How Resident Evil 2 expertly blends the series past and present together

Resident Evil 2 is one of the most exciting reimaginings of a classic game we’ve seen in quite some time. Using the engine that made Resident Evil 7 so terrifying and the over-the-shoulder camera angle introduced in Resident Evil 4, this remake of a horror masterpiece is promising to be one of the series’ best.

During a recent hands-on with a section of Claire Redfield’s story, we got to experience how this game mixes everything great about the entire series into one terrific package. From boss fights that will set your nerves on fire to some beautifully disgusting character designs, here are 5 things that highlight why Resident Evil 2 is going to be one of next year’s most shocking horrors.

1. Foreboding enviroments

Our demo starts as Claire Redfield is exploring an underground area in Raccoon City. It’s a suitably foreboding introduction to the game, as we sneak through a mix of near pitch-black tunnels and whirring machinery that is only lit up by Claire’s touch (which she handily brings up automatically). After a little while we come across a little girl called Sherry, which is when things take a turn…

It’s a testament to the RE Engine introduced in Resident Evil 7 that Raccoon City remains recognisable, while looking better than ever. Little things, like smoke rising through the floor at one point or the cuts and scrapes on Sherry’s face, just couldn’t have been achieved on a PS1.

2. Monster Mash-ups

That turn we were talking about? A disgusting mutated figure has snuck up behind Claire, and tries to kill her by swinging its enormous arm that has a giant eye in the bicep at our hero. Fans might remember this monster as William Birkin, a disgraced scientist who played a large party in turning Raccoon City into a Zombie wonderland.

Birkin makes for an impressively grotesque boss. With half of his body mutated beyond recognition, it’s horrifying to see him lumber after us with frightening speed. We make the mistake of letting him get too close and he ferociously grab us, trying to crush Claire’s skull with his blinking mess of an arm. Fortunately, Claire is handy in a scrap.

3. Cracking Combat

With Claire’s head in a vice-like grip, the game prompts us to use the knife Claire has, which she plunges into Birkin’s massive arm-eye. It’s just one of the many moments where Resident Evil 2’s new combat shines. The over-the-shoulder camera brings you much closer to one of the series’ most iconic villains, and the weapons we use pack a punch without ever making us feel comfortable against Birkin.

While this style of action might not be new for the series in general, it feels fresh seeing it in the context of Resident Evil 2.

4. Mix it up

As Birkin staggers away from our attack, we realise we’re running low on ammo and decide to dip into our inventory. We’ve been holding onto the grenade launcher for a little while now, and have the materials to craft some acid rounds for it by mixing two items together. Naturally, we have to test this weapon out, so we sprint away from our attacker and hammer the trigger.

Not only do we get an extremely satisfying explosion, but Birkin’s mad thrashing as the acid clings to him, buys us enough time to pocket some pistol ammo that’s hidden in a nook where we’re taking him on. Not that we need now though, as another round from the grenade launcher finishes him off. It’s a tense encounter, but one that showcases Resident Evil’s action at its best.

5. Story surprises

With Birkin gone (for now), we head back to Sherry and promise to find her mum. We clamber up to the surface and end up in a Raccoon City car park, where we come across the seemingly benign Brian Irons.

The cut-scene that follows proves he’s anything but. Snarling at Sherry, he forces her to tie-up Claire, repeatedly threatening to kill Claire in a way that highlights how zombies aren’t the only monsters left in the city. Before Claire can untie herself, he’s fled with young Sherry and our demo ends with our hero vowing to catch up with Irons.

With improved combat and a story that looks set to have a few surprises for fans of the original, Resident Evil 2 is going to be a lot more than just a nostalgic treat.