EGM’s Best of 2019: #3 Resident Evil 2
When loading a save file in the original Resident Evil, players would see a slightly strange message displayed on screen: “You have once again entered the world of survival horror.”
While it certainly wasn’t the first game that asked players to survive in a world filled with horrors, the game—and that simple line of text—would help give birth to a genre that’s still going strong to this day. Resident Evil was a worldwide hit, and like any smart developer, Capcom not only knew what it had on its hands, but also that it needed a sequel.
1998’s Resident Evil 2 has long stood as one of the fan-favorite chapters of the franchise’s original era, and for good reason. The story of rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield trying to survive on the streets of Raccoon City was bigger, scarier, and more narratively complex than its predecessor. When the original Resident Evil was remade in 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube, fans hoped that Capcom would do the same for its sequel—but it would take 17 years for that wish to be fulfilled. After playing the Resident Evil 2 remake, it’s hard to argue that all of that time spent waiting wasn’t worth it.
Crafted upon the same RE Engine that was first used to power Resident Evil VII, 2019’s Resident Evil 2 may be one of the most ambitious and impressive video game remakes our industry has ever seen. Rebuilding from the ground up, Capcom turned the original game’s low-polygon protagonists into photorealistic characters, its flat prerendered backgrounds into full, stunningly beautiful locales, and its cheesy early-era CG cutscenes into dramatic, well-acted cinematics. While the team behind the remake transformed the original’s awkward combat into engrossing and tense encounters, it did so in a way that remembered that Resident Evil 2 should never be an action-packed, guns-blazing shooter—even with the camera changed to a more traditional over-the-shoulder, third-person style. After years of Resident Evil chapters that felt like they were inching closer and closer to being just standard action fare, Capcom proved that a satisfying level of gunplay can, indeed, blend together beautifully with decidedly old-school exploration and puzzle solving
The thing is, dig deeper into the Resident Evil 2 remake, and you find that it’s much more than just prettier visuals or improved controls—the entire experience of playing the game changes when brought to the modern era. All of the technical and design advancements the team offers up allow Resident Evil 2 to express the ideas of the original release on a level that was simple never possible back on the PlayStation. This is Leon, and Claire, and Ada, and Mr. X, and Raccoon City, and the RPD Police Station, and the sewers, and the laboratory, and everything else Resident Evil 2 contained not as they could be presented back in 1998, but as your brain always imagined them to be. The world that Capcom tried to create in our minds can now actually exist, and getting to finally see that vision properly realized can be legitimately overwhelming at times.
Now, yes, as a remake, Resident Evil 2 isn’t perfect. The original game presented an innovative idea known as the “zapping system,” where the actions you took as Leon could directly affect your playthrough as Claire, and vice versa. While the remake still gives each character their own scenario, with the zapping system gone, a lot of the differences between playthroughs, and that promised interconnectivity, is now lost. As well, there were a few strange omissions here and there—such as the total lack of encounters with spiders.
Still, if a few missing elements were the sacrifice that needed to be made to receive a remake as utterly stellar as Resident Evil 2, then they were a small price to pay. Capcom has been on a real roll in the last couple of years, including taking a huge risk on going in a very different direction with Resident Evil VII—a risk that would pay off not just in terms of sales, but also in rejuvenating the franchise. And yet, on the heels of a totally new-era Resident Evil, the company then turned around and put its full force behind reviving those elements that had originally made the series great.
The result? A game that’s not only worthy of making our list of the top five games of 2019, but quite possibly the best Resident Evil experience there’s ever been.
Mollie got her start in games media via the crazy world of gaming fanzines, and now works at EGM with the goal of covering all of the weird Japanese and niche releases that nobody else on staff cares about. She’s active in the gaming community on a personal level, and an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming, consumer rights, and good UI.