The Resident Evil series is comprised of many beloved games, some of which have fundamentally changed the horror genre as we know it. But the remake of Resident Evil 2 (2019) is hands-down the best of the bunch, effectively straddling the line between survival and action. This remake, much like the 1998 original, was hugely influential, leading to an influx of spooky over-the-shoulder games like the upcoming Dead Space remake and The Callisto Protocol. Modern gameplay, intuitive controls, impeccable sound design, and beautifully grotesque visuals all work in tandem, culminating in the greatest survival-horror game of all time.
Challenging, yet not obtuse
The most important aspect of the Resident Evil 2 remake is the way it modernizes the gameplay introduced in the original. By switching to an over-the-shoulder perspective and removing the fixed camera, it plays exactly the way a modern game should. But alongside that is a rewarding and challenging gameplay loop that feels approachable, even if horror games aren’t your area of expertise.
Arguably its greatest strength is the map, which lets you know when you’ve discovered everything in a particular room. If a room is red, it means you’re missing items, but if it’s blue, it means you’ve collected everything. This seemingly simple addition is a game changer, removing the anxiety that comes with missing useful items.
It also gently pushes players to explore and collect everything, offering substantial rewards for those who take the time to check every nook and cranny. This greatly offsets the challenging combat, subtly encouraging players to come to each battle as prepared as possible.
The fact that Capcom accomplished all this with a cleverly designed map is still impressive to this day.
Fit for an audiophile
We cannot discuss Resident Evil 2 without praising its sound design, which contributes to the scare factor in a major way. Because of this, it’s imperative that you play with headphones so you can fully immerse yourself in the world.
The entire game’s sound design is incredible, but the best example is after the Tyrant (AKA Mr. X) spawns. This deadly enemy stalks you around the Raccoon City Police Department and you can hear his footsteps as he stomps around. Not only is this effective in building tension, but it’s also tremendously useful from a gameplay perspective, as you’re able to tell exactly where he is.
If you listen closely, Mr. X’s position is given away based on his footsteps. The farther away he is, the quieter he’ll sound. If he’s walking around on an upper floor, you can tell, as the stomping sounds like it’s coming from above. This is a remarkable addition, making the experience feel more immersive, especially since audio ties so closely to the gameplay.
On top of everything else, Resident Evil 2 is one of the best-looking games ever made. The realistic character models, animations, and lighting all add to the immersion, bolstering the scares. Specifically, the dramatic lighting truly gives this game an edge, sometimes sending you into pitch-black hallways with nothing but your flashlight.
Then, a feint shadowy figure emerges, slowly revealing itself as you approach. Sometimes, you can only see an enemy’s shadow on the wall depending on the source of light, leaving the horrors up to your imagination (which is even more frightening at times).
Other times, those hallways are filled with much deadlier enemies such as the Lickers. These creatures are some of the most terrifying in the entire game and can take you out with just a couple of swipes. Each time you enter a new area is like a punch to the gut, as your mind races with all the possibilities of what’s ahead.
It’s fascinating how lighting builds tension and makes even standard zombies seem more terrifying.
Better yet is when Resident Evil 2’s visuals, audio, and gameplay all come together to build fear — especially during the segments with the zombie dogs. There’s a moment when these dogs bust through a vent right next to a spotlight, and the way the light shines as they approach and bark is one of the most nerve-wracking moments in the game.
Resident Evil 2 is not only an exceptional survival horror experience but also one of the greatest games of all time. This is thanks to its smart, intuitive gameplay, realistic sound design, and absolutely stunning visuals, making this a must-play.
It’s available on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC. If you own the game on a previous-gen console, you gain access to a free upgrade within the same family of systems (PS4>PS5 or Xbox One>Xbox Series X|S).