factor is something I feel has been missing from most of this generation of video games. There is the occasional gem like Layers of Fear, or you have some good VR scares out now, then Resident Evil 7 garnered a good deal of praise and was unsettling. Outlast is probably the best example of what I am looking to touch on here. It is not just the scare, but the underlying unease, the sense of horror and foreboding, and overwhelming helplessness in the face of horrible danger that separates a great horror game from a scary action game.

Resident Evil 2 is THE great horror game of our time. The crushing atmosphere is a tangible entity, as real as any of the zombies you encounter throughout the game. There are very few minutes where you can sit and catch your breath, or feel ?safe?. Resident Evil 2 utilizes typewriters spread throughout the game as your save points. There is no pausing and saving whenever you want. You have to physically make it to a typewriter to save your progress. These are really the only moments you can relax, and I found myself sitting at the typewriters mentally preparing myself to move forward into the next area. Everything about Resident Evil 2 is horrifying.

I absolutely loved Dead Space and Dead Space 2. I even enjoyed Dead Space 3 despite all of it?s issues. I did not understand or appreciate the cues it took from Resident Evil 2 until now. These games are true survival horror, where conservation of ammo and appropriate choices between fight or flight make all the difference. If you go into Resident Evil 2 with a guns blazing approach and throw as much lead as you can at anything that moves, you are not going to get very far. Once out of ammo, you are out of options aside from ?Run?. You can find combat knives and stun grenades, but in addition to being few and far between, these are either one time use or relatively ineffective against multiple foes. The lack of a generic melee option means without a tool in hand, you have to run. And in Resident Evil 2, run is an exaggerated term for shuffle slightly faster than my 16 month old son.

All of this serves to add to that atmosphere. Allowing it to grow and oppress you as you play. Everytime you feel like you have a handle on what is going on, things get worse. Once you have the zombies in hand, they introduce the Lickers. Once you feel you can avoid the lickers, they introduce the dogs. Once you understand how to tackle the dogs, you get introduced to Mr. X and on and on it goes. Each new step brings back that feeling of hopelessness and exhaustion. After a few hours in Resident Evil 2 you will need a stiff drink and a nap. And that is by no means a bad thing. Quite the opposite in fact, if I am playing a survival horror game I WANT to feel that hopelessness. I want to experience that challenge. If I feel like a god, or some kind of action hero capable of taking everything in the world on by myself, it is no longer scary. Scary enemy design is not enough; you have to feel the fear for it to work.

My favorite detail in Resident Evil 2 is the gore and bodily destruction. If you hit a zombie with a shotgun shell to the face at point blank range, all of the flesh flies from his skull and you are left with a gory mess where a face used to be. Shooting with the pistol has the same effect on the shot area. Each subsequent headshot serves to turn their face into a mask of gore and bits. These are some of the most impressive gunshot wound effects I have ever seen, and their dynamic implementation is jaw dropping when you have time to stop and appreciate it.

Now, that said, I do feel that there may be some balance issues. Sometimes, you hit a zombie with that point blank shotgun shell and their head comes clean off, ending the fight. Sometimes you hit them with 3 or even 4 shots before they go down, and when scavenging only nets you a handful of shells, wasting 4 of them on one zombie can be frustrating. The lickers are another example — you find a note early on that warns you to stay quiet and you can sneak past them. This is clearly the right approach, but it only works about 50% of the time. Sometimes you can walk right in front of them and they have no clue in the world, then sometimes you enter a room and immediately have 2 of them trying to eat your face. I am completely ok with the game being difficult, but a level of consistency would make it a lot less frustrating at times.

I found that approaching the whole game like a giant puzzle, with several smaller puzzles inside was the best way to get through things. Safe codes, missing computer keys, door keys, key cards, these are just a few of the various objects and puzzles that you have to tackle to get through Resident Evil 2 alive. I will say that the puzzle aspects never felt too hard, I never felt cheated or stumped. You could always find the solution, once you realized that sometimes there was no solution until later in the game.

Resident Evil 2 boasts two separate campaigns that follow the same general story from two perspectives, Leon and Claire. I found the Leon campaign to be a bit longer, coming in around 8 hours compared to about 6.5 for Claire, but I actually think I enjoyed the Claire campaign better. There is a lot less backtracking and covering the same ground with her, and I was more interested in seeing what was next from her outside perspective.

As a newcomer to Resident Evil 2 for the most part, I was truly surprised by just how unsettling and downright scary the game managed to be. I now understand the hype and love around the original release 20 years ago, and I understand how excited fans are to get this new version of this amazing game. I cannot speak to the improvements they made to the original release aside from the clearly updated graphics, but I can say that the game is absolutely awesome. It is definitely worth checking out, whether you have been a Resident Evil fan from day one or a complete newcomer to the series.

Note: Capcom provided us with a Resident Evil 2 PC code for review purposes.

Grade: A-