How Resident Evil 2 Achieves Horror Through Reduction

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On January 25, a remake of Capcom’s iconic Resident Evil 2 is set to launch on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Originally published in 1998, Resident Evil 2 capitalized on the success of the series’ first title and launched to unanimously positive critical reception. This can largely be attributed to the fact that it achieved a unique kind of horror by adhering to principles of reduction: less is more. In a sense, it’s particularly fitting that Resi 2 is being remade now because the most recent iteration of the series — Resident Evil 7 — achieved success by drawing from what made Resi 2 so good.

These principles can be seen right from the get-go. Resident Evil 2 forces fixed camera angles on the player, withholding information from them and insisting they be courageous enough to transition through the environment with a degree of blindness. Every time you trigger a change in perspective, you forfeit the advantage you gained from the previous one. You could stare at the screen for twenty minutes, but once you turn that corner you’re dropped into uncharted territory. This is always a gamble. Sometimes, you’ll be rewarded with a room full of ammunition; other times, you’ll walk right into the not-so-loving-embrace of the walking dead. Could there be a Licker ready to crash through a two-way mirror? Or Mr. X distilling unease as he bursts through a brick wall after you? These awkward angles are not so much the best Capcom could do at a time of technical restriction as they are a product of meticulous horror design. 

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