The first go at Resident Evil 2 was a benchmark of the new-and-punchy survival-horror genre. The Resident Evil 2 remake is, against even the own will of Capcom for years, a modern benchmark for how to horror in general. Capcom, you scamps, you f*cking did it.
The delayed-reaction success of the first game’s REmake finally took the lid off of Capcom’s will with a remake of the second one. Fans in a lot of corners had been shouting for it but now the mainstream was ready to email their senators too. Capcom could no longer ignore the world banging down its doors like snarling hordes.
Those hordes have never looked, sounded, or scared better than in this Resident Evil 2 remake. Racoon City’s new zombies alone are a near-immortal, constantly pursuant force that are happy to tear down the old walls you used to rely upon. Their snarls pierce through doors and their momentum can lean their gnashing teeth through headshots. You truly have only a handful of havens in the entire game, and those doors can still be crashed in from time to time.
What makes this so inceptive a concept is the landmarks erected before the Resident Evil 2 remake. Capcom remade the first Resident Evil with the map of the Spencer Mansion still set with the subversion coming with the content. Jump scares changed, the environment felt more appropriate, and enemies had more threats to offer.
This remake feels like the team treated the original like Tetris, then changed how that entire game plays. Only the most basic conceits and tropes remain, most of them dealing with the characters actually…being characters. Because so much has moved and rotated and updated, having past Resident Evil 2 experience serves as only the slightest of advantages that you’ll have spooked out of you in no time.
Back to those zombies, the days of pure, clean baiting and sprinting are over. These creatures have an energy that lunges them forward several feet before their animations pause, and two taking you at once will have double the consequences. The detail you’ll experience with them makes the Saw movies look like edgy Teletubby episodes. Every bullet might peel back a layer of flesh, showcasing the bone beneath or widening their macabre grin by tearing away their lips. I’ll stand by these as possibly the best zombies video games has ever seen, and if Resident Evil 2 remake were all zombies and nothing else, I could still see myself loving every second.
But, you know, the Umbrella corporation do love their experiments and other walks of insanity do come a clawin’. By a fedora and a half, the most terrifying and testing aspect of Resident Evil 2 remake is Mr. X. Brought up from the back burner, this stylish tyrant now plays an integral part in any of the four possible stories and will echo across your playthrough. Literally. His grand entrance feels appropriate as he speed-walks towards you without a single word on his lips. His massive fists will pummel you into a wall or simply crush your head, depending upon the situation.
He’s intensified over previous incarnations because of the use of dead air and his size. You’ll likely never be more terrified to see an incredibly-sized man duck beneath a door frame, or to hear boot steps from above or below searching for you.
There is one moment in the Resident Evil 2 remake that typifies the power of Mr. X’s force. Those that played the demo will know that there’s a weapon locker room that is filled with goodies, reinforcing a “safe” atmosphere. I ran into this room before to dodge some other monsters and they couldn’t enter, so naturally, I did the same to avoid an approaching Mr. X. There is a grate set high in the door so you can peer out into the hallway, and as I aimed my gun in a show of faux-strength towards that grate, I saw him stride by. The floors rattled as he let me believe that he’d moved by – suddenly, silence. One stride brought his shadow back and he was coming through the door.
His balance is utterly marvelous to ponder. He’s never so overbearing that there is absolutely no escape. On the surface, he’s just a strong dude with a snappy coat, but the psychological magic trick that transforms him into the walking pale strider fires on every conceivable cylinder here. There was even a moment when he was semi-frozen in a standing animation, and even in a completely helpless pose, I was a bundle of nerves as I slunk away.
Other monsters such as Lickers and the flower children raise their games considerably as well. Lickers now have more deadly attacks but added weakness of sightlessness. Flower children are, in essence, a lot like Regenerators from RE4 with some extra quirks that slide right into a thematic, tense section near the end. Even old punctuation marks are refreshed with new purpose to where there is that immediate jolt of “OMGWTF!?”.
Every living character experiences that same type of jolt to where you actually feel things for these people. I mean, until another one comes to mind, Resident Evil 2 remake is probably the best RE story to date. The characters all feel grounded with independant trains of thought and turns that play off of their old stereotypical 90s ancestors. Claire and Leon still have plenty of cheese to throw onto your burgers, but the point is that they are reactive to what’s happening at all.
The side characters are granted the best and brightest arcs to a surprisingly emotional note. Resident Evil 2 remake explores a lot more human ground that seems to focus most on moving on from disaster itself. So to see a throw away character from the first game suddenly have emotionally charged moments on Leon’s journey stops you in your tracks for a moment. I absorbed both sides fully because I was so invested in how horrible their situations felt as opposed to just things happening to avatars.
Leon and Claire both have movements and gunplay capabilities unlike any of their counterparts. Doors are now seamlessly opened while bullets can fly while you slide backwards into safety. Even if you are tackled by most obstacles, you have your defensive items to throw about such as your knife and grenades. This gives life to your sub-weapons while slightly countering the increased lethality of this familiar world. I do wish that there was a dodge ability as a lack of a last-chance style mechanic feels merciless early. You’ll likely leave the police station limping and low on resources the first time, which I can imagine putting off plenty of first-timers.
The environment of Resident Evil 2 remake is wonderfully haunting between its closeness and cathedral-style tombs. Because everything is a tomb, because everything is dead or dying. Seeing a spark of life in the hallways or on the walls is almost never good for your health. The mixture of nostalgia with fresh ideas in this execution is awe-inspiring, making Capcom feel masterful in their pacing. The one area where this falters slightly is in the sewer where you have to face a brutal gauntlet that can f*ck your life. It’s clear that the team wanted to give you a tool to fight against this just before, but it doesn’t quite land and feels like a half-measure.
Playing the Resident Evil 2 remake through again will lead you into the 2nd Run, giving you the “true ending”. Everything is remixed much as the original RE2 through that echoed session but some of the communication is missing. There are no double-playthrough doors that require communication, sadly, but having a couple of carrots at the end of that stick makes it worth the wait. You’ll even get to tackle Hunk and Tofu in their respective modes for a decent buffet of a zombified meal.
After these passing decades, the Resident Evil 2 remake had a lot to live up to even if it was vaporware for the majority of that time. Fans still had time to imagine something larger and scarier within the same structure, whether Capcom wanted them to or not. Imagine now a world where your most tangible Resident Evil 2 dreams came to life and spun a horrifying tale regarding a night from hell inside of a doomed city. I’d bet a fair amount of money that this Resident Evil 2 remake fits that dream to an almost grotesquely accurate T.
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