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Resident Evil 2

Game of the Year 2019: Resident Evil 2

Capcom does it again with another excellent horror game that takes us back to Raccoon City for a truly memorable adventure.

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Following its announcement, horror fans had been eagerly waiting for Resident Evil 2's remake to land, and in January of this year that's exactly what happened, with Capcom taking the 1998 original and rebuilding it from the ground up in order to make it feel like a truly modern horror title. The remake took things a step further than the remaster of the first game did back in 2015, with a more comprehensive overhaul as well as new features added to differentiate the experience in subtle yet impactful ways. The result was a horror-filled experience that managed to eclipse its predecessor in every way possible.

When Resident Evil 7: Biohazard rebooted the franchise, it looked excellent because of the quality of Capcom's RE Engine, which was deployed once again in Resident Evil 2. Thus we were treated to a visual spectacle that dragged the original PlayStation classic into the modern era, transforming a vintage horror experience into one of the best-looking games of this generation, with detailed environments, believable facial animations, cinematic cutscenes, and tiny yet pleasing details everywhere you care to look.

The lighting is worthy of praise as well since the use of light and darkness really compounds the atmosphere that Capcom delivers so successfully throughout. With Raccoon City bathed in darkness and crawling with the undead, the lighting really increases the tension at all times, especially when relying on the flashlight to illuminate the darkness. It's a moody affair that retains the isolation of the original, and it feels even more inescapable and hostile than ever before as you gradually uncover more of the world around you.

The overall structure remains largely intact from the original, albeit with some new additions here and there, but as a whole, the team has remained faithful to the spirit of the 1998 original. You'll still recognise the hallways and the main atrium, but everything has been refined and elaborated just enough to create a play space that feels both fresh and familiar at the same time. Happily, the experience hasn't been dumbed down in an attempt to appeal to a more modern audience.

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Of course, we couldn't talk about the modernisation process without talking about the camera change. It's a big move for Capcom, as the company took out the fixed camera (a change of tact as the old setup was preserved in the 2015 remaster of the first game), instead opting for something closer to Resident Evil 4's over-the-shoulder third-person view. It's a move that pays off as we explore with Leon Kennedy or Claire Redfield, and we get to see the station in an entirely new light. What's more, just because we're seeing events from a new perspective, it doesn't mean that things are any less scary; the camera is close enough to keep us unaware of enemies behind us, so there's still the element of horror there, and as we're never really sure of our surroundings, the new viewpoint makes for some intense exploration where it's important to pay attention to more than just the things you can see.

To that end, the audio-design is suitably sinister, and things get really scary when you hear the stomping footsteps of Mr X, who is more menacing in 2019 than he ever was 21 years ago. His relentless pursuit is just one way the game brings the scares, but there are plenty of other horrors just waiting to surprise you, such as lickers that lurk in the darkness, and zombies that regularly emerge from out of nowhere, like uninvited guests at a funeral. Wherever you go, there are always spooks to be had and Capcom delivers these scares at a cadence approaching perfection. The pacing in Resident Evil 2 is nothing short of superb.

Zombies and corpses are rendered in such gruesome detail that it's hard to argue that this isn't the goriest game around right now, as blood, flesh, and injuries are horrifically detailed, including one particularly striking moment where you witness the jaw slide off a skull, pulling the bloody, exposed sinews down with it. There's been an effort to make the visuals visceral and impactful, which ensures a harrowing horror experience that'll keep you on the edge of your seat throughout your adventure.

The tension is increased considerably by the fact that every bullet counts. You won't have much ammunition to fight with, as Resident Evil 2 retains the series' trademark survival horror gameplay. That means you're given limited resources and a restricted inventory that you'll have to manage with care if you're to survive. At times it might feel like Capcom is being miserly with your storage space, but it means that you're always questioning when to save, what to store, and what to drop as you navigate Raccoon City at a time where one wrong choice can and will be the death of you.

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Those who have played the original will also find that the story is the same as the one they experienced all those years ago, and so while we can't praise this as a new narrative for 2019, we can at least say that it holds up well even after more than twenty years. That said, the luckiest ones are those who haven't played the original before, as they will find a quality story here full of shocks and surprises, and that's whether you're playing as Leon or Claire (or any of the bonus campaigns).

While Capcom sticks fairly close to the script, that's not to say that everything is exactly the same as it was before. We won't spoil anything here, but there are a fair few surprises waiting to be discovered, which is great for veteran horror fans coming back for another bite, and even those who played the original to death will still find new details lurking in the darkness. It's a masterful move that ensures that nobody is ever really sure what's coming to get them.

The editorial team here represents a mix of new and returning players, but one thing that we can all agree on is that Resident Evil 2 was a joy to creep through, and everything from the level design to the visual upgrade came together to make a masterful horror experience that kept us on edge constantly. We were terrified as we explored and backtracked through claustrophobic corridors, searched for puzzle solutions, and avoided enemies as if our life depended on it. It's the same blend of intense combat encounters and brain-teasing challenges that Resident Evil fans have come to know and love, and even those who only got on board with the series in 2017's Resident Evil 7 should feel at home.

Thanks to its stunning visuals, atmospheric audio, intense narrative, generous fan service, ingrained replayability, and level design that has stood the test of time, our editorial team couldn't help but call Capcom's remake of Resident Evil 2 our game of the year, and in a twelve-month period that has given us entirely new games as good as Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Control, and The Outer Worlds, that's quite the achievement. It's high quality also bodes well for the upcoming Resident Evil 3, which is set to arrive in mere months to give us the same sort of reanimated zombie experience, this time with a multiplayer experience thrown in for good measure. Capcom's horror series is on a roll recently, and if future projects are of the same quality as this year's remake, we're in for a treat indeed.

Resident Evil 2

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Resident Evil 2

REVIEW. Written by Roy Woodhouse

"It's satisfying to control and the story is amazing, and the whole thing is wrapped up with great sound and excellent visuals."

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