Since the original Resident Evil was remade in 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube, fans of the series have been begging for a remake to what many consider the best game in the series: Resident Evil 2. And after playing through it multiple times, I can safely safe Resident Evil 2 (2019) isn’t just a faithful, beautiful recreation of the 1998 classic–it is one of the best games in the long-running series.
Resident Evil 2 follows two different characters through a zombie-infested Raccoon City: Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie police officer on his first day on the job; and Claire Redfield, a 19-year-old college student who is searching for her missing brother, Chris Redfield, who starred in the original Resident Evil. The characters meet on the outskirts of the city and are then quickly separated and decide to head to the police station for safety and answers.
Both characters are available to play from the start, and both have their own story in surviving the lost city and the many monsters that now occupy it. They also have their own exclusive weapons and side characters that aren’t usable or seen by the other character. Similar to the original game, Leon gets the shotgun and magnum, Claire gets the grenade launcher and the submachine gun (which replaces the bow gun from the original game). Leon meets Ada Wong and Ben Bertolucci, Claire meets Sherry Birkin and Chief Irons.
It’s hard to talk about the story without spoiling it for new players, but I found the story to be well-written, well-acted and well-executed. It’s simple, for sure, but what is there is done very well. The game also isn’t a direct copy and paste of the original game’s story, so it is still fun to see how it unfolds, even if you have played the original game dozens of times. Side characters that had very minor roles or may have only appeared in one scene in the original game, have been expanded upon; every character in this game feels important, even ones that don’t show up until late in the game.
The characters and world come to life with the absolutely gorgeous graphics and stellar presentation of the game. Running on the RE Engine, the game borrows heavily from the previous entry in the series, Resident Evil 7, in terms of inventory style, menues and HUD notifications, but the game plays more similar to the “Resident Evil 4 era” of games in the series, with an over-the-shoulder camera and aiming system. The tight controls and gunplay, joined with the limited inventory, dark atmosphere and metroidvania-type areas, make the game not only fun to explore but also terrifying.
This is the first game in the series that gave me actual chills while playing it, because the game’s tone makes you feel like you are truly trying to survive in a city being torn apart from the inside. Zombies decay realistically, the game constantly forces you into situations that trigger fight-or-flight decisions and you will have to scavenge and be careful with your resources or you will soon be wondering how you will continue forward with what you have.
That’s what makes survival horror great: the tension and pressure of the world to the point where you are sucked in and can almost feel the fear and dread of the characters, of having to think and use your mind to figure out how to make it to the next area or how to get through a difficult boss encounter. Resident Evil 2 excels in these areas.
When you aren’t exploring areas and fighting (or running) from monsters, you’ll be solving puzzles, both new and familiar. Some puzzles are as simple as finding the right key for a door, others are more complicated and will probably having you scratching your head for a bit before figuring out the solution. The puzzles are not terribly difficult and there are usually files found in nearby areas that hint at or sometimes straight out give you the solution, but they serve their purpose well. Fans of the original game will also be pleased to see some returning puzzles presented in the game, but in a new way.
That seems to be the ongoing theme with this particular remake: old but new. That’s how I felt throughout all four of my playthroughs of the game. All the areas from the original game are present in at least some way, some of which have been expanded upon drastically, like the sewer area, and then there are brand new areas that weren’t in the original game at all, yet feel like they were because of how they are presented and worked into the narrative. Even the A/B scenarios from the original game are here and are handled differently yet also similarly to the original. It is truly remarkable how a remake of a now 20-year-old game can feel both so new and so different at the same time. The game has a Standard mode that features an auto-save feature and the series’ iconic typewriters for manual saves, but then there’s also the Hardcore difficulty, which disables auto-saves and forces players to use limited ink ribbons to save their game, as well as featuring tougher enemies and even less resources. Everything, from the design of the areas, to the weapon upgrades, to even the costume designs feel both new and familiar.
While the game isn’t terribly long (I finished my first playthrough with Claire in just over eight hours), you will have to play through both characters’ stories to see the true ending, and then there are tons of unlockables, like infinite weapons, figures and the iconic 4th Survivor and Tofu mini-games from the original game, both of which have also been expanded upon and are just as challenging as they were then.
Like I mentioned earlier, there are also four different scenarios to play. When you finish a new game as Leon or Claire, you will be given option to do the “2nd Run” playthrough (the B scenario for RE2 veterans) as the other character, which follows what that character was up to when you played through the first time. While there aren’t a ton of differences between all four of the scenarios (mostly just item placements and a couple bosses), I still enjoyed seeing the cutscenes play out differently and seeing how everything comes together, just like I did back in 1998 with the original. Though, it must be said, the game’s narrative doesn’t take shape as a one cohesive unit this way. Without spoiling anything, players that playthrough at least one time each with Claire and Leon will notice that some things simply are impossible if the game is meant to be taken as two sides of the same story. But, it didn’t bother me enough to take away any enjoyment.
Resident Evil 2 (2019) stands as the towering example of what a remake and a survival horror game should do. It doesn’t just make the game prettier, it expands on what is there. It takes risks, it does new things with old characters and locations, it makes a modern game feel like a classic one. It makes you feel like there are threats around every corner. It makes you feel tense even if there’s nothing hiding in the dark. And while some may find some minor annoyances with a certain persistent enemy (especially in the “2nd Run” playthroughs) and a less memorable soundtrack (which is made up for the fact that you can actually swap to the original game’s sound effects and music by purchasing the deluxe edition of the game or buying it individually as DLC), these “complaints” are negated by everything the game does right. The game is a joy to look at and play, the game is the most tense and terrifying this series has ever been and the amount of passion and love from both the fans and the developers for one of the most influential survival horror games ever, has created a survival horror masterpiece.
Resident Evil 2 (2019) isn’t just an amazing Resident Evil game, it is one of the best survival horror games ever made and one of the best games of this console generation. It is a game that should not be missed by anyone, horror fan or otherwise.