First Impressions of the Resident Evil 2 Remake

As big a fan I am of the Resident Evil game series, I have never had the chance to play every single game—particularly the early ones. The three sequels to the original game—2, 3, and Code Veronica—were only available on consoles by the time I really got in the franchise. I never got into playing games on the Playstation, Xbox, or Gamecube, and I doubt I will ever invest in one of those consoles.

Which is why I was elated when I first heard news in 2015 that Resident Evil 2 would be completely remade as a high-definition game. Past the initial announcement by the production company, Capcom, there was zero news or updates on the remake’s development until late last year. I got more hyped for this new game the more I learned about it, but I also tried to stay spoiler-free until I could experience it for the first time.

In anticipation of the game’s release on January 25, I invested in a better computer that would be built according to my preferences. While I didn’t get my new PC as soon as I wanted, I was able to play the remake for the first time on January 27 on a Surface Book.

And—aside from the glitches I experienced on the less-than-optimal hardware—the game definitely didn’t disappoint.

As with the original game, the plot follows the adventures of rookie cop Leon Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield—each of them braving a zombie-infested city for their own reasons. You can start the game with either character, but neither impacts how the other’s story plays out like it did in the original—more on that later. It was nice to see more realistic versions of all the characters from the original story, as well as the reimagined and very detailed environments to explore. Graphics-wise, the remake is spectacular.

Lack of knowledge on what to expect made the new and improved Resident Evil 2 a very nerve-wracking experience, though I wouldn’t call that a bad thing. Part of what made it so was that there were certain creatures that didn’t show up in the same locations where they were first seen in the original game. Since I didn’t know where I’d encounter a monster, I was very cautious on my first run through the police station. I very much enjoyed this venture into the unknown—I don’t think it would have been as enjoyable if everything had played out exactly the same.

Another source of tension stemmed from how hard it was to determine if a creature was down for the count. My reaction to a monster getting back up after I thought I’d killed it went as follows: Oh, my God, you’re not dead! Panic fire!

I started my first run playing as Claire. It took me near 11 hours just to get through her campaign—9 hours for Leon—but I enjoyed every minute. Part of what took me so long was that I got stuck at various points—sometimes on a puzzle that should have been easy to figure out. And the locations were at times difficult to traverse—I had to keep consulting the maps for each area to determine how to get to a certain room.

Even the glitches I encountered on the Surface Book made the remake an interesting experience. At one point early in the game, I actually had a zombie walk right through me. The other glitch that really stood out was when I was trying to get supporting character Sherry to hide from one of the bad guys—she kept spazzing out and repeatedly bobbing up and down. In retrospect, I wish I had a recording of the latter—it was really funny to see.

There are many creatures to fear in the remake. But the most daunting has to be Mr. X, a titan who relentlessly pursues you through the different areas—especially if you’re playing Leon’s campaign. And I found out the hard way that hiding from him doesn’t work—if you stay in one place too long, he will inevitably find you. Since he can take away half your health in one hit and will only drop for so long if you shoot him enough times, running is more advisable. Even the sound of his pounding footsteps—whether he’s on the same floor or overhead—can easily work your last nerve.

What made the game even more entertaining were my own blunders. You’re limited on how many items you can carry at one time. My inventory was full when I stumbled upon an item I needed to get through a nearby locked door. I had to discard some ammo I thought I could do without—you can’t retrieve something after it’s thrown away. Ironically, I found the gun that this ammo went with minutes later.

One of my other mistakes originated when I was running from Mr. X. I ended up trapped in a hallway surrounded by three different creature types. In spite of how harrowing that situation was, I could help but start laughing when I was killed.

Another thing I loved about the remake was how well the characters—main or supporting—were fleshed out. I found it easy to feel sorry for police lieutenant Marvin Branaugh, gun shop owner Robert Kendo, and even Umbrella scientists William and Annette Birkin with how their respective stories played out. Not so much with police chief Brian Irons, who is just as vile as he was in the original game.

What makes the remake even better is that it recreates a pair of mini-games that were presented in the original version. Firstly, there is a scenario called the 4th Survivor that has an Umbrella soldier code-named HUNK (Human Unit Never Killed) who must run through a monster-laden gauntlet to an extraction point. I attempted this mode once, but didn’t make it very far before I got overwhelmed. 4th Survivor is a difficult game to beat—stopping to shoot the creatures in your path is a waste of ammo. But I will definitely keep trying.

The other mini-game is identical to 4th Survivor except that you’re playing as a joke character from the original Resident Evil 2. The Tofu Survivor has you as a human-sized block of tofu armed only with a knife who must run through the same gauntlet. Even the Tofu character looks incredibly realistic from the texture to the way he jiggles when he runs. What makes it funnier is that Tofu gets chunks taken out of him as he takes damage. I haven’t yet played this mode, but YouTube videos I’ve watched have shown me you can unlock four additional Tofu characters, each with a different arsenal to help them get through the gauntlet. I very much look forward to trying out this mini-game for myself.

On February 15th, another mini-game titled Ghost Survivors was released as a free add-on to the remake. Ghost Survivors explores what-if scenarios for several characters who perished in the main story—what if they had lived to see another day? The roster includes Robert Kendo, mayor’s daughter Katherine Warren, an Umbrella soldier code-named Ghost, and sheriff Daniel Cortini. As entertaining as it was to see each of them escape their fate, Ghost Survivors is an extremely challenging mode to get through. You must make every bullet count—if playing as Kendo, Katherine or Ghost, you must carefully decide what items you’ll need to advance. I’ve yet to beat any scenario on standard mode—each campaign in Ghost Survivors features a training mode that reduces the number of enemies and makes them easier to eliminate. It may take time, but I believe I’ll find strategies that will help me get through each scenario in one piece. And it would be a treat to see a Ghost Survivors 2 that changes the fates of other supporting characters in the remake.

My only gripe is that Leon and Claire’s stories don’t really sync up in the remake. In the original game, the character you started with dictated the path taken by the other—if Leon unlocked a door in his campaign, it stayed accessible for Claire. In the remake, the second character must track down the same keys and solve the same puzzles as the first in order to advance. What further separates the two campaigns is Annette’s actions—if Leon and Claire’s stories were connected to each other, then the ending would have Annette in two places at once.

The Resident Evil 2 Remake is such a fantastic game chock full of content that I don’t see it getting old anytime soon. The developers have done such a great job revitalizing what made the original game so enjoyable that I can’t wait to see what will come next for the franchise. I have heard rumors that the third game in the series would also be remade if enough fans demanded it—rumors that look very likely to become a reality. Since the original Resident Evil 3 was the biggest nail-biter in the franchise, I imagine that a new and improved version will be an even bigger scare-fest.

Bring it on.

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