The reveal of Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 remake was easily one of the most exciting moments of this year’s E3 for myself. As a longtime Resident Evil fan that has desired for the series to return to its roots — figuratively and in this case literally — the advent of the Resident Evil 2 remake releasing early next year made me happier than even the E3 2016 announcement of Resident Evil VII.
A few days after its unveiling, I ended up going hands-on with the Resident Evil 2 remake for close to thirty minutes, and it ended up being one of my favorite things I saw at the show. Capcom has found a way to completely modernize the experience of Resident Evil 2 while simultaneously staying true to what made the original a classic in the first place.
For the purposes of my demo, I played as Leon Kennedy as he first finds his way into the Raccoon City Police Department. Claire Redfield will still be a playable character in the full release, as we saw her in the reveal trailer, but this slice that I saw took place near the start of the game.
The first things that I took note of when starting up the demo were the phenomenal new design and graphics that Resident Evil 2 utilizes. Through the use of the Resident Evil VII engine, the familiar locale of the RCPD felt entirely new. While I recognized many of the hallways and rooms that I found myself in from the original, the complete visual overhaul made things feel far different than I expected it to initially.
Of course, the biggest change in the remake of Resident Evil 2 is that the camera is now over-the-shoulder instead of being locked to set camera angles like in the original. With this comes a change in combat that is now reminiscent of the other third-person games in the franchise. While it mirrors this style of play from some of the later titles in the franchise, I found it to be far different, especially in the case of combat.
The zombies in Resident Evil 2 don’t take damage the same way they did in RE games that centered on action. Yes, even though you can now aim more accurately through the use of the third-person aiming system in RE2, zombies seem to be able to take far more damage just like they used to in the original games. Even when pulling off headshots, it still took somewhere between 3 and 5 shots for a zombie to fall to the ground, upon which they still wouldn’t necessarily be dead. The best way I found to kill zombies in this demo was to knock them to the ground and immediately follow up by slashing at them with my knife repeatedly. You know, just like in the old-school Resident Evil games.
Puzzles also take center stage in RE2 just like they once did in the series’ heyday. While we saw the resurgence of this element of the series’ older entries in Resident Evil VII, it still feels fresh because of how long they have been absent from the franchise. Puzzles in a Resident Evil game are just as vital as green herbs, in my opinion. Despite the transition to a third-person camera angle, I was happy to see that this part of Resident Evil 2 stayed true to the original and didn’t opt to forgo many of the game’s original puzzles in favor of more combat. Almost the entirety of my demo focused solely on puzzles and searching about the police station to find the necessary items I would need to move on.
Perhaps more important than anything else with what I played of Resident Evil 2 at E3, it felt genuinely spooky. We’re still living in the fallout of an era where the Resident Evil series decided to forgo genuine survival horror in favor of games like Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6 that were instead straight-up action games.
Even though this RE2 remake is making the transition to an over-the-shoulder camera (much like the aforementioned titles in the series), it has retained the spooks that the old games in the series used to be so synonymous with. Even though I was demoing the game in a somewhat well-lit room surrounded by many other folks, the sound design and dark corridors of the Raccoon City Police Department still gave me the creeps.
I loved my time with Resident Evil 2‘s remake, although it was brief. Returning to the iconic setting of Raccoon City amidst the original zombie outbreak felt nostalgic while also feeling fresh at the same time. Resident Evil 2 wasn’t just one of my favorite games I saw at E3 this year, but it’s now easily one of my most anticipated upcoming releases. Just like with the reveal and release of Resident Evil VII, I’m so glad that we only have to wait until next January before we can finally experience the full game.
Resident Evil 2 will release for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on January 25th, 2019.