Resident Evil 2 remake

After eighteen years of begging, the day has finally come and gone that Capcom releases a modern, remade version of Resident Evil 2. Since the day Resident Evil  remake was announced, this has been the first item on the wishlist for many true Resident Evil fans. January had few AAA releases, but Capcom’s crowning jewel in the franchise almost solely responsible for the popularity of “survival horror” does its utmost best to make up for the drought of new games.

So it’s without shame I will say up front – I cannot possibly approach the task of reviewing this game from anything but a position of bias. RE2 was my favorite game in the series and to this day remains one of my top 10 favorite games ever made. I couldn’t ever have addressed the remake except in comparison to the original. So, it is with heavy heart that I must say  I don’t share the enthusiasm of most of the gaming community. I am not enamored with this release in any  way.

The best way to summarize RE2 remake is to say that this game is to RE2 as the “no cheese” cuts of Star Wars prequel trilogy are to the Star Wars prequel trilogy.  It’s like a different director took a storyboard with every scene and area from the original and chose what to include and what to cut, without actually considering what those scenes were. Mostly because that is probably exactly what they did. Setting the actual game-play aside for a moment, the story suffers immensely because of this. Capcom “rebuilt [the game] from the ground up for a more immersive storytelling experience.” Bullshit. No they didn’t.

Overall they did a swell job of staying true to the original game as far as the story’s main events and how and when they unfold, but the narrative binding them together is extremely incompetent. They moved things around that storyboard without understanding what they were or why they were. Some of the story’s most significant plot developments literally do not even happen in the game, yet, the gameplay then becomes driven by these things that didn’t even happen on screen. I want to say it’s incredible that a powerhouse developer around since the beginning could make these mistakes, as if no one even edited the game for continuity.  I know better though.

Various scenes were completely removed from the game. Two of them specifically revolve around helicopters. In the real RE2, when you first go to the East Wing balcony , you are treated to a cut-scene. An RPD officer on the second floor balcony wielding a sub-machine gun spots a helicopter overhead, which then swoops in to rescue him. As the rescuee does so, multiple zombies overtake him, resulting in the cop wildly spraying the zombies and getting overtaken, killing the helicopter pilot in the process,  who then crashes the chopper directly into the spot they were standing and through the wall of the station. The cut-scene is hilariously dumb in hindsight – the dude was more than capable of safely defending himself without somehow shooting down a helicopter with 9mm – but it explained why a helicopter crashed into the station. Instead of just seeing a random helicopter crash into the station without any trigger event except the fact that you stepped close enough.

In the remake, this chopper just appears out of nowhere as you walk down the east 2F hallway, its lights shining through the window just before it crashes. There’s no context whatsoever, just a random helicopter crashing. It’s lazy, poorly directed nonsense displaying that this game in fact was not reworked for a “more immersive narrative experience” but was just a low effort attempt to re-create the original. In general, random vehicle crashes and explosions are on a Resident Evil 6 level of bad context-less, pointless set-pieces. This one is one step above that because the helicopter at least serves as part of a puzzle, which itself is also pretty stupid compared to the original.

On a note more integral to the rest of the game, the exclusion of the second  helicopter cut-scene is more egregious. In RE2, when Scenario B reaches a certain point, a cut-scene is shown of an Umbrella helicopter flying about town with 6 large canisters towed underneath it. One of them is released and crashes toward the ground, while the chopper flies away. This chopper just dropped off a T-003 Tyrant, dispatched to retrieve the G-virus and kill anyone alive – Mr. X as the community has referred to him since City of the Dead and various toys and comic books were merchandised.

In RE2 remake, this cut-scene never happens. So at a certain point, a tyrant just is. You happen upon this hulking abomination that looks like Nick Valentine spent a lot of time at a gym. Just out of nowhere, here’s this thing chasing you non stop. Completely devoid of context. If you didn’t know the entire story of the game already, you wouldn’t have a damned clue why he’s there or why he’s chasing you. As said before, the narration is incompetent. It’s like they aimed the story at people who already played, but aimed the game-play at the crowd that was too bad to finish the original. Yet they didn’t reconcile between those two goals.

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Other than, some of the cut-scenes have changes that didn’t need to be made. In Leon’s game, they’ve dropped the original scene of “That guy’s a maniac! Why’dhebiteme!?” with the truck driver at the gas station (which was a Stagla by the way, not Mizoil). I don’t know why. It’s more realistic than what they put in the game – the truck driver is eating a cheeseburger, listening to a live radio show from within Raccoon City of a guy talking about how a girl ended up being infected (because that literally makes no sense) and while he’s not paying attention he plows through a lady zombie on the road. If this were a normal human, she’d have been flat, all of her organs likely liquefied. He gets out and checks on her and she looks perfectly fine. While he’s freaking out, she bites him and he tosses her off. So timeline restored, now an infected trucker is barreling towards Raccoon City again. This whole scenario is without any logic, by the way, because in the official story, the national guard had the entire area around the city quarantined and they were blocking all the roads in. That is literally half of why Leon was late and showed up after the outbreak, instead of dying in it – that and he got drunk. In the original, the semi driver was bit within the city. Maybe that happened here, but it doesn’t look that way.

It begs the question of whether or not the director even played the original game.

In addition to the significant narrative changes through the cut scenes themselves, Capcom did a fair amount of rewriting the characters. Leon seems to be the only one changed for the positive, while Ada became much warmer and honest than her mysterious calm self from the original. Claire is pretty much the same, although her story immediately derails the second she finds Sherry. Some needless attempt to humanize all the characters was made, ending up with a void of trademark Resident Evil villains. Annette is now basically a good person, and William now just comes off more like a stressed out researcher who wants his due. All of it is ridiculous and betrays the writing of this franchise – it was supposed to be a story of conspiracies and scientists without scruples. Now it’s a story of good people who worked for an evil company, and did very bad things but they totally didn’t mean it.

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Game-play wise it’s difficult to find much in this game that’s unique, or new, or really even memorable. The first time  you turn the corner and the Tyrant tosses the helicopter aside to stalk you is unexpected and unsettling, but you quickly get used to him moving faster than you and hunting you, and come to expect that he will magically appear in front of you despite having just dodged him on the other side of the building less than 60 seconds ago (this happens repeatedly in 4th survivor) . In the distance you always hear the stomping footsteps and it’s never unsettling until you hear them closer and closer as if he’s right next to you. The being hunted relentlessly by an invincible enemy for most of the game trope has jumped the shark and was already old before they worked on this remake, and it begs the question of how they’re going to pull off Nemesis when he is the villain that actually hunted you. In RE2 the Tyrant popped up every now and then but he also went away for most of the game. I can’t see this game mechanic pleasing anyone when they remake RE3. Make no mistake, he is invincible until the end of the game. I turned on cheats and shot him hundreds of times with the grenade launcher just to make sure.

This remake was clearly going to be catered to the RE4 era fans, that much was evident when they invited the UDK remake people to consult on the title. So what Capcom has done to even out the fact that you can aim at the head is give the game adaptive difficulty. Some zombies will die from a headshot. Some will die from seven headshots. The same applies to other enemy types. As a sidenote I would also mention – REmake 2 kind of suffers from the same deficiencies as RE7. There aren’t a lot of enemy types. There are even less than in the original game, and most of that is specifically because they cut out so much content.

As a result of aiming the game at the RE4 fans is that REmake 2 simply loses the je ne sais quois of the original. It’s the same thing that happened between Dead Space 2 and 3.  Although Capcom tried to make this game dark, it didn’t work – you can almost always literally see or at least expect what’s coming next. Dead Space 3’s entire second act suffered from the same problem because literally every time you went anywhere on Tau Volantis, you knew exactly what was going to happen – you were going to get attacked by dozens of necros. In RE2 you can see the zombies that you’re going to have to fight soon. The only surprise becomes the lickers or tyrant showing up unexpectedly, because they can essentially noclip through walls whereas the zombies are already on the map and will just stand up.

Capcom even boasted about how this game was “twice as long as the original”. Well, see, here’s the thing. It isn’t. S ranking time for the original was a little under an hour. S+ rank for the remake is a little over 2 hours.  Much of that extra time is because of mandatory, scripted sequences you can’t do anything about like Kendo or Irons or new encounters with the tyrant, as well as new puzzles. In fact, the majority of new content is because of new arbitrary puzzles or changes to existing puzzles like the parking garage or the library jack handle. A pretty large chunk of the original never made the transition into the new game, or seems to have been shoved in as an afterthought. The last third of the game is simply underwhelming. Players of the original will discover many areas of the lab (now called NEST) don’t exist. The majority of it is just wide open space, and the gameplay loop at the end of the game is just a straight line to the end.  Most of the new puzzles are incredibly easy, too, for example unlocking Leon’s desk for the first custom VP70 part (Matilda).

With all of that out of the way, there is  a lot to like in this remake as well. Graphically it couldn’t be much better, although it’s worth noting that just like RE7, RE Engine has this built in granularity that just makes everything look bad no matter how high resolution it is or what settings, like film grain, you turn off.

Speaking of graphics options,. REmake 2 on the PC has one of the most robust graphics menus of any port in years.

The RPD has been recreated in impeccably glorious detail down to every last room – graphically.  Much of the actual decor has been changed, for instance all the payphones outside the 1F east office are gone, and that entire area was expanded upon and is now flooded. The trademark blue door to the east wing was replaced with an electric shutter door.  Some of these changes make a bit more sense when considering the RPD is a museum now, so there’s nothing negative to say ultimately. Another example is that the reception area in the main hall was moved in front of the statue, the whole room is bigger and has ramps now, instead of 1 emergency ladder that you had to climb up as a shortcut.

As previously mentioned, the same can’t be said for most of the rest of the game. The entire beginning area – the streets, the alleys, the bus, Kendos, the basketball court – was cut and pasted into the middle of Claire’s scenario and literally serves no other purpose but a path you have to follow to get to the next plot area. It’s arguable the same sentence applies to the original, but in the original that path was to show you how bad everything is and give you your second weapon while also having some plot. That’s not necessarily the case this time. Several areas of the lab were removed altogether – no moth room, no MO disk area, no power puzzle, the elevator was moved entirely, there isn’t even really a G virus lab.

It’s painful to say, but the imagining of the laboratory in this game is easily the worst version of its many appearances  – RE2, Outbreak, Umbrella and Darkside Chronicles, and Operation Raccoon City. As disgusting as it sounds to say, the Raccoon City is still the best – it’s the only reimagining of the lab that treats it with any respect.

One of the things that jumped out in this game to me is Marvin Branagh specifically. They turned one of the most insignificant bit characters in the game into something more sincere. In the overall picture, he’s still pretty useless, but I can honestly say Marvin’s animations, his character design, and his voice acting are the single most stellar thing in all of this games presentation. His dialog scenes and body language are immaculately well done. The same unfortunately can’t be said for pretty much any other person in the game, but none of it is jarring – although Annette’s weird obsession with having her mouth hang open is close.

It’s impossible to know how it feels for players who haven’t experienced true Resident Evil 2, but most seem to love it. Unfortunately for anyone who played and was really a fan of the original, this remake feels closer to walking around an RE2 museum – literally and figuratively, seeing as the RPD in this game is actually an old museum.. It looks like RE2, even sounds like RE2 when using the original soundtrack DLC, and aside from the over the shoulder and modern control scheme and constantly being stalked by a tyrant, it almost plays like RE2, but it does not feel like RE2.

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