Resident Evil 2 artwork showing both Leon and Claire

Unlike the most recent Resident Evil 1 remaster, the Resident Evil 2 remake is not exactly a faithful recreation of the original horror classic. In fact, the new Resident Evil 2 has changed so many fundamental aspects of the original that I would say it's fair to treat them as two similar, yet still rather distinct games. However, while the Resident Evil 2 remake has definitely altered the formula, I am very glad to say that it not only manages to reach all of the same heights as the original, but occasionally even exceed them!

So if you're curious about where exactly the two versions differ, as well as what the Resident Evil 2 remake has to offer, allow me to share my thoughts now that I've spent a good chunk of time exploring its zombie-infested hallways.

Resident Evil 2 remake screenshot of a licker attack

You'll be glad to hear that Lickers are still both disgusting and cool

The most obvious difference between the two versions can be found in the camera and movement controls. While the original had pre-set cameras and incredibly clunky tank controls, the Resident Evil 2 remake has gone with modern third-person movement, aiming and camera systems. Needless to say, this makes the remake's characters significantly easier to control, the weapons much more natural to fire, and the zombies a lot less annoying to locate and focus on. 

Since these changes alone would make Resident Evil 2 a walk in the park, the remake has undergone some rather significant tweaks in order to accommodate the newly modernized mechanics. The zombies are now much more aggressive when you try to bypass them, the corridors are narrower and far darker than ever before, while most of the weapons require a significant amount of time to become fully accurate. So even though the Resident Evil 2 remake offers you incredibly precise controls, both the difficulty and atmosphere of the original were thankfully preserved. 

Speaking of atmosphere, I have to commend Capcom for the excellent work they've done on the zombies and especially on how they react to bullets. Even shots from your puny starter pistol are enough to cause them to stumble, all the while creating more and more blood-filled craters in the their face. I don't particularly care about gore, but watching a group of zombies continue to shamble towards me with half of their face clearly blown off is quite a striking image! It's also the sort thing the Resident Evil 2 remake needed to help convey just how relentless and threatening the living dead truly are, even with all of the advantages of modern controls. 

Resident Evil 2 remake screenshot of zombies busting through doors

Watching zombies bust through doors is quite unsettling

On a similar note, the Resident Evil 2 remake has also adjusted the cinematics, reshuffled some of the rooms, changed most of the puzzles, tweaked the enemy placement, as well as adjusted where exactly new zombies can wander in from. The vast majority of these changes have been done with improving immersion in mind, which is most noticeable in the very first cinematic. Instead of the rather cheesy intro the original Resident Evil 2 starts you off with, the remake takes a more serious route and really lets you soak in the atmosphere before everything gets thrown into chaos. This might sound like a relatively minor detail, but when it comes to horror games it is the atmosphere and anticipation that create most of the fear and tension, not the big ol' scary monsters. 

However, while Resident Evil was always a horror series, I never really found it to be particularly scary. This was partially because you could answer any problem with overwhelming firepower, and partly because the low-rez zombies were just goofy enough to always remind you that, yes, you are in fact playing a video game. So you can imagine my surprise when I loaded up the Resident Evil 2 remake and found myself rather tense and on edge from the very beginning! 

Resident Evil 2 remake screenshot from the cinematic

The new intro does an excellent job of getting players immersed into the world

Some of the once brightly lit rooms are now nearly pitch-black and riddled with gore, the loading screens that once protected players are now nothing more than flimsy doors that can be bashed through, and the previously goofy zombies have been transformed into ones that are just realistic enough to trigger that primal "NOPE, I'm out of here" response in me. Even though the controls are much more fluid and the aiming mechanics significantly easier, I actually ended up panicking on more than one occasion as zombies broke through doors, windows and everything in between in order to try and chomp on my face. An unpleasant situation to be sure, but it did made me appreciate the finer points of route planning and ammo management! 

Much like the original, things never got truly scary for me as there was always a giant shotgun to comfort me whenever a licker would suddenly burst through the ceiling. It was unnerving and highly stressful at times, definitely, but there was nothing that genuinely horrified me or made me look away from the screen in sheer terror. Even the gore was done in such a way that I could only really gawk at it and go "whooooah" like some sort of caveman. A portion of you might consider this to be a big negative, but if you ask me it's probably a good thing as otherwise the Resident Evil 2 remake would just be incredibly mentally taxing to go through, and it's already a game I felt the need to take frequent breaks from due to how tense it would make me.

Resident Evil 2 screenshot of the zombie dog

Zombie dogs - every man's worst enemy

The developers were seemingly well aware of this as Resident Evil 2's pacing is impeccable throughout the first half of the campaign. You're constantly doing small tasks that send you all over the police station, yet never far enough that you couldn't return to safety in a couple of minutes and just take a breather or reconsider your options. In many ways Resident Evil 2's police station reminded me of a Metroidvania game - it's all about finding secrets, stocking up on supplies, and figuring out which items you need to open up additional paths and shortcuts. 

While you're doing this you're also almost certainly backtracking through areas you've previously explored, areas where the zombies might have risen up once again, or simply wondered in through windows you didn't yet board up. You can try and fight the zombies each time you go through the area, but given your constantly diminishing supply of ammo as well as the living dead's tendency to get up unless you get lucky and explode their head, Resident Evil 2 really, really encourages you to try and avoid as many of them as possible. The end result of this, as you might imagine, is that you're always going to be thinking about which route to take, how to best avoid the zombies and which ones you'll have to cull, as well as how to do all of that without wasting too much ammo. And you know what? I absolutely loved it! 

The only real problem I have with the whole Metroidvania-style exploration is that the puzzles are just as nonsensical and trivial as they were in the original. For the vast majority of them the entire puzzle is to figure out which two objects you need to rub against each other, and that's not exactly thrilling gameplay. I'm aware this is a Resident Evil tradition, but the often outlandish puzzle requirements simply clash with Resident Evil 2's more realistic and serious take on the zombie apocalypse. For goodness sake, why are the keys to the police armory hidden behind a box that can only be opened with a priceless, gigantic gemstone?  

Resident Evil 2 remake screenshot of the red gemstone

If only there was a way to simply pick up the giant gemstone...

As far as the weapons are concerned, I don't know if Resident Evil 2 has a dynamic balancing system or if the developers are straight up clairvoyant, but throughout both of my campaigns I never felt like I was in a particularly good position. I was never more than a couple of steps away from pure disaster, yet I always managed to find just enough supplies to keep me going for a little while longer. This made the whole journey a bit more stressful than I was prepared for, but it also made it particularly rewarding as my success (or failure) always seemed to be squarely in my hands. 

Some of the underground areas do lose a bit of that Metroidvania feel as the action mostly takes place in a linear and relatively uninteresting series of rooms. It's an unfortunate blemish on Resident Evil 2's otherwise immensely enjoyable world design, but I can't exactly fault the remake for this as it is a problem that stems directly from the original Resident Evil 2. On the positive side, at least we get another chance to see the absolutely ridiculous zombie crocodile! 

Rather than dwell on something that was set in stone from day one, I would like to instead mention that the Tyrant, one of Resident Evil 2's most iconic and terrifying adversaries, has made the transition into the remake with resounding success! If the rest of Resident Evil 2 made me tense, it is the encounters with the Tyrant that pushed me well over the edge into sheer panic. You're frequently forced to complete tasks around him, yet if he ever sees you or hears you fire a gun, he will immediately start barreling towards you, his emotionless face barely able to mask the gruesome fate he wishes upon you.  

Resident Evil 2 remake screenshot of the Tyrant

He's so close to looking friendly it's actually quite unnerving

This is where all of the navigation skills and map knowledge you picked up during your initial trip across the police station will come in rather handy, as well as where your initial laziness might come to bite you in the rump... quite literally! In other words, if you haven't boarded up windows in the most important pathways, you might just find yourself running not only from the Tyrant, but also an additional two-three zombies that have wondered in from the street. Not exactly ideal, I'm sure you'll agree, but it's thankfully never unfair as it's always your fault if you mess up, and there's always plenty of other routes to take in the maze-like police station. 

The tension does eventually go away as the Tyrant becomes just another facet of life, kind of like dealing with an overly enthusiastic kitten that wants to take a nibble out of your mouse cable, but that brief period where he is both new and terrifying is something truly special. So while you probably wouldn't hear me say this while I was cowering behind a cupboard hoping the Tyrant wouldn't see me, I am very glad that the Resident Evil 2 remake has decided to go to such lengths to make him a memorable opponent.

Resident Evil 2 remake screenshot of the zombies

The same goes for the zombies as well, they're really well done

That said, while I fully approve of almost all changes made in the remake, there is one area where Resident Evil 2 becomes a rather mixed bag - the writing and voice acting. The original Resident Evil 2 was goofy through and through, so whenever something strange or stupid would happen, you wouldn't think twice about it because it's just Resident Evil being Resident Evil. Now that the remake has made things more realistic and modern, such oddities end up immediately standing out.  

For example, Claire's voice acting is fairly alright throughout the game, but when it comes to Leon, the performance occasionally makes him appear like he's a little bit... slow. His delivery can be flat and surprisingly calm despite being in horrendous danger all of the time, and his interactions with other characters often serve to highlight the wildly differing quality between the actors.  

It's thankfully not a constant issue, but when it does appear it turns some of the Resident Evil 2 remake scenes into pure comedic gold. My favorite example of this happens during the first fifteen minutes while you're attempting to save a police officer from being torn apart by a horde of zombies. A truly harrowing scene, and one where you can do very little but comfort the man as he's being quite literally cleaved in half, or at least it would be if Leon didn't just randomly blurt out "hang in there!" while pulling on a half-dismembered torso!  

Maybe this speaks ill of my character, but I found awkward moments like these so hilarious I couldn't take the scene seriously at all. A relatively minor complaint in the grand scheme of things, especially since I'm probably one of ten people that actually care about such things in a Resident Evil game, but still a strange miss for remake that has managed to do so much correctly. 

Resident Evil 2 screenshot of the Hang in there scene

I think that face sums up my reaction to the scene quite nicely

Closing Thoughts

While Resident Evil 2 is not as faithful of a remake as its Resident Evil 1 predecessor was, it is without a doubt an excellent Resident Evil game and one that successfully embodies the spirit of the original. With no hand-holding and a surprisingly balanced difficulty, the Resident Evil 2 remake manages to stay tense and interesting from the very beginning to the very end, all the while providing plenty of reasons to wander through the zombie-infested police station and everything that lies beyond.

It does occasionally stumble, but with with a rock-solid atmosphere and rather impressive amount of post-game content, I've still not found a reason to put my copy down. So whether you're a fan of horror games or the Resident Evil series in general, I would heartily recommend giving the Resident Evil 2 remake a closer look!