I’ve personally never been that involved with the Resident Evil franchise. I’ve played “Resident Evil 7” and a little bit of the original “Resident Evil 2,” but that’s about it. However, I’m pretty familiar with the general plotline and the importance of the games. As a developer myself, I like to look into games that changed the industry for the better, and 1998’s “Resident Evil 2” was just that. It was a survival horror masterpiece that scared the life out of most people who played it. Now, more than 20 years later, Capcom has decided to release a brand new updated reboot of the game, and it’s amazing!
Seriously, “Resident Evil 2” is a master class in game design, placing you as a rat in a maze where you have to use one clue after another to just barely inch forward and survive a hellish, claustrophobic nightmare. It’s frightening in the all the right ways and proof that some old yet great formulas just don’t have to be tampered with. You play as either Leon Kennedy or Claire Redfield and find yourself in Racoon City, where a sudden outbreak has caused pretty much everyone to turn into flesh eating zombies.
The thing about horror games as opposed to movies is you’re in control as the “victim.” In a horror movie, you could yell at the screen all you want because you know the killer/monster/demon/whatever is coming. You know if you were in that same situation, you would run away. Horror games are interesting because any horror within the game is pretty much caused by you. You yourself walk into the traps that cause your demise, and it makes it all the scarier.
“Resident Evil 2” is full of terrifying imagery, jump scares, and all the other staples horror fans love, but the game heightens everything to an 11. As you progress through the labarynthian station of the Racoon Police Department, you realize that you don’t have time to stop and slowly walk your way around the building because there’s danger at every turn. You don’t have a choice but to face your fears head on and make it out alive. Moreover, you have limited resources since you can only carry 8 inventory slots to start with. You can get more slots by finding hip pouches, but you have to pass a lot zombies unscathed and solve some puzzles to earn each extra two inventory slots. It doesn’t help that you’re always low on ammo, which isn’t great since zombies usually take five or six headshots to take down (assuming you don’t miss). I feel like this is realistically what this scenario would feel like. You’re constantly on edge, just one hit away from death, but one puzzle away from safety. You have to zigzag your way from room to room, returning to rooms you’ve passed only to find things you missed. By the end of the experience, you truly feel like you know this building like the back of your head, which makes scary surprises more alarming.
The campaign is awesome because there’s technically four different scenarios. You can choose to start with Leon or Claire, and when you’re finished with the campaign, you can play as the other character and see what they were doing. So there’s a Leon A/B and a Claire B/A (four campaigns total). I did Claire A and Leon B, which I’m pretty sure is the canonical version. Each campaign roughly takes seven or eight hours, but your first playthrough will probably take ten. It took a little while for me to get my bearings, but I found myself learning at a breakneck pace simply because the game forced me to.
I really like it when horror games really lean into the idea of isolation. I think when the main character is backed into a corner, a lot of entertainment takes the easy “Deus ex Machina” route where some convenient thing happens to save the person in time. Maybe another character rushes in to save the day or a statue falls on the villain, but I think these moments are made to relieve the user of tension and give them a moment to relax. “Resident Evil 2” doesn’t do that, instead relying on a constant build of tension as more and more threats close in on you, and all you have is a map of the building, a couple bullets that would be good for maybe three zombies total, and probably an herb that can heal you once. From there you’ll have to forget about someone else coming to save your skin because it’s not happening. This game reminds you that only you can solve your problems, and that adds an element of being panicked and focused simultaneously.
The zombies themselves are well made, and they actually imposing and deadly as opposed to an enemy you can quickly deal with. I like how there aren’t really hordes of zombies everywhere because it makes the few that are there more powerful and frightening. At a certain point in the game, you’ll come across Tyrant or Mr. X, who is just the worst and you’ll see what I mean when you play it. From that point on, you’re on the run. The game expects you to be ready for any kind of danger, but still somehow surprises you around every turn. There’s always a new puzzle mixed into a batch of zombies and the echoing footsteps of Mr. X, whose simple appearance only shallowly masks his horrifying brutality.
The score adds an unsettling atmosphere to the game, but if you get the DLC pack, you can swap the remake soundtrack with the original 1998 one. If you do that, be warned because it’s somehow even more terrifying and unsettling. The graphics are also top notch, and improve upon the game’s predecessor, “Resident Evil 7,” in every way. Zombies look lived in as opposed to mindless evil drones. The game has a great feature in the options section that allows you to view all the models and animations, allowing you to appreciate even more all the clear love and effort that went into this. I love how this game is adding new updates and free DLC to keep players playing, and I wish more developers followed in Capcom’s footsteps.
Simply put, “Resident Evil 2” is everything I could possibly want from a horror game. I’ve read that the game kept some people wanting more, but I think this story works perfectly as it is. Any more plot development and the game could get lost in it’s own lore. It somehow tops the original. Even without the free DLC, I’m perfectly happy with what we have now. After all the scares and puzzle solving, I can’t wait to jump back in! The only reason I’m not giving this a perfect 10/10 is that it’s technically a remake that doesn’t really innovate in terms of Resident Evil storytelling. A 10/10 for me is something unique that truly impacts me on every level. However, “Resident Evil 2” gets the next best thing.
So that’s my review of Capcom’s 2019 remake of “Resident Evil 2,” which is out now on all PC, Xbox One, and PS4. What do you think of the game? What is your favorite Resident Evil game? Feel free to let me know in the comments section! Thanks 🙂