Also available on Xbox One and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 11/07/2019 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Resident Evil has always been one of my favorite horror series, and Resident Evil 2 was, for a long time, my favorite game in the series. While my “Top X Resident Evil games” list has changed over the years, Resident Evil 2 – preferably played on my Sega Dreamcast – has remained near and dear to my zombie loving heart. When I heard that Capcom was releasing a remake, I was ecstatic. Granted, I didn’t buy it right at launch because North Carolina refuses to pay its teachers well, and I didn’t play it immediately when I did get it because I wanted to wait to make it my Halloween 2019 game, but when I finally did start it, I immediately got sucked back into the zombie-infested Raccoon City police station and was met with a horror that the original game’s 240p visuals just couldn’t convey as well as the remake’s 2160p visuals can.
The overall layout of the police station and underground hallways are remarkable in how closely they match up to the original game. The puzzles themselves are largely identical, too, giving the game the feeling that it’s as much an extremely impressive remaster as it is a full remake, and when I say that, I mean it as a HUGE accolade. One of my frequent pet peeves with remakes is changing things in the world, and Capcom kept faithful to the original game here. It’s definitely not 100% identical, but it strikes a perfect balance of making quality of life improvements with keeping faithful to the world and design of the original game. In that respect, this is as perfect a remake as the Switch’s Link’s Awakening.
As with all great horror games, the atmosphere is a bigger part of the “scary” factor in Resident Evil 2 than the actual events of the game, and this remake nails that atmosphere perfectly. The lighting effects, the sound effects, and the timing of enemy appearances and jump scares are all perfectly done to maximize that unsettling feeling without desensitizing players the way that a lot of recent horror games do. The enemy designs, benefiting from having more than 81 times the pixel count of the original release, are truly horrifying in a way that very few games’ enemies manage to be. Mr. X, the prototype Tyrant that pursues you throughout the game (especially if you’re playing as Leon), is especially terrifying this go around, far more so than he was in the original release. During my playthrough, I tweeted, “It will be a miracle if I get through this game without peeing myself,” and I stand by that sentiment; Mr. X is scary as shit, dude.
For those who aren’t familiar with the structure of the game from its original release, the game is divided into two campaigns that take place concurrently and largely in the same locations. In one – the story I played through first – you play as my all-time horror husbando, rookie RCPD cop Leon Kennedy, as he, like an idiot, travels to investigate the mysterious silence from Raccoon City in defiance of a “stay tf away” order. He meets up with a young woman named Claire Redfield, sister of the first game’s Chris Redfield, who’s traveling to Raccoon City to discover the whereabouts – or fate – of her brother. In Leon’s campaign, your main foe is Mr. X, and you work with a cryptic woman named Ada Wong, allegedly with the FBI, as you seek to secure the G-virus and prevent the infection from spreading outside of Raccoon City. In Claire’s campaign, your primary foe is a horrific monster mutated by the G-virus as you seek to take the young Sherry Birkin to safety outside of the zombie-infested city.
I have a few minor complaints with Resident Evil 2, but all things considered, this is a virtually perfect remake by most of my metrics. It stays faithful to the original world while making some much-needed quality of life improvements, it adds difficulty levels for those who need an easier time as well as those who want a more intense challenge, there are some extra scenarios for you play after you finish the main game, and the overall horror atmosphere of the original game has been brilliantly enhanced thanks to the technological advances that the PS4 Pro offers over the original PS1 hardware. I can only imagine that the game looks and plays at least as well if not a little better on PC and Xbox One X as it does PS4 Pro, and I was thoroughly impressed here. If you’re a fan of horror games, zombie games, or the Resident Evil series, you absolutely owe it to yourself to give this game a play. It’s a damn shame that Capcom hasn’t seen fit to port it to Switch, but if you’ve got a PS4, an XB1, or a gaming PC, make sure you check this one out.