Reliving Resident Evil 2…but not totally déjà vu

It’s no secret that Resident Evil 2 Remake has slightly altered the original experience, doing away with the tank controls and fixed camera angles for a more modern, over-the-shoulder perspective with the flexibility to walk and shoot at the same time, as well as to better target enemies. It’s a necessity, since the baddies are tougher and there are a whole lot more of them on the screen at once…even in “assist” mode.

That’s right. I totally played the game on easy mode (as I always do—but how dare they label me as an “assist” case). To me, survival horror games shouldn’t be high-stress action games. The stress is supposed to come from the fear as you are immersed in a horror movie style experience. And horror movies don’t stop so the main characters can continuously die and try again as they encounter monsters.

Here’s a quick tip for a better experience. When you’re first asked to choose your settings, you have an option as to what color you want your aiming reticle to be. Some very wrong person online claimed you should choose white. NOPE. Considering you spend much of the game in a flashlight beam, that shit disappears! Another option is red. NOPE. That shit disappears into the blood red chaos. The color you want is the final option: neon green. Can’t miss it. EVER.

Believe me, the game is still a challenge on assist. Beginning with Claire—who always had the easier game in the original—I was thrust into a battle with zombies almost immediately in an awesome, expanded opener that sees you stopping at an eerily quiet gas station convenience store alone before the initial crash that separates you and Leon. Claire has a gun but very few bullets, and the place is fricking dark as hell!


Damn you for separating us,
chain link fence I could climb over with ease as a kid….

Once you meet up with Leon and are then forced to split up, the terror truly begins in the good old Raccoon City Police Station. If you’ve played the PS1 game, the general layout is quite familiar, especially the comforting save typewriter and item box in the main entrance. Even more comforting…there are no ink ribbons. You just go right up to that typewriter whenever you feel like it and save to your heart’s content. By the end of the game, my heart was very content. Plus, the item boxes are as magical as they were in the original: unlimited storage, and they teleport your shit from one item box to another. And you’ll need that convenience, because your number of item slots is abysmal.

Because you feel so incredibly at home, the game does something quite mean. It makes a whole lot of the place super dark, and all you have for illumination is the flashlight that automatically comes on when you step into unlit areas (you have no control over when you can turn it on).

But back to the item slots. Even after you begin finding add-on hip pouches, each of which gives you an additional 2 slots, it seems you require more slots than before. And there’s a good reason for that.

Aside from the usual puzzle pieces you need to carry with you, you need to have a whole lot of ammo on you if you want to kill zombies. It takes multiple shots to the head most of the time to take them down, and if you’re lucky, they won’t get back up! Because they do. A lot. So you’re never really sure if you’ve killed them unless you get a perfect head shot, which makes their heads explode. Oddly enough, I only seemed able to accomplish that when I was actually much farther away from them OR if they were on the ground already, face down. Yes, shooting them in the back of the head seems to bust those brains, not shooting them in the face if they’re lying belly-up. Weird.

The other issue with zombies is that they are extra fast at latching on to you when you try to avoid them, even on easy. And there’s no simple button mashing technique to shake them free. If they grab you they bite you, and your health goes down fast, which means it’s always good to fill a couple of those item slots with health. You can stop zombies from chomping on you if you have a knife on you and hit the right button combination. Your stab temporarily knocks them down, but doesn’t kill them. In fact, you can’t kill them with a knife, because if you get close enough to swipe at them, they grab you. Not to mention, the knife isn’t an unlimited weapon. You have to find knives, and they have a limited life span. When you do defensively stab a zombie with one, don’t forget to retrieve it from the zombie when he’s down, because he takes it with him, carrying it either in his chest or his jugular.

Luckily, in easy mode a) your health actually goes up automatically a bit after a few minutes if you’re not hurt, giving you a fighting chance, and b) there’s a good supply of ammo to find. I’ve seen suggestions of running around enemies to save ammo, but I’ll tell you right now, if you do that you have to constantly run past them again, often in the dark, increasing your chances of getting bitten. Plus, they end up being in the way later when you have to make runs through the same areas while being chased by bigger enemies, which totally doesn’t work to your advantage. Kill the zombies early on and you can take your time to focus on the tasks at hand in quiet areas for a while.

How about those lickers? Damn, they are hard. As Claire, I luckily got the grenade launcher early on, so I used the fuck out of that thing to blow them away. While you feel as if you’re wasting ammo you’ll need later for bigger enemies, you find several strengths of gun powder everywhere, and you can mix them to make more heavy ammo. Even so, by the end of the game, I was running low and am shocked I even finished. Thanks, assist mode. You really assisted my ass.

Throughout most of your time in the police station, lickers and zombies are your only worry. That is until you unleash Tyrant. Rather than a guy who pops up inconveniently every now and then and can be put to rest for a while with heavy artillery, once you trigger his first attack, it becomes a continuous attack. That’s right, things get very Clock Tower for a while. And it’s hell. You have to run for your life through various rooms (good thing you killed all those zombies), hoping to get far enough away so he’ll temporarily lose you. If you run into a save room, he can’t come in there (except the main entrance, that doesn’t count as a save room). Therefore, I found myself just hiding out in save rooms, terrified to leave, because you can hear Tyrant’s footsteps outside, but there’s really no telling where he is unless you venture out there. When you do, not only do you realize you’ve run so far off course from your initial goal that you can barely remember how to get back there, but you have to do it while making sure to still avoid him. You have to do everything while making sure to avoid him, including puzzles and other tasks.

Tyrant’s chase does eventually come to a close when you move on to another area of the game, so that’s the only thing that kept me going. NOW, here’s something I learned only after playing my Claire game that makes it infuriating that I didn’t read a walkthrough since I assumed I pretty much knew the game from the good old days. There’s a certain spot in the game that triggers Tyrant. If you avoid that place and tasks in that area entirely until you are completely done exploring the police station, you can do it Tyrant free. Otherwise, like me, you will simply rush through the station just to get to the part where you get out of it. It’s devastating how much I missed in the police station due to bailing on it early. And once you leave, there’s no going back.

You do get to the underground lab for the final act of the game, but here’s the cool part. You visit a tiny bit of the actual city on your way there in this remake. One of only few new sections of the game involves your interactive time with little Sherry. Unlike her task avoiding zombies in the minor part in the original game, here she is kidnapped by a bad man and taken to an orphanage where she is held captive. The goal in her part is to escape the place without being caught by him.

And after that minor tedious segment (stealth, all stealth—and running, and screaming), Claire has to go meet her there. Out on the street you have some awesome encounters with the zombie dogs, but sadly it’s a short-lived segment, because the dang orphanage is right up the street!

The passage to the labs is now at the orphanage. As if I didn’t already hate the sewers, they’ve been totally revamped here and they’re worse—gross and terrifying. You wade through hip-high shit (seriously) and encounter some humongous monsters that rise from the doodoo depths. Blech.

After all that, it’s actually a relief to enter the lab, which is quite similar in layout to the original game.

There are lickers and zombies, and the final dreaded enemy—the plant monsters. What’s really cool about them now is that they no longer look like mini-me Audrey II plants just rooted in the hallways. They are actual zombies mutated into plants. Problem is, I learned the hard way (or the head go away way) that they are one-hit kills. Go near them and they grab you and chomp your head off. Argh! And you want to use powerful weapons that ignite fires to kill them completely. They need to be burned to a crisp or they will get back up.

Other than those bastards, the final act is relatively easy. Like, so easy that I was running low on powerful weapons and I took out every form of final boss on ONE try. Again, thank you assist mode.

Next, it was time to move on to Leon’s game. Here is where I made a decision I should have in the first place. I bought the DLC that includes a swap out of the original soundtrack music and some familiar sound effects from the original game, and life is all that much better because of it. I can’t even recall the music, if any, used as the remake soundtrack, but as soon as I began the game with Leon and the original music, it was drastically more atmospheric and scary. And there’s nothing like that peaceful save music, which is completely missing on the remake soundtrack. It is shameful that the classic soundtrack wasn’t included with the game, because it honestly fixes the feel of the game. Something is lacking with the new music and effects, which don’t highlight the tension at all. Hell, you don’t even get the ominous “Resident Evil” voice on the start page unless you get the original soundtrack.

The DLC also gives you costumes swaps for Claire and Leon (including a sheriff outfit for Leon blatantly ripped off from The Walking Dead), as well as the instant availability of the Samurai Edge handgun. What a waste. Other than the fact that it starts you off with a 12-round capacity instead of 5 like your regular handgun, the regular handgun has upgrades that eventually make it faster and more powerful than the Samurai Edge!

Perhaps because I started from a continue save, Leon’s opener was just a recap of what happens when he first meets Claire, therefore I didn’t have to go through any of the shit she does. I assume you do get your own challenging intro if you choose to play as him for the first run. Looks like another play through is in my future.

Once you take control of Leon, you are immediately thrust into a fresh scenario in your effort to get into the police station, and you can access some areas Claire can’t. You’ll also notice zombies take even more bullets before they die. Argh! And it seems you find less ammo. Not to mention, the first time you encounter lickers, you only have a handgun! FUCK ME.

You’re basically playing the same exact game as Claire’s for a while, just like in the original PS1 game. A majority of the tasks, puzzles, and locker codes are the same as the first run, however, the order of tasks is a bit different, doors she unlocked are now open for you, and there’s no typewriter or item box in the main entrance! That really ups the challenge. I depended on that damn stuff. What the hell? Did Claire take them with her? Why aren’t they there anymore???

Most importantly, Tyrant is more of a challenge here. First of all, even looking up how to avoid triggering him for as long as possible, I discovered there is still a shit load you can’t do in the police station until you do. Tyrant is way more relentless and the sound of his footsteps is not as helpful in warning you where he is. He most definitely makes surprise appearances that catch you off guard. Worse, before heading to the sewers you have to go back to the police station after the parking garage, and it has been replenished with zombies and lickers, plus Tyrant is still around. As terrifying as he is, what the hell is with the hat?

When you get to the parking lot, instead of worrying about Sherry, Leon interacts with Ada Wong. She escorts you to the sewers, so you never go out on the streets. You also have to play as Ada for a while, and it’s a bitch. You have one gun, no health anywhere, and no bullets to find. You have to aim an annoying reader gun at hot spots to unlock shit, and it takes a while to read, which becomes a nightmare when…you’re fucking chased by Tyrant! This section was infuriating.

One good thing is, if like me you didn’t realize a USB stick you used in a computer in the police station had a secret badge key in it that unlocks a box of gun parts right before the sewers, you get to go back to the police station before going to the lab this time. Even better, Tyrant is gone, so you can run around picking up any stray items you may have missed. They’re all marked on the map, which doesn’t turn rooms from red to blue until you’ve done and taken everything you can from them.

When you at last reach the lab, much of the play is exactly the same as the first run. The most delicious change (that I hate) is that you face off against the giant alligator!

Shockingly, it is not an agonizing battle like in the past. The remake makes this a “towards the screen” chase scene. EEK! Not very long and not really hard once you understand the pattern; you merely have to go to the opposite side of where the alligator bites down each time. Once you pass a certain point, the game takes over and does away with the alligator for you!

The other major difference from Clare’s game is that Leon’s final escape from the lab brings on different bosses. First you have to dodge mutated Tyrant on an elevator platform for a certain amount of time (and he has a one shot kill maneuver) until a massive rocket launcher is dropped to finish him off. Then there is a race to escape the lab that is filled with zombies and plant monsters. Finally, you get on a tram and of course you have to go to the back car to fight a monster. Luckily, the rocket launcher might have some rounds left that make quick work of it. This was the easiest final boss ever (on easy).

EXTRA CHAPTERS:

Apparently, there’s a price to be paid for a final easy boss, and it comes in the form of the annoying extra side games. All four are pretty much the same deal—you are given limited weapons, ammo, and health to get through swarms of different monsters as you try to get from your starting point to a specified point in the game. It’s implied that these are timed, but the time goes up, not down. Meaning, all you’re trying to do is finish the chapter in the shortest amount of time as you can. In other words, who fricking cares how long it takes? I just want to finish the chapter.

To make things interesting in these repetitive challenges, each mission features a different setting, different items, and a unique monster or two not in the original game—like glowing eyed zombies that release a noxious purple gas, and white mutation creatures that can’t be killed with weak weapons, which means you need to try to run around them most of the time. Actually, it would be nice if you could run around everything, because this shit is hard, and you will run out of ammo and health. Unfortunately, the paths you travel are usually so narrow you most often have no choice but to kill what’s in your way.

The first side game is called The 4th Survivor, where you play as “Hunk”, the mysterious bonus material character we never really know. And we still don’t. He’s wearing a gas mask. This is assuredly the hardest of the four extra chapters. You have to get from the sewers to the police department, the monsters are plenty, your supplies are few, and…it’s total bullshit that Tyrant starts to chase you relentlessly. Fuck this chapter.

There are three “Ghost Survivors” chapters, each offering a prologue of “what if X character survived”? How would they have escaped Raccoon City? Kind of silly, but, if you want more action and more play time, this is the way to do it. The good thing about these three chapters is that you can choose “training” difficulty to make things much easier—not sure why they didn’t just call it assist—I mean—easy difficulty, because when I discovered this was an option after already playing one chapter and dying on the regular difficulty, I breezed through each chapter. You’re warned that you won’t get points for playing on training difficulty, but who cares, because I don’t even know what points they were talking about. Also giving you an advantage is that there are ways to get extra items—as long as you kill the zombies with the backpacks and then raid the backpacks. The three chapters are:

No Time To Mourn – you play a gun shop owner that appears briefly in the main game, and he’s trying to get to the sewers. Weird thing is, you start at his shop, yet you only take two fricking guns and little ammo with you. WTF? What ammosexual gun shop owner wouldn’t carry half his inventory with him at all times? At times this feels like you’re just following the opposite path you did in The 4th Survivor chapter.

Runaway – you play as the mayor’s adult daughter running around in a negligee. WTF? Anyway, you start at the orphanage you visited briefly in the main game, and you have to get to the prison down in the parking garage.

Forgotten Soldier – you play as another guy in a gas mask who looks just like Hunk. You’re in the Umbrella lab, and you have to make it over to the cable car.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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