Resident Evil 2 might be a remake, but it’s also the first great blockbuster of 2019.
Capcom has reimagined every facet of its 1998 survival horror classic while borrowing the best bits of the more modern Resident Evil 7. The result is a fresh and terrifying experience that not only feels like a brand new game, but also stands out as one of the best entries yet in the storied franchise.
Return to Raccoon City
To call Resident Evil 2 a remake would be doing it a disservice, as the iconic, pixelated PlayStation game has been fully reconstructed as a stunning third-person survival shooter. Gone are the fixed camera angles and stiff tank controls of the original. You’ll be exploring every inch of the Raccoon City Police Department from an over-the-shoulder perspective, making every undead encounter feel that much more up-close and personal.
Like the original version of the game, Resident Evil 2 lets you play as either rookie cop Leon Kennedy or wandering college student Claire Redfield, both of whom wind up trapped in a zombie-infested Raccoon City in the wake of the T-virus outbreak. As you unravel the sinister plans of the Umbrella Corporation from each character's unique perspective, you’ll once again run into familiar faces like Ada Wong, Sherry Birkin and Chief Irons, all of whom are brought to life in striking cinematic cutscenes with fully rewritten and rerecorded dialogue.
Resident Evil 2 is oozing with eerie atmosphere. The game takes full advantage of Capcom’s gorgeous new RE Engine to make classic locations like Raccoon City’s police station and underground sewers feel hauntingly new.
Its lifelike character models add a layer of narrative immersion that just wasn’t possible in the original, and everything from raindrops to splats of blood are rendered in stunning, often unsettling detail. Even just walking through an empty hallway is terrifying, thanks to constant environmental creaks and cracks, and incredibly realistic lighting and shadow effects that made me dread turning every dimly lit corner.
I can’t commend Resident Evil 2’s sound design enough — the game alternates between eerie silence and a spine-chilling score at just the right times, building tons of suspense before big enemy encounters.
And then there are the zombies. Resident Evil 2 packs the most frightening undead the series has seen yet, from their disturbingly detailed faces and unnervingly guttural growls, to their tendency to not stay down even after a few headshots. And if you thought iconic RE2 baddies like the licker, the zombie dog and William Birkin were scary the first time around, just wait until you see their modern-day iterations.
Gameplay-wise, Resident Evil 2 feels like a modern take on Resident Evil 4’s third-person action that benefits from Resident Evil 7’s more streamlined mechanics. The game’s shooting feels tight, but demands skillful aim and careful use of ammo, and you’ll have to smartly manage your limited inventory slots as you amass keys, healing items and all manner of pistols, submachine guns and shotguns.
With limited resources and enemies that can do tons of damage with a single bite (at least on normal difficulty), Resident Evil 2 made me dread every enemy encounter and forced me to carefully plot my way around the police department. This was especially true during my run ins with Mr. X, a near-unstoppable boss character who stalks you for a good chunk of the game’s first half. I didn’t think any Resident Evil villain would scare me more than Resident Evil 7’s Jack Baker, but the pounding, relentless footsteps of Resident Evil 2’s tall, trenchcoated tyrant are already seared into my fondest (and most chilling) memories of the series.
But as much as I enjoyed outrunning all manner of undead, I had even more fun solving Resident Evil 2’s myriad of clever puzzles. Like the original iterations, Resident Evil 2 is an adventure game at heart, and I had a ton of satisfying “a-ha” moments every time I discovered a new item that allowed me to explore more of the Raccoon City Police Station and its surrounding areas. The game never holds your hand by telling you where to go next, but I appreciated the intuitive new map system that lets you know when you’ve wiped a room clean of potential items.
Despite being a remake of a classic, Resident Evil 2 feels like a true follow-up to 2017’s excellent Resident Evil 7. You get the same gorgeously haunting atmosphere, streamlined and satisfying gameplay, and heart-pounding sense of dread, all while getting to relive a fresh version of one of the most iconic survival-horror stories of all time. Resident Evil 2 isn’t just a stellar throwback — it’s one of the best entries in the series yet, and essential for old and new fans alike.