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Resident Evil 2 - title

Capcom's remake of Resident Evil 2 is a pretty difficult game. Much of its design is based on classic survival horror paradigms, which many players may not be familiar with. Classic survival horror has been essentially dead since the release of Resident Evil 4 all the way back in 2005. (And if you want to know what I think of Resident Evil 4, you can listen to my commentary in a playthrough for On the Branch's Let's Play channel). Since then, every mainstream horror game has either followed a formula similar to RE4 (such as Dead Space and The Evil Within), or it has gone the Amnesia route and been about running and hiding from foes rather than confronting them (such as Outlast and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories).

If you didn't play Resident Evil 7 or the REmake of the first Resident Evil, then you probably haven't played a true survival horror game in over 10 years (if ever).

Even though it has an over-the-back, third-person camera, Resident Evil 2's remake firmly follows most of the design conventions of the classic (pre-Resident Evil 4) survival horror genre -- minus the tank controls. Here's some observations of mine that I hope will help you survive Raccoon City, whether you're an experienced survival horror gamer (like me) or a newbie.

Table of contents

Stagger your saves

The first tip should probably be common sense to most survival horror veterans: DO NOT OVERWRITE YOUR MOST RECENT SAVE(S)! Instead, save in a new slot or overwrite a very old slot. This way, if you get stuck, die, or have to reload for any reason, you can potentially load from an earlier state in which you had more favorable circumstances.

Classic survival horror allows for non-linear, player-driven exploration. From a reload, you might find that there's a more efficient exploration route that will give you earlier access to more or better supplies, or you might get better at avoiding zombies, or you won't get caught off guard by some of the game's surprise attacks. In doing so, you'll conserve more ammunition and healing supplies which will make your later explorations easier.

Stagger your saves so that you can go back to an earlier state if you back yourself into an unwinnable corner.

You absolutely do not want to overwrite your save file and leave yourself in a state in which you have no ammunition and/or no healing supplies! Because the knife can break, and ammunition is finite, it is possible for you to back yourself into a corner in which you have no offensive capabilities whatsoever! If you don't have an earlier save from which to conserve more ammo, you'll be stuck without the capacity for damaging enemies or bosses. I'm not 100% sure, but it might not be possible to beat the first boss fight on "hardcore" mode with only the ammunition that is available in the arena. If you go into that boss fight (in "hardcore" mode) without any spare ammunition, and no knife, it might very well be literally impossible to finish the fight. And if you can't beat the fight, you won't be able to progress the game, and you'll have to restart from scratch.

... Unless, of course, you have an earlier save to fall back on. If you can go back far enough to conserve more ammo, then you may have a fighting chance to continue the game.

I did not have enough ammo to finish off the first boss on "hardcore" mode, and had to restart the game.

I'm not saying that you should "save scum"; I'm just saying that you should keep multiple saves so that if you have to save scum, you'll be able to go farther back and perform better over a longer chunk of the game.

This leads into the next few tips...

Ammo does not respawn or drop from enemies.

Ammunition is front-loaded

REmake 2 is a game of supply-management and deliberate action. There is a finite amount of ammunition (and health) in the game. This is not like Resident Evil 4 or Dead Space or The Evil Within, in which defeated enemies will drop bullets. Enemies do not ever drop ammunition (or supplies of any kind) when you kill them in the main campaign. This means that every shot you take, is a bullet that you won't ever get back!

You need to conserve ammunition, especially early in the game. Much of the ammunition is front-loaded in your early exploration. If you burn through it all, then there won't be any available to you in the current map areas. If you burn through all your ammunition early in the game, then you'll be left with very little ammunition for much of the remainder of the game.

Aim for the center of mass

While I was playing the game, I started noticing something odd: headshots didn't seem to be particularly damaging to zombies. Out of habit, I would go for headshots, but the shambling of the zombies means that their heads were frequently swaying back and forth, and I'd miss headshots. Apparently, those errant shots were in vain anyway. I've since read on several sources that headshots don't deal any additional damage. This goes completely contrary to everything you probably know about anatomy, video game strategy, and zombies! Outside of Dead Space, headshots are almost always the way to go. But not in REmake 2!

I tried testing this by repeatedly re-loading the same save game, going to the library, and shooting the same lady-zombie shambling about therein. I didn't notice any consistency in how damage was applied. Sometimes, she'd drop after four bullets to the chest; other times, I'd unload five, she'd fall down, get back up, and I'd have to unload five more. This was true whether I was going for the head or the chest. In one case, her head exploded with a single shot -- must've been a crit. So yeah, it looks (from my limited testing) like headshots don't deal much (if any) additional damage).

Headshots are harder to make, but occasionally deal critical damage.

A headshot isn't worthless, though. You can get a critical hit from a headshot, which may immediately knock the zombie down, or blow up its head and kill it outright. I've also noticed that headshots seem to create more frequent staggers, which may allow you to run away (or run past). The shotgun and magnum have a much higher chance of triggering these crits, but (as far as I can tell) they are still random, and you have to be at very close range.

What this means is that it may be better to always aim for the center of mass. You're more likely to hit the zombie's torso than its head. In a game in which ammo is in such short supply, and managing that ammo is critical to success, you're probably better off going for the guaranteed hit, rather than risking an iffy headshot anyway. Since the critical chance is so unlikely unless you have the shotgun or the magnum, you should probably avoid headshots unless you are using those weapons. And even with those weapons, you may need to be standing very close to the zombie for the crit to work.

If you aren't hitting 90% of headshots, then it's safer and more efficient to just target the torso.

If you're good enough to reliably make the headshots, then go for them. With the occasional crit, you'll deal more damage overall, with fewer shots. However, if you can't reliable get the headshot, then the rare crit will not offset the bullets you'll waste. In that case, go for the torso! I'm not sure of the exact percent crit chances, but my guess would be: if you're not hitting at least 90% of your headshots, you're wasting more bullets than the occasional crit is worth.

I'm not sure if headshots are more effective on Lickers, dogs, or other enemies because (so far) I've always used shotguns or grenade launchers on them. If somebody can confirm whether headshots are more damaging against these enemies, please let us know in the comments!

Dismember zombies instead

If you are going to target a specific body part, I recommend going for the knees. Two or three shots to the leg (with a handgun) will sever the leg, which will knock the zombie to the ground. With either leg shot off, a zombie will be unable to stand up, and will be stuck having to crawl or drag itself along the floor. They can still grab you from the ground, so don't get careless. But they will be much slower and much less dangerous.

Zombies without legs will have to crawl, and will be much slower and easier to avoid.

If it's going to take four or more headshots to kill a zombie, then two shots to the knee to cripple it for the rest of the game may be a better alternative if ammunition is tight. From my experience, I had more healing items on hand than bullets (especially on "hardcore" mode). My suggestion is to save your bullets. Take out the zombies' legs and run past. Even if they bite your ankle on the way past, you're better off using a mixed green/red herb than spending extra bullets. I'm not sure, but I think that ankle bits may also deal less damage. I'll have to do further testing to confirm this.

If you do have the shotgun or the magnum, then by all means go for the headshots! You'll likely blow the zombie's head off with a shot or two. If you're really lucky, you might even be able to take out multiple zombies with a single shot. But if you're using the handgun, then your best bets are probably to aim for the chest or the knees.

Don't break or lose your knife!

Only equip the knife if you're planning on using it. Instead, try to keep flashbang grenades equipped during exploration and combat (if you have one). If a zombie grabs you, you can shove a grenade in its mouth. Grenades are one-time use items anyway, so let them do their job. Do note, however, that the grenades are more effective if you throw them. Using any sub-weapon as a counter to being grabbed should always be a last resort.

The knife has limited durability and will break after repeated use.

The knife, on the other hand, is re-usable, so you might be tempted to always use it in a pinch. However, the knife has more uses than a flashbang, so using the knife (and weakening its durability) might not be the best idea. Once its durability goes to zero, it is broken and removed from your inventory. The knife loses a lot of durability if you use it to counter a zombie grab, but loses much less durability if you slash at a zombie with a normal attack. As such, it's much more efficient if used to slash, rather than as a stab counter.

Use flashbangs to counter zombie grabs
so you don't break your knife.

If you can bring a zombie to the ground by shooting out its legs, you might be well served to finish it off with the knife. Just always be mindful of how much durability the knife has, and don't let it get too low unless you have additional knives in reserve.

The knife can also be used to slash at prone bodies to make sure the zombie is actually dead. Slashing a dead zombie or corpse will drain the knife's durability the same as a regular attack. Be judicious with regard to what corpses you slash, and don't waste knife durability slashing corpses that you know are dead.

Ensure you can damage bosses

You also want to keep the knife available in case you run out of ammo for a boss. Flashbangs deal zero damage, so they aren't useful in this regard. As mentioned above, it is possible to put yourself in a position in which you completely run out of ammo. If you don't keep a knife available, you won't be able to damage a boss if you run out of ammo during the fight. This can be really frustrating if you have enough ammo to get the boss down to critical, but can't finish it off. It happened to me. I had to abandon my first "hardcore" playthrough because I ran out of ammo on the first boss and had already broken my knife countering zombie grabs.

You will be back-tracking a lot!

You'll want to conserve ammunition and knife durability whenever possible. This means avoiding direct conflict and running past zombies whenever possible. You will be doing a lot of backtracking and revisiting areas. If you don't kill zombies in high-traffic areas, you'll be stuck having to repeatedly avoid them, which will put you at risk for being attacked. As you reveal more of the map, you should pay attention to the location of safe rooms, puzzles, and locked doors. It's a good idea to kill zombies in hallways and rooms that connect safe rooms with other key points of interest, or which act as choke-points between sections of map.

You can board windows in frequently-traversed hallways to prevent more zombies from crawling in.

You should also prioritize boarding up windows in these same high-traffic areas so that new zombies don't spawn. You don't want to spend bullets clearing out a hallway of zombies, only to have more crawl in through the window next time you run through. On standard difficulty, you can run up and board up windows before zombies break them and crawl through. On "hardcore", you won't be able to reach windows before zombies break them (or at least, I've never been able to). You might have to kill the zombie first, before boarding up the window. You should not expect to find boards for every window, so you'll have to decide which ones are the most important to board up.

The window at the foot of the stairs outside the Dark Room, for example, will likely see a lot of traffic. You will be visiting this room on several occasions to develop photographs for clues to solve puzzles and obtain secret items. You'll probably also use this room's typewriter and item box frequently, and will likely hide away in it to take cover from Mr. X. This hallway also connects to the Safety Deposit Room, which you'll likely be re-visiting several times to acquire new supplies, weapons, and puzzle items. You should probably kill the zombies in this hallway and board up the window as soon as possible.

The Dark Room hallway will likely be traversed often, so clear it of zombies and board its windows.

Check your map

Because of all the backtracking, you'll be referring to your map a lot. This map is much more informative than maps in previous Resident Evil games. Rooms highlighted in red still have items or puzzles for you to resolve. Locked doors will also be labeled (and will be marked with an icon corresponding to the key that unlocks it). Items and puzzles that you've found will also be highlighted with icons on the map. You can also hover the cursor over any room, icon, or door to see a tooltip with the name of the room, what the icon represents, or what is locking the door (respectively).

If you walk close to an item (but don't pick it up), the game will mark its location on the map. In rooms with zombies or other dangers, you can avoid manually exploring the room and examining every nook and cranny. You can just run around, then check the map to see if there's any items.

The map will highlight the location of items you have seen, but not picked up yet.

Save green herbs and gunpowder for mixing

Last, but certainly not least, you'll also want to be efficient with how you use healing items. First Aid Spray will completely restore your health, so save those up for when you're in "danger". A single green herb will bring your status up one notch (from "Danger" to "Caution", or from "Caution" to "Fine"). To get the most out of herbs, you'll want to mix them. A green herb mixed with a red herb will fully restore your health. You can also mix red and green herbs with blue herbs, which will heal poison.

As you're exploring, avoid using a single green herb unless you absolutely have to. Try to hold on until you can find a red herb to mix it with. Otherwise, you'll have to spend multiple green herbs to restore your health, and by the end of the game, you'll have a bunch of red herbs, but no green herbs to mix them with. Red herbs do nothing by themselves.

Save up green herbs and gunpowder so you can mix them to make more powerful supplies.

Wait for High-Grade gunpowder

You'll want to take a similar approach with gunpowder. Mixing two basic gunpowders will give you handgun bullets. Mixing basic gunpowder with High-Grade Gunpowder will provide more advanced ammo (such as shotgun shells for Leon and grenade rounds for Claire). Combining two of the High-Grade Gunpowder will yield ammo for the best guns in the game (the magnum for Leon and the submachine gun for Claire). There is also Large Gunpowder, which will provide you with a higher quantity of the respective ammo type.

You should try to avoid mixing two basic gunpowders together unless absolutely necessary. Try to save your gunpowder for when you start coming across the High-Grade Gunpowder and Large Gunpowder pick-ups. This will allow you to craft more (and better) ammunition.

Use doors to your advantage

A sort-of undocumented feature of Resident Evil 2 REmake is the ability to "door peek". If you're standing close to a door, you can press the "action" button ("X" on the PS4) to open the door without having to move through it. This can allow you to survey the room from relative safety before entering. If there are enemies on the other side, you'll see them, and might even be able to line up a shot or two before the door closes.

Pressing gently up against a door opens it slightly, allowing you to see through without being detected by enemies.

There is an even sneakier door peak as well. The character will also push a door open automatically as he or she walks through it. If you take one or two steps into a door, you'll push it open slightly. This can allow you to peek through the crack and even see slightly around the corner. This is particularly useful if there is an enemy pursuing or tracking you. You can watch the enemy through the crack of the door to see if it walks away, and in which direction it moves when it does walk away.

Safe room shield

Using this door peek can be especially beneficial when done from within a "safe room", since enemies enemies cannot enter a "safe room". Any room that has a typewriter in it is a "safe room" -- the only exception (that I'm aware of) is the Main Hall after Mr. X shows up. Enemies cannot pass through the doorway to a safe room. If you can lure enemies into the doorway, and leave the door open, you can attack them from complete safety. They won't be able to grab or attack you as long as you stay on the "safe room" side of the threshold. Just press X to fling the door open and shoot with impunity!

Zombies can't cross certain doorways, allowing you to attack them with impunity from behind the threshold.

Entering a "safe room" will also reset enemies' aggro. They will stop pursuing you and will return to their normal "patrol" routes (?). By quickly entering a "safe room", you can peek out the doorway to see when the zombie has turned around and started walking away, then you can pop out and ambush it, or run past.

Whether this is a "strategy", an "exploit", or an outright "cheat" is up to you...

Maybe don't turn the brightness down so much

REmake 2 is also a very dark game. Your character has a flashlight, but you can't manually turn the flashlight on or off. Just like in Resident Evil 7, the flashlight only activates in areas where the devs decided it should work. Playing on the recommended brightness level, I still found some areas of the game a bit too dark to navigate. Such areas included the balcony, the fire escape, and some hallways in the middle and late game.

I wish Capcom had just given us a button to turn the flashlight on ourselves. In lieu of such a function, you could just turn the brightness up a notch or two above the recommended level. The game will still look great, will still be dark, and the flashlight will still be necessary in applicable areas. But you'll be able to see in the dark rooms where the flashlight doesn't work.

This is an un-edited screenshot of the Fire Escape taken with the built-in screen capture function of the PS4.
Yeah, I can't see anything except the fire either, but the flashlight doesn't turn on here...

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