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Resident Evil 2 guide: How to tell if a zombie is actually dead

Be smart about the undead and save your ammo

How to tell if a zombie is actually dead in Resident Evil 2 Capcom via Polygon
Jeffrey Parkin (he/him) has been writing video game guides for Polygon for almost seven years. He has learned to love just about every genre of game that exists.

The zombies populating Raccoon City in Resident Evil 2 are surprisingly resilient. It takes a lot of bullets to knock them down, and even then there’s no guarantee they’ll stay down. And, since it’s the zombie apocalypse and all, there are also a lot of just regular dead bodies around.

Being able to tell the difference between a harmless corpse and one that’s about to jump up and eat your face could be the difference between saving the world and becoming ghoul food. Once you know which of the dead are hungry, you also have to know if they’re going to get back up or not.

Below, you’ll find our field guide to the undead with tips on keeping them dead.

Corpse versus zombie

Bullets are hard to come by Raccoon City, so it’s not always smart to waste one to check the status of a corpse. If you have a Combat Knife on you, use that instead. Like we mentioned in our beginner’s guide, you’re probably not going to kill a zombie with your knife, but a single swipe will usually wake one up. It will damage the knife a little, but if you can identify a threat before it takes a chunk out of you, it’s worth it.

Exploded head

The most obvious way to tell that a zombie won’t get back up is when its head explodes. This is very obvious and dramatic and it’s pretty hard to miss.

An exploded zombie head is hard to miss.
Capcom via Polygon

There are a few ways to make this happen:

  • A very precise (or lucky) shot. Sometimes you’ll shoot a zombie in the head with your weakest gun and its head will just pop. We never pinned down the exact conditions for this, but it sometimes seemed to be shots in the back of the head — like when the zombie is laying face-down on the ground — or forehead shots at close (too close for comfort) range.
  • A lot of headshots. Three headshots (give or take) will knock a zombie down for a minute, but they usually get back up. If you continue pumping headshots into their head, it will eventually pop. Probably. Unless it doesn’t. This isn’t usually your best option.
  • Powerful weapons. More powerful weapons like Leon’s shotgun or Claire’s grenade launcher will pop a zombie’s head with a single shot.

Use your ears

Sometimes it’s hard to pick out among the gunshots, growls, and screaming, but there’s usually a sound that accompanies a zombie head exploding. The only way we can describe it is a “SPLORCH” sound. This sound is your all-clear signal.

While an exploded head is a much better way to put down a zombie, damaging one with body shots or other damage (like from grenades or fire) will eventually result in that SPLORCH. Once you hear that, it’s time to ignore that zombie, save your ammo, and focus on the next threat or puzzle.

If you’re unsure about the sound and the zombie’s head is still intact, switch back to your Combat Knife and give it a swipe.

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