Why Resident Evil 2 is going to be a horror classic once again

Mr. X Resident Evil 2

We’re barely thirty minutes into an extended session with Resident Evil 2 when we leap up in our seat for the first time. We’re running around Raccoon City’s sewers as Ada Wong, trying to find a sample of the G-Virus. This leads us into a grotty, dank room full of industrial machines whirring away. We can practically smell it through the screen. Naturally, there’s a fair few zombies between where we are and where we need to be. One stumbles towards us and we put two bullets in its chest, not permanently ending its existence, but buying us enough time to scurry to a corner.

As we wait, sights hovered on where we think it’s going to pop up from, a guttural moan pierces our concentration as another takes us by surprise… and a chunk of Ada’s neck for good measure. In the real world, we’re in a room with around thirty people, yet Resident Evil 2 leaves us yelping, as if it’s 1999 all over again.

We’ve Ada go

The next four hours we spend with the game continue to inflict the same mix of palm-sweating tension followed by bursts of nerve-shredding scares. Considering we get to play as three characters during our hands on (the aforementioned Ada, a fresh-faced Leon S. Kennedy, and Claire Redfield), it bodes well that the game will be able to keep us petrified throughout its run time.

Not that it starts at this fever pitch of terror. To begin with, we’re in the scuffed boots of Leon, as he follows Ada out of the iconic Raccon City Police Department building and into the city itself. We won’t harp on about this too much, but Resi 2’s semi-gothic art style is thoroughly enhanced by the RE Engine. As we wander the rainy streets, we can’t help but notice how Leon looks (literally) slicker than ever and admire the neon glow from the Gun Shop Kendo logo we spot down the road. This is the best looking Resident Evil game we’ve ever seen, creating an atmosphere that is both oppressively tense and pleasingly nostalgic. That’s some tightrope to walk, and Resi 2 pulls it off with ease.

Kend-os and Ken-don’ts

As you might expect, we make our way through the Gun Shop, scavenging some ammo, before bumping into Robert Kendo. He’s not chuffed to see people wandering his decimated store and meeting him gives way to a cutscene that is far more emotionally charged than we expect. With Resi 2 being rebuilt instead of remastered, the script is one of the more noticeable improvements from the original, with the dialogue and story now not quite as goofy as they once were.

After we manage to avoid an altercation with Kendo, Leon and Ada make their way into the sewer, crossing paths with that giant Alligator. To say he’s an absolute unit would be an understatement, and we’ll let you wait until January to see how this encounter plays out with him…

If there’s one thing that sticks out from our time wandering around the sewers as Leon and Ada, it’s how well this manages to blend every era of Resident Evil together. There’s a dash of the panicky action of Resident Evil 4, where every bullet has to count. That’s along with a splash of Resident Evil 7’s claustrophobic horror, especially when the unkillable Tyrant shows up to chase us through the sewers. And finally, there’s a healthy dollop of puzzles. Early entries in the series maintained their tension throughout by challenging your brain more than your trigger finger, and this remake captures that spirit perfectly.

Claire Raising Terror

After we get to a cliffhanger ending with Leon’s demo, we get a chance to hop into Claire’s story. We’re back at R.P.D, but this time we’re staying inside the Police Station, on the hunt for a keycard that will let us out of the cursed building. Sorry, we should be clear. It’s not that the building has a hex on it, but it does have a legion of Lickers waiting to pounce on you.

Ahem, anyway, our time with Claire also highlights the return of Resident Evil’s large levels that are dense with areas to explore and, yes, backtrack to. R.P.D is the perfect example of how this remake manages to recreate the atmosphere and feel of the original while mixing in a few surprises.

So while there’s the familiarity of revisiting a place you know well – the angel still looms over the main foyer, the press room still looks like it’s a bit too grand to be for a police force, and an element of mystery still lingers in the air – the tweaks and changes mean you never quite know what to expect, and because of this, your nerves are never given a moment’s rest.

And that’s before you meet the undead groaning and moaning throughout the bowls of this police station. Taking on the monsters ravaged by the T-Virus is ickier than ever, thanks to the effort Capcom has put into the gore effects. One headshot we pull off makes a nose disintegrate on a zombie’s face, while a few shots to the limbs of another sees the sinew snapping away before the arm drops to the floor. It proves that Resident Evil 2 won’t just put you on edge, it’ll also turn your stomach… in a good way. After all, who plays a horror game to have a gently relaxing experience?

After we see what happens once Claire nabs the aforementioned keycard, our demo ends with the biggest shock of all. A new section called ‘Orphanage’ which features adorable moppet Sherry Birkin in a more prominent role. It’s a fitting moment, proving that no laurels are being rested on when it comes to updating this classic, as Capcom are willing to do more than merely remake, but revise as well. It might not be 1999 again, but twenty years on from the debut of the seminal survival horror game, Resident Evil 2 looks set to define a genre once more.