As a kid playing Resident Evil 2 was an endurance of heightened sensations. I suffered increased anxiety, joy, fear, nausea, even legitimate physical afflictions such as sudden, debilitating stomach cramps, which invariably forced me to use the toilet. I get that same replicated stimulation from playing this remake that I experienced playing the original sequel. The fact that I’m writing this specific segment on my phone whilst on the toilet should give you some sordid indication of just how harrowing this remake is!
I hadn’t anticipated this reception: to be both humbled by nostalgia and aghast at the subtle innovation that retains the core tenants of the series that made Resident Evil such a cultural spectacle. This is a truly pivotal moment in my life, to experience Resident Evil 2 for the first time…..again! This remake, that functions more as a commemorative reinvention, supplants all of the geriatric controls and fixed camera angles that made the original such an arduous slog to play, while extracting the sheer bowel irritating fear that made your measured exploration around the RCPD such a ponderous and frightening experience. An element absent from the action orientated, boulder heaving sequels of Resident Evil 5 and 6. Seriously though, whoever designed the elaborate architecture for this police facility/museum was more sadistic than the current biologically challenged occupants!
You can’t settle, feel comfort or safety. Your only reprieve from the ravages of the infected are the designated save rooms scattered sparingly across the Raccoon City police department and the subterranean labyrinths that lurk below. It’s strange too trying to familiarise yourself to environment I once knew intimately, making knowing self-satisfied commentary as I make my way around, only to have the game completely dupe my nostalgic expectations, as it succeeds in unnerving my every footstep. Employing a rigorous assault to my faculties so hostile and personal that it’s like I’ve slighted the game in some way. That I’m being punished for even considering picking up the controller! It’s exhausting navigating the claustrophobic halls, blood speckled corridors and faint yet distinctive sound of the dead shuffling through the dimly lite alcoves. Participated by the quadriplegic scuttling and piercing, elongated tongue of the Lickers. Creatures I haven’t missed! All while you avoid the propagating advances of the towering monolith that is the Tyrant!
You can’t just kill everything that moves, shuffles or lurches as the limited ammo at your disposal will quickly deplete. Instead you have to be pragmatic, choosing when to shoot carefully and more importantly, precisely. Inventory management ensures you’re well prepared for any potential cartilage chompers, as well as amply spacious enough to pick up any crucial items you may need. Storing surplus components or supplies is crucial, otherwise you may find yourself having to navigate down perilous hallways you’d otherwise avoid just to make room in your inventory. Or worse discarding an item completely! The games inert adaptive difficulty also ensures that you are always being challenged. If you haven’t died the game ramps up the difficulty. Contrary, if you find yourself struggling the games eases up a little.
There are some obvious continuity lapses between the A and B scenario’s that were handled much better in the originals, with Claire and Leon able to communicate via a walkie-talkie at least. And it’s a shame really. With a few minor narrative amendments the two concurrent perspectives could have been separate stories told from different perceptions, instead of competing ones. But really these kind of discrepancies are negligible when compared to the rest of this well handled remakes of one of my favourite Resident Evil titles. In another game the jumps might seem cheap, like a ghost train at a travelling carnival. But because the jumps scares have been tempered by the twisted, uneasy ambience and the precarious nature of your safety, the sudden shocks feel genuinely frightening. You may think your safe fully laden with ammo and abundance of healing herbs, but it only takes one tiny, misplaced bullet to put you right back in danger.
This is survival horror, the way the genre was intended to be. And Resident Evil 2 has reminded me just how much I’ve missed it. Now you’ll have to excuse me, I have to find some more toilet tissue!