The fine folks at Capcom were among the most talked about during E3 2018, which is partially due to the long-awaited announcement of Devil May Cry V and partially due to the reveal and release date for the ambitious Resident Evil 2 remake. When it comes to revived classics we were all expecting to see Final Fantasy VII in remade form during the conferences, and not Resident Evil 2. And an even more welcome surprise was the fact that the game was playable at E3 and is releasing in just seven months time! Everything, from the company's booth (which was a recreation of the Raccoon City police station on the show floor) to the jump scare zombie passageway journalists had to cross in order to play the game, was perfectly designed to build our expectations before we could finally try the game for ourselves.
First of all, it is imperative to note that, unlike the previously released Resident Evil remasters for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, this is a completely revamped game with an entirely new gameplay structure and even some additional content. Resident Evil 2 ditches the old but beloved tank controls and instead leans on a mix of Resident Evil 4 and 7 - arguably among the greatest entries in the series.
The demo took place during the first moments of the game as series-favourite and then rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy enters the Raccoon City police station after the zombie outbreak. Fans of either the series or horror in-general will feel right at home from the first minute Leon walks in, this due to Capcom nailing the ominous tension and dark ambience. The lessons learned from Resident Evil 7's return to horror are very apparent, which is noticeable here through the use of environmental lighting and general sound effects.
Exploring the police station, therefore, feels just as fresh as it did all those years ago, but now it's even more sinister and horrifying than before. Things are made even scarier by the addition of new and expanded areas. Playing through certain areas will create uncertainty for players who go in thinking they know every little detail about the game. Walking up a certain staircase at the beginning of the game, for example, gave us a big surprise since Capcom had added two additional floors to the environment. Thinking that we'd already had 20 years of preparation for every jump scare and intense moment ensured that those extra floors were terrifying, our fears from all those years ago once again rejuvenated. Safe to say, not even the biggest fans of the series will be immune to some new surprises.
As a result of the atmospheric darkness, Leon will be using his flashlight to navigate small dark corridors and players are going to have difficulty spotting enemies. The reliance on the flashlight in certain areas makes the player think twice before taking steps in any particular direction. It continues the fantastic return to form for the third-person Resident Evil games and shows how Capcom is still the master of scary and nerve-racking design.
Another interesting thing that we noticed during our hands-on is that Leon can pick up blocks of wood and use them to barricade windows to keep zombies and worse from jumping through and scaring you. When being attacked by a zombie it's also possible to use Leon's knife as a counter-attacking move, which in turn sacrifices the blade but might be the difference between life and death. The tactic works in a similar fashion to the shivs in The Last of Us.
A trademark of early Resident Evil games was the handling and sorting of items. Resident Evil 2 directly copies the system from the seventh chapter, which we thought offered a perfect balance between new and old. The classic health bar likewise returns, distinguishing between fine, caution and danger. All of these little touches add up to what looks like it will be the best blend of new and old additions, making this new version of an old favourite feel fresher than ever.
Resident Evil 2 is both a fantastic re-imagining of its source material and a blast to play. Sitting down with it felt like meeting an old friend after 20 years, where you realise how much they have changed and yet still managed to stay the same. We look forward to playing the final version of the game when it lands on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in January, 2019.