I play video games largely for fun, or as a means to blow off steam after a rough day at work. But I also occasionally challenge myself by trying to beat a particular title on the hardest difficulty setting. I’ve succeeded at some—Command and Conquer: Renegade & Fallout: New Vegas—while others—Resident Evil 7 & Neoquest 2 (from the Neopets website)—have eluded me. And I recently set my sights on a game I purchased earlier this year.
I first acquired and played the Resident Evil 2 remake back in February 2019, and I have gotten hours of enjoyment from the title and its associated mini-games. I have since been watching a number of gamers broadcasting their own playthroughs on Twitch. After several months of viewing others run through the grueling hardcore mode of the game, I decided to give it a go myself.
What makes this mode of the game so challenging is that every step through a monster-infested area could be your last. Each creature you encounter moves much faster in hardcore mode and most can kill you in 1-3 hits. And if you die, you must start over from the beginning of the game or from your last save.
I shared my plans with three video game streamers who I watch regularly—Silentkaster, Crazygamingdayz, and ISeeDeadKittensXO. The latter, Kittens, was the only one who had yet to get through this mode with the best grade—more on that later—but said he would if I managed to pull it off.
It took me about six hours to get through Claire’s campaign with 13 saves—about five hours and 15 saves for Leon’s. I didn’t have any ambitions beyond trying to get through both scenarios. I changed my mind when Kittens challenged me to run through it again, this time for a proverbial gold medal.
One staple of the Resident Evil games is that you’re graded on how well you do, ranging from E to S+. Generally, things like speed, accuracy, minimal saves, or number of enemies eliminated contribute to the score you get upon completion. To obtain the best possible grade in the Resident Evil 2 remake’s hardcore mode, you must get through it in under two and a half hours with no more than three saves.
I don’t know how many attempts I made overall, but it had to be at least a hundred. I chose to run through the Claire A scenario since that is the easiest of the four campaigns. Each failure made me more determined and helped me develop tactics to get through.
On my initial try at it, I saved the game just before the first boss fight. Going up against one of the toughest monsters in the game was a grueling experience. I tried a number of different tactics from pumping the creature full of lead to hacking away at it with a combat knife. I’m not sure which method ultimately worked because I kept failing over and over before I could get to my next savepoint.
Fortunately, I got in so much practice against the first boss that I decided to start over from the beginning—this time saving after the fight. I was just under the one hour mark at this point. From here, I had to decide whether or not I should grab a submachine gun on the other end of the police station from my location, or simply run for the next objective. I tried several times to grab the desired weapon before I ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the time or risk. There were certain steps I needed to take just to gain access to the SMG; some steps would put me in a situation that could get me killed.
I finally decided to just muddle through with the handgun and grenade launcher I already had and hope for the best. It took some doing, but I finally made it to my next savepoint in the sewers just prior to the second boss fight.
The second boss monster is perhaps the most difficult one in the game for me to get past—primarily because you have to fight it in the smallest self-contained area and have to use a crane to knock it off the platform to end the battle. Unfortunately, I kept getting killed after the few times I did win. I lost count of how many attempts I made to get through this fight intact.
My plan was to have my last save just prior to the back-to-back final boss fights in the game. But frustration from having to do the second battle over and over made me change my mind. Another contributing factor was that my character was in very poor health at the start of the greenhouse area—the most dangerous location in the game. I feared getting killed and having to repeat the previous fight again, so I saved at a less than optimal point. It also meant I couldn’t save any more if I wanted to obtain the best grade.
I should also note that I could have picked up an electricity-based weapon in the sewers that would have helped me out here, but I didn’t have space for it in my inventory when I came across it. I had to rely on just the knife, handgun, and grenade launcher—mostly—to help me get through to the end.
Through all of this, I’d been keeping Crazygamingdayz, Silentkaster, and Kittens updated on my progress. Kittens was so impressed that I made it so far and stood such a good chance of winning that he decided to go for it himself. Ironically, he completed the hardcore mode with an S+ rank before I did!
I ran through the greenhouse section so many times that I became a veritable expert at it—I even joked to several friends that I could do it in my sleep. I did make some really dumb mistakes at times though. For instance, I found that throwing a flash grenade in a room of immobile zombies will cause them all to get up at once. This really backfired when I mistakenly threw one in a stairwell and the zombie in the room at the top of the stairs came down and caught me unawares.
After multiple tries, it was very satisfying to finally triumph over the final monster in the game—especially since I was considering starting the game over from scratch to conserve more ammo than I had. I was given access to a mini-gun just before the fight, but there were several attempts that ended in failure because I ran completely out of ammo. I solved this problem by being stingier with my firearms in the second-to-last battle. And it took me 2 hours and 15 minutes to get through it.
Successfully completing this mode with the best grade unlocked both a mini-gun and rapid-fire SMG for use throughout the game, both with infinite ammo. While either would make running through any campaign on any difficulty more of a breeze, I’m still aiming to get through Leon’s campaign on hardcore with an S+ rank, which can’t be achieved if I use these weapons. Winning at this scenario would net me an infinite-ammo rocket launcher.
Leon’s campaign is more challenging than Claire’s because you are being pursued by a near-unkillable monster at certain points throughout. The most you can hope for is to temporarily disable this creature to keep it from chasing you, if not outrun it.
It may take me just as much time and effort to get through Leon’s side of the story as it did with Claire’s. But given that I’ve made it about halfway while only saving once, I know I stand a very good chance.