Horror opens up a new dimension in our minds. It's a place of what-ifs, a place where monstrosities slither in the dark, a place where we go to unearth some great immortal evil to see what we're really afraid of. But Resident Evil 2's horror isn't so clearly defined. It's a vast, multi-faceted experience where everything is connected, and every single part of the game serves the whole.
Everything from the puzzles, the lighting, the sound design, and even the running animations all bleed into the main theme of otherworldly terror. Capcom's approach here is nothing short of masterful; they've created a complex webwork of horror that transcends jump scares and grisly mayhem, and with RE2 Remake, they've opened the door to another dimension of fright.
The real magic of RE2 Remake lies in Capcom's incredible dedication to every little thing. Armed with the flexibility and sheer might of its proprietary REngine, the team creates the strongest form of interactive terror I've ever experienced. It's a kind of creeping terror, though, one whose formula is worth investigating deeper.
The formulaic approach sees Capcom becoming a master of everything that's scary. There's a deep psychological bent to everything you do in RE2 Remake, from the jump scares to the sense of impending dread. In many ways the game feels like a dream; the lights have a kind of blurry, semi-unreal quality to them, the environments are both defined but off-kilter and out of place, as if formed by a scrambled imagination rather than a cohesive real-life world.
And like any bad dream, there's this blanket of doom that encompasses everything.
The game teaches you early on to expect the unexpected. Is that a shadow or a zombie hiding in the dark, ready to chomp your flesh? The very city feels like it's alive and very, very hungry. Environments are out to get you, enemies are out to get you, hell, even your own shaky hands and terrible panic-induced aim is against you. But even with all of these forces trying to take a bite out of you, there's this dire need to dredge onward.
Every achievement you make, whether it be solving a puzzle or surviving a literal prison packed with zombies, is always punctuated by humility. The game always finds a way to knock you off your stride and put you back to square one. A single mistake can wreck your progress completely, a terrified run through the wrong corridor, a few missed shots or badly executed dodge attempts. Maybe you forgot your Blue Herb mixture and Leon is slowly dying from poison, or maybe you accidentally mixed the wrong gunpowder together and only have one shotgun shell left.
This adds an extreme sense of caution to every move you make, adding this very heavy weight to every decision. Things have this sense of finality to them in RE2 Remake. Even though you do get resources and eventually learn to adapt out of sheer necessity, the game still punishes you for mistakes...and sometimes the punishment is more long-term and not immediately noticeable.
It's a seesaw of empowerment and debasing that both wears on you and actually propels you even further. Part of me wanted to keep going just to see what weirdness lay in wait, while the other part needed to take a break and do some breathing exercises.
That kind of psychological effect is rare to find in games. Few games test your mettle like Resident Evil 2 Remake, not simply because the developers don't want to, but because they don't have the finesse or ability. Capcom achieves something that most game devs simply can't, and it does so extremely well.
The most pervasive sense of psychological terror is made possible by the game's visuals and sound effects.
What you see isn't the most terrifying thing about the game. What you think you'll see...what you think is around that next corner...that trepidation is the true essence of RE2 Remake's sheer power. The game taps into your imagination and turns your own mind against you, making you anticipate some untold chaos that's behind the next door.
The macabre gore that you actually see and experience is only fuel for your own twisted imagination, the same way a roaring inferno is fueled by a small piece of lumber. It's a kind of cycling snowballing that sees you imagining your worst nightmares shortly after living them in the game, causing every next step to be a careful and thoughtful one.
The sound design is also immaculate. A lot of my fear wasn't sparked from jump scares, blood and guts, or even Mr. X's appearance (more on him later), but the sounds of the game itself. The hissing and screeches of the zombies chilled my bones and made me involuntarily run across the Raccoon Police Station. The shambles, the weird slithering of the lickers, Mr. X's foot-stomps as he trudged ever-closer to my location.
Every place has some background noises that keep you on edge. There's always something rumbling against a door, some weird unseen monster slithering against a pipe or splashing in some water somewhere, some hissing from a vent or an ominous hum from a generator or machine. It's as if Capcom has perfectly captured every single eerie sound and jammed them creatively into one package.
But what scared me the most wasn't these noises, but the weird silence that sometimes permeates in areas. Because that's where my imagination crept in once again, feeding bizarre scenes of death and fright into my psyche.
In this way, Capcom has successfully tapped the power that all horror movies have.
But RE2 Remake is beyond a horror movie because you actually control the outcomes and interact with the world itself. You become an instrument for the horror, a delivery vehicle, a mechanism for the weirdness and creepy visuals. The game often feels like it's playing you, but a lot of the time you don't actually mind. You're here for keeps regardless of what happens.
There's this kind of exciting anticipation, this thrilling enjoyment that comes from being scared of the unknown. It's fun, but it also seeps into your mind and makes things more real than the seem...and soon you forget you're playing a game. Soon you feel like you're actually there, as if you are Leon or Claire, as if you're trying to find your way out of this impossible situation and solve weird complicated puzzles and retrace your steps.
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