If you were to ask me which Resident Evil would be at the top of my favorites list, Resident Evil 2 wouldn’t take the crown. Heck, it wouldn’t even be at the top if I was picking only from those titles that came out on the original PlayStation. While I can respect the game and had fun with it at the time, there was also a part of me that has always felt like fans of the series tended to overhype the experience it offered.
And yet, coming out of E3 2018, the Resident Evil 2 remake was probably my favorite game from the show.
When Capcom revealed back in 2015 that it’d be remaking the second chapter of the Resident Evil series, it was hard to predict exactly what that’d mean. Previous remakes such as Resident Evil and Resident Evil 0 still felt like their original selves, complete with static CG-generated backgrounds and pre-set camera angles. So, honestly, I kind of expected Resident Evil 2 to get the same treatment.
Of course, we now know that isn’t at all the case. This new-era Resident Evil 2 remake has been built from the ground up, and boy is it beautiful. This is the first third-person Resident Evil that Capcom has crafted for the current generation of consoles, and I guess I’d kind of forgotten that. Having things like Resident Evil 6 or Resident Evil Revelations 2 still relatively fresh in my mind, the difference between those and what we’re getting here feels miles apart. My brain really hadn’t appreciated that I’d not seen what the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One could offer the series, and witnessing that potential really did come as kind of a shock.
I think that was, in part, because I’d been so unhappy with Resident Evil 7. Yes, I know, millions of you out there became completely enamored with the game, and I’m not denying that it was a well-crafted, fresh take on the franchise. I just don’t want my Resident Evil to be in first-person, and I especially don’t want it to be something that requires me to ever be stealthy in first-person like the obnoxious new era of first-person horror games that have plagued us in recent years.
For me, Resident Evil 2 isn’t just a remake of a classic series title—it’s also a promise that more traditional Resident Evil can still exist in this era. So, that’s why seeing the effort that Capcom has put into it makes me so happy. Even beyond that, though, you have to be impressed by just how much work it has to be taking to give us Resident Evil 2. This is basically an entirely new game created from scratch, since nothing asset-wise could have been used in any way—and it’s not often we see what is essentially a remake reaching that kind of level.
There was something else that I appreciated while playing Resident Evil 2: just how unknown and unnerving it feels all over again. Having played the original, I know the scenario, I know the locations, I know the characters, but offering those pieces via such an updated presentation, my brain at times swore I was experiencing this all for the very first time.
The most interesting part of all of that? The nervousness I felt the entire time I played. I wouldn’t necessarily call Resident Evil 2 scary—I don’t think any of the games in the series have been—but there was a heightened sense of tension in the demo I played that reminded me of the first time I was going through the original game. Through the mix of the new visuals, fully 3D environments, lighting, and atmosphere, Capcom has made Resident Evil 2 incredibly creepy, ever for those of us who generally know what we should be expecting. Walking down dark hallways with a flashlight in one hand and a gun in the other was incredibly tense, especially since the zombies are more terrifying both in looks and potential threat.
When considering what a video game remake can be at its best—something both new fans and old will enjoy, something that pays proper homage to its original source material, and something that feel like a mix between what was loved the first time around and a fresh take full of surprises—Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 checks every one of those boxes and then some. Even in my limited 30 minutes (or so) of hands-on time, it felt like I’d just played one of the best remakes ever to be offered, and that has me incredibly excited.
Funny, then, that the Resident Evil game I’ve payed the least attention would return to be the game to show me that the series I’ve known and loved for over twenty years now was, unlike its signature enemies, still alive and well.