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Resident Evil 2 Remake Has Enough Surprises Even for Series Veterans (Hands-On Preview)

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Resident Evil 2 Remake Has Enough Surprises Even for Series Veterans (Hands-On Preview)

Raccoon Police Department is a little creepier than I remember it. It’s a pretty faithful recreation of the station we first saw on the PS1 all those years ago, and remaking it from the ground up with a shiny, new modern engine definitely gives it a new air of eeriness that wasn’t present before.

I was lucky enough to get some hands-on time with Resident Evil 2 Remake at Capcom’s booth, and even though I only got about 20 minutes with it, that was enough to get a sense of what’s staying the same, and what changes the developers have implemented. Let’s get the most important bit out of the way first. Inventory management? Yes, it’s still there. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that the magical item box has made its return as well. Pressing the triangle button pauses the game and brings up your inventory menu. In the lower left corner, you’ll see Leon’s status (Fine, Caution, Danger), and on the right you’ll see all your item slots. Sadly, it doesn’t look like you can combine ammo with your handgun for a quick reload any longer, which means you’ll always have to do it manually. The typewriter also makes a return, but there wasn’t any ink ribbon mechanic as far as I could tell. Players should be able to save whenever they want, though I imagine Capcom wouldn’t hesitate to include a difficulty setting that limits your saves, like they did with Madhouse difficulty in Resident Evil 7.

An interesting new mechanic that I noticed involved finding wooden boards around the police station and using them to cover up the windows. Every so often, you’ll run into a corridor where a zombie manages to break a window to climb in. If you have the boards in your inventory, you can board up the window to prevent more from entering.

The biggest change in Resident Evil 2 Remake is probably the third-person, over-the-shoulder view – similar to what we’ve seen in every Resident Evil game since 4. While it’s definitely a bummer that we won’t be getting the fixed camera angles anymore, this helps to bring the player in closer to the action. You can’t actually see what’s lurking behind Leon unless you turn your camera all the way around, and this adds a sense of tension that you couldn’t get before in the original. The new lighting effects are stunning, the gore is still pretty damn gross, and the entire station is just bathed in this sinister glow that’s hard to shake off.

Early on in the demo, I ventured into the east wing with nothing but a handgun and 10 bullets. The RPD’s press room is still as elegant as always, though it certainly does look a lot prettier now. As was the case with Resident Evil 7, Capcom makes fantastic use of audio and sound design to constantly keep you on edge as you’re exploring. The gurgle from a closed stall in the women’s bathroom never failed to keep me jumpy, even though I knew for a fact there wasn’t anyone there. Even walking past the windows gives you a foreboding sense of unease because you just know that something’s going to jump you at some point. It might not be now, or even in the next 15 minutes, but you know it’s going to happen.

I was greeted with a loud metallic banging on the gate at the end of the east wing. A cutscene started, with Leon desperately pulling an injured officer away from prying arms. Capcom’s not pulling any punches here; they’ll gladly give you a nice, unobstructed shot of the officer’s guts spilling all over the floor. Thanks to the third-person perspective, the action’s a lot more reactive and fast-paced as well. Aiming with the handgun while moving gives you a larger crosshairs that’s somewhat inaccurate. But if you stop moving, the crosshairs gets smaller, allowing you to take more precise shots. It’s a small inclusion, but it’s one that I don’t remember being in any of the past third-person Resident Evil games, and it presents a new layer of conflict when you’re caught in a firefight and surrounded by zombies. Unfortunately, there’s still no way to melee foes without a knife, so if you’re out of bullets, you’re pretty much screwed.

Puzzles were a key part of the older Resident Evil games, and they’re back in the remake as well. Interestingly, Capcom has also decided to include new notes and clues in the game to assist with these puzzles. The dead cop from before was holding a notebook with drawings of the various statues in RPD, indicating the medallions that you needed to open up a new part of the station. Even examining points of interest in the game is handled a little differently as well. For instance, when I checked the Clover door, the game immediately brings up your inventory menu, indicating that you need an item to interact with the object. There are no in-game texts or descriptions to clue you in that you’re going to need a Clover key to open the Clover door. You’ll just have to remember what you saw on the door before moving on.

Interestingly, it also looks like Capcom is taking a few liberties with how events play out in the remake. The infamous Licker scene no longer triggers in the hallway; instead, Leon finds a dead RPD officer whose face has been slashed in half. I’m interested to see where the first Licker shows up now, and if it could potentially even surpass the original in terms of the scare and surprise factor.

It’s probably worth noting that the voice acting is a little less cringey now. Leon’s actor was grounded and snarky when appropriate, and nice cop Marvin Branagh sounded much less goofy as well. Claire’s route wasn’t playable this time around, but Capcom has confirmed that both protagonists will have separate stories that don’t affect each other.

Resident Evil 2 Remake is both a wistful trip down memory lane and an exciting venture into the unknown. That cramped feeling of claustrophobia is out in full force with the third-person camera, providing a new and more intimate look into the labyrinth that is the Raccoon Police Department. It’s looking good so far.

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