The recently released Resident Evil 2 remake faithfully recreates key aspects of the 1998 original. You still mix up herbs to treat injury, cure poison and apply damage reduction. You still save your game using typewriter ribbons and Leon Kennedy has the luscious hair of a boy idol. All in all, this remade Rezzie does its best to stay true to the original while remaining palatable to modern gamers.
However, for all that the remake gets right, there are a few compromises that have flown under the radar of most critics. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a darn good remake, but these compromises give up some of the tension in the original. And in that sense, the Resident Evil 2 remake feels like it’s own take on the same material, like a cover song that’s a distinct but authentic tribute to a rock and roll classic.
The first thing series veterans will notice is the absence of fixed camera angles. That’s an interesting choice that’s more in line with modern third person action games, but Resi (and its imitators and inheritors) were infamous for off kilter cinematic framing. When the perspective changed, players were taught to anticipate the possibility of something awful and horrible happening.
Effectively speaking, fixed camera angles let Resi’s designers stage their jump scares perfectly and train players to expect to be spooked at any time. Resi’s tension came from the urge to keep exploring while mastering your fear to press on. Now the camera can be rotated to watch for threats and defaults over the shoulder to maintain clear sight.
The second thing worth noticing is the remake doesn’t use the original’s tank controls, which orient movement around the character’s perspective rather than the player’s. It used to be that forward was whatever direction Leon and Claire were facing. This in combination with the fixed camera angles meant that maneuvering wasn’t just difficult, it was an essential skill.
These two changes mean players have total control of the camera, an objective sense of character positioning and the ability to see what’s coming for them. This is where the third change comes in: the lack of auto-aim. The original Resi games featured auto-aim – just hold out your gun and press fire – out of sheer necessity. Moving was hard enough without accounting for your pistol’s firing arc.
But in the remake, manual firing is on by default. There’s a toggle in the options menu that can be flipped for auto-aim but that just takes away much of the remake’s challenge. When you have precise control over your character and the camera, aiming becomes a more relevant gameplay challenge to design.
With unpredictable camera angles, cumbersome movement controls and forgiving gun controls, the original Resi 2 played out to much greater tension. Your decisions were centered around when to expect the worst, when to stand your ground, when to break and run and knowing where the safest retreat can be made.
So while this remake of Resident Evil 2 honors almost everything that made the original such a great sequel — and originated many ideas that would take root in the series’ identity — a few small changes alter it in a deeply fundamental way. Gone is the ever-present sense of dread and tension, with sharp spikes of shock and panic taking their place. This ain’t yo pappy’s Resident Evil 2.