Games of the Year 2019: Resident Evil 2 has had a remake for the ages

X factor.

Over the festive break we'll be running through our top 20 picks of the year's best games, leading up to the reveal of Eurogamer's game of the year on New Year's Eve. You can find all the pieces published to date here - and thanks for joining us throughout the year!

I didn't want a Resident Evil 2 remake.

I've had my fill of remasters/remakes/reimaginings. Maybe it was the fault of those hysterically dreadful Silent Hill "remasters" at the end of the last console-gen, but I'd become very jaded, very quickly, at the rabid appetite for reskinning decade-old games. Usually, I'm nonplussed about them. In Resident Evil 2's case, I was apoplectic.

I hate fixed camera angles but felt passionately protective of the feature when I discovered Capcom was eliminating them, as if this change - any change - was sacrosanct. I spent hundreds of hours creeping through Raccoon City that first time around, and though the game frightened the bejesus out of me, it felt improper to tamper with its original, terrifying recipe.

I was wrong, of course. This remake is a masterpiece.

Capcom has blended new with old in a delicious reprise of the remarkable experience that honed my love of horror twenty years ago. The remake carefully fuses its traditional survival horror DNA with up-to-date mechanics, and while much of it is a faithful reconstruction of its original iteration, Capcom has subverted just enough of the experience to ensure there are still some unpleasant surprises for veteran players.

Though the camera's been modernised and pulled in close behind your character, the change enhances the tension. The footprint of Resident Evil 2's environments have been modified, yes, but they'll still feel faintly familiar to those who've walked through them before. The combat mechanics, similarly, have been refined, but you'll still find yourself running desperately low on ammo and supplies if you don't use them sparingly. Even re-plays - well, you'll need to complete both Leon and Claire's campaigns at least once, surely?! - tickle your expectations, ensuring you're never quite sure what's going to happen next... or when.

2019's Raccoon City's Police Department is every bit as terrifying as it ever was, only now we can spot the glistening blood trails in 4K and jump as the moans of the undead assault us in surround-sound. And though you'll read a lot about Resident Evil 2's astonishing visuals - and rightly so - there is more here.

But as much as I loved becoming reacquainted with both lead characters, it's Capcom's update of the undead that impresses me most. Once quivering polygons of the copy-and-paste variety, effort has been dedicated to rebuilding - and individualising - the horror's shambling supporting staff. These zombies are wily adversaries, and stopping each one requires the same kind of strategic dismemberment you might remember from Isaac Clarke's unpleasant stay on the USG Ishimura. Rotting limbs will tumble to the floor with a sickening splat, but it'll take more than a dismembered body part or two - or four - to keep them down for good. This often means the most effective strategy is simply running away, particularly when you take into account your meagre supplies.

Capcom has cherry-picked the best aspects of classic and contemporary gameplay, taking everything it learned from the series' stunning return to form with Resident Evil 7, yet somehow never at the cost of RE2's identity. Aoife was right - it really is a classic.

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About the author

Vikki Blake

Vikki Blake

Contributor

When​ ​her friends​ ​were falling in love with soap stars, Vikki was falling in love with​ ​video games. She's a survival horror survivalist​ ​with a penchant for​ ​Yorkshire Tea, men dressed up as doctors and sweary words. She struggles to juggle a fair-to-middling Destiny/Halo addiction​ ​and her kill/death ratio is terrible.

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