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The return of Resident Evil 2

Two decades after the classic survival horror game was released, Capcom brings us back to one rough night in the Raccoon City Police Department.

Courtesy of Capcom
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Twenty-one years ago, Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield found themselves fighting for their lives in Raccoon City. The pair of protagonists starred in Capcom’s seminal survival horror game Resident Evil 2, the follow-up to the studio’s genre-revolutionizing game released a couple years earlier. But where the original Resident Evil restricted players to the unfriendly confines of a mansion teeming with flesh-hungry zombies on the outskirts of the city, RE2 airdropped gamers into the heart of the eerily abandoned mountain metropolis. This was our first glimpse into the wider destruction the Umbrella Corporation had unleashed with the T-Virus. It’s a game that was as terrifying as it was engaging, and it’s getting a next-generation update.

A team of 800 Capcom engineers, designers, writers, and animators have been working for more than four years on reimagining Resident Evil 2 from the ground up. And the team has done much more than slap a new coat of paint on the game and call it a day. Rather, Capcom’s used the original RE2 as a framework from which to build upon and has given fresh interpretations to everything from camera angles to gameplay to the architecture and layout of Raccoon City itself.

If you played your way through the original Resident Evil 2, you’ll no doubt remember its unique character controls and static, cinematic camera angles. “Tank Control,” as it was called, meant that moving Leon and Claire through the game world was always in relation to where the character was facing rather than where the camera was focused. A Tank Control can be unwieldy at first, but it also lends itself to a more psychologically immersive game, which, for a franchise like Resident Evil, is integral.

RE2 takes that immersive experience one step further. No longer technologically limited to static backdrops, Capcom has ditched the old-school controls and opted for an over-the-shoulder third-person angle built on their proprietary RE Engine, first seen in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and Devil May Cry 5. The control framework gives the game an additional layer of pressure and eerie claustrophobia. That’s augmented by the remake’s 4K-ready graphics, which makes everything from the candles flickering in the police station’s main hall to the terrifying transformations of Dr. William Birkin all the more astonishing. (Killing that giant mutant alligator in 4K is an experience.) The shift makes the danger lurking in Raccoon City feel immersive and constant, as if any sort of creature may be waiting around a dimly lit corner. The use of light and shadow in the new RE2 only compounds the apocalyptic atmosphere present in the bowels of the Raccoon City Police Department. Both Leon and Claire need to use a flashlight a lot to navigate the map, which only adds to the game’s sinister undercurrent and gives every doorway and dark corridor a bit of anxious danger. It’s the kind of game that begs the brave to explore it with all the lights off.

That atmospheric dread isn’t the only feature that’ll feel familiar to fans of the original RE2. You’ll still need to scrounge around for precious ammunition, craft items from a limited number of consumables, and solve puzzles as you navigate the winding halls of the massive Raccoon City Police Station. Capcom has kept those resource constraints consistent for the game’s remake — albeit with some next-generation updates worthy of the 23-year-old franchise. They’ve also reimagined Raccoon City in new depth and detail, with new areas to explore and puzzles to crack. The entire map is seamlessly connected now, so you can’t depend on simply changing rooms to avoid a hungry group of zombies. The dialogue and story have also been refined and deepened, which means that players can expect to be given further insight into what exactly happened in Raccoon City and the mysteries surrounding the T-virus outbreak.

Enemies and encounters are also a lot tougher. The dangers lurking in the Raccoon City Police Department have been completely remade, and you can’t bank on a single skillful shot taking them down. Zombies are persistent bullet sponges, and the Lickers — which first made their debut in the original RE2 — are more ghastly than ever.

Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 2 isn’t just putting an updated skin on a beloved game and calling it a day. The gaming company has stripped down the classic and rebuilt it from the ground up, giving it new depth and equipping it with cutting-edge technology and graphics without sacrificing what made it a genre classic in the first place. Resident Evil 2 marked the beginning of a journey that’s defined the last two decades of gaming, and this reimagining is bringing that story to a whole new generation.

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