In 1996 the original Resident Evil brought the Survival Horror genre to the mainstream. Two years later fans of the series received Resident Evil Two, which to many is the best game in the franchise. The issue with these classics is they don’t exactly stand the test of time. The “tank” style controls were clunky and frustrating, the graphics didn’t age well, and the voice acting was very much “B-Horror.” Fast forward over 20 years, and we now have RE Two: Remake. This love letter to the Survival Horror genre takes everything that made the original amazing and outright improves or completely changes its weaknesses.
The first, and most important question to consider for a Survival Horror game is obvious; is it scary? And beyond a shadow of a doubt, the answer is yes. A grim and oppressive atmosphere where every enemy poses a serious threat and limited access to supplies makes this experience absolutely terrifying.
But the genius of this game doesn’t stop with the mechanics or fantastic level design. A considerable reason RE Two: Remake is excellent is the perfect pacing of the story. It’s challenging from the beginning but eases you into progressively scarier and more difficult situations. Until you are thrust into one of the most intense and nerve-racking sequences in recent memory. In fact, each act feels distinct with unique setpieces that are frightening for different reasons. This game is no one-trick pony.
One aspect that needed to be executed flawlessly was the puzzles. And flawless they were. None stand out as frustratingly tricky, but they never hold your hand either. Every problem is solvable with a little bit of thought and figuring them out feels like an accomplishment. There is always just enough available information, so you aren’t entirely lost, but still requires a healthy amount of logic.
What makes this game Survival Horror rather than an Action title, (other than being scary,) is the combination of enemies refusal to stay down and the scarcity of ammunition and healing items. Every bullet counts, and medical attention is a luxury not to be squandered. These circumstances force you to think on your feet while your heart is beating out of your chest because some monstrosity won’t die and their sole purpose is to eat your face. It’s the kind of experience only a videogame can provide, and it’s beautiful in the most grotesque way possible.
The combat itself is serviceable. But mechanically its genuinely brilliant. If you move while aiming, you won’t be perfectly accurate. So if you want to make pinpoint shots to a zombie’s head or knee, you have to stand still. But if you hold still, you are an easy target for the other reanimated corpses. It’s this dynamic that emphasizes the importance of every action you take, especially in high-stress situations. It cannot be understated how ingenious Resi Two Remake is on a mechanical level. As well as how crucial it was to perfect it. Attention to detail like this is what boosts a game from good to great.
Visually, you can’t describe the game as beautiful, it’s too gory to be called such. But it is impressive. The lighting is perfect; your flashlight allows you to see well enough to get around but hides impending scares. Perhaps the most impressive graphical feat is the gore. The textures are magnificently detailed. To misquote the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, these are most certainly not just flesh wounds. Torn flesh and tendons, bone, rotting skin, every gnarled detail is shoved in your face for you to admire in disgust.
In reality, it would be shockingly easy to go on about how amazing Resident Evil Two: Remake is. Shinji Mikami, the original creator of the series, should be monumentally proud of this entry in the franchise. It is everything a Survival Horror game needs to be and so much more. It’s flawless in nearly every aspect. The eight or so hours you’ll spend on each campaign both fly by because of how good it is and feel like forever because of how terrified you’ll be while playing. Any complaints would be minor nitpicks not even worth mentioning. Resi Two Remake is easily an early game of the year candidate for 2019 and might also be the best game in the series.