How 'Resident Evil 2' Team Tweaked the Original

Producer Tsuyoshi Kanda details the challenges of remaking the classic while paying "upmost respect" to the 1998 game.
Courtesy of Capcom

Capcom's remake of Resident Evil 2 has finally arrived and its goal is simple: to scare the crap out of fans, both new and old.

Originally released in 1998, the survival horror game has long since been considered a classic, pitting players against hordes of zombies, abominably hellish creatures and a very creepy police station. With more than 4.9 million units sold for the PlayStation console, the game is one of the biggest hits of its generation and holds the record for the most copies sold on a single console for the Resident Evil franchise. 

Given the massive popularity of the title, it's no surprise that fans were clamoring for a remake on the current console generation, and in 2015, Capcom announced it would deliver on audience requests. 

Completely rebuilt, the Resident Evil 2 remake sports updated graphics, a new camera system, multiple game modes, new surprises and, of course, lots and lots of scares.

The game's producer, Tsuyoshi Kanda (who also worked on 2017's Resident Evil 7: Biohazard) caught up with Heat Vision to give insight on the challenges of remaking a classic, its lasting legacy, future plans for remaking titles and how his team captured the "excitement" of the original.

Why did you decide to remake Resident Evil 2, specifically?

It’s been a title that fans have wanted to see remade for quite some time, and it’s actually been something of interest amongst the development team as well. It really felt like it was more of a matter of “when” more than anything else. With the experience of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and our own in-house proprietary RE Engine, we felt like we finally had the knowledge and technology needed to truly manifest a modern form of Resident Evil 2.

Why does RE2 continue to be one of the most popular games in the franchise?

I think a lot of it stems from innovating upon what worked in the first Resident Evil and bringing in elements of choice and consequence to the player. Not only did it introduce two additional memorable characters to the franchise, it gave the player the decision to choose which character to play as. On top of that, some of the actions you took in one scenario would impact the other scenario, really increasing the level of replayability it had to offer. I think elements like that really help to draw the player into the narrative and environment and make it continue to be one of the fan favorites of the franchise.

When the game was first released, it was revolutionary. Did you try to innovate with this remake as well, or was it more important to just make a faithful adaptation of the classic?

The one thing the entire development team was unified on was making sure that we paid the utmost respect to the original game. That, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that we didn’t have the means to innovate. With a remake of a classic, it’s difficult because nostalgia starts to kick in and everyone has different expectations of what the game should be. It’s about sifting through what works for modern hardware without deviating from the original vision. For example, we made a drastic change shifting from the fixed camera and “tank” controls to the over-the-shoulder camera. We originally thought about sticking with the fixed camera, but inevitably found that it may not jive with a lot of new consumers and we ultimately found that the over-the-shoulder camera was something a lot more familiar and intuitive for most players. It was a lot of trial and error figuring out specs like this one and figuring out what to keep, and what to innovate and change upon.

How intensive is the process of remaking a game? This isn’t just a remaster, it seems to be an almost entirely new project.

You’re absolutely right. We built this game from the ground up using our own in-house engine — the RE Engine. As such, we like to call this more of a “reimagining” than a remake. Unlike a brand new title, we have the original to look to for extensive source material, but each and every component was something that we evaluated to see if it made sense to include in this title. The character costumes are a great example of this. Yes, they are iconic, but we had to make a decision whether it made sense to keep them the same or not. In the end, we were going for a photorealistic approach to everything and we made some modifications that made sense to the narrative and world.

What are the biggest differences between this new version of RE2 and the original?

I already touched upon it earlier, but the first thing veterans will notice is the difference in the camera angle. I believe most players are now familiar with controlling the characters using an over-the-shoulder camera. There is the obvious graphical change where everything is photorealistic, but has a “wet” and “dark” thematic touch to it. We visually went that route to really touch upon the fact that Raccoon City has been ravaged by disease. Pathogens tend to inhabit wet and moist areas, so we wanted to really hone in on the feeling of an invisible threat looming constantly over you. There are obviously many more changes that players will notice and the team is really excited to see how players will react to all the intricate details and adjustments.

RE2 is also one of the titles on the PlayStation Classic console. Do you recommend playing the original and the remake in close proximity to one another?

I think it’s a great opportunity to really see the origins of the Resident Evil franchise. It is a title from 20 years ago, so I do warn players that it may take some getting used to the graphics and controls. However, it’s definitely one of the classics of its time and now is a great opportunity to get a hold of it and try it before playing the modern iteration of it.

Any plans on remaking other RE titles?

All of our efforts and focus are on Resident Evil 2 at the moment.

Why are remakes so popular right now?

I think remakes have the benefit that the original classic already has the reputation of being considered “fresh and fun.” Fans want to experience the excitement they felt playing the original on modern hardware. There’s also the entertainment of seeing those classic moments now reimagined with brand new visuals and graphics. This presents the new set of challenges of matching and hopefully surpassing the expectation of fans’ nostalgia, but I think that really adds to the excitement and speculation leading to the creation of a remake.