After over a decade of fan requests, Capcom have finally followed up the brilliance of the Resident Evil remake from the days of the GameCube (and every other format since) with a full remake of the best game in the original series. The debut of series mainstays Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield was one of the most innovative and beloved titles of the original PlayStation era, bringing interlocking stories, rewarding repeat plays and introducing some of the campest excesses this side of Barry Burton’s dialogue.
In anticipation of the game’s release on the 25th January, Capcom have released a teasing demo – get it here! – that can only be played once for half an hour. While there have been some consternation at this time limit, it harks back nicely to the 10 minute demo of RE2 that came packaged with the Director’s Cut of Resident Evil in 1997. Oh, and you can quite easily get around the limit with multiple console accounts and some save file tinkering on PC.
Resident Evil 2 is one of my favourite ever games, and so I approached the demo with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Having now played the demo a few times on PS4 and PC, I can happily say that it is everything I had hoped for and more. From the moment Leon sets foot in the Raccoon City Police Department to the low-key ‘Thank you for playing’ message that flashes up after you’ve finished or run out of time, this sliver of game shows that Resident Evil 2 Remake is a true labour of love that takes the spirit and feel of the original and combines it with the more modern gameplay and aesthetics of its successors.
Graphically, Resident Evil 2 is phenomenal. Aside some reports of washed out HDR (which didn’t occur in our experience), and quibbling over resolution and film grain, everything looks great. It is the RE2 of my rose-tinted memories (memories which were rudely shattered when replaying the original on my Vita).
The architecture of the Raccoon City Police Department is familiar yet new, with the interiors shining through the gloom and dripping with the viscous, congealed blood of victims and zombies alike. This fluid aspect is particularly apparent in the lingering close-ups on half eaten corpses that Leon encounters as he explores. The sheer graphical fidelity at play does make the game’s tone far more intense and serious than its predecessor, but fortunately the trailer at the end of the demo suggests that the campy over the top nature has been retained through the rest of the full game.
Ditching the fixed camera angles and tank controls, which simply wouldn’t fly in 2018, it really does feel like playing this classic with Resident Evil 4’s controls. The move away from the controls is a necessary shift to a more modern style of play and allows for a more immersive and action orientated experience. The gunplay is responsive and, once you adjust to the lock-on system and need to steady pause to steady your aim, allows for some fancy shooting with wonderfully visceral results. The zombies come apart when attacked, so you can shoot their legs out from under them or blow them in half. The traditional exploding heads are also present, if you want to make sure they don’t get back up again.. Getting the shotgun in the demo results in some great zombie payback.
So what do you get to do in the half hour limit? The explorable area is limited to the first part of the police station, with a number of puzzle areas present but unable to be completed. Chief amongst these is the library, while you can collect a medal, but I didn’t find a use for it in the areas available.
The game’s story, script and characters have clearly been thoroughly revised. Leon gets to deliver some wonderfully inappropriate supportive dialogue to a fellow cop torn in half by zombies, while the injured Marvin Branagh has a more involved role in explaining the situation than previously. In fact he forms the emotional and narrative heart of the demo, rescues Leon, gives him directions without resorting to pulling a gun on him, and concludes the demo by showing him CCTV footage of Claire Redfield arriving at the police station.
The worst thing about the demo is that it ends after just half an hour, but truthfully the content is well suited to that length and the way it ends easily leaves you wanting more. Multiple playthroughs let me to trim my completion time down to just over eleven minutes, but there was little that I hadn’t seen the first time. I just want to be able to play the whole game, damn it! It won’t be all that long before the full game drops, but it’s the wait that’ll kill you. Or the zombies. Or the Licker. Or the giant croc. Or, well… you get the point.