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Resident Evil 2 review: Not just the best horror game, one of the best Xbox games period

Capcom has shown the world exactly how classic games should be remade, and its name is Resident Evil 2.

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As I type this intro, I am seconds away from having completed Resident Evil 2. As someone who played the original game through dozens of times as a youngster in the late 90s, I find myself in a state of child-like elation all over again.

What a game, I thought to myself over 20 years ago, and I'm happy to report Resident Evil 2 has the same bone-chilling magic it did back in 1998.

Resident Evil 2 (RE2), more so than Resident Evil 1, is probably responsible for popularizing the "survival horror" video game genre, where tense exploration, puzzle solving, and limited supplies make up the basis of play. Resident Evil 2 takes very little away from the PlayStation 1 classic while adding a lot more, with completely rebuilt visuals, writing, sound, and voice acting. RE2 pays close attention to the locations and creatures RE2 veterans will be familiar with, while throwing a range of surprises into the mix. As a fan, there's very little to complain about with the finished product.

Welcome to our review of Resident Evil 2, which is not just one of the best horror games on Xbox One, but one of the best games period.

Warning: This review contains violent images from within the game.

Visuals and sound: A smorgasbord of glorious gore

Resident Evil 2 has jaw-dropping art direction across the board, which pays homage to its source material while elevating it with some modern flair.

Following on from the work Capcom did with Resident Evil 7, there is a huge emphasis on truly visceral 3-dimensional gore rather than simple projected textures, giving all of Resident Evil 2's weapons a fun, impactful feel. Guns blow holes through zombie's clothes, even out through the other side, leaving chunks of fatty tissue strewn all over the place. It's quite the visual feast.

Beyond the wide range of unique human zombie models, Resident Evil 2 is also well-known for its monstrous menagerie of mutant freaks and overgrown animals. The legendary "Licker" enemies look truly horrific in 2019. Spread inside out by their mutations, blood-flushed muscles glistening in the game's dynamic lighting.

Resident Evil 7's "RE Engine" continues to deliver truly uncanny facial animations, twisting up in fear and pain, which compliment the boosted performance work. Leon, Claire, and the supporting cast also take on all sorts of visual wear and tear as the game progresses, starting with shiny new clothes, and ending the game covered in blood, armed to the teeth.

Resident Evil 2 felt surprisingly light on music compared to its predecessor, insteadgoing for a perpetual air of foreboding ambiance. The game enlists binaural audio to extend the sense of paranoia, offering the sounds of shuffling of zombies (or god knows what else) over in the next room or hallway. This surround treatment is particularly effective when being stalked by the hulking Tyrant super soldier, whose distant thundering boot stomps are straight up panic-inducing.

It's not all peachy though, at least not on Xbox One where we did the majority of our testing. There are some odd graphical glitches present throughout the game, which speak to limitations on the console to some degree. On Xbox One, Capcom seems to have attempted some form of pseudo ray tracing-style reflections on surfaces such as marble floors and in water, but in practice, it looks incredibly pixelated and glitchy. This sorta stuff was probably best left to the PC version.

In addition, some textures here and there look a little incomplete or overly compressed, which betrays how detailed and atmospheric the vast majority of the game looks. Resident Evil 2 runs at 60 FPS on Xbox One X, but it does seem as though image quality was sacrificed to get it there.

While an NVIDIA RTX ray tracing-capable PC will be the best way to experience Resident Evil 2, the Xbox One version is still a visceral and detailed gallery of gore that will chill your senses.

Gameplay: Pick your poison

Resident Evil had a bit of an identity crisis for a while, struggling to strike a balance between the "modern" shooter and the intentionally-awkward, punishing gameplay that the horror classic previously revolved around. In the original, save points were limited, turning was difficult, and ammo was scarce, which is generally at odds with the demands of a mass-market game.

Capcom is not only rediscovering this classic horror format, it's also celebrating it.

Resident Evil 2 now lets you choose between a more classic "hardcore" mode, complete with consumable ink ribbons to save your game, versus "normal" and "easy" modes, that feature quicksave points, and even regenerating health on the easiest difficulty. The approach should ensure fans of all types are well-catered for.

While normal mode felt a little too easy (finishing the game with piles of un-used first aid sprays and ammo), hardcore mode presents a real challenge, where avoiding conflict often tends to be the better strategy. Resident Evil 2 gives you a range of tools to help out for this type of play, allowing you to board up windows in the police station, as well as use throw-away items like flash-bang grenades and combat knives to stun enemies. Even on normal mode, actually putting a zombie down permanently is quite hard. You never know if that twitching corpse in the hallway is going to leap at your ankles for a cheeky gnaw.

Never trust a corpse...

Beyond your standard zombies, there are far more difficult beasties to deal with. Lickers crawl on walls and can kill you very rapidly, especially on hardcore, but they are also completely blind. Painstakingly eluding them, walking as slowly as possible is anxiety-inducing, as they curiously edge towards your soft footsteps.

The maps recreated for Resident Evil 2 almost perfectly match their static-background counterparts from the late 90s, with truly impressive attention to detail. That said, don't expect to be able to utilize your knowledge of the previous game too much. The path through the game's locations, whether it's the zombie-infested police station or the fetid sewers, are by and large completely different, with new keys, puzzles, and other surprises along the way.

Explore the map, scrounge for ammo, solve the puzzles, find the keys.

All of the classic weaponry from the original Resident Evil 2 makes a return, complete with upgrade kits to scrape and search for. Some weapons and upgrades are entirely optional, depending on how willing you are to puzzle solve or backtrack to that hallway you left teeming with zombies, while others present themselves as part of the story. A non-upgraded weapon might take longer to zero-in when aiming, resulting in missed shots, and then wasted ammunition. I am guilty of wasting entire clips in panic mode while struggling with a licker in a cramped hallway. Picking your shots carefully is crucial to managing your inventory, which is also limited in space.

Resident Evil 2's movement is modernized from its predecessor. You're able to quickly turn in the direction you push your joystick, ditching the "tank" style controls of yesteryear.

Still, Leon and Claire move relatively slowly compared to some shooters out there, which makes positioning intentionally more thoughtful. It's quite easy to get overwhelmed, especially when some of Resident Evil 2's more complex enemies come into play later in the game.

Considering Resident Evil 2 barely tweaks the core concepts, yet remains incredibly tense fun proves that Capcom delivered a timeless horror formula back in 1998. Capcom is not only rediscovering this classic horror format, but it's celebrating it too.

Story: Resident Evil refresh (Spoiler free)

Like the Resident Evil 1 remake, Resident Evil 2 follows all the plot points of the original, while refreshing and fleshing out other aspects. The result is, surprisingly, a more emotional story, with plenty of new memorable moments, while remaining true and faithful to the iconic plot points fans will be looking forward to.

Resident Evil 2 follows on from the events of Resident Evil 1 (also remastered on Xbox One (opens in new tab), also awesome), this time taking place in the fictional town of Raccoon City. Playable as both rookie cop Leon Kennedy and unlucky visitor Claire Redfield, Resident Evil 2 features a city-wide biological catastrophe, where a viral outbreak has created swarms of reanimated corpses and other twisted, violent creatures.

You will play through as both Leon and Claire experiencing different paths through the story, meeting different characters, uncovering different aspects of the wider mystery.

Without giving away too much for those who haven't played, Resident Evil 2 is more of a personal tale than some of the other games in the series, focusing entirely on Leon and Claire and the other survivors they meet. Resident Evil 2 remains a bit self-referential with its writing, unable to resist cheesy one-liners that spawned some of the franchise's most popular memes. That said, some of the new scenes it introduces have been truly moving, which is typically not something I expect of Resident Evil.

Some of the monsters and characters have been given expanded roles and significance in the story, which adds clarity to some of the fuzzier plot points of the original. However, there does feel like some missed opportunities to add more depth. For example, Leon and Claire still don't seem even the slightest bit concerned about the possibility of getting infected, despite being bitten constantly, and despite the fact that there are corpses with hazmat suits lying around all over the place. Neither of them seem too phased by what's going on either, which is a little at odds with the attempts to inject more emotion into the plot.

Resident Evil 2 won't win any Oscars, and there are certainly some missed opportunity to have further expanded the scope of the story, more similarly to how the Resident Evil 1 remake fared. However, there are shades of fresh ambition in among the returning iconic scenes that give me renewed hope for the franchise.

Final Thoughts: Resident Evil is truly back

Resident Evil 7 was not a fluke. Capcom is clearly willing and able to commit to a modernized Resident Evil formula that retains what made the series so popular in the first place, while making it appealing to modern standards. The visuals are goretastic, the sound work is nail-bitingly paranoia-inducing, and the gunplay is oh so satisfying.

I had high expectations for Resident Evil 2, and Capcom delivered.

Resident Evil 2 retains some of that b-movie-style writing cheese, but the attempts Capcom made to inject more emotion into proceedings while fleshing out other aspects of the story undoubtedly pushed the game beyond the original. It all leaves me hungry to see what other classics like Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Code Veronica, and Resident Evil 4 might look like reimagined by this team.

Pros:

  • Stunning blood-spattered art direction.
  • Masterful use of surround sound to build tension.
  • Incredibly satisfying gunplay.
  • Nostalgia trip like no other.

Cons:

  • Dialogue and writing is still on the cheesy side.
  • May feel a bit brief for $59.99.

A single Resident Evil 2 playthrough consists of running through the story as both Leon and Claire, meeting different characters and exploring intersecting areas. Running through Scenario "A" and "B" will net you around 10-12 hours of play, depending on how much exploration you do, while completionists looking to unlock the hidden scenarios and additional weapons on hardcore difficulty will find they can get even more out of the game. Resident Evil 2 is designed for speed running as well, similarly to the original, grading players at the end based on how fast they were able to run through it. The Xbox version also features a lot of fun, relatively lenient achievements.

As far as recommendations are concerned, I think "Normal" is far too easy for veterans of the series, or even fans of horror in general. You'll end up with piles of ammo and health items at the end, even if you gun down the majority of enemies you see. The auto save feature that occurs before some of the game's more difficult moments drains the tension out a bit, too. So if you're brave enough, stick it on hardcore for a more definitive Resident Evil 2 experience.

I had high expectations for Resident Evil 2, and Capcom delivered. This is the best horror game on Xbox One today, and one of its best single-player experiences in general.

Resident Evil 2 is set to go on sale on January 25th, 2019, for Xbox One, PC, and PS4 for $59.99.

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This review was conducted on Xbox One X with a copy provided by Capcom.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

11 Comments
  • People and reviewers need to stop saying stuff like ' a bit brief for £49.99. like seriously. Back in 1990s games were £50-£60 and regularly could be finished in 6 hours. I appreciate some people will only buy games if they are big sprawling RPGs. But many people don't like that also. I have friends that won't buy games for £60 because they are longer than 10 hours. They just get bored of games like MMOs or RPGS. Heck I even thought Uncharted 2 was too long. They could have cut out all that nonsense after the train crash and cut the game by 4 hours and it would have been so much better for it. A good AAA 12 hour linear story based game is perfect foe cinematic experience in games. Quite often anything longer and the game will have obvious filler bits that really didn't need to be there. MGS4 anyone? And it's repetitive cutscenes telling the same information over and over again.
  • That's why I said "MAY FEEL" a bit brief by modern standards. If you can afford to spend $60 on a 12 hour experience more power to you, but many people can't, and I feel obliged to let people know who are concerned about money vs. time investment what the deal is. Personally, I think 12 hours of memorable fun is great at $60, SOME people don't.
  • Probably came across much harsher than that sounded on my head. Lol. Sorry if that was the case. I love your work on here. And use you first for my gaming needs. I guess I just got fed up of reading length as an issue. As opposed to a preference. I think the length is probably one of the most varied preferences among gamers. So yeah anyway. There was no malice in my original comment.
  • Fair enough, same lolol. But as a tech site I feel we have to talk about the value for money proposition as much as poss, like any other piece of software etc. For me I think it's more than worth it, especially since they already talked about future content and stuff.
  • Good to hear the game is awesome though. And good to see many single player linear games doing really well again in the industry. Multiplayer started to worry me a little. As all the games were coming out copying the previous game. But finally we have games like Hellblade, God Of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, Resident Evil 2 Remake and others all reviewing well and selling better than Multiplayer games.
  • Selling better than multiplayer games? You do know that COD is at the top of sales charts year after year. Where do you get your information from? Heck GTA came out years ago and it's still near the top of sales charts.
  • None of these games are producing the margins that multiplayer games are producing, even if their raw sales are there to match certain multiplayer titles. Monetization of single player games remains an issue for big publishers, even if some games are defying general trends. Resident Evil 0 for example is crammed with cosmetic DLC packs, I expect RE2 to go down the same route as Capcom seeks to improve the margins.
  • I was more referring to 2017/18 trends of popularity. Not really comparing to revenue. Loot boxes and other mtiplayer stuff is of course making a ton of money on the side. I was really referring to more sales. God Of War, Spiderman, Red Dead Remotion which has as last count well over 20 million sold and counting. BO4 by comparison hasn't done half that. Impressive for a big new singleplayer game. I know online is coming. But people have clearly initially bought it for the SP. As MP lovers would have just waited. So yeah more popularity wise I referred to SP games really making a comeback.
  • I hope so, it's a shame other publishers (EA, Activision) don't seem to have taken notice about how important the solo experience aspects are as part of their multiplayer stuff. Makes me really concerned for Dragon Age 4 if/when that ever comes out...
  • Your comment is confusing. I'll clear it up for you. It’s been a close race between Red Dead Redemption 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 earning the title of best-selling game of the year, as Black Ops 4 beat RDR2 out as the best-selling game of October while RDR2 won out in November. As of November Black Ops 4 had been the best-selling game of the year, though their positions have ultimately switched. Here's the sales charts for December only. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
    Red Dead Redemption 2
    Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
    Battlefield V
    NBA 2K19
    Mario Kart 8
    Madden NFL 19
    Super Mario Party
    Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!
    Marvel’s Spider-Man
  • Hey Jez, you should add Stellaris to your article "Best Strategy and Simulation Games on Xbox One in 2019." Definitely looking forward to playing RE2 as well, the demo was amazing.