How 'Resident Evil 2's Wet Gore Became 'Fantastically Disgusting'

In the 90s—a decade without our own era's gush of zombie TV shows, comics and films—the Resident Evil series was one of the few torchbearers for the zombie narrative tradition, largely invented in George Romero's 1968 horror movie Night of the Living Dead. Resident Evil developer Capcom not only worked with Romero to develop a movie based on the series (Romero wrote one draft of a script; it didn't get much farther), but also enlisted the zombie visionary to shoot a Japanese commercial for 1998's Resident Evil 2.

In 2019, the Resident Evil 2 remake finds itself in a much different world (one without Romero), where zombies are a cultural fixture, stars of countless movies and one of the most popular television shows ever made. But has the Resident Evil series' approach to the zombie changed?

"The classic Resident Evil 2 from 1998 was heavily inspired by George A. Romero's first trilogy of zombie films," Kazunori Kadoi, director of the new Resident Evil 2 remake told Newsweek. "I think that influence still holds true in this remake as well."

Their influences have expanded since the 90s. Kadoi singled out the impressive facial makeup in The Walking Dead and said he was "blown away" by the new take on zombies introduced in 28 Days Later, in which humans are infected by a "Rage" virus.

The zombies in "Resident Evil 2" take inspiration from both old and new zombie stories. Capcom

"By paying our respects to the classic zombie films, while also drawing inspiration from franchises like The Walking Dead, I believe we've been able to create a new kind of impactful zombie title as well," Kadoi said.

For the RE2 remake, Kadoi—who has worked on the Resident Evil series since the 1996 original—teamed with other RE veterans, including producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi, who was a designer on the GameCube Resident Evil remake. Hirabayashi sees the new Resident Evil 2 as the more substantial "reimagining" of the series. Whereas the graphically stunning 2002 Resident Evil remake mostly focused on visual updates, "since we had maintained the fix camera perspective," Resident Evil 2 "we built everything from the ground up, whether it was the visuals or the narrative," Hirabayashi told Newsweek.

But while Kadoi and his team described how the series takes inspiration from new zombie stories and the sprawling apocalypse envisioned in Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, they also took some surprising inspiration from fears that have little to do with undead flesheaters. Even the weather played into how the Resident Evil 2 creators hope players experience the zombie horrors of their reimagining.

It starts with the remake's "Wet Gore" system. Using the in-house RE engine, Kadoi and his team wanted Resident Evil 2 to have realistic and responsive gore, with gunshot and explosion damage instantly visible as zombie limbs and heads are damaged and blown apart. Kadoi recommended the shotgun and hand grenades to anyone who wants to see "flesh fly everywhere," since the team spent a lot of time accurately capturing how zombie bodies react to violent trauma.

For Kadoi, the grossest moment in Resident Evil 2 comes early in the game, when you make a gruesome discovery. "The camera zooms in on a policeman's face essentially ripped in two," Kadoi said. "It's not exactly a condition the average person will see in everyday life, so we wanted to toe the line between keeping it horrifying and realistic, while being fantastically disgusting."

Kadoi's pick for the grossest moment in "Resident Evil 2." Capcom

The goal was partially a visceral, horror realism, but a particular emphasis on wetness—puddles of blood, splatter on walls, glistening guts—was designed to have additional aesthetic resonances.

"We wanted people to feel that instinctual fear that comes from invisible threats such as sickness and disease. Damp and wet locations make ideal environments for pathogens to spread, rather than dry areas, and humans somehow know this on a base level," Kadoi said. "That instinctual fear was what we strove for when creating the visuals for this new reimagining of Resident Evil 2."

Glistening viscera appears throughout "Resident Evil 2." Capcom

Producer Tsuyoshi Kanda, also a producer for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, further tied Resident Evil 2's "Wet Gore" into our instinctual fear of infection. "We wanted to depict a more twisted approach to gore where the 'wetness' of the visuals would showcase a world ravaged by disease," he said.

The focus on wetness and disease may even reflect some differences between how horror is handled in Japan and Hollywood. Responding to a question about whether Japanese zombie or horror movies influenced the game in ways American players might not suspect, Kadoi surmised that Japan's infamously humid summers might have something to do with the malarial, sickening sensation Resident Evil 2's wet gore is meant to induce.

"I don't know the Western perspective nearly as much," Kadoi said. "However, if I had to take a guess, it might be having a closer affinity to sticky, humid weather that really clings to you."

Resident Evil 2 is out now on PS4, Xbox One and Steam.