The first time I ran across a zombie in “Resident Evil 2 Remake,” I had dozens of bullets in my trusty pistol. The shambling corpse staggered and swayed, and I lined up simple a head shot.
Before ever pulling a trigger, I figured the game would be a cinch. Considering how slow and seldom the walking dead were, it would be easy to kill any I came across and work my way through the maze-like levels unscathed.
Then I fired, and the zombie kept coming.
I unloaded several more shots into its skull, and eventually ... finally ... it fell, and my handgun was mostly empty. I continued to explore the room, and my blood ran cold when I heard a noise behind me. The zombie, with four or five bullets in its head, had risen yet again.
Apparently the game wouldn’t be as easy as I thought.
This scenario is one of many that made “Resident Evil 2” one of the most intense, thrilling, fun and frightening games I’ve ever played. And considering it’s a remake of a game from the ‘90s, it’s clearly something special.
“Resident Evil 2’s” story and writing aren’t exemplary. Residents of Raccoon City suddenly turn into zombies, and it's up to rookie cop Leon Kennedy and human rights activist Claire Redfield (the game lets you play as either in two different scenarios, adding plenty of replay value) to get to the bottom of the outbreak. Without spoiling anything, the story doesn’t really pay off.
Along the way, Leon and Claire run into horrendous creatures in addition to your run-of-the-mill zombies. Lickers are blind, skinless monstrosities with massive claws that, you guessed it, whip you with their long tongues. There are fungi-covered zombies that simply refuse to die and, of course, Tyrant--the invincible, trench coat-wearing stalker who is impossible to kill and can only be temporarily stopped with several shots to his face.
Each variant must be tackled in a different way, which kept me on my toes throughout the relatively short story. Whereas in most action games you can dispatch enemies to make areas safer, “Resident Evil 2” requires you to make deliberate choices whether to dispatch a foe or circumvent it, which ramps up the intensity.
The game requires a lot of backtracking to solve puzzles, and that only makes things more frightening. More than once I had finished exploring a room infested with zombies and patted myself on the back for having made it through in one piece with most of my ammunition unused only to realize I had to go through that same room several more times before finishing the game. “Resident Evil 2” doesn’t let you rest or get comfortable, and it is brilliant.
Helping increase the intensity even more are the game's gore, animations and sound design. Some of the screams the zombies produce made my skin crawl, and their bloody wounds and realistic shuffling and stumbling movements made them all the more horrifying.
It might sound as if “Resident Evil 2” is an action game, and while there is plenty of action, at its core, the draw is puzzle solving. I’m not one who necessarily enjoys deciphering puzzles in games, but “Resident Evil 2” keeps it simple and relatively realistic.
Managing your limited inventory is another mechanic I thought would grow stale, but it actually added a lot to the horror by forcing me to think ahead as to what I might need--forcing me to backtrack, yet again, for items I required.
“Resident Evil 2 Remake” is an expertly crafted horror experience that absolutely deserved to be recreated from its 1998 original. In a sea of action horror games, “Resident Evil” truly concentrates on the survival elements of the horror genre. Levels are well designed, puzzles are fun, combat is tense, and fear is a constant presence, even if the story and writing aren’t exemplary.
Final score: 9/10
“Resident Evil 2 Remake” was reviewed on the Xbox One with a digital copy provided by the publisher’s PR agency, fortyseven communications.