So, originally this was going to be a review of the 2020 Resident Evil 3 remake, but I decided that to cover that game, I’d have to cover the 2019 Resident Evil 2 remake first, since the two are so closely linked in gameplay and story, just as the original games were. Resident Evil 2make (what I’ll be calling it from now on) was released in 2019, a full 17 years after the remake of the first RE came out to near universal acclaim. I’ve been a Capcom stan since I was an edgy teenager, and it’s only grown in time as I moved on from Mega Man and Ace Attorney into the fighting games and Devil May Cry, Resident Evil’s pizza and monster-fueled cousin. Resident Evil 2make was my introduction to the series, and even then I got to it a year late, meaning a lot of the spooky horrors were somewhat spoiled by the internet screaming “X GON GIVE IT TO YA” at me. That aside, this game is something special; it’s something I’d never played before and haven’t found since.
RE2make does atmosphere better than any game I’ve played since my first experience with Metroid Fusion. I’ve heard some people rag on the limited lighting, the flashlight cam, and the shift from fixed camera angles to an over the shoulder camera; these people typically claim that it hurt or changed what RE2 was, and I agree – for the better. I’m not gonna claim to be some RE2 expert; I’ve never seen past the Sherry section in the original game out of frustration. I do think, however, that the change in perspective and presentation took nothing away from the feeling of empty isolation the original game gave me in my time with it, and if anything, it made encounters with the terrors lurking inside the RPD more terrifying to me. Helping this is the relatively clunky, slow movement of Claire and Leon; just like the tank controls in the original, movement is not your strong suit, and you need to come up with other ways to get through or away from enemies. Dodging past Lickers requires planning and strategy, assuming you can see them coming at all. Everything comes together as a result of the changes in gameplay from the original, instead of detracting from the quality of the experience.
Another big change made from the original game is the reported change to Mr. X. Like I said, I never made it past the Sherry section in the original game, so I never got to see him in his original form. Encountering him in this game, however, awoke a primal fear of the “unflinching stalker” I had when I was younger. I remembered the actual fear I felt as a kid watching the original Terminator film, knowing that it would stop at nothing to crush me. I’ve since looked into the game’s design and programming to see that Mr. X is actually an incredibly effective hunter, who doesn’t teleport around the RPD – he moves quickly through unloaded rooms and will zoom in on you when you make loud noises. Combined with everything else, he makes the game a terrifying ride where every room, every encounter, could mean a game over.
A couple of other notes; the game looks beautiful. It’s become a joke amongst a couple of friends that the RE Engine can do literally anything, and this game helped prove it’s potency at creating a photorealistic game that still looks like a video game. The stories of Claire and Leon surviving the Raccoon City outbreak are just as compelling as I’ve been told they were in 1998, and the changes made all work in favor of creating a streamlined narrative. Everything they did and changed worked in favor of creating the most terrifying action-packed ride they could, just like the suspenseful action movies I grew up on.
I’m gonna be real with y’all: I’ve only ever played the back half of this game like, two or three times, and I have to have played the RPD section upwards of 6 times in the past year. The RPD section of the game is nearly flawlessly designed, and everything feels polished to perfection; the same cannot be said for the sewer section or the endgame lab raid. The sewers take the dark, flashlight cam and make it even darker, which works for the gross-out horror it aims for, but isn’t exactly what I like about the experience. It also features a lot of roundabout exploration, including the ability to backtrack through the entire RPD to pick up items you couldn’t get previously. Compared to the optimizable experience of exploring the RPD, this feels sloppier and less intricately planned. The endgame has a similar problem, except without the ability to backtrack to earlier zones, and in my opinion, more interesting visuals.
The game also lacks a lot of “interesting” boss fights; while running from Mr. X is awesome, the forced encounters where you have to fight him or the other major bosses feel less epic and more like basic run away and shoot at range encounters. This is exacerbated in the “2nd Run” scenarios, where ammo is more limited in an artificial way – all handgun ammo is replaced with specialized handgun ammo that only the 2nd Run exclusive starting gun can use. The problem with that is that the 2nd Run exclusive gun can’t be upgraded like the other weapons, and it can only use the ammo you find, meaning your ammo supplies are going to be split down the middle, taking up a lot of inventory space. I understand the goal behind doing it, but it was still frustrating for me. Also, and this is weird, but the soundtrack is kinda bad. It’s minimalistic and “film-like” to a fault, and I ultimately wound up changing over to the PS1 OST after a few hours.
This game offers a lot for die-hard fans of the original that even I could appreciate. A handful of the changes made in the remake are apparently lifted from the Resident Evil 1.5 prototype, a version of RE2 that was scrapped when development restarted. Things like the firing range in the basement, the G-monster calling for Sherry, and the Elza Walker skin for Claire are lifted from that project. It doesn’t do much for me personally, but bringing that stuff in is so raw that I appreciate it by proxy. The inclusion of the original costumes is cool, and the PS1 models being costumes is even better; I play as them more than I do as the remake models probably. I honestly think releasing the PS1 OST as paid DLC was kinda lame, but considering I bought the deluxe edition, I got it for free and loved it. I think it’s the optimal way to play the game; those songs work just as well now in the modern remake as I’ve heard they did back in 1998. Shoutouts to the Safe Room theme and “The Second Malformation of G”, as those were standouts to me.
Unlocking the infinite combat knife changed the way I approach the game; it adds a new level of decision making in that I now had to consider what the optimal way of stunning a zombie was to go in for melee attacks as opposed to just running by. I genuinely love playing with just a handgun and the infinite knife.
Resident Evil 2make is an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Despite the flaws in the back half of the game, and my personal disagreements with the 2nd runs, I will always come back for more just because of how enjoyable the game is as a whole. Everything feels perfectly tailored for me to enjoy it, and there’s a ton of replay value because of just how enjoyable it is. If there wasn’t, I wouldn’t keep coming back to it as much as I have. It was worth the $20 I got it on sale for; and I’d definitely argue it’s worth even more. Although it’s not the first Resident Evil, a perfectly faithful remake, and in some people’s eyes it might not be the best representation of the series, I think it’s an amazing experience and a great place for new people to step into the world of survival horror.