PAX Aus 2018: A horror classic is resurrected with Resident Evil 2

Feature article

The attendant at the Resident Evil 2 experience opens the door for Elliot and I and turns to us.

“You’ll want this.”

He hands me a torch and waits for Elliot and I to sheepishly step forward before he closes the door leaving us in darkness. The torch is small and illuminates just a little space ahead of us and even though it is in the heart of PAX Aus 2018, the booth does a good job of muffling the noises from outside. As we make our way along the corridor we can tell what is coming. As we round the first corner I slip the torch in to Elliot’s hand and make sure he is leading ahead of me, because I’ve seen this scene in every horror movie and I am willing to sacrifice Elliot to the actor who eventually jumps from the window at the end of the hallway. With our spook confirmed we’re welcomed into a room lined with PlayStation 4s for us to take our very cool spook to the digital world of Raccoon City.

If you’re unfamiliar with Resident Evil, it started life in the 90’s and quickly became a classic in what I would call it’s own genre of Zombie Opera. All the spooks and scares of the zombie genre but melodramatic as all hell.

With 7 main games currently available, the feel and style of the series has changed drastically over time. Switching from fixed cameras to over the shoulder 3rd person and finally most recently a first person game. With each turn of the camera there was also a fairly big tonal shift. From suspense, to action movie, to a survival horror. Resident Evil 2 is considered one of the pinnacles of the early generations for many reasons.

I remember the original Resident Evil 2 on the classic PlayStation. It terrified me as a child and was my introduction to the modern zombie genre, I was like 10. Fast forward 20 years and Leon and Claire are returning to Raccoon City, and thankfully when you build a game from the ground up again, it will obviously age well.

The demo we were invited to enjoy appeared to be timed and dropped you into the opening moments of Leon’s story as he arrives at the Raccoon City Police Department. Immediately the differences between the original and the remake became apparent. Gone are the fixed camera angles and instead the camera moves to a third person perspective. This makes it all the better to investigate the new, gorgeous, albeit spooky, Police Department built on the bones of of the defunct art gallery.

“With the gameplay of Resident Evil 4 – 6 and the atmosphere of entries 1 – 3, the game has adopted the best elements of both worlds.”

The spooky setting is really what sells this game. With the move to third person in Resident Evil 4 saw the franchise flirt with suspense but lose a lot of the horror elements. The first thing you realise as you steer Leon, torch in hand, down a dank and dimly lit hallway in Resident Evil 2, is the perfect blend of past games.

With the gameplay of Resident Evil 4 – 6 and the atmosphere of entries 1 – 3, the game has adopted the best elements of both worlds. The tight camera on the character means that the slower pacing is married with a claustrophobic feel, which in turn means that the shuffling dead suddenly pose a greater threat. Although that might be because they are genuinely more threatening.

The first zombie that descends upon you will slowly shuffle towards you. You’ve got this, you’ve found a firearm and it’s a really slow zombie. BANG! Headshot, you’re great at this and there will be nothing that can stop you. Then you try to step over the recently downed enemy and it’s on you before you get a chance to think, your bravado is gone and suddenly you’ve emptied a clip into thin air. So you rush from the room and you’re greeted with a hallway of enemies and suddenly all the training from when I was 10 and terrified comes rushing back to me – shoot if they’re close, otherwise leg it to safety.

The updated camera and HD makeover are not the only new aspects to the game. If you played the classic Resident Evil games you most definitely won’t forget the “memorable” voice acting. Well with a whole new script has brought a whole new voice acting team matched with fantastic facial animation. The tone seems to have shifted from schlocky and spooky B-movie to a fully fledged scary horror game.

While Resident Evil 2 won’t be for everyone, the updated feel to the game makes it feel like something completely new. This won’t just be a remake for fans. While it will appease people returning to Raccoon City, it will most definitely also welcome some new residents. My timed demo ended just as things were getting heated as I dove further into the defiled hallways of the Police Department. I can’t wait to see the other horrors I know are lurking nearby. Also I just can’t wait to play Claire—and we can’t forget Hunk and Tofu!