Many years ago, Jay and I bought and played Resident Evil 5 as a co-op experience on the Xbox 360. As a couple, it is one of our earliest gaming memories, and for the most part I look back on it fondly. It was a no-brainer for him. He had followed most of the Resident Evil games since childhood and was eagerly anticipating the title. For me, it was a journey outside of my normal gaming wheelhouse of RPGs and the occasional adventure game; something much more common for me to do in the mid to late 2000s than it is today.
But you know, I really ended up enjoying that game. From a design and expectations perspective, I am aware that Resident Evil 5 was somewhat divisive for fans of the series, as it used a far more run and gun approach than what the Resident Evil series had been known for up to that point. So when Jay asked if I would be interested in joining him for a playthrough of Resident Evil 2, which had just been released as a fully updated remake from its original version, I was definitely interested in checking it out. Below, I will share our thoughts--his as a player and mine as an observer since this game was single player. Read on to find out if Resident Evil 2 is worth your time in the present, or if it should be relegated to the past.
Playing The Game:
Resident Evil 2 is one of the few RE games Jay had not played prior to us picking up a copy of the remake off Steam, so he and I actually started this one with a similar level of knowledge. For me, this meant getting a fresh story in a game world I was interested in. But for Jay, as the one playing, it meant not knowing all the details of where each puzzle element, key item, or terrifying creature would be.
Things started off fairly easy as we made our way through the game's first area, but by about four hours in the challenge ramped up when a particularly nasty creature started chasing us around and there were definitely a few times when Jay--who normally keeps it together and makes playing this kinda stuff look easy--was clearly getting annoyed. Once we figured out a few key rules about how some of the monsters worked, things went more smoothly. Overall, I think the most annoying part for him in our standard difficulty playthroughs came in the hallway where a large creature started constantly following us for large swaths of the game, and during an impromptu stealth mission where we played as a guest character.
As a game that is truly survival horror, as opposed to the more traditionally and modernly accepted 'race through and kill everything' kind of adventure, paying attention to how you are using your ammo, healing items, and defense items is key. There were a few times where we ran low and things did get tense. Fortunately--outside of Hardcore Mode where this is likely wanted and welcome--you don't need to worry about how often you save, which helped us make our way through some of the game's more challenging scenarios. But without proper planning and care, you can and will run out of resources.
Experiencing The Game:
Some games are fun to watch / experience, and some are simply sleep inducing. Resident Evil 2 Remake is in the first of those category. I found myself taking on the role of a secretary as we found clues and details that would allow us to gradually unlock various items, ammo, story pieces, etc. as the game went on.
There is a lot of terrific lighting work and sound design here, too. Although I will give the criticism that I often had trouble hearing the voices and they had a tendency to blend with everything else in a way that could be frustrating. It's clear that a lot of time and care went into updating everything so that it would be visually appealing to a modern audience, though, and between the excellent visuals and sound, which worked to produce periods of evocative mood and tension, I was never bored with the game, even at times when things would get tricky and we had to retry a few areas.
It also helps that the few characters we meet in this very densely placed and charactered game are generally interesting and likable. Leon and Claire both have enough little quirks to be distinct, but also both have personalities that made them fun to play as or watch. The main side characters, Aida, Sherry, and Annette were also interesting in their own ways.
The last thing I will say is that I like how the game included a new game plus mode that allowed us to continue as the alternate character once we did one playthrough. (We started as Leon and then played as Claire, if you're curious.) If you want to experience the complete story of Resident Evil 2 this is the way you do it, as there is extra story content that you get from playing as each, and there is an extra part at the end for you to see if you use the new game plus option that unlocks after beating the game once first.
Jay and I both really enjoyed our time with the Resident Evil 2 Remake. Despite its age, it presented a pair of gripping stories with some fun character moments and several solid scares--some of which got us to shriek or jump on more than one occasion. As the person playing, and a lover of achievements and challenges, Jay is still eager to invest more time on the weekly challenges, trying to increase his playthrough rank, beating the game on more difficulties, etc. Whereas for me, as a consumer of games' stories, it was like an interactive book or film and I really enjoyed the amount of connection and reaction that I had to both Leon and Claire's adventures as I helped Jay navigate the game. Highly recommended for fans of the original, or people looking to get into the series as a whole.