After waiting what felt like forever, I finally got to play the Resident Evil 2 Remake demo at PAX West. Ever since I saw the big reveal for RE2 Remake at E3, I’ve been pumped to give the game a try for myself. I watched footage of Leon’s demo, so many times I ended up writing a massive article about all the changes I spotted from the original in it. I figured actually playing it might derail my hype train a little, but if anything I am even more excited to see the full game in January.
I’ve been following the game intensely since the E3 reveal, so I’ve seen some of the concerns fans of the original have with the direction the RE2 remake is taking. However, as a hardcore classic Resident Evil fan myself, I’m loving the changes that Capcom is making with the remake. The differences and additions are a lot more severe than the ones from the original Resident Evil to REmake, but from the small part of the RPD I got to play in I have to say they’re a step in the right direction.
Since the E3 preview served to give an overview of the Resident Evil 2 Remake, I want to use my experience to address some of the potential issues fans (and to a certain degree myself) have worried about since the reveal.
Resident Evil 2 Remake Preview: The Switch to Over-the-Shoulder
Arguably the most divisive change from the original RE2 to the remake is the camera. Now, the gameplay perspective is from over your character’s shoulder, much like Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6. The Resident Evil fanbase tends to have a divide over what they consider the best games to be. Many tend to dismiss RE4, 5, and 6 as being too action-packed and lacking in horror elements. They want the Resident Evil 2 Remake to be closer to the source material, and that includes featuring fixed-camera angles.
Having faced down a few groups of zombies in the remake and explored the beginning hallways of the east and west wing of the RPD, I can attest that the haunting nature of the police station remains. The over-the-shoulder camera only adds to the tension for me. There are more corners and crevices that danger can be lurking in, and light plays more of a role as well. Instead of the pre-baked lighting of the original RE2, the remake has several areas where only Leon’s flashlight serves to illuminate your way.
The flashlight mechanic is an effective means of transitioning from the fright induced from fixed-camera angles. Not being able to see what’s around the corner is what added a lot of the suspense to the classic RE titles. Every room had to be entered cautiously, and you had to use your ears as much as your eyes to sense any lurking danger. With the use of light and shadow, you get a lot of the same effect. The beam of Leon’s light replicates the fixed camera in that it narrows your viewpoint and instills a sense of caution.
Resident Evil 2 Remake Preview: Action vs. Horror
One of the things that made the original Resident Evil 2 (and the rest of the classic-style RE games) so suspenseful was the lack of agency presented to the character. While in some games that would be a bad thing, Resident Evil 2 steered you in a direction and forced you to face it head-on. With the tank controls and limited ammo and healing items available, there was a constant fear of simply not being able to get past an obstacle in your way.
For some fans, the series took a dive when Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6 took a turn towards being more action-packed and less about survival horror. I have to agree that as good as 4 and 5 were (please notice the lack of a mention of Resident Evil 6 there) that sense of impending doom and dread that permeated the classic RE games just wasn’t as strong.
At first glance, it could be easy to mistake the over-the-shoulder camera, and modern controls as a move towards a Resident Evil 2 focused more on gunplay than the original. However, several gameplay elements in the remake combine to replicate that helpless feeling that compelled us to play through the original game.
The combat itself is much slower-paced than even Resident Evil 4. If the item placements in the demo are any indicator, ammo is still a scarce resource, and you have to choose your battles. Just the small amount of zombies present in the demo would be enough to deplete the meager 2-3 magazines of ammo I found. Although aiming is much freer in the Resident Evil 2 Remake, new factors add challenge to the fighting.
When you aim, you’ll get a small crosshair. If you wait after drawing your weapon, you’ll see the crosshairs move together indicating higher accuracy. You can’t just draw your gun and expect every shot to land exactly where you point it. Instead, each round fired needs to be aimed carefully. After each shot, you’ll have to deal with recoil, and wait for Leon or Claire to take aim again before you shoot.
You’ll also find that you have to approach each situation more tactically when it comes to where you’re aiming. Instead of just pointing in a zombie’s general direction like in the original, the Resident Evil 2 Remake monsters react differently to being shot in different areas of their bodies. If you’re low on ammo, you can try to shoot a zombie’s leg off and run by them. However, even if you slipt past them once, they’ll still be there when you get back.
Resident Evil 2 Remake Preview: The Environment
The one environment we’ve seen in detail so far, the RPD, has been radically expanded in all directions. You can see some of the info about this in my Resident Evil 2 Remake changes article, detailing a bit of the geographical differences between the original and remake RPD. Getting to jump in the demo, though, reinforced my thoughts that not sticking to the original layout was the best possible decision the devs could make.
As much as I love RE2, the RPD is the star. The sewers, factory, and the labs are cool, but the time you spend in the RPD is the best part of the game in my opinion. Unfortunately, it’s just not that big when you look at it critically. RE2 can be beaten in about 3 or 4 hours by an average player, and Capcom was wise to expand that time with more content throughout the game. I only got a chance to see a bit of the RPD in my demo. The lobby and east and west wing first-floor corridor are all I had time for, but they were terrific.
It’s incredible to see these changed environments. They’re so familiar and true to the source, but so much has been added. There’s new rooms, shifted layouts, and expanded areas all over the RPD and it’s grown by at least one floor. The craziest part is a lot of new territory is simply the parts of rooms that we never got to see due to the fixed camera angles of the original. Since the game is over-the-shoulder third person now, the devs had to go back and fill all those holes in existing rooms. This adds a ton of space to add more items, posters, notice boards, and, of course, lots of blood.
The RPD has also got a more police station vibe to it in some areas. The lobby still screams converted art museum, but the east hall on the first floor seems like a completely normal police department in structure. I think that this approach will make the RPD feel more realistic while really highlighting the weird, out of place stuff you run into throughout your adventure.
Resident Evil 2 Remake Preview: January 2019 Can’t Get Here Fast Enough
My hype for this game is unreal. This is my number one most-wanted right now, and my demo only proved my initial feelings. I believe that whether you’ve got nostalgia for Resident Evil 2 or you’re new to the series, this is going to be a game that shines. The demo barely covered any territory, but from what I saw I believe the remake is in good hands.
You can purchase Resident Evil 2 Remake on Xbox One, PS4, and PC on January 25, 2019.