Why Resident Evil 2's remake can't be missed by Xbox One horror fans

Resident Evil 2 is among the best of Capcom's iconic horror series and now scheduled for a return via a full remake on modern systems. As unveiled at E3 2018, the opportunity to revisit Racoon City will soon arise, rebuilt in its entirety for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Although the remake will embrace parallel themes to the 1998 predecessor, it also pledges to correct flaws and adapt the game to modern standards. Faith to the original will be a treat for series veterans and its revitalized return will also welcome a new audience. The end result brings changes in presentation and gameplay, while still feeling distinctly like Resident Evil 2.

After spending 20 minutes with a pre-release demo, the game is shaping up as a strong horror experience to kick off 2019.

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Next-level authenticity for Resident Evil 2

Unlike most Resident Evil 2 previews, I'm approaching the remake from a broader angle, having only briefly experienced the source material. While my familiarity with the Resident Evil franchise is limited, it has still established a renowned legacy, despite criticism of recent titles. Following the well-received Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, my hopes are high for Capcom's next survival horror venture. This ultimately leaves me approaching Resident Evil 2's revival with a fresh outlook on its world and how it falls into today's horror landscape.

The core formula of Resident Evil has been widely adopted throughout the horror genre, pitting players against otherworldly zombies in a fight for survival. Caution, adaptability, and a keen eye are essential, unearthing puzzles and key items to progress. It's a proven formula synonymous with the best entries, returning for the Resident Evil 2 remake.

Given its nature, Resident Evil 2 has been rebuilt from scratch, while using the original title as a reference. The upcoming homage reinforces the same fundamental themes, while modern design standards make for an easier world to revisit in the 21st century. Expect the same general narrative, characters, and locations, reworked for the latest "RE Engine."

Our hands-on explored the Racoon City Police Department, as protagonist Leon rounds up survivors after the t-Virus outbreak. Leon is faced with navigating sprawling hallways and gloomy rooms while surviving the zombie onslaught. Comparing the demo with original game footage, most locations are represented close to their original form. Even if you don't plan to play the original, viewing side-by-side comparisons is impressive.

Alone in the dark

For existing Resident Evil 2 fans, the most jarring change is a shift from a fixed camera to an over-the-shoulder third-person perspective. This eliminates the detached feeling of the original and puts players directly into the action of Leon or Claire. While some praised the fixed camera's feeling of vulnerability, Resident Evil 7 proved that deeper immersion can still achieve comparable results.

To avoid feeling like a third-person shooter, aspects of combat have been tailored to reduce its presence in each playthrough. One major component is a new aiming system, which heavily punishes players for shooting on the move. Its implementation encourages players to slow down and line up shots, and paired with limited resources, sometimes engaging isn't the best option.

Resident Evil 2's revision makes zombies more menacing too, being harder and fiercer to oppose. Immersion is further bolstered through expanded zombie dismemberment, allowing you to target certain body parts for specific effects. Topping this off, the engine enhancements allow for a gruesome "wet gore," making for staggeringly brutal scenes up-close with zombies. All aspects of this were showcased in our demo, making for genuinely memorable encounters.

These are among the few elements that comprise Resident Evil 2's immersive environments, thriving on pure atmosphere tension. It's the fear of the unknown that keeps you weary, while equally inquisitive to keep exploring. While 20 years later the game isn't as unique among the competition, the remake retains the distinct charm of the series.

Resident Evil 2 is scheduled for a January 25, 2019 release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PCs. Preorders are now live ahead of launch, priced at $59.99 at Amazon.

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Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.