After 20-odd games, Resident Evil is one of gaming’s most storied series… but all those offshoots, reinventions, and remakes make it hard to nail down what, exactly, gaming’s original survival-horror series stands for.
But I bring good news: following nearly three hours of hands-on gameplay, I predict that the PS4 Resident Evil 2 remake is going to make old-school Resident Evil fans very, very happy.
On a purely visual scale, this PS4 incarnation or RE2 is a knockout. I played on the original PS4, and the game’s grimy, rain-slicked world glistens with atmospheric lighting effects that made me jump at shadows. The characters all look hyper realistic, from the rain droplets pitter-pattering on Leon’s shoulders to the pores and small freckles etched on his face.
The gore level is admirably gag-inducing, too. Slashing or shooting advancing zombies opens up gushing flesh wounds that would make George A. Romero blush.
Two campaigns, three playable characters, three different gameplay approaches
As in the 1998 original, Resident Evil 2 on PS4 offers two playable characters split across two separate playthroughs: rookie Raccoon City cop Leon Kennedy is just trying to survive, while Claire Redfield is searching for her missing brother.
My play time was split across both Leon and Claire’s chapters. And it was was soon clear that this remake seeks to pay homage to the original RE2, not create a soulless monument.
From what I played, Leon’s sequences veered closer to the white-knuckle action-horror of RE4. His triple-burst “Matilda” handgun, shotgun, and magnum pistol all provided ample stopping power, but ammo was tight and enemies were numerous.
Meanwhile, my experience with Claire skewed closer to “traditional” RE2 gameplay, with a focus on non-linear exploration, puzzle solving, and inventory management. I fought off (or avoided) Lickers and zombies using Claire’s snubnosed 9mm revolver and grenade launcher, complete with acid and flame rounds.
Then there’s Ada, who pops up as a third playable character during parts of Leon’s campaign. Her sequences seemed especially tense given that she packs only a snubnosed pistol and a handful of rounds, relying more on her wireless hacking device, which can peer through walls to breach security systems that reveal new routes. Ada’s new tech is not only cutting edge for the game’s 1998 setting, but also highlights her mysterious connections.
The game’s controls
Capcom clearly worked to deliver an intuitive control scheme here. The directional pad handles weapon selection, Triangle opens your inventory, and holding L1 activates your secondary weapon, whether it’s a knife slash or tossing a flash grenade (note: you can use these to escape the clutches of a zombie as in 2002’s Resident Evil remake). Though I did slightly reduce the analog stick sensitivity, I didn’t ever find myself fighting the controls – a testament to the strong UX work here.
I noticed that series mainstays like healing herbs and typewriters made the jump; I didn’t see any ink ribbons, so saving at the iconic typewriters may be unlimited. And ala RE3 and RE7, I could craft more ammo by collecting and combining various gunpowder pickups scattered throughout the environments.
So far, so good! I’m dying to play more of Resident Evil 2 when it officially launches on PS4 25th January, i.e. less than two months from now!