I’m not a particular fan of horror in any genre. I don’t seek out thrills, but I’ll indulge in a slasher flick every once in a while, or the occasional creepy story (I’m actually a huge fan of Junji Ito’s work), but horror video games are just too much for me. I’ve made this point before, but horror games are intrinsically more immersive, and are heavily impacted by your own agency. In other words, horror games fall into one of two categories – either fun or scary, but in my experience, never both.
If a game truly frightens you, you’re more likely to play poorly, panic, and suffer the penalties for restarting when you die. The only way to bypass something scary in a video game is to become not scared of it. Dying over and over through trial and error as you slowly become accustomed to jump scares, memorizing enemy placements, and abusing the AI is not my idea of an enjoyable experience. On the flip side, you have “survival horror” games that are more like a power fantasy as you’re suplexing zombies or grinding them with a lawnmower, thereby becoming an action game just with the aesthetics of horror. Most of these games are notably non-scary and more like arcade shooters or sandbox games, but getting that balance seems near impossible in our current landscape – until now.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve watched nearly 20 hours of Resident Evil 2, and I intend to watch much more in the coming months. This game is a flawless reimagining of the 1998 genre-defining classic for the PS1. The RE franchise, much like it’s mutated bio-weapons, has undergone numerous evolutions – from the fixed camera pre-rendered backgrounds of the first three installments, to the 3rd-person over-the-shoulder camera of RE4, to the first-person perspective and item management of RE7 – the 2019 remake seems to pull the best qualities of each generation. What we have is a beautifully realized nightmare, with all the blood, sweat, and gore you could ever want out of the series.
As much as I’ll praise the game for its presentation and even it’s combat and boss design, it’s still a game you couldn’t pay me to play for more than a few hours. The zombies you fight are more unnerving and deadly than any I’ve seen in gaming, but the threat of ravenous “lickers” and the near constant pursuit of the towering Mr. X is too much for me to take. Never before has a survival horror game shook me as soundly as RE2, but still look like the most fun shooter of the year. Amidst all the carnage and stress, RE2 Remake gives you plenty of opportunities to be a badass, like popping a zombie’s head with a close range shotgun blast, or delivering swift death with a supped-up taser cannon. Even just experiencing the game second-hand fills me with rushes of adrenaline in equal parts fear and empowerment and that’s a feat I haven’t seen the genre nail so perfectly.
So, while all the hype won’t be enticing me to play the game myself, I can recognize that Resident Evil 2 is a master class in modern survival horror and will hopefully pave the way for the genre to gain more mainline success.