Resident Evil 2 (Xbox One Review)
Resident Evil 2 is a key title in the franchise of the same name and holds a great weight in the series; some even regard it as the crown jewel. It was heralded for its focused story, replay value, and the fresh new characters. However, I just couldn’t see it that way. The lack of isolation failed to instil a fear within me that the first entry did, but with the remake I decided to open my heart once more and give it another go.
For the uninitiated, Resident Evil 2 focuses on the dynamic duo of Leon Kennedy, a rookie police officer, and Claire Redfield, sister of Chris Redfield and college student. Both fight for survival in the zombie infested Raccoon City Police Department. As you fight through the station you’ll uncover the truth surrounding the most recent outbreak and venture outside of the RCPD. Regardless of who you choose, both parties will solve the same puzzles and tread the same hallways. There are small welcome differences in the pace and paths of both Leon and Claire that grant access to different weapons and a different overarching story to each scenario. Although those looking for drastically different campaigns will be left let down by the end results as Leon and Claire’s journey are different sides of the same coin.
The remedy for the lack of diversity between characters is the additional Scenario B campaign that unlocks upon completion of your first playthrough with either Leon or Claire. Even this is a bit of a disappointment in terms of adding further replay value. Scenario B is supposed to show how the opposing character navigates RCPD of the game whilst the character you complete the initial scenario with. In reality that’s not the case. Scenario B acts as a sort of hastened playthrough, pushing players past the starting tutorial and slow paced sections of the start. There are slightly revamped puzzles and a new weapon or two, but it’s sadly not enough to make this second run feel like anything other than padding for what would initially be a short, albeit terrifying, game.
If you do decide to complete the 2nd Run segment of the game you’ll be awarded with an additional game mode to take a whack at called the “4th Survivor”. In this mode you play as the invincible enigmatic solider Hunk, an umbrella Special Forces operative that somehow manages to survive the deadliest of situations. Hunk must make it to his rendezvous point with a sample of the outbreak virus by traversing through all manners of zombie infested terrain, most of which covers a good chunk of the games major set pieces. While Resident Evil 2 is a challenging game in itself, the 4th survivor mode ramps the difficulty up to 11. Hallways and rooms are filled to the brink with all the creatures you’d have faced throughout. Tackling such a scenario will require repeat attempts as your limited inventory can only take you so far and you’ll need to make the most of every single bullet. The problem I had is that the 4th survivor straddles the line between challenging and infuriating. Running through this mode is an absolute slog and enemies are in such abundance it can almost seem impossible to even make any headway whatsoever – I wouldn’t blame anyone for passing up this mode altogether. If you do manage to make it through this challenging mode then you’ll unlock another variant of it that sees you play as a piece of sentient Tofu with nothing but a knife, but as you’d guess from my impressions of the previous mode that I am even less impressed by this campaign.
None of these campaigns would have proven so laborious if it weren’t for the seemingly invincible monsters that stalk the RCPD thanks to the adaptive difficulty. Zombies can take between 5 and 30 shots to kill and that’s not an exaggeration. Players who effectively manage their inventory and make the most out of their items are punished by the increased ammo required to kill enemies and then once again later when confronting bosses that are near impossible without sufficient ammo. There’s a clear imbalance in both Hardcore and Regular difficulties, irrespective of which you are playing on. This non-transparent difficulty is even more confusing when compared to the wealth of options already available, especially when considering the Assisted difficulty that adds health regeneration and various other tweaks There’s absolutely no need for it. There’s seemingly no way to find the true Resident Evil experience, even with Hardcore difficulty offering the traditional Ink Ribbon format of saving. Even something as small as allowing players to toggle the adaptive difficulty on or off would make a massive difference in the overall experience.
I suppose the nigh indestructible undead do add to the atmosphere of Resident Evil 2, but The Raccoon City Police Department is a very desolate place, and does a good job of setting the atmosphere in itself. Dimly lit corridors and barricaded dead ends quell your every move. A sudden noise will have you question whether it’s ok to proceed on with the items you have or hoof it back to a save room and strap on a few more weapons. I’ve said it before in my review of Resident Evil 7and it stands true for all Resident Evil games: the true enemy, the thing that haunts you the most, is the environment itself. The police station is but one of a few areas you get to visit but none leave you on edge as much as this iconic locale. A place I once found lacking in scares now has plenty to go around and that’s largely due to its lighting, claustrophobic spaces and plentiful inhabitants, mainly Mr X.
‘Mr X’ or canonically known as the Tyrant T-103 is a larger than life menace that pervasively stalks you throughout Resident Evil 2. Leaving no stone unturned, he will incessantly hunt the player down – searching every room between you and him until he can lay the smackdown on you. I’ve often got tired of games that always had you run away from enemies only to have them be nothing more than a nuisance, but Mr X is a special case. His presence is just utterly terrifying; hearing the rumbling footsteps of his big tasteful Doc Martens is enough to send a shiver down your spine and his sudden appearance enough to soil yourself. The sound design is superb in letting you know where he is in reference to you and does an equally good job at quickly letting the player know what other enemies surround you. A screeching echo will let you know a lickers are on your tail and the banging of doors lets you know what lies on the other side. Either way, it’s time to skedaddle.
While the sound design is on a level of its own, I cannot say the same for the re-imagined soundtrack. In fact, there isn’t much to say at all. Its ominous vibes are plentiful in that nearly every track is eerie and chilling but for a long time it felt like there was only one track and it was stuck on repeat. Thankfully you can change back to the original OST from the games options menu, bringing back the resounding chimes of the police stations front hall and the gentle symphony of the titular save room music. Resident Evil games just aren’t the same without their classical piano score.
With Resident Evil 2’s revamp much of my initial criticisms are gone but they are also replaced with all new ones; its adaptive difficulty being one. Overall I’d still say, with a few shortcomings, Resident Evil 2 is a resounding success and paints a bright future for the series, hopefully a future with more terrifying jump scares and an omnipresent menace to keep them coming. Now we just need to sit back, stockpile our herbs and ammo and wait for the inevitable return of Nemesis in a few years time.