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Over the next few days, we will reveal what we believe are the 10 best games of 2019, organized by release date. Then, on December 17, we will reveal which of the nominees gets to take home the coveted title of GameSpot's Best Game of 2019. So be sure to come back then for the big announcement, and in the meantime, follow along with all of our other end-of-the-year coverage collected in our Best Games of 2019 hub.
Calling Resident Evil 2 a remake feels inappropriate. While it certainly is exactly that, Capcom did more than recapture the spirit of its original; it set a precedent for the series’ reinvention, and created a new standard for all video game remakes to follow. After 23 years, and nearly 20-some installments, the Resident Evil 2 remake is the most refined version of what the franchise and genre has always aspired to be.
As remakes and remasters become more frequent, the line between recreating the experience we remember, versus the one we had, becomes a tricky to walk. When I think back on the first time I played Resident Evil 2 in 1998, I think about what it was like to slip past the clutches of the undead as my heart pounded from anxiety; the adrenaline rush of facing a Licker for the first time with only a few bullets to spare; or the lament of having to maneuver the halls of a sprawling claustrophobic police station without knowing what terrors await. What I don’t think about too much are the game’s notorious tank controls; the cardboard delivery of the dialogue; or its fixed camera angles and pre-rendered backgrounds. These things all have nostalgic value, and are undoubtedly a part of Resident Evil 2's original DNA, but they aren’t the defining characteristics of what made that initial experience so impactful.
In 2019’s Resident Evil 2, Capcom managed to recapture the anxiety and harrowing feeling of encountering a bumbling flesh-eating zombie for the first time, and reintroduce that sense panic-inducing terror, despite having zombie culture shoved down our throats for the past several decades.
Around every corner, there’s a foreboding atmosphere of never being safe. And yet, even when faced with terrifying odds, there’s still the chance that you might be able to fight your way through. Over the past few years, horror games have focused on stripping everything away, honing in on the thrill of the scare, and forcing you to run for your life rather than fight for it. Resident Evil 2, however, strikes the balance of making you feel helpless while still letting you have a grasp on your wits, by arming you with a small arsenal of weapons, but never enough to make you feel unstoppable.
Resident Evil 2 also features the welcome return to puzzles. This is something Resident Evil 7 reintroduced in modest amounts, but RE2 leans into it; and with that return, comes the series’ signature exploration and backtracking of its environments. Again, something RE7 reintegrated, but on a smaller scale in comparison to previous installments.
On all accounts, the Resident Evil 2 remake is more than a throwback: it’s among the best games in the series. It makes the original hard to go back to--a conflicting feeling for me as a person who was shaped, scared, and inspired by the original Resident Evil 2. It's a game that was pivotal in forming my tastes and outlook on games as a medium.
However, when I go back and play the original 1998 Resident Evil 2 today, the nostalgia is there, but the feelings of fear and triumph are gone. This remake recaptured those feelings, and redefined my experience all over again, and it's one of the best games of 2019.