There’s an art to remaking a classic. The trick is to stay true to the original, without simply rehashing the same thing; to update with new ideas, without straying too far from what made it great in the first place. This is an art that developer Capcom proved it had back in 2002 when it remade the original Resident Evil and it’s proved it once again with Resident Evil 2.
This new REmake is a near perfect reimagining of the 1998 original. It’s scarier, it’s more difficult, and it rivals the best games in the series, including RE4. It’s that good.
Resident Evil 2 looks incredible. The RE Engine introduced in RE7 is put to much greater use this time. The police station is beautifully recreated from the ground up, and is absolutely grand in scale. Environments are familiar, but updated to be more modern, and usually covered in more blood. Some later areas are almost completely unrecognizable like the sewers and the lab. The lighting creates claustrophobia when you can only see a few feet in front of you, characters look and act real, and the terrifying monsters are on full display, with every gory detail.
Resident Evil 2 opts out of the fixed camera of the past, or newer first-person perspective implemented in Resident Evil 7, but instead uses the over the shoulder angle founded by the indomitable Resident Evil 4. You can see exactly what you’re doing, what you’re shooting at, what’s in front of you, and there’s plenty of scary things in front of you.
And it is scary. I got visibly spooked multiple times throughout my playthrough, but thankfully nobody was around to see. That’s saying a lot too, because I thought I’ve seen it all with this franchise, especially since this is a remake, but Capcom clearly still has some tricks up its sleeves.
Like the first REmake, Resident Evil 2 plays with your expectations. Certain events play out differently than you remember, whether it’s a different place, or a different time. Remember that Licker in the window? It’s not there anymore, at least not that window. Remember that encounter with the giant alligator? Well, it plays out a little differently this time.
Just about every enemy behaves completely different from the original, and they all come with their own sets of rules. Zombies are tough and will almost always keep getting up unless their head is completely smushed, but that’s hard to do, so best to stun them and keep running. Zombie dogs chase you faster than you can run, but moving in a serpentine pattern seems to work. Lickers are almost indestructible, but also blind. Stay quiet and don’t be an idiot like me and try to fight them.
The biggest change, however, is the Tyrant, and all of those other rules are thrown out of the window when he appears. This large, blueish man follows you almost everywhere, rather than only appearing in triggered events, and seeing him is about as startling as seeing a real man in a fedora and trench coat chasing you. His presence is announced by booming footsteps and music. When you hear that, it means drop whatever you are doing and run because this guy will literally push over any zombie or monster to get to you and turn you into a Leon or Claire sandwich. It’s a constant danger that makes you feel unsafe for nearly the whole game.
RE2 constantly forces tough decisions on you. “Do I use this flash grenade to stun this group of zombies, or save it for later in case I get grabbed?” “Should I take the hallway full of Zombies, or go around and risk alerting the Lickers?” “What if the Tyrant shows up? I better not take the narrow hallways because I won’t be able to run past him.”
Though it’s best to run from most enemies, there are several bosses you have to take down and, more often than not, I ended those fights with my last bullet, or my last healing item. All of these fights are epic, but take place in tight, intimate arenas, ensuring that there’s nowhere to run.
All of this adds to the main purpose of the game and the purpose that started the franchise: to scare the hell out of you by making you struggle to survive. Items and resources aren’t just limited, it feels like they’re actively avoiding you. It doesn’t help that the enemies are so dangerous that you are forced down to your last bullet and your last herb constantly. It may sound like I’m complaining, but this is a good thing. A beautiful thing. This is the kind of dread in horror games that crazy people, like me, crave; the kind that put Resident Evil on the map in the first place, and brought it back in recent history.
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 is a survival horror masterpiece, and sets an unbelievably high standard for video game remakes. The unrivaled realism, terror, and difficulty creates a tremendous, immersive experience that, honestly, makes other horror games look bad. I can see this game living on forever in speedruns, let’s plays, and even discussions for the greatest horror games ever made.