The launch of the Resident Evil 2 remake still feels like yesterday to me. I can distinctly remember eagerly awaiting access to it the night it came out. The Resident Evil series appeared to be making a return to form with Resident Evil 7, embracing survival horror gameplay. The first-person camera and the lack of recognizable characters may have turned some fans away, but otherwise, the game’s structure was incredibly reminiscent of a classic Resident Evil title. It would also introduce the RE Engine, which is capable of rendering intricate environments with exceptional performance.
RE7 would define the focus of the Resident Evil franchise until the present and the foreseeable future. However, the RE2 remake would arguably provide the best this era of Resident Evil has to offer (as of writing). Sure, it has its share of flaws, as most Resident Evil games do. Despite this, I do believe it is the most consistently enjoyable package out of every modern RE game.
How the Resident Evil 2 Remake Came to Be
The concept of a Resident Evil 2 remake is far from recent. In fact, the idea dates all the way back to the first Resident Evil remake for the GameCube. While the remake of the original Resident Evil initially wasn’t a commercial success, an HD remaster would introduce many more people to the title. Demand for a remake of the second game would only grow over the years, with fans wishing to see a vision of RE2 not held back by the technical limitations of the original PlayStation.
Two fan-made Resident Evil 2 projects would gain viral attention. One was an attempt to fully remake the survival horror classic as a modern title. The other was an experiment utilizing assets from The Darkside Chronicles and was never intended to be a full game. It’s safe to say that Capcom definitely took notice of this, and invited the developers of Resident Evil 2 Reborn to meet with them and share their current plans for the official remake. For obvious reasons, Resident Evil 2 Reborn would never see a public release, but work on the project would be eventually repurposed into Daymare: 1998, which is still available for purchase.
In August 2015, Capcom would officially announce that work on a Resident Evil 2 remake was underway. However, fans would have to wait a while until they could catch their first glimpse of any in-engine footage. When June 2018 came around, many would be impressed by the first reveal of the game in action. Thankfully, when it was time for release, those initial impressions appeared to be correct. The Resident Evil 2 remake was a huge critical success.
The Success of the Resident Evil 2 Remake
I believe many will agree that the Resident Evil 2 remake is nearly as important as the original game. Its influence on horror games can be felt today, allowing other classic IPs to make a comeback. The Dead Space remake just came out recently and a Silent Hill 2 remake is on its way. I don’t know if we would be seeing either of these if it weren’t for the huge success of the RE2 remake.
Alongside Resident Evil 7, the Resident Evil 2 remake is among the highest-selling Capcom games. It currently sits as the fourth best-selling Capcom game, although this doesn’t account for the combined sales of re-releases and remasters of other games. That’s not to say that the RE2 remake isn’t a massive success. It’s safe to say that this game is one of the primary reasons we are getting the upcoming Resident Evil 4 remake.
In fact, the Resident Evil 2 remake outsold the original by quite a bit. While this game and RE7 never got near the sales numbers of Monster Hunter: World, it’s quite clear that these games established that Resident Evil is still a big deal for Capcom. This makes me wonder if the Resident Evil 4 remake will be able to break franchise records when it arrives. It’s a game that has remained a big money-maker for Capcom over the years, so it will be interesting to see how it compares to the sales of the Resident Evil 2 remake.
A Return to Big-Budget Horror
Before modern Resident Evil titles, the horror genre slowly became a lower priority for big publishers. For a while, the genre saw much more success with indie titles, as they were often simple, short, cheap, and made for easy reaction video material (these types of games can still be quite successful). There just wasn’t as much of a demand for high-budget horror experiences. There was the odd exception, such as Alien: Isolation, but the classic survival horror structure became a lot more niche.
The Resident Evil 2 remake changes everything. One thing that becomes apparent as soon as you boot up the game is the exceptional production values. Even four years later, the remake’s presentation remains immaculate. Sure, if you look at trailers for the Resident Evil 4 remake, you can tell that there have been some graphical upgrades since then, but the RE2 remake is no slouch when it comes to visuals.
Character models and environments are rendered with painstaking detail, further improved by a beautiful art direction. The iconic police station feels like it could be a real place instead of just a vehicle for escape room puzzles. Each room and hallway features some incredible lighting that sets the mood right. If Resident Evil 7 gave me a taste of what a modern, big-budget horror title could feel like, the Resident Evil 2 remake was a full-course meal.
Retaining the Spirit of the Original
Unlike the first Resident Evil remake, The Resident Evil 2 remake is a considerably different game compared to the original. Many believe that the first remake can suffice as a good replacement for the first game. However, the RE2 remake is a bit more controversial among fans. It isn’t as contentious as the Resident Evil 3 remake, but there are a noticeable amount of people who prefer the original game. While I ultimately prefer the remake to the original, I can completely understand why others may not.
The Resident Evil 2 remake takes several creative liberties and makes some cuts that will not sit well with everyone. The original RE2 contained the “zapping” system, where the player’s actions in their first playthrough would affect a second playthrough with another character. Instead, the remake features a “2nd run” playthrough, which acts as more of a “remix” of the first playthrough. This “2nd run” also leads to some story inconsistencies. It can still be fun, and it gives you access to the true ending of the game, but it’s fair that this was disappointing to some fans.
Overall though, I would say that the remake is faithful to the spirit of the original game, and that’s what matters most. I don’t mind that it doesn’t replace the original, but provides a fresh experience instead. The best thing that the remake does is that it imagines the scenario of the original game in a way that would not have been possible with the technical limitations of the original. It’s not the same experience, and it isn’t trying to be.
Superb Survival Horror Gameplay
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Resident Evil 2 remake is its fantastic gameplay. On your first playthrough, many enemy encounters will prove to be a tense experience. You can try to aim for the head and hope that it will only take a bit of ammo to kill something that has already died. Or, perhaps it would be smarter to take advantage of the game’s dismemberment system and aim for the legs like you’re playing Dead Space. There are many decisions that the player has to take into account while exploring, which can make optimizing your routes on repeat playthroughs incredibly fun.
What also helps add to the horror of everything is that some rooms and hallways are noticeably darker than in the original game. It is possible to make a brightly lit environment scary, but I do think that the police station does benefit from some dimly lit rooms. The warmth of the main hall lights can relieve some of the tension, only for that relief to be taken away later on in the game. There’s a greater sense that something has gone seriously wrong, and that makes everything feel all the more uneasy.
I also consider the Resident Evil 2 remake to be the most replayable modern entry in the franchise. Don’t get me wrong, the other modern titles can be quite replayable as well, but suffer from some noticeable issues that can hurt repeat playthroughs. The RE2 remake isn’t perfect either, although I find it to be a more consistent experience comparatively. This game features some of the best Metroidvania-style level design in the series and that’s what keeps me coming back.
Why the Resident Evil 2 Remake Isn’t Perfect
Unfortunately, as much as I love the Resident Evil 2 remake, it doesn’t achieve perfection by any means. While the police station is possibly one of the most intricately designed locations in a game, some of the other locations aren’t made equal. Areas such as the sewers contain a noticeable decrease in quality. This isn’t just because the environmental detail and variety aren’t quite there, it’s also because level design suffers as well.
Every room and hallway in the police station feels unique and dense. I can’t say the same about the sewers. They are large, but with that comes the cost of less density. This isn’t to say that it’s a terrible section by any means. However, it is an example of something that does hurt the replayability of the game. It’s what I look forward to the least when replaying the game. It might be a bit too much to ask for a Resident Evil game to have consistent level design throughout though, as most games in the series suffer from this.
Another gripe I have is with the Sherry Birkin and Ada Wong sections. These can be interesting the first time you play through them, but like the sewers, can get annoying on repeat playthroughs. Bosses are often nothing to write home about either. They aren’t horrible, but they are forgettable. Between these issues and content from the original that was cut, Resident Evil 2 isn’t quite as outstanding as it could be.
Still Worth Playing After Four Years
If you still have not had the pleasure of experiencing the Resident Evil 2 remake, I recommend doing so as soon as you can. This is especially the case if you have any interest in the upcoming Resident Evil 4 remake. For a game that came out four years ago, it still feels as if it came out yesterday. Both this remake and the original game are worth your attention in 2023.
The Resident Evil 2 remake achieves heights that the other modern games in the series have yet to recapture. I still enjoy the RE3 remake and Village, but those games suffer from greater issues than the RE2 remake. I still think this game is one of the best starting points for newcomers to the franchise. The game evolves the classic gameplay formula in a way that doesn’t feel dumbed down. It combines some of the best aspects of old-school and modern games for a unique experience that few AAA games provide.
Resident Evil 2 doesn’t replace the original, but I think it deserves to stand alongside it. A lot of passion and effort clearly went into this game and it can still be felt to this day. It never holds your hand too much and you rarely feel safe (until you start unlocking the powerful weapons, of course). The game presents a satisfying challenge I want more of, and I hope Capcom can achieve this level of quality with the Resident Evil 4 remake. It’s a game that I don’t think is in desperate need of a remake, but it is still looking like a great time.