RESIDENT EVIL 2 REMAKE
An unbiased review by Daniel Granados
My Personal History with Resident Evil
Before you scratch your head as to why I’m reviewing a game that’s been out for over a year and was universally adored by everyone, I urge you to please re-read the title again. I am not a Resident Evil fan. I didn’t grow up playing them, but my cousins sure did, and it scared the absolute sh*t out of me. I vividly remember my older cousin playing Resident Evil 3, blasting closing-in zombies in an alley with a teeny-tiny pistol, and me hiding under his blanket. This pattern of watching others play Resident Evil games continued as I got older as my childhood best friend, Steven, would constantly play Resident Evil 4, whose legacy as one of the most beloved and resold video games of all time is inescapable to all gamers. However, by this point I realized the RE (Resident Evil) franchise wasn’t scary at all; it was dumb.
You get chased by a giant statue of the little moppet, have an over the top 1v1 against a super soldier, and fight giant trolls, etc. However, I completely understand that the campy, over-the-top nature of the series is what appeals to fans. Guys believe me when I say that I love two things: horror and cheese. I love cheesy horror films like Re-Animator, Basket Case, the Friday the 13th series, etc. that’s full of hilarious acting and effects, but to me, the RE franchise never did it right. The cheese presents to me bores me, instead of making me laugh or amping me up because it’s stiff and lifeless.
Although I didn’t play every mainline RE title as you and my peers at Ramblings have, I know how much of a juggernaut the series is. Although I’m not a fan (or will I be by the end of this review?), I have played at least half of the main entries: RE 4, RE 5, RE 6, and RE 7. It wasn’t until RE 7 that I found myself actually loving, and even admiring it for its immersive, first-person horror gameplay. The game oozed with personality and creativity as it showed a genuine appreciation for the horror genre and exploration. The exploration was fantastic because the Baker house was so incredibly fine-tuned and detailed, that it was genuinely its own character. It has some of the same flaws as prior entries which I previously mentioned, but to me, it’s the exception because the gameplay, horror, and design were genuinely fun. It didn’t feel like a chore playing it as the other titles did. I’ve really tried with this franchise by playing half of the main entries, but I just couldn’t reach that level of fun loyal fans have.
I can go on more about what I like and don’t like about the series, but I’ll lead into the review (finally)! If you think I’m insane for my lukewarm feelings toward the franchise and want to log off, I urge you to continue forward with me. There is absolutely no point in listening to a critic that always gives you what you want to hear; you can’t grow and properly learn to critique that way. I guarantee that from here on out, I will still continue to have some hot takes on video games you know and love; there are many others I don’t particularly care for. However, I try and try to understand franchises I don’t like; I give them chances. I kept trying and trying and finally found that spark you all love from the franchise with RE 7, and now I’m trying again with RE 2 Remake. Capcom now truly has my attention, and what perfect timing with the release of RE 3 Remake. Will RE 2 Remake enthrall me like the latest title? Will I finally call myself a Resident Evil fan? Will I stop comparing this game to the other titles? Let’s find out together.
STORY MODE: WHERE IS IT?
(Both Story modes completed on standard difficulty
I honestly didn't care about the story because there was no story. I’ve played both Leon and Claire’s story on “standard” difficulty, and they’re both equally lacking. Each story mode has about 4-6 major cutscenes that give you bland exposition told by the most shallow and bland characters imaginable. Leon is just the archetypal good guy who is completely unphased by the apocalypse. I only found myself liking him whenever he interacted with Claire, which probably added up to about five minutes' worth of dialogue? Maybe? Claire and Leon would occasionally have cute little quips and exchanges that would wake me up because it amazed me that there was a hint of humanity inside these pretty dolls. It never lasts long, though.
Leon’s story did slightly differ from Claire’s as he experiences different encounters with a giant, mutated sewer gator, which was by far the greatest part of the entire game. He just looked badass, and I like reptiles. There’s some insight for you on my standards. There’s also a character swap in each story mode, which helps with variety. The switch to fan-favorite character Ada Wong midgame was horrible and probably worse than Claire’s switch to Sherry. Her gameplay is aggravating since you’re incredibly underequipped, and you feel like you’re just wasting time.
You’re given 7-8 bullets, you have to fight several zombies and Mr. X is thrown at you for good measure while you’re trying to hack electrical devices. I never liked Ada, and I still don’t after this gameplay segment. She’s still just a laughable femme fatale, and I’d roll my eyes whenever she’d talk. The only saving grace of the character swaps is that these segments are short. They’re roughly thirty minutes long and they happen only once in each story mode. The character swaps' main purpose is to present more exposition of characters involved behind the scenes, but you also don’t learn much
It raises more questions if anything. It's just basic questions too like who's this guy? Why is this scientist evil? That kind of thing, but they’re raised because you’re just thrust into situations and people speak as if you already know everything that’s going on. That’s totally fine, I initially told myself, because many other movies, shows, and games do this, but where it works with other games and not this one is because other games gradually reveal story details later. In RE 2 that doesn’t happen. Sh*t just happens that is never explained later, and all you can do is just go with it.
Frankly, even if they did explain it I wouldn’t care because I found myself relieved by the end of both story modes because I didn’t have to endure them any more. Both these story modes reminded me yet again what I don’t care for about this franchise.
Ada Wong. Who the hell wears a dress to kill zombies?
It may be my fault, but I still don’t know why Mr. X shows up in the game at all. No one ever addresses him or questions his presence. He’s just thrown in. All I know is that he’s the prototype to nemesis, but that’s because of my prior knowledge of the series. The game, from what I can remember, never talks about him. I don’t like reading files in order to get story information because I find it lazy and boring, so maybe that’s where I missed his background? Even with games, I love like the Dead Space franchise, I can never be bothered to read the logs, so I’ll admit that it's probably my fault for the confusion. Overall, the story is shallow and uninteresting.
On a more positive note, Claire’s story was more enjoyable because she was frankly more charming. She had good energy and was kind of a dork. I rolled my eyes when Sherry first came along because a horror trope I hate is having a kid around that’s connected to the bigger story, but doesn’t speak up and explain what they know.
Like Newt from James Cameron’s “Aliens” for example. She survived the entire massacre of her colony, but when Ripley shows up, she’s suddenly a mute and only holds Ripley back. They’re just a hindrance, and I don’t want to put up with them. It’s only when Sherry starts to trust Claire did I find myself liking her, just like with Newt. As uninteresting as the whole Sherry, Annette and G-virus storyline was, at least it told me what was going on. Leon essentially just gets told by Ada that she must stop Annette and five hours later, Annette shows up in the obligatory ending boss fight cutscene completely out of nowhere. Leon doesn’t have a single interaction with her, which just makes that cutscene awkward.
Gameplay: Retracing Your Steps for the Next 14 Hours
For starters, the game runs great. In my 14 hours of play I’ve never experienced any lag, stuttering, glitches, long loading screens etc. The game looks great, as it should for being this late in the Xbox One’s life cycle, but there’s nothing special about the graphics; it’s incredibly workmanship like. Characters and environments are polished, but soulless. There’s nothing creative or unique about the look and style; there’s no pizazz.
The game, however, made the stationary over-the-shoulder shooting finally make sense to me. With the previous games that had way too many enemies on screen, the shooting system absolutely irritated me. Who would stand perfectly still when you’re surrounded by 5-10 monsters that can move at fast speeds, jump on walls and in every direction? In RE 2 Remake, however, at most you’re usually fighting off 1-3 enemies at a time. The fact that you’re forced into a stationary position while shooting makes much more sense because the situations are more tailored to this mechanic. That’s not to say that it makes the game easy since zombies are still faster than you, and can be a bit unpredictable. The confrontations feel fair but tense; it's up to you to be patient and shoot at the right time.
Your aim really gets better as the game progresses, but once you feel that the zombies are too easy for you, your confidence is challenged by more flexible and durable enemies like Lickers and dogs. They’re much faster than you, can travel great distances in an instant, and will waste your bullets if you lose your cool. Although I complained about this enemy type in combination with the shooting mechanics, they’re not overused. They’re sprinkled in every once in awhile to spice things up, and you’re given the choice of avoiding or confronting them. You start feeling pretty ballsy once you get newer, badder weapons, but the choice is still up to you.
The games also sprinkles in a few boss fights for each story mode, but they’re the same in both stories. Only the final bosses differ from each other, but they’re both easy just like the other bosses which is a bit disappointing. My complaint about the shooting is that it doesn't feel powerful.
I particularly like using the pistol the most since ammo is much more plentiful for it, but when you shoot zombies it feels weak. You don’t get that satisfying rumble and you also don’t feel the weight of your perfect headshot. Every now and then I’ll get a headshot that actually pops a zombie’s skull and gives me the satisfying feeling I’m looking for, but it's all random. Even when I use a shotgun, I still don’t get that punch I’m looking for which is incredibly disappointing.
Most zombies will continue to revive, which is irritating as you constantly have to revisit rooms, so you’re constantly wasting ammo. In fact, the entire gameplay and “story” is just going back to rooms you couldn’t unlock before unless you find a specific key or part. Although there is a variety of environments as you travel between the police station, sewers, garages and the Umbrella facility, you’re still just finding ways to open doors. Constantly unlocking doors, solving goofy puzzles, and running in circles starts to get dull after a while.
Especially when Leon and Claire don’t even run, but lightly jog as if they’re not being chased by goddamn zombies or Mr. X. It bugs the hell out of me since it makes backtracking even longer than it has to be, especially if you make a wrong turn.
Mr. X made no impact in my Claire playthrough. I encountered him once, and I didn’t see him again, until a few hours later when he was killed off in a cutscene. In my Leon playthrough, Mr. X actually followed me twice and I was incredibly annoyed. He didn’t scare me, but instead annoyed the hell out of me since he’d interrupt me at very inconvenient times. He was incredibly adamant in getting me as Leon, which really soured my experience because he would chase me back to the police station lobby (the hub world) and even further, which would then force me “run” back all over again to the complete opposite end of the map. It was a real drag having to keep retracing my steps especially when you’re slow as sh*t.
Item management is the same as always. At first, I wasn’t too crazy about it since you’re overwhelmed by the number of items the game throws at you, and you have incredibly limited space. That changed pretty quickly though as finding hip-pouches that allow you to carry more items came pretty easily and organizing your inventory became like a fun minigame.
Lastly, is the game scary? Not at all. I watch a lot of horror movies and play a bit of survival horror games, so I’m unphased by most of what the game has to offer. The only times the game would scare me is when I’m trying to run through a room to get to an objective, and a zombie which I thought was permanently dead sprung at me unexpectedly. Other than that, I was never afraid of opening doors, traveling or encounters. The game did have some atmosphere which is stronger in the beginning, and at the end in the Umbrella facility. Especially in the greenhouse area, which has mutated plant zombies that are in flickering corridors, moves unnaturally, and can kill you in one hit.
Conclusion: Tell Us How You Really Feel
This game is incredibly flawed, but I had a good time. Despite my criticisms, I think the core gameplay was satisfying enough to somewhat overlook its many flaws. The game isn’t great or necessarily good, but it’s decent enough. I don’t think I’ll ever look back fondly on it the same way everyone else has or will be in much of a rush to replay it any time soon. This game didn’t come close to what I loved about RE 7, but I keep reminding myself that this game was a product of its time. Back in 1998 when the original RE 2 was released, video games didn’t have to have amazing storytelling and couldn’t be as mechanically complex as the masterpieces we have today like God of War (2018) or The Witcher 3. I constantly had this mindset as I was playing and writing this review, which also gives the game more leeway for its faults.
After playing this, I would be interested in playing RE 3 Remake. If the game was ever on sale for less than $20, I might go ahead and get it for myself. However I can never imagine bringing myself to spend $60 on it, nor would I recommend anyone else doing the same. I still rank this game being in the same league as previous entry titles, but it is much better than 4,5 and 6.
Next time on Static…
There’s a handful of games I want to review next, and I might start with a game I’ve been dying to play for years: Asura’s Wrath for the Xbox 360. I love anime and manga series like Naruto, One Piece, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, etc., so it’s always been on my radar. I just started playing it, and already have a lot of things to say about it, so I’ll more likely than not be reviewing that next! Thank you all for reading, and hopefully, you understand my criteria a bit. I just had a lot to say about this game, and I think it was a long time coming since everyone here on Static pretty much loves Resident Evil; I’m the odd man out. I had a lot of things to get off my chest, and this was a great outlet. I’m still trying to find my angle on how to write/approach these reviews, but hopefully, I’ll find the right voice and style sooner than later. Thanks again! - Daniel Granados