Resident Evil 2 Is a Brilliant and Terrifying Reinvention

Even moreso than the first Resident Evil remake, Capcom’s upcoming reimagining of Resident Evil 2 feels like a truly new game. Thanks to a new over-the-shoulder perspective and the power of the Resident Evil 7 engine, Capcom’s survival horror classic has never looked so beautiful — or been so terrifying.

I got my hands on Resident Evil 2 at E3 2018, where Capcom set the scene by having me walk through a recreation of the Raccoon City police department, complete with real-life zombie actors that leaped out to scare me at every possible turn. After squealing like a child a few times, my adrenaline was pumping, and I was ready to play.

My demo took place in a recreated version of one of Resident Evil 2’s early moments, in which rookie cop Leon Kennedy must escape a zombie-infested police department. Right off the bat, I was struck by just how great the game looked and controlled – and just how distinct it felt from the original.

As a huge fan of Resident Evil 7, I was extremely happy to find that RE2 has a nearly identical interface and control scheme as Capcom’s most recent horror adventure. That’s right — you’ll no longer be struggling with the wonky tank controls of the original. The game combines the over the shoulder perspective of Resident Evil 4 with the more intuitive controls of 7, which goes a long way towards making this take on RE2 feel brand new.

That said, zombie encounters are still as tense as ever – you’ll have to conserve ammo and aim your shots carefully, and most undead I ran into took multiple headshots to fully take down. There were multiple instances in which zombies that I thought were dead grabbed my leg and started biting me, resulting in frantic scrambles in which I had to mash the knife button to stay alive.

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Resident Evil 2 also benefits from the horrifying new visuals and sounds made possible by the modern RE Engine. This is quite possibly the best Resident Evil has ever looked; I could see every strand of Leon’s hair and every bit of facial stubble on the face of an ill-fated cop, and the game’s dilapidated police station hallways were eerily and brilliantly lit in a way that never let me feel at ease.

This also means that Resident Evil 2 has, without a doubt, the scariest zombies to ever grace the franchise. Since Resident Evil 7 lacked traditional undead enemies, seeing the gruesomely detailed faces of every bloodthirsty walker in RE2 was truly startling in a way that was never possible in older iterations of the game.

Speaking of being startled, the masterful sound design from Resident Evil 7 returns. I constantly heard creaks, crashes and distant undead growls, making even the quietest moments of my demo completely unsettling.

New gameplay and graphics aside, the events of my short time with Resident Evil 2 played out much like they do in the original game. After encountering a bitten police officer, I had to solve a strangely obscure medallion puzzle (Resident Evil has a knack for those) in order to open up a hidden exit and escape the police station. This led to the usual Resident Evil rhythm of looking for keys, clues and special items while carefully exploring spooky hallways riddled with flesh-eating undead. The final game will once again have separate campaigns for Leon and Claire Redfield, just like the original.

When the Resident Evil 2 remake was first teased, I had no idea what to expect. Would it be a glossy version of the same core game like the Resident Evil 1 remake, or a first-person VR game like Resident Evil 7? I’m delighted to know that the answer is neither.

By reimagining Resident Evil 2 from a brand new perspective with a brand new engine, Capcom is delivering what could be the definitive version of one of the best horror games ever made. I can’t wait to scare myself silly all over again when the final product hits PS4, Xbox One and PC on Jan. 25, 2019.

Credit: Capcom

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.