‘This is a great start!’ I told myself as a zombie tore out my throat in the confines of a gas station storeroom. Nearby lay a corpse that I spoke with moments earlier, who also underestimated the ‘basic’ zombie with similar results.
Resident Evil 2 Remake doesn’t fuck about in letting you know that you can’t fuck about with zombies. Attempting to treat them as basic cannon fodder will leave you as dead as the eyes of the average CEO.
I’m genuine when I say my first in-game death was a great start because the situation leading to my character’s murder was designed to be a clear indicator of what type of game is ahead. The entire gas station introduction is very representative of the rest of game’s closed dark spaces and punishing enemies that require more bullets to kill than you actually possess.
You could unload bullets into a zombie until it is dead, but not all walking corpses are reanimated equally. Some may stay down after 5 shots, another after 15. They don’t give two shits whether or not you shoot them in the head either. Once in a blue moon a pistol shot will critically hit and explode a zombie brains out it’s ears in a worryingly satisfying splish splash spray, but you’re really playing lotto with that – ie. it probably won’t happen, especially when you need it too.
Though made from the ground up anew, Resi 2 Remake still follows most of the same beats as the original – as you progress into and beyond the Police station you will encounter more bizarre and deadlier enemies – which (as with zombies) require more than just shooting them to overcome without rendering your character crippled from injury or poison.
This is one of very few games that genuinely got under my skin. Especially during the initial exploration of the police station and later sewers. The change to over the shoulder perspective makes you feel boxed in.
Every slight movement and off screen sound caused the type of paranoia I reserve for the demonic screaming I hear out my window every night. Every painful metallic scratch or corpse moan that may or may not be from the next room, every little movement or shadow at the end of a corridor that could just be a swinging light or – a skinless licker ready to murder me in way that makes me want to lose my senses before I get to experience the pain.
Resident Evil 2 builds tension and anxiousness for which I believe all horror games need to strive. Where the fear itself is a mechanic that needs to be overcome. Paranoia leads to paralysis, which is a fucking death sentence once you aggro an enemy. Indecision will get you killed, as one of the in game characters emphasize: – You shoot or you run, but you do not hesitate.
The game bloody well knows this too; about a third of the way into the campaign you are pursued by the hulking human-like tyrant. Whereas Zombies, dogs, and lickers act like animals with savage instinct – this bastard is clearly after you and will actively follow you through rooms. His stomping can be heard nearby which introduces another challenge – determining whether or not he’s outside the room you inhabit and about to bust in the door, or is far enough away for you to bolt to your next destination. If you stop to think while in mid pursuit then you risk becoming the Sarah Connor that isn’t the plot one.
The latter parts of the game introduces further unique threats and horrors for you to solve but you’ll likely be desensitized and have gained more confidence in understanding when you are or aren’t safe. You’ll also be packing serious fire power, and (just like the original) things get orientated towards action rather than scares.
The story’s pacing was a bit quicker than I expected – probably because there are no transitions between rooms. I’m still stuck in my 20 year memory of the original where doors have to painfully open for 7 seconds while it loads the next area. In new Resi 2 you can run from the main hall to the other end of the station in about a minute or two. I know this is a result of a change of direction (more horror/claustrophobia in smaller spaces)- but the original ‘felt’ bigger. Not so much that it took longer, but felt open/larger.
Another change of direction is that of the character’s personalities. There was a degree of campiness and b-movie silliness to the original’s horror. Still scary, but cartoonish. Here in Remake everything is played straight. The enemies aren’t as silly (they aren’t silly at all for the most part, either grotesque or outright disturbing) and there is almost no levity from the main characters. Leon was always a straight good cop – almost naive in the original – in the remake he is straight and level headed to the point of being a bit stiff. Claire is about the only character that has some sort of outgoing personally.
Again nothing wrong with any of this, it all exists to keep the horror grounded in the world that was created – but part of the Resident Evil charm is it’s ridiculousness and that has been toned down here in favor or keeping you rattled. A respectable decision but the child in me wants to throw a tantrum because it’s not exactly how I want it.
But back to the game – Boss fights tend to be initially brutal. Some can be a bit bullshit as the most effective way seems very contrived or just not that effective (G2 Boss comes to mind, you’ll know it when it happens). They still follow the theme of dangerous horrors that require strategy if you want to kill them without spending every bullet.
But what about after the first playthrough? You don’t ask, but should, because this is a horror game and once played it can’t really scare you as much. I’m glad you asked!
The initial pants browning is reduced once you’ve played through the main character’s stories and you become more familiar with the mechanics, locations, and enemies. At this point the game changes into an immensely satisfying obstacle course. Researching tactics and getting into the rhythm of the game’s puzzles evolved the game to something new.
Things that frightened the life out of me were now challenges I learned to confidently overcome. Either by knowing how to best kill it, trap or avoid it. The codes and passwords became memorized and I was setting myself challenges for each play through to unlock the bonuses. What was an insanely brutal horror survival game became a mechanical challenge that I mastered on the hardest settings.
I’m a fan of speed running too and this game is a delight to play to a timed limitation. Some of the bonuses require completion within a timeframe. My quickest playthrough was 93 minutes on hardcore mode, on which I earned an S+ ranking. And you should see the shit eating smile on my face as I typed that last sentence. Once I got all my records and completed some additional modes I rewarded myself by playing through again with the bonus infinite weapons, such as the rocket launcher and minigun. Enemies that initially shook me to the core were turned to bloody quivering giblets that wallpapered the rooms.
Finally if you do play this, then you will disservice yourself by using desk/tv speakers. Use headphones – the sound design is phenomenal and part of the experience. The game looks amazing too. Even a 970 GTX (which I had) can run the game well at 1080 / 60fps with good settings.
83 hours were played before I put the game down and said with satisfaction that I am now done. Though I had a different remake in my head before playing I am not disappointed in the least.