From Resident Evil 2 protagonist Leon’s curtains hairdo to its faceless villain, the evil megacorporation Umbrella, Capcom’s 90s survival horror is a product of its era. Thankfully, the new remake doesn’t mess with any of these gloriously retro themes.
Stunning graphics and overhauled gameplay mechanics modernize the experience to something much more palatable by today’s standards, but the new version still embraces its pre-millennial setting.
In fact, there’s even more antiquated technology to play with this time around, all flashing brightly and beeping loudly in a suitably dated fashion.
It’s all wonderfully nostalgic for anyone like me who grew up in that era, but I actually think it’s also genuinely crucial in helping to give Resident Evil 2 its own unique flavor. We’re far enough away from the 90s now that the decade feels alien and distinctive, which in turn makes me feel very old.
But even though the remake is charmingly antique for the most part, for some bizarre reason, Capcom decided to stop short of including the original music. Out of the box, this new version of Resident Evil 2 is completely void of both the iconic sound effects and incredible OST from the PS1 version, and it’s a crying shame.
In its place is a sort of cold, tense silence, which is presumably intended to increase immersion and create a more edgy experience. It’s a trend we’ve seen in plenty of modern horror games. Resident Evil 7 was similarly mute, which Capcom itself copied from games like Outlast.
But it doesn’t suit Resident Evil 2, and I promise that I’m not just getting carried away with sentimentality.
For starters, the composition of the original score is fantastic; rudimentary but superbly composed. It’s comprised almost entirely of mood-setting backing tracks. There are several for each of the game’s main areas and every single one nails an appropriate tone.
There are breaks in between these tracks, too, depending on the area –zones of dead silence that make the music’s reintroduction even more stimulating. More than that, it actually helps orient the player as you traverse around the game’s labyrinth of hallways, locked doors, and confusing puzzles.
I actually believe the musical cues were deliberately placed for this reason in the original game. The score has a function in navigation as much as does in building a terrifying ambiance. When I hear a track from Resident Evil 2’s score, I know roughly where I am even with my eyes closed. It’s a small comfort afforded to players in a game that is otherwise purposefully disorienting.
Later, as players descend into Umbrella’s lab, the music has a completely different sort of tone. It’s still using the same 90s synth keyboards, but the sound is gruesomely sterile, unfeeling, and machined. It’s genuinely terrifying in a way that compels me to spend as little time there as possible, palms sweaty on the controller.
But just like the beeping and bopping of the PS1 game’s menu sounds, the music is undoubtedly old-fashioned. Perhaps Capcom felt new players would find the dated instrumentation too jarring in 2019? I’ll refer you back to my aforementioned point about the importance of Resident Evil 2’s 90s theme –it’s an essential part of the overall tone of the experience, and trust me when I say that the music takes it to another level.
The cynic in me would suggest that Capcom’s reasoning for not including the music was so that they could squeeze some more money from customers who cared by including the music swap as a Deluxe version-only feature. But I hate that this is going to deny newcomers of the best way to experience Resident Evil 2.
Either way, I suppose we should just be thankful that it’s even an option in the first place. And so I implore you: if you have the extra money to purchase the Deluxe or Collector’s edition of the game, take my advice and play Resident Evil 2 the way it is supposed to be experienced.
Edit: You can, in fact, purchase the original music swap as a DLC extra for $3. It is not Deluxe-only. Regardless, the music is still frustrating placed behind a paywall and probably isn’t something many players will consider trying or even know about.