Posted on 07 Mar 2019 by L Coulsen

Resident Evil 2

Remake

The Defence

Remake of: Resident Evil 2
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Action, Adventure, Horror
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: 25 Jan 2019

The Prosecution

Minimum
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 4460 : None
AMD FX 6300 : None
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB
AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB
RAM: 8 GB
HDD: 26 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: Possible
VR: No
FOV Slider: Unknown
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

A little over twenty years ago, Resident Evil landed in our laps and brought an honest to peanuts B movie horror under our direct control. Cheesy, terribly delivered dialogue, ludicrous ‘twists’ and ridiculous monsters. Two years later, the sequel arrived and took the premise, but firmly grounded it and became far more serious, though still maintaining the same sense of silliness. And now, after much begging, pleading and cajoling, Resident Evil 2 has returned. Rebuilt entirely from the ground up, so much so that it is effectively a brand new game. A remake of what many consider the very best of the franchise, but done in an almost completely new way. So, was it worth the wait? Let’s take a look.

The Trial

Well now, we have ourselves something on a conundrum here. A real three pipe problem. The consensus is very firmly in favour of this being the perfect remake. Hell, according to many, REemake 2 is the perfect game. And truth be told, it’s not difficult to see why people are seeing that. But allow me a moment for the very hottest of takes. This is actually a pretty bad game. There are fundamental issues that tarnish the entire experience, and it is genuinely baffling to me that other people have not come to the same conclusion.

There’s a fair whack of content here. To start with, you have a choice between playing as either of the protagonists, Claire or Leon. There are some differences between their campaigns, but it mostly amounts to a few story beats and a unique character to interact with. The enigmatic Ada in Leon’s case, and a young girl called Sherry for the other. The scenes with them are unique to your chosen protag, but (almost) everything else stays exactly the. Same puzzles, same item locations with only a few different weapons along the way.

From there, you can also unlock a second campaign, which differs only superficially from the A scenarios. As well as some extra, combat focused, game modes which introduce two new characters. Hunk, an Umbrella mercenary…and Tofu, a person sized, sentient piece of Tofu. His side mission has multiple variations to unlock as you continue, things like only having grenades, only having knives and so on.

There are now also three extra ‘story’ missions that were added as a free update. Though the only actual story you get is a text splurge at the beginning and end. They do add some new gameplay mechanics, which are interesting enough, and each one has a unique enemy of its own. These include a zombie that spews gas to reanimate dead enemies when it dies, one that’s effectively a reanimation from Resi 4, that kind of thing. They’re nothing to really write home about, but they’re fun enough in their own right.

Itchy, tasty.

Now, let it be said, there is no denying, REmake 2 is a gorgeous game. It looks genuinely superb. I would not go so far as to bestow the title of best looking game ever made, but it is certainly well up there. Better yet, it is extremely well optimised. The listed specs are far, far above what one needs to run the game well, even at resolutions above the industry standard of 1080p. There are some minor issues with lighting going a bit wonky on reflective services, and more than a few people have reported issues with short freezes, even when specifications are exceeded and settings are reduced to compensate. But those are pretty much the only technical issues experienced anywhere.

The story is a tad on the silly side also, but that’s hardly new to the Resident Evil series. In fact, we all pretty much agree that’s one of the series’ greatest strengths. It never takes itself too seriously, apart from maybe the seventh. And though 2 was always one of the more sincere in its storytelling, it takes itself serious in a fun way. Offsetting it’s more sober moments with the ludicrous events taking place around you.

Sound design is equally strong. Hearing enemies shuffling around nearby really does help build a sense of tension when you’re trying to skirt around them without being spotted. Lickers, in particular, are extremely nerve wracking if you’re trying to move slowly enough that they won’t hear you. The way they sniff the air in your approximate direction can be make one incredibly nervous. Basically what I’m saying, is that there are no complaints from a technical perspective.

Nay, rather, ’tis the gameplay where things start to fall apart. The basic mechanics work well enough, very well indeed. Playing with a mouse and keyboard is very smooth and mostly never feels like you are fighting against the controls. There are some, minor, issues when an enemy is too close. If you’re going for a headshot, you have to aim almost straight up. Which is a common complaint of third person games of course, so not something we’re going to hold against it. It’s just the nature of the beast.

I see what you did there.

The problem is the huge disconnect between the ebb and flow of the tense atmosphere is going for, constantly scavenging for resources and having to worry if you’re going to run out or ammo. But then you’re thrown into a boss fight that either demands you sink almost every bullet you have into them, or make use of your most powerful weapons for an easy time of. Which is another series staple, but taken to an extreme here. Seriously, using the correct weapon means the difference between a battle that goes on for ten or more minutes, to something that’s over in 90 seconds.

It’s quite evident that the game is trying to have its cake and eat it too. The devs seemed unwilling, or unable to commit to one, consistent theme. On the one half, the vast majority of Resident Evil 2 does a very good job of building tension. Environments are dark and claustrophobic (mostly) leaving one permanently on edge. But then it also has the bombastic, cinematic set pieces. And the two simply do not work with each other, making the gameplay loop into a mixture of oil and water.

The worst issue comes from adaptive difficulty. Something which doesn’t sound too bad on paper. I mean, if you’re struggling with a game, wasting a lot of ammo and taking a lot of damage, you’re thrown a bone and everything becomes easier for a while. And yes, that’s pretty good. Sure, it’s something that can be played, by deliberately being bad at the game, but that’s worth it for the people genuinely struggling. The problem is that it’s a door that swings both ways. If you’re doing well, the difficulty ramps up, quite significantly. And that, well, frankly, that’s just horseshit.

When you have a game that keeps prompting you and, pretty much, forcing you to be economical and make every shot count. Overtly telling you to take things slow, careful and not make any mistakes. But then it objectively punishes you for doing so…just, what the hell guys? The game is hard enough already. Enemies are complete bullet sponges to begin with. I shit you not, there were times when a zombie, a frikkin’ zombie!, took upwards of fifteen headshots before it fell over. Not even to kill it, just to make it fall over. And you could argue that was my own fault for choosing to play on Hardcore, but that happens on Standard difficulty as well.

Well butts.

See, here’s the thing. The game is lying to you. It doesn’t actually want you to be methodical and careful. At least, no in the way you might think. In a way, I actually applaud Capcom for that. Your instinct, of course, is to go for the head. The best way to put, well, anything down (apart from bosses with the obligatory glowing weakspots) is to destroy the brain. Right? And hell, if you can get the perfect headshot, and blowing that rotting lump of flesh into a sagging, flappy, rotten chunk of flesh. That zombie hits the floor like a sack of spuds and stays there. But the chances of getting that are…inconsistent. Sometimes it’s the first bullet, sometimes it’s three dozen and still not happened.

What you should be doing is going for the legs. Taking them out at the knee. Pretty much across the board, a zombie is going to go down after 3/5 shots, and although they’ll still be ‘alive’, they’re practically no threat anymore. Or, you could just shoot them once or twice to stagger them, and just run past.  I actually like this, in principle. It’s just never really explained to you, like, at all. Nitpicking, okay, that’s a fair comment. It still throws things out of whack, and suggests a dev team that intentionally wanted to troll the playerbase, just for the sake of it.

However, this issue is further compounded with the introduction of the Tyrant, or Mister X as he is more affectionately known. A returning character from the B scenarios of the original game, his roll has been greatly expanded this time around. Where, before, he would only arrive at specific places and stay in those areas, this time he just follows you constantly. You can get away from him, for a while, and hear him stomping around in the distance. But he will always find you, sooner or later. And this time, he can’t be killed. You can damage him enough to make him go down on one knee for a while, but he can only be permanently killed right at the end of Leon’s story.

Worse still is that he isn’t actually in one place, permanently rendered into the game. He, literally, flat out teleports from time to time. And it’s always right round a blind corner you are about to walk into. He can actually be spawned into the map twice, if you do things just right. Because there are actually two versions of him. One that stomps about in an angry, and another that pops up at specific places to do things like bust through a wall.

Why do I still feel like he has the upper hand?

But the very worst part about him…is that he’s nothing to worry about. No, seriously. If he gets you, he’ll punch the shit out of you, sure. And he’s actually more aggressive if you shoot his hat off because…reasons. But once you know how his AI works, he’s a piece of piss to just not be anywhere near. Get to at least two rooms away from him and he’ll be gone for a long arse time, unless you make a huge amount of noise. Even running around takes several minutes for him to find you again, barring him bamfing in round a corner.

He is also barred from entering most puzzle rooms and all but one of the save rooms. The latter being the lobby, which both he and (in the B scenarios) zombies can wander into. This part isn’t too much of an issue, but on top of the other nitpicks mentioned above, it continues a pattern of obtuse design decisions that take away from the overall experience. None of them enough to ruin everything on their own, but each smudge tarnishes the good ideas until they become so smooshed in gunk it’s like a diamond covered in turds.

The final nitpick about Mister X is if you do happen to be running away from him when you encounter other enemies. This is where the idea of shooting them a couple times in the legs, and just jinking past, comes into play. But by the time he shows up, more zombies have spawned, as have several lickers, which take a lot more than a couple of bullets to deal with…or you can walk past them slowly and they’ll pretty much ignore you, because lickers blind and work entirely on sound. So neither of those tactics work anymore.

And then, of course, this also stops being a problem on repeat playthroughs, because you know which rooms to avoid when he’s charging after your bunghole. It’s just another one of those things that seems deliberately designed to get you the first time through. Again, it’s cake and eat it time. The chase sections want to be both tense and hectic, whilst being a massive, roaming action sequence. But the required resources are not available. Unless you unlock the infinite ammo weapons. But if you have them, you can put Mister X, and bosses, down in a single hit (from the ATM-4 rocket launcher) about ten seconds with the minigun. So it falls flat there as well. Though I won’t deny, it’s actually really fun to be able to just walk through and shred everything in sight.

Damn man, what did you eat?

As a returning fan, perhaps the most egregious complaint is that the lack of a true B scenario. Aside from some items being in different places, the only difference is that you don’t play the opening moments in the gas station or the approach to the Police station. Instead arriving at the back fence after the opening cinematic. Well, okay, Mister Sexyboy also turns up a lot sooner as well, right at the beginning pretty much. But he still shows up in the same set piece he does in the A scenario, lifting up a helicopter crashed into the station’s upper floor after you put out the fire. Kinda’ ruins the effect there, just a tad.

Everything else is functionally the same. You solve the same puzzles, in the same places, in the same order. Okay, the solutions change from A to B, but those differences doth not a fresh experience make. There is only one extra story beat, that being a final confrontation on the train with the fully evolved Birkin. Something that, yes, was also true of the original. But that game also had whole extra sections and story moments to make all four scenarios distinct. Gods, even several moments from the original A scenarios are missing. Mostly the interactions between Claire and Leon. Of which there are now three. In total.

By the way, just to lay this to bed. Yes, Claire does get a typewriter in the lobby. If you play Claire A. Both characters do. And both characters  do not have a typewriter in the lobby if you play on B. People who took the time to play through all four, as I did, would know that. Makes you wonder, huh? But enough of the passive aggressive dick waggling.

The Verdict

So then, having said all of that. You know what? I actually do recommend the game. It’s flaws greatly spoil many aspects of it, but overall experience is still worth spending your time with. Taking the time to learn the game, working out the most efficient and economical route through the map to unlock the extra weapons and finding the perfect strats for finishing off bosses is quite rewarding. And it does, truly, look absolutely gorgeous. Also, you can shoot both a zombie’s arms and legs off, leaving them flopping around on the floor like a soggy dick. It’s hilarious.

Case Review

  • Sound Design: The atmosphere is superb, not gonna’ lie.

  • Visuals: The RE engine is undeniably a very pretty one.

  • Gameplay: It works, but it wobbles awkwardly between trying to disempower the player, and pushing them to cinematic firefights.

  • Resources: Honestly not as limited as you’d think, they’re more often just wasted on bulletsponge enemies.

  • Adaptive Difficulty: Making things easier for players struggling is fine, punishing players for playing well is just scummy.

3 Score: 3/5
So much potential marred by dickish design choices.

Appeal

2.5 Score: 2.5/5

My opinion of REmake 2 has swung wildly back and forth in the twenty or so hours I’ve spent with the game. Initially, small details like a freezer in the tutorial area telling you that green herbs heal without a pop-up were impressive. Unfortunately, that stealthy style of tutoring the player is rapidly thrown out for just telling them outright with text and documents. Further souring my opinion was the inconsistent damage model applied to the zombies; sometimes they’ll go down in one or two shots and sometimes they can take upwards of a dozen (18 just to knock a zombie down was my highest count). While I’m not against the undead being tough to put down, a narrower variance would go a long way to making the game feel a lot fairer and consistent. Your combat knife now has durability and breaks quickly, on two occasions using it to defend yourself against a boss grabbing you will result in them taking it with them once the battle is done. Why Capcom felt the need to make the knives have the structural integrity of Play-Doh when they’re already such a risky proposition is baffling.

Tyrant/Mr X now pursues you through the station relentlessly. This is a very cool idea, in theory, however in reality he’s given the ability to rapidly pursue you when in an unrendered room (any room more than 1 door away from your current position). He’s a terrifying presence, stomping about slowly and being physically intimidating. He’d be a fantastic presence if he were implemented more fairly. Events are similarly unfair, at one point you have to open a bunch of zombie filled jail cells all at once, thinking I was being intelligent I killed all the zombies before hitting the switch, only for them to all respawn, a lot of my valuable ammunition now wasted due to a design issue that punishes the player.

For all my misgivings, there was a lot of fun to be had in chasing fast times to unlock new infinite ammo weapons, struggling against time and resources to become more efficient at a run on higher difficulties. That was until a glitch in Leon’s scenario B on hardcore difficulty near the end stopped my progress dead in its tracks. Playing through the whole scenario again had no effect. Games are meant to be fun and satisfying, REmake 2 was for a time, but it was also incredibly frustrating a lot of the time too. It feels like the game is getting a lot of critical praise based on name recognition and nostalgia coupled with shiny new visuals, and I for one would rather just play the original.

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