'Resident Evil 2' Remake Still Thrills After All These Years

Venture into the pop-up Raccoon City Police Headquarters set up on the show floor of New York Comic Con 2018, and you'll be greeted by splatters and smears of crimson fake blood, mangled limbs, and throwback 90s decor. (When was the last time you saw a Gateway PC?) Capcom's remake of the 1998 zombie horror classic Resident Evil 2 took everyone by surprise when it was first announced at E3 back in June, earning more than a few Best in Show plaudits in the process. Spend a bit of time with the game and you'll realize its appeal is about more than nostalgia. RE2's careful environmental design, challenging enemies and limited resources make it an anxiety-spiking thrill to play, no rose-tinted glasses necessary.

Capcom brought two demos of the game to NYCC. In the first, you play as Leon Kennedy, the rookie cop having the worst first day on the job you can possibly imagine. This comes from an early section of the game, as you're getting your bearings around the police station, solving puzzles and piecing together the mystery of Raccoon City. Another, more advanced demo lets you step into the shoes of Claire Redfield at a later stage in the game, taking on a gigantic, shambling boss with a large moist eyeball glaring out of one shoulder.

I chose the Leon demo, as it's been a minute since I've picked up a Resident Evil game, and as a wee lass I remember getting quite frustrated with the awkward, tank-style controls. Thankfully, that really isn't an issue here; moving your character around feels much the same as any other game.

Indeed, much of what works about Resident Evil 2, from what we've seen so far, comes from Capcom's willingness to quietly ditch aspects of the game that haven't aged well, while polishing up and refining those that did. The game's difficulty is a big part of that: you can't save upon entering each new room, and you can easily run out of ammo if you're trying to kill every zombie you see. There's no aim assist, so if you suck at precise, on-the-fly shooting (hey, me too!), you'll find yourself biffing a headshot, settling for a stun and fleeing to safety. It's not just the eerie music and damnably dark corridors that make this game scary, it's the palpable and unrelenting feeling that you could easily die at any minute. Mingle these solid fundamentals with the gorgeous details and textures made possible by latter-day console hardware, and you'd be forgiven for wondering why Capcom didn't start remaking these games sooner.

Resident Evil 2 comes to PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on Jan. 25, 2019.

'Resident Evil 2' Remake Still Thrills After All These Years | Tech & Science