The resurgence of remaking and remastering old games has become big business for developers sitting on beloved IP, and while revamped versions of classics like Spyro and Crash Bandicoot have been a nice piece of nostalgic excellence, they don’t even come close to Capcom‘s incredible remake of Resident Evil 2.
The original Resident Evil 2 was one of the first PC games I ever played, and whilst it scared the fuck out of my younger self, I couldn’t get enough of it. The way horror was interwoven with interesting puzzles, tense resource management, and a compelling story, was totally groundbreaking to me, and still sticks out as one of the best survival horror titles I’ve ever played. Luckily, the remake is everything I wanted and more.
First thing’s first: Resident Evil 2 isn’t a scene-for-scene remake of the 1998 original. While the skeleton of the classic is certainly there, Capcom started the project completely from scratch, introducing new gameplay mechanics and stunning graphics to truly become what Resident Evil 2 would have been had it originally come out in 2019.
Rather than presenting the player with the same awkward camera angles it once did, Resident Evil 2 utilises the same over-the-shoulder view of later Resident Evil titles, save for Resident Evil 7 and its first-person perspective. Of course, this makes the new take feel like a brand new game in itself, but there’s so much more to it than that.
Graphically, Resident Evil 2 is nothing short of a fucking masterpiece. Zombies are shockingly scary and probably the best I’ve seen in a game thus far. Most impressive, however, are the lifelike facial expressions on human characters, both in in-game sequences and cutscenes. I honestly can’t stress this enough: the visuals are stunning, and that’s thanks to the RE engine, which was also used to create Resident Evil 7.
Resident Evil 2’s return has also brought classic horror survival back into the spotlight, where resources are so scarce, simply deciding whether to shoot at a threat or just avoid it becomes a common conundrum. Not only that, but inventory space is just as limited, making decisions on what to pick up and what to leave behind a constant factor in how you play. Some may hate this, but it adds to the tense atmosphere so well, I just don’t think it would be the same experience without the frustrations of having to either drop something to make space or run back to the closest storage chest and back again, which can certainly take some time depending on where you are.
But on the positive side of this note, the map marks the locations of items when they’ve been seen, so if you leave a green herb because it doesn’t fit in your inventory, if you’re running low on health later on, you can always head back and pick it up if you get desperate. The map also marks rooms that are currently being searched as red and rooms that have been cleared of all items as blue, so you’ll never be searching around like an idiot in places with nothing left in it.
The gunplay in Resident Evil 2 is satisfying and impactful, but also incredibly stressful. Unless you can blow a zombie’s head in half – which seems to only happen randomly – you’ll never know if it’s down for the count or whether it’ll get up to grief you again. Some zombies can be downed after 3 well-placed shots to the head, while others can cop up to eight shots and get up two or three times before staying put. Not knowing if an undead motherfucker is going to get up again makes for some pretty scary fights, especially in tight corridors and small rooms.
And then there’s The Tyrant, an enormous, hulking bastard who will stalk you all over the Racoon City Police Department and is essentially invincible. In other words, if he’s onto you, your only option is to run in the opposite direction until you lose him, which is probably the closest feeling you can get to a real-life life chase dream. While this huge asshole adds another challenge to the experience, his presence can become really fucking annoying, particularly when you’re trying to solve a puzzle or progress to a new area. Luckily, he tends to piss off for a while, so I would say he only just overstays his welcome in some areas.
Resident Evil 2’s sound design is also amazing, whether it’s the disgusting squelch of a zombie’s dome being blown apart, or the muffled footsteps of The Tyrant as he lurches his big grey ass around the building looking for you. Music is either very subtle or not there at all, which makes jump scares all the more unsettling and the dim hallways of its grim setting feel like nothing short of nightmare fuel.
Speaking of jump scares, while some certainly pop up when they’re meant to, others feel totally organic in nature. For example, I walked into a room at one point and was attacked by a zombie I failed to see to my left just beyond the doorway. I know he wasn’t put there on purpose, because I’d been in that room previously, but old mate clearly wasn’t dead and picked the perfect place to scare the piss out of me as revenge.
My biggest criticism of Resident Evil 2 is that Claire and Leon‘s playthroughs cover large sections of the same areas. Once you finish the first run, which took me about 8 hours, you’ll unlock the other character’s perspective, which mixes up similar puzzles and adds fun new weapons but covers a lot of the same ground. So many of the places I had explored and completed as Leon, I had to play again as Claire with only slight differences. There are some new areas thrown in, along with a new story element, but for the most part, it feels quite similar.
That being said, Capcom has done a stellar job remaking this classic in a way that genuinely makes it feel like a game which belongs in 2019, rather than an outdated title with a fresh coat of paint. The voice acting is spot on, it’s visually outstanding, terrifyingly intense, and everything a Resident Evil game used to be and should continue to be.
It’s great to see the series return to form after both this and Resident Evil 7 and I honestly can’t wait to see where Capcom takes it next. You can get the fresh remake right now on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.