The Resident Evil 2 HD remake captures a lot of the magic of the original, from the typewriter save points to Leon’s dreamy boy-band hairstyle. But there are three design changes that ultimately make it a much different game.
First of all, the fixed camera angles are gone. Like most early horror games, Resident Evil 2 framed its shots with cinematic flair. When the player reached a certain point, the perspective changed, showing them something new and usually horrible.
The fixed cameras defined the style of horror for these games, because a scene could be perfectly staged. Essentially these were just jump scares, but they could happen any time the camera POV changed, which was often. Tension came from needing to master your fear to keep exploring, and that was a near-constant pressure.
The original game also used tank controls, which based the directional movement on the character’s POV, rather than the player’s. In modern third-person games, the player sees over the character’s shoulder, so forward is always forward. With tank controls, forward is whatever direction the character is facing. So using the joystick doesn’t move the camera — it only moves the character.
The combination of the fixed angles and tank controls meant maneuvering wasn’t just difficult, it was an essential gameplay skill. The remake doesn’t use either to stage scares. The player has control of the camera and can usually see what’s coming.
The trade off is: there’s no default auto-aim. The original games featured auto-aim in the normal difficulty because, well, it basically had to. Just moving was hard enough; aiming would have been a mechanical nightmare. So combat became this cat-and-mouse game of figuring out when to stand your ground, and when to break and run.
In the new Resident Evil 2, normal mode is all manual shooting by default. There’s still an auto-aim option, but turning it on takes away much of the challenge. While the original game focused on exploration and fight-or-flight strategy, this version is about aiming well without panicking and wasting ammo. Basically, it’s a shooter.
As a result, the tension isn’t quite as persistent as it was in the original — it’s more bold spikes of adrenaline and panic. That, more than anything, makes it feel like its own, separate entry in the Resident Evil franchise.
Check out the video above for more information about what the new Resident Evil 2 brings to the storied survival horror franchise.