The remake of the original Resident Evil is probably my favourite entry in the series. Taking what was already a great game and updating it for the modern era was a great move, as the photorealistic backgrounds melded perfectly with the detailed character models and reworked OST. The HD remaster of that remake made it look even sharper and added a new modern control scheme, and for me is the definitive Resident Evil experience.
Needless to say, the fanbase was clamouring for a remake of the sequel. Resident Evil 2 was the fan favourite for a long time, so it’s strange that it took until 2019 to come out. Thankfully, they went above and beyond, releasing something far more than a simple remake.
Now it has released on Switch, we can see what the fuss was all about.
…assuming you have an internet connection good enough to run it, of course.
A BAD FIRST SHIFT
Leon S Kennedy is starting his first shift as a cop in Raccoon City. Little does he know that an incident in the nearby Arklay Mountains has set off a chain of events that led to a deadly virus being spread across the city. The undead are roaming the city, resulting in very few survivors.
Meanwhile, biker Claire Redfield is on her way into the city to investigate the disappearance of her brother, Chris. As a member of the city’s S.T.A.R.S. unit, he was sent into the Arklay Mansion and hasn’t been heard from since.
A chance meeting at a petrol station starts the journey of the two into the city; both have their own agenda, but find themselves on a similar path. Their campaigns are mirrored, but there’s also a nice mix of new unique areas and other slight variances that makes each one worth playing in their own right if you truly want to experience the entire story.
And what a story it is. The more you delve into the game’s lore and delve further into the sinister workings of Umbrella and the G-Virus, the more you’ll get invested in both Leon and Claire’s plight. With vastly improved visuals and voice acting, the game has never presented itself better.
Whilst these visuals don’t go for the photorealism that the remake of the first game did, they’re still mostly quite stunning to look at. Zombies are grotesque as you shoot holes in their mouths and see their decaying corpses, bosses look even more threatening than ever before; however, the real MVP is down to the excellent lighting and ambience added to the game, which makes every corner of the station feel a danger to be in.
Resident Evil 2 is certainly still a survival horror game at heart, but it’s nothing like the classics of yore; the foundations of the original have been ripped apart and completely rebuilt for the modern era. Gone are the stiff controls and static camera – replaced with a more action orientated behind-the-shoulder viewpoint, giving you full camera control and ease of aiming. Not longer does Leon feel like a rookie, as he can aim and move with like a pro. The fluidity of the controls reminded me of Resident Evil 6 in a way, except slightly more refined.
This fluidity, whilst welcome to newcomers, will also likely make fans of the franchise feel a little bit worried. Given that the sixth entry and the solidification of the series move into action is almost what killed the series, it’s only natural that such a comparison will also likely bring about a certain degree of PTSD for longtime fans. Thankfully, that worry soon fades as you start playing the brand new prologue and experience the game in action. There’s a foreboding sense of dread right from the offset, and the game barely wastes any time introducing you to your first undead creature. Its ferocity coupled with its resilience really underlines that you’ll be safer killing these things, but may not necessarily have the ammunition to do so. As you become quickly overwhelmed by more undead than you have bullets for, the game teaches you that sometimes running is the better option. This is an important lesson, and one you won’t forget. This game may feel like an action game, but the most important thing is surviving.
After a brief jog through the city whilst avoiding the crowds, you’ll soon arrive at the Raccoon City Police department. A place so iconic that it felt like returning home as I entered the main hall. It feels remarkably familiar, yet also completely different, and it’s tough to work out what was in the original and what is new. Everything in the remake just gels together so well that nothing feels out of place. That applies too to the rest of the game as you encounter revamped areas, altered bosses, and even a friend met slightly earlier than usual. It’s a different game, yet it all just feels right.
The puzzles are largely the same as the original, albeit with some tweaks as far as I can tell, but most hold up rather well. They’re scattered around quite sparingly and are largely solvable by common sense alone. There is one later in the game that has you managing liquid quantities (why is this puzzle in every survival horror game?) that had me rolling my eyes, but the rest all fit rather well into the game’s pacing. None of the puzzles are overly difficult either, as they’re not really there to test your intelligence – they’re there to test your inventory management.
As with most titles in the genre, juggling between weapons, ammo, health restoration, and the random junk needed for puzzles and doors are where things get interesting. There’s not enough space for everything, so it’s all about what you sacrifice in order to transport what you need. There are magical item boxes that can be used to store items and regain them in other locations, but that only helps to a certain degree. You will find inventory upgrades throughout your game that will help make things easier, but even with those it only feels like you have just enough space. It’s quite cleverly done and feels balanced enough never to feel like too much of a hassle.
Speaking of which, the game does a pretty good job at alleviating hassle despite the high level of difficulty (even on standard). Saves are unlimited in this game, allowing you to save at typewriters without the need for any ribbons, and the game will even offer checkpoints on the lower difficulties should you mess up and die. They’re nice quality of life additions that make a big difference to gamers that have softened over time. Harder difficulties get rid of all that, but you’ll be thankful for the leniency whilst playing the game on the cloud.
Which brings us to the big bugbear that will put many people off the game: the Switch version of Resident Evil 2 is only available via the cloud. Given that we have the latest RE engine working on Switch via the Monster Hunter games, it’s surprising that they didn’t even attempt to port the games over natively. This game in particular feels like it could have worked on the Switch with sacrifices either in the resolution or framerate department, but Capcom just didn’t want to go down that route.
Thankfully, I can say that the game was incredibly stable during my time with it. I didn’t experience queues, disconnections, or even any latency drops (which even Hitman World of Assassination suffers from time to time). Results may vary from person to person, of course, but at least Nintendo offers a refund for cloud games within the first couple of weeks, provided that you haven’t played it for longer than two hours.
But, despite how well it runs, it is still a cloud game. And not a cheap one at that. Whilst there are two characters to play through, which are different enough to justify playing both, and an assortment of bonus campaigns, it’s still a hard sell for something that you will inevitably lose one day. It’s still a fantastic game worth playing if you have no other platform to play it on, but it’s hard to recommend buying outside of a sale.
This new iteration of Resident Evil 2 feels like an entirely new game when compared with the original, allowing new and old fans alike to jump in and enjoy the experience. The game does run well on the cloud provided that you have a decent enough connection, but the fear of potential problems is far more terrifying than the undead horde will ever be.