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.
Back from the dead
Capcom shows the world how remasters are made.
Resident Evil 2 defends the franchise position as an apex horror predator with masterful suspense, infectious gameplay, and utterly grotesque creatures.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
- Stunning blood-spattered art direction.
- Masterful use of surround sound to build tension.
- Incredibly satisfying gunplay.
- Nostalgia trip like no other.
- 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.
This review was conducted on Xbox One X with a copy provided by Capcom.
Jez Corden a Managing Editor at 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!