The Resident Evil 2 Remake Challenge

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.

Upcoming Games of Interest 2019

As much as I love the many video games I currently own, I also love hearing of new games in development with stories or gameplay elements that pique my interest. This year’s annual game press release conference, E3, was no exception.

This first peek at titles in development allowed me a glimpse at several that intrigued me and which I may consider purchasing in the months to come. I am also including some titles that have been seen at past E3 conferences but haven’t been released yet.

Below is my list of six video games in development I look forward to playing.

1) Death Stranding – A title that was first announced at E3 2017, Death Stranding is a game heavily shrouded in mystery. Not much has been revealed about the plot and what little has been seen in the trailers is open to interpretation. What I do know is that Death Stranding takes place on either a post-apocalyptic Earth or an alien world, where mankind struggles to survive against giant malevolent entities. The game also features actor Norman Reedus (from the TV show Walking Dead), whose likeness has been replicated through facial and motion capture technology, as the main character. I look forward to discovering more about the game as its release date gets closer, but I like what I’ve seen so far.

2) Cyberpunk 2077 – An upcoming sci-fi title that centers around a courier with a cybernetic implant, Cyberpunk 2077 tells the story of a man on the run after his clients turned on him. While all that’s been seen so far is the game’s opening cinematics, I find the premise interesting. Even better, one of the central characters is being portrayed by actor Keanu Reeves. Granted, I’ve seen films that have a similar plot, but I look forward to experiencing such a story firsthand.

3) Final Fantasy VII remake – I only recently started playing the original version of Final Fantasy VII, but I’ve known for some time that there was a remake in development. This year’s E3 presented the first trailer\gameplay footage for the upcoming title—it looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s fantastic to see the much-loved classic of the Final Fantasy series reimagined in high definition with superior graphics. The story will likely remain the same—rumor has it that the remake will be divided into two or more games to account for everything from the original. It will be fascinating to see this small band of freedom fighters battling against an evil corporation in a realistic 3D environment.

4) The Sinking City – An upcoming mystery horror game that takes inspiration from the works of H.P. Lovecraft, The Sinking City looks to be a title in which you must play through the same period of time over and over to avoid getting killed. I don’t know too much at this point what it’s about and I’ve seen conflicting release dates for it—the game will come out either this year or in 2020. But I look forward to it all the same.

5) Elder Scrolls VI Elder Scrolls is a series that takes place in the large fictional medieval realm of Tamriel, and each title takes place in a different province of the massive world. I didn’t start playing the Elder Scrolls games until the release of the fifth one, Skyrim, in 2011. I have since devoted at least 300 hours total to the franchise. I loved Skyrim so much that I anxiously awaited news of a follow-up. I got my wish last year at E3 2018, though all that was revealed was a brief shot of a mountainous landscape and the game’s title. There is no info yet about where it will take place, what the plot will be, or when it will be released. But if it’s anything like Skyrim, Elder Scrolls VI is a game I would love to dive right into.

6) Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 – I got hours of enjoyment from the first Ultimate Alliance game that allowed you to build a team from a large roster of Marvel superheroes. While I didn’t really play the 2nd game in the series—largely because I couldn’t figure out what button to press to demolish a statue in the first mission—I still very much love this series. I was ecstatic when I first heard there was a new title in development and that it will feature many characters from the recent Marvel superhero movies—Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men. The one downside—this new game will only be available on the Nintendo Switch, a device I don’t own. But I may consider investing in the Switch for the opportunity to play Ultimate Alliance 3 as well as a number of other titles.

I know there are many more titles in production right now, but I’m very selective about what I find interesting. If you would like to share an upcoming game that you’re anxious to play, please tell about it in the comments below.

A Different Kind of Gaming

In my everyday life, I’ve been guilty of not getting out much and of making impulse buys. For a long while, I’ve been happy just spending evenings at home either watching TV or playing video games. And when it came to impulse buys, I often invested in collectibles—limited edition DVDs or action figures, for example—that I thought I might be able to sell on E-Bay for a profit at a later date.

That being said, I first learned from a video game streamer called TheLegitTipster sometime in 2017 about a Resident Evil 2 board game that was trying to acquire funding for production on Kickstarter.com. Along with thousands of other people around the world, I chose to financially back the project. And it was quite successful—the company making this board game acquired enough money to manufacture a tabletop game featuring hours, if not days, of enjoyment for the player.

Those who invested in the development of the board game gained access to all extras that came with it, even some that were Kickstarter exclusives. I personally invested enough money into the project to acquire three sets of the board game, two of which I plan to sell on E-Bay at some point. It took a while, but my new tabletop game was shipped to me in February 2019. The one problem—I didn’t have anyone in my life I could actually play the board game with. I doubt anyone in my writing group would be interested, and I don’t have very many friends.

Everything changed one Saturday morning in April when I ventured out to my local library to return some movies. I got there before the library opened at 10 am and was surprised to see a dozen people milling around toting a wide assortment of board games.

I struck up a conversation with one of the guys while waiting and found out that this is a group that meets at the library once a month just to play tabletop games. I got interested enough to participate for several hours—I had to work at 3 pm—and see what they were all about.

I ended up joining in on a fantasy horror game called Touch of Evil in which the players cooperate with each other—though the game can also be played competitively—to achieve the collective goal of locating and vanquishing a powerful supernatural monster—Cthulhu in this case. I wasn’t able to stick around long enough to finish the game, but the other players told me that someone could easily take my place for the remainder. There was a really good turnout for the get-together that day; every seat in the auditorium was taken.

I had so much fun that I decided I wanted to participate in more than just the one session, especially when one of the group leaders told me other players would be open to learning about the Resident Evil 2 board game I owned.

As fate would have it, I’d requested the weekend off for the next board gamers get-together on May 18—that was before I’d even found out about this group. My initial plan was to go to a comic convention, but I changed my mind when the celebrity I wanted to meet in person cancelled at the last minute. This left my Saturday wide open to hang out at the library playing board games.

Unlike my last visit, the group members didn’t start coming in until about 10:30. I hung out in the Internet lounge until then—either writing or playing part of a video game on my laptop.

I had only just unwrapped the Resident Evil 2 board game at home, as well as two add-on packs containing additional monsters and playable characters, prior to coming to the library. It was a little embarrassing to admit to the group leaders that I’d never actually played the game, as well as showed that the card decks were still wrapped in plastic and the board pieces hadn’t been punched out from the protective cardboard.

One of the leaders nicely suggested I take time to get the components ready for use and familiarize myself with the rules—this took several hours. I did run into a snafu when it came to assembling the spinner dials for the various guns/ammo amounts. On several, I didn’t arrange the components correctly—I had one heck of a time pulling the fasteners apart to fix it. One of the other group members had to help me with this.

I don’t know how long I spent going through the manual before I got a solid handle on how the game worked. Once I got the board layout for the first scenario set up, I was joined by a female group member—I’m unsure of her name—who said she was interested in trying it out with me.

She read through the rulebook a little herself and I explained some bits before we got started. The first scenario is very simple and the only creatures you face are zombies that can be taken out in one hit—the game gets progressively harder as you go along. The goal of scenario one is just to make it through the door at the end of the board.

I did take one point of damage by stopping to grab a shotgun—a weapon that really only comes in handy in subsequent scenarios. The one thing that my co-player and I neglected to make use of was the tension deck—we were supposed to draw cards at the end of our turns to determine if we were in a safe area or not. The tension deck can generate random encounters or dangerous events to make the game more interesting.

One point of the rules that was unclear pertained to line of sight. The instructions state that you can’t shoot a zombie if it’s behind a closed door, behind a wall, or around a corner. But apparently, there’s no restriction if another creature or character is between you and your target. I looked online for clarification on this and found there’s no problem shooting through whatever animate entity is in your way. But I may set my own restriction for future gameplay.

After we’d finished the scenario—we both agreed it was fun—I proceeded to pack up the game. I’d taken a picture of the character\creature tokens beforehand to determine what went where. Aligning the board pieces back in the box felt like playing a game of Tetris. And one of the board game group leaders was kind enough to give me a Ziploc bag to store all the smaller components for the time being. He suggested I compartmentalize them into smaller baggies for an easier setup next time.

I also learned from reading through the rules that the game can be played solo—I will definitely be giving that a try to get a better feel for it. And even though I’d brought additional sets with extra characters and monsters, reading through the booklets for each made me think it was too much for a trial run. Interesting side note—two of the extra characters are evil and can make the game competitive rather than cooperative if you choose to play as them.

For the remainder of my time at the get-together, I got the opportunity to learn several other games: a card game called Arboretum with two other players and a couple board games called Between Two Cities and Hive Mind, each with four other players. The group leader who introduced me to Arboretum was surprised at how quickly I picked it up—I scored really well for a beginner.

I don’t feel I can adequately simplify how Between Two Cities works—I wasn’t clear on how the winner was determined when I played it—so here’s a YouTube video that explains it.

Hive Mind was the most fun, even if I did lose on my first playthrough. The game starts with all player tokens at the top of a six-story beehive. During each turn, players must write down a set number of answers to whatever question was asked—such as “Name three time travel movies.” The goal is to match whatever the other players wrote—the more matches, the more points you get. The person with the least amount of points per round must go down a level in the beehive; whoever gets expelled from the hive first loses the game. Needless to say, I didn’t do well in matching my responses, even though I got really good answers on some questions. For example, I wrote down Terminator for the movie question, but none of the other four players did.

My co-player for Resident Evil 2 joined me for all subsequent games. Before we started playing Hive Mind, she asked about trying out the next scenario. I declined because I believed the library would be closing within an hour—turns out I was wrong about that—and I felt it would take too long to set up.

All in all, I’m really glad to have discovered this group—not just because it granted me the opportunity to crack open a tabletop game that may otherwise have collected dust. I look forward to broadening my knowledge of the many board or card games out there. And I’ve resolved to request one Saturday off from work on a monthly basis.

I can’t wait to see what the next get-together yields.

My Favorite Vacation Spots in Video Games

For much of my adult life, I’ve dreamed of traveling to different parts of the world I’d like to see–Ireland, Australia, Hawaii. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the opportunity to do so, but I’ll always be able to say I’ve seen some very spectacular places in video games I’ve played. It would be nice if some of the stunning locations I’ve visited in the digital world existed in real life–and were monster-free so I could thoroughly enjoy what I was seeing.

Below is my list of ten fictional places, in no particular order, where I’d love to take a vacation.

1) Fortune City (Dead Rising 2: Off the Record) — Fortune City is a locale that is present in two separate versions of Dead Rising 2–one with motocross champion Chuck Greene as the protagonist and the other, Off the Record, starring photojournalist Frank West. The layout for Fortune City differs in Frank’s story–largely because one of the casinos is replaced with an amusement park. In either game, Fortune City would be the ultimate pleasure-seeker’s dream. The casinos, shopping centers, hotels, gladiatorial sports arena, scenic pavilion, and quickie wedding chapel make it a destination with something to appeal to most every vacationer.

2) Banoi (Dead Island) – The tropical island of Banoi featured in the first Dead Island game stands out for both its natural beauty and luxury hotels, bungalows, and housing. Whether you’re a fan of lovely beachside settings, cityscapes with modest weather-worn architecture, or remnants of a war—such as a concrete bunker—that plagued the island in times past, then Banoi is the place for you. It is a location I’d definitely love to visit, especially if I could rent one of the elevated houses out on the ocean.

3) Havarl (Mass Effect: Andromeda) – An alien world teeming with bioluminescent flora, Havarl is definitely a wonder to behold. I remember being awestruck when I saw just how beautiful it was for the first time. Nature-lovers will adore it simply because of the unique plant life, while sight-seers will love exploring the remnants of an ancient alien civilization. Me—I’d love to visit every now and then just to enjoy the natural beauty of this planet.

4) “Bouncy” Loot Lake (Fortnite) – Fortnite features a landscape that is ever changing; the area that was once Loot Lake has irrevocably changed. But I remember when it was once a massive body of water with a three-story house on the central island. At one point in the game’s history, an alien artifact dropped into the lake and transformed the surface into a purple bouncy material—you could be launched into the air merely by stepping on it. My teammates and I used to forego the gameplay objective of offing your opponents in favor of simply bouncing around the lake. Loads of fun—I wish such a thing existed in the real world, especially since you could get some pretty good height without getting hurt.

5) Queen Zenobia (Resident Evil: Revelations) – Despite being a cruise ship that was used as a headquarters for a terrorist organization, the Queen Zenobia is quite luxurious. Granted, I only saw one indoor pool and spa, the casino is rather small, and I didn’t spot any stores to purchase keepsakes or clothing. But the Queen Zenobia features the same architecture as the mansion from the very first Resident Evil game. It might be said that the cruise ship was made to cater more to those with an appreciation for art than pleasure—I like to think I’m open-minded enough to enjoy both.

6) Rapture (Bioshock) – The massive deep-sea domed city of Rapture might not be the most ideal place to live, but it is one of the most unique. Reinforced glass walkways and habitats provide a great view of oceanic wildlife. Built as a utopia by wealthy businessman Andrew Ryan who invested a fortune into its construction, Rapture is the place to go for the finer things in life. Five-star restaurants, boutiques, and theaters await those with the bank account to afford it. Even if it did exist in real life, Rapture might be the one place I could realistically only dream about visiting.

7) The Institute (Fallout 4) – There are many locations to visit in the Fallout series, though most are derelict or reimagined versions of their real-life counterparts in the wake of a nuclear war. Though I could have picked the Washington DC area, Zion Canyon, or Boston, these are locations I’d have the opportunity to visit in real life. Not so much with the Institute, a subterranean science facility that exists as a slice of perfection in a post-apocalyptic world. Contradictory to the damaged landscape above, the Institute is pristine—where one can find clean food and water—and is a reminder of how good the world was and can be again. Unfortunately, the Institute is limited on space—they don’t open their doors to just anyone. Should Earth ever fall into the state of ruin present in the Fallout series, then the Institute would be the place where I’d want to take an extended vacation if not live.

8) the Carnovasch Estate (Phantasmagoria) – A century-old mansion constructed by an illusionist in the late 1800s, the Carnovasch Estate retains much of its original décor in the modern era. It is a one-of-a-kind house that features Victorian architecture and includes a full-sized theatre where hundreds of guests could enjoy magic shows. The wine cellar, observatory, and reception hall add to the mansion’s charm. The grounds of the estate include a vintage greenhouse, gazebo, fountain, and creekside terrain ideal for hosting picnics. Aside from the fact that the house is haunted, it would be a historical site I would love to visit time and again.

9) Twisty Bridges (Subnautica: Below Zero) – Subnautica is set on an alien world that is mostly water, but also features some extraordinary underwater vistas. One of the most spectacular is Twisty Bridges, a series of rock formations that curve around each other and are partially bioluminescent. It is a scuba-diving locale I wouldn’t mind seeing over and over as a reminder of how beautiful and mysterious deep-sea environments—alien planet or not—can be.

10) Arcadia Bay (Life is Strange) – Though it is a relatively safe locale unless you match the criteria of a deranged serial killer, Arcadia Bay is the place to visit for a glimpse of small-town life. The coastal town features a private academy for gifted students, family-owned businesses, and a scenic lookout in the mountains with a lighthouse and public park. Arcadia Bay is an ideal vacation spot if you wish to just get away from it all. I’d love to vacation there just for the peace and tranquility that the town has to offer.

I imagine there are hundreds of locations in video games that would make a great vacation destination, but these are the ones that stand out the most for me. Whether I’m looking for excitement or serenity, I would definitely pick one of the places on this list. If you would like to share your thoughts on a fictional place you find appealing, please do so in the comments below.

First Impressions of Mass Effect: Andromeda, Part 2

In a blogpost from 2017, I stated that I wasn’t able to play Mass Effect: Andromeda all the way through. And that I would when I obtained a computer that was more capable of running it.

Both wishes came true in February 2019—though I encountered a string of unrelated bad luck that kept me from trying out my new PC right away. When I finally got around to playing Andromeda again, I was happy to see I’d be able to continue the game that had been gathering dust for quite a while. Jumping back into Andromeda after so long, however, was a little jarring. For several days, I debated whether I should start a brand new game or continue with the current one. The latter option won when I regained a feel for the gameplay.

It has been quite an experience so far. After progressing the story on the Angara homeworld, I set out to tip the scales of a war on an ice planet called Voeld. This undertaking brought its own share of headaches. After exploring the planet for some time, I headed for the enemy stronghold to take it out, only to be deterred by a forcefield at the entrance.

I had to look online to figure out how to disable the shield—and got a bit aggravated when I found I needed to complete several quests to obtain a shutdown code. It had taken me some time and effort to reach the entrance and the idea of backtracking was frustrating.

I’m not one to give up in either case. After a short break from Andromeda, I dived back in, completed the needed quests to infiltrate the stronghold, and proceeded to eliminate the enemy units. I did get a scare at one point when I was watching what looked like an entry point in the ceiling—only for the enemy units to come up through the floor instead.

It was a little disappointing to find that eliminating the stronghold was only a side quest rather than part of the main storyline, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable for me. For the remainder of my time spent playing Andromeda that day, I focused primarily on completing side quests for the Nexus space station, the planet Eos, and for my crew members.

The next day I played was likewise spent completing side quests, of which there are a lot. My next headache arose when my save file from that entire session was corrupted and all my progress was erased. I’ve since had to do it all over.

One of the funniest things I’ve encountered was when I accidentally drove my vehicle off a cliff. Each time the game loaded me back in, it was in a bad spot that resulted in the vehicle falling into the same abyss over and over.

Overall, I like that the game has so much content or environments to explore. The jungle planet Havarl is particularly beautiful. I aim to experience as much as I can rather than rush my way through the game.

My only nitpick would be in regards to my character’s appearance. The way her lipstick is applied gives her a permanent Joker-esque smile. And her eyes are visible through her eyelids—a gaming term known as clipping—when she blinks. I don’t know if this is a widespread problem with the game or if it’s due to how I personally modeled my character’s appearance. But I may find out with my next playthrough.

I don’t know how long it may take me to get through to the ending, but I look forward to seeing what awaits me. And I hope to see a sequel to Andromeda someday that expands on this sci-fi series I love so much.