Resident Evil 2 Remake preview

The Resident Evil franchise isn’t short on beloved entries (or maligned ones, to be fair) but Resident Evil 2 in particular has stuck in gamers’ consciousness as a series highlight.

That’s why it’s no real surprise that Capcom has finally decided to give it the remake treatment, rebuilding the game from the ground up in Resident Evil 7’s engine. At Gamescom 2018 we got the chance to go hands-on with the Resident Evil 2 remake, trying out a chunk of Claire Redfield’s campaign - here’s what we thought.

Resident Evil 2 remake: Price & release date

Resident Evil 2 is due out in early 2019, hitting stores on 25 January. It’ll release on PC, Xbox One, and PS4, and as you’d expect you can pre-order it right now from Amazon in the US or Game in the UK if you’re so inclined.

Resident Evil 2 remake preview

Just like the original game, the remake of Resident Evil 2 features separate campaigns for the game’s two protagonists, Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, and in the Gamescom demo we got the chance to play as Claire.

The section we saw comes from fairly early in the game, as she explores the Raccoon City police station and crosses paths with the young Sherry Birkin. Fans of the original may be surprised to discover that this plays out slightly differently to the first time around, with their first meeting interrupted by the appearance of a rather mutated individual that longtime players are sure to recognise.

All the parts here - Sherry, the mutated monster, the ensuing boss fight - are drawn from the original, but presented in a new order, confirming that this is a full remake, and one willing to tweak the story and remix events in a way that’s sure to prompt endless debate about what counts as canon now.

The bulk of our demo consisted of this boss fight, which was pretty classic Resi fare. Armed with a pistol, submachine gun, and grenade launcher we had to pump the boss full of rounds, aiming most of all for the obvious weak spot: an oversized eye lodged in the shoulder of his equally oversized arm.

He was a slow-moving sort, and so easy enough to dodge as we weaved around the labyrinthine underground walkway where the fight took place, but it only took one or two good hits from him to bring us down to critical health - this game isn’t interested in going easy on you.

Luckily health is simple to manage thanks to an inventory system that’s classic Resi with a couple of modern touches. Most importantly, you can craft with items as you collect them, so you don’t need two inventory slots to make a red + green herb - you just add the new herb to the existing one and they’ll automatically combine to create the powered up heal.

That’s nothing compared to the change to the controls. It’s 2018, which means no-one has time for tank controls any more. Instead this uses simpler third-person action controls, meaning you can aim and shoot whenever you want, with an accuracy bonus if you’re standing still.

It’s closest to the control scheme adopted in Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6, with a similar close over-the-shoulder camera angle too, rather than the old fixed angle shots. That makes it a lot less disorienting to quickly navigate the space, encouraging faster paced, more mobile gameplay - a particularly good fit for Resident Evil 2’s frantic fights against hordes of zombies.

The graphics are as lush as you’d expect from the REngine, used to such good effect in Resident Evil 7, and the facial animations are especially impressive in cutscenes - there’s a moment when Claire drops an F-bomb (another change from the not-so-sweary original) that manages to convey actual human emotions - almost a first for a Resi game.

SHOULD I BUY RESIDENT EVIL 2?

If Resident Evil 2 was going to impress, it had to deliver a lot more than a prettier version of the original. So far, it looks like it has, with faster and more dynamic gameplay, more emotive animations, and - most intriguingly - story changes that should make this a brand-new experience even for die hard fans.