Resident... Evil... Two...
The Resident Evil 2 remake was on sale for £20 on PSN recently and I decided to take a punt on it. I have already watched one and a half playthroughs on it thanks to the wonders of internet streaming video but I fancied a calm jaunt through zombieland to take my mind off things.
Setting aside the current ongoing Remake/Reimagining/Remaster discussion that has been tying podcasters in knots recently, Resident Evil 2 is a very good game. I have enjoyed my time with it so far, especially as someone who wanted to like the original versions of these games on the Saturn/Playstation/Dreamcast but was total garbage at them.
I wanted to discuss some elements of the game here, both those I like and don’t like as much:
The Map in Resident Evil 2 is great, and many other people have already waxed lyrical about it. It marks if you have “completed” a room and also puts little icons on the map for pickups that you have passed by - all you have to do is swing the camera over them and it gets added. This is a massive help in a game with limited resources and limited inventory space for multiple reasons - it lets you know where you should focus your time and efforts, most particularly.
It also loads in a split-second, which is a godsend for maintaining tension and also for letting you quickly “dip into” the map whenever you need without having to perform any internal calculus of “how long is this going to take me out of the game”. Destiny 2 and Assassin’s Creed Origins are terrible at this. Sidenote: I would pay an absurd amount of money for a version of Destiny 2 that loaded instantly.
+ Game / Objective Flow
The game always provides you with a “top-line” objective to complete, which is honestly more of a narrative imperative and I never referred to. On a more granular and immediate level, Resident Evil 2 is always providing you with 1-2 immediate things to accomplish. Explore that new area. Use this key on that door. Pick up that item you missed. Investigate that statue we marked on your map. Run away from this massive looming threat we provide in the second quartile of the game just as you are settling into a comfortable rhythm and who leaves an overwhelming impression on you.
This is a massive improvement over the original version of the game where my lasting impression is one of being constantly stuck and unable to determine where I need to go or what cryptic macguffin I need to pick up.
+ The SLS 60
The SLS 60 is the starter gun you have when you play as Claire. It is a 5-shot revolver with a long reload time (quickly fixed with an upgrade part) and a wide bullet spread, so you have to really pick your shots with it. Its great at providing tension in the early game, but is thankfully replaced as your standard handgun in short order.
In the last third of the game you can find another upgrade part that allows it to take “high-power” ammunition, turning it into that standard end-game weapon of this game series, the magnum.
This is admittedly a small thing but I personally really like it- the gun retains all its remaining drawbacks (long aiming time, long time between shots) but it is now given a new lease on life. It also helps prevent weapon sprawl which can arguably happen in games of this nature - instead of giving you another limited use weapon it boosts an existing one back into your roster.
+ Zombie animations
Zombies have been done to death (undeath?) as an adversary in video games, but Resident Evil 2 does a really good job of making them an oppressive threat. The threat isn’t so much to your health as they do not do much damage but as a drain on your resources and ability to move with impunity around the map.
Zombies in this game can take a wildly varied amount of activity to dispatch. Obviously you aim for the head, but the amount of handgun shots you need to put into them is a crapshoot. Sometimes you get lucky and they are decapitated after two shots, other times you need to plug six shots into their cranium to get them to knock it off. You have other weapons as well, but it is best to save these for enemies that are more dangerous than your bog standard shambler.
The zombie animation also has an absurd amount of care put into it, both to make them look appropriately undead, but also to make them an active target. Their head lolls around on an unwilling neck, sweeping back and forth as they walk around. Hit a zombie and they will flinch, stumble, shamble, and so make your follow-up shot more awkward to line up. It’s hard to fully describe without a video but it really forces you to respect this basic enemy and put some patience and effort into dispatching them. Instead of holding down the fire button (a bad idea due to already limited resources) you are best served by carefully lining up each shot, letting the targeting reticule tighten, and then firing when the enemy is at relative rest.
Missing a shot is a terrible thing - a precious resource gone forever from the game world for no gain.
- Player Character Barks
Do you really need to yell “Bastard!” at the zombies? They can’t hear you, that’s pretty much their whole deal.
I understand providing the player characters with some personality and in-world reactions - piloting a mute around a creepy situation apart from when they take damage is also bad but don’t be mean to the living dead.
- “I Had That!” moments
Hitboxes are hard. I know that from personal experience. However sometimes in this game the characters will “snap” into attack animations that make you yell “Oh come on!” at the screen. Resident Evil 2 does a good job of visually covering this up with some camera zoom, shake, and very cool looking canned character animations when you are attacked but it does not hide the sometimes suspicious mechanics of putting you in a damage-taking state.
There are multiple times that I could have sworn I had dodged an enemy only to have it snap me into being injured. Mr. X is perhaps the worst offender in this regard as he also relocates you when he attacks which can lead to being disoriented and then taking more damage. This does admittedly provide comedic moments where you can go from fine to dead in a cavalcade of attack animations, but frustration can creep in when you are certain that you were clear of that initial attack.
- No Red9
The Red9 handgun in Resident Evil 4 is the pinnacle of video game handguns and whenever it is not present I am compelled to complain.
As a final note, I have refrained from calling the game “Resi 2” in this post because it feels extremely 90’s nowadays. No-one wants to go back to the 90’s.