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Resident Evil 2 - title

In a Nutshell

WHAT I LIKE

  • Maintains horror atmosphere and pacing, despite RE4 shooter design
  • Some legitimate "oh shit!" jump scare moments that may or may not have been scripted
  • Seamless exploration
  • Constantly escalating threat
  • Resources feel very scarce
  • Knife is mapped to its own button
  • More believable environments and puzzles
  • Improved inventory management
  • More informative map system

WHAT I DON'T LIKE

  • Hardcore doubling as hard mode undercuts the attrition and tension of save system
  • Knife durability can leave player with ZERO damage potential
  • Frequent cheap hits
  • Not enough overlap and interaction between scenarios
  • No chase cam?
  • Can't manually activate flashlight
  • No burning corpses to prevent Crimson Heads?
  • Audio balancing is terrible
  • Cannot stream, share, or capture footage if HDR is enabled

Overall Impression : C+ / B-
Standard mode is playable, but hardcore is only barely so

Resident Evil 2 - cover

Developer:
Capcom

Publisher:
Capcom

Platforms:
PC (via Steam),
PlayStation 4 < (via retail disc or PSN digital download),
XBox One (via retail disc or XBox Live digital download).
(< indicates platform I played for review)

MSRP: $60 USD

Original release date:
25 January, 2019

Genre:
survival horror

ESRB Rating: M (for Mature 17+) for:
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence,
Strong Language,
in-app purchases

Player(s):
single player

Official site:
residentevil2.com/

Getting started with this game was rough. First of all, streaming the game initially seemed to be blocked by Capcom, which sent me down an internet rabbit hole of trying to find a work-around. If I couldn't stream or capture gameplay, then it would be awfully hard for me to get decent screenshots -- let alone any video for possible YouTube content. I even Tweeted @AskPlaystation whether I could get a refund, so that I could instead purchase the game on Steam (where I knew I'd be able to record footage). @AskPlaystation never responded.

It was moot anyway, since the next day, I found that the problem was only associated with having High Dynamic Range (HDR) enabled in the PS4's settings. After disabling HDR, I was able to stream the game and capture video footage as normal. Of course, the game's colors didn't look so good -- but whatever, I could live with it. I guess this is a glitch. Maybe Capcom will fix the HDR streaming issue at some point in the future? I can't imagine that they deliberately disabled streaming with HDR, but left it enabled when HDR isn't being used.

You'll need to disable High Dynamic Range (HDR) on the PS4 if you want to stream REmake 2.

But even when I got the streaming and capture functionality working, I lost another night having to troubleshoot my PS4's network connectivity. I kept getting a DNS error. My PS4 has had internet connectivity issues off and on for years, so it might just have a bad network card. Or maybe my ISP is throttling it? It's hard to tell. The console regularly connects to the router and obtains an IP, but then fails to connect to the internet. Or it can connect to the internet, but fails to connect to PSN.

After several hours of troubleshooting, I had to manually enter the DNS addresses of my router's second and third DNS as the PS4's primary and secondary DNS, then sign out of the PSN, then boot up the PS4 in safe mode, then run a database rebuild (which took a few minutes), then reconnect to the PSN. That seems to have worked ... for now. We'll see how long the fix lasts...

In any case, these streaming and network issues cost me the first full weekend with the game. I'd have to play it on weeknights after work instead. Hopefully the game's quality would make up for these early frustrations...

The failure of REmake2's "hardcore" save system

Years ago, in the early years of this blog, I wrote an opinion piece called "The Genius of Resident Evil's classic save system". In that blog post, I wrote about how the way in which classic survival horror games (and Resident Evil in particular) limited the player's ability to save actually helped to amplify the horror atmosphere, while simultaneously facilitating open-ended exploration and creating the genre's trademark resource-management gameplay. I love the old Ink Ribbon method of saving, and I was thrilled that the brilliant REmake maintained these old systems to excellent effect. Other games like RE7 and Alien: Isolation also brought back more traditional survival horror save systems, but without the added complexity tying it to a consumable item (at least not by default).

Unfortunately, REmake 2's save system doesn't fare so well. By default, the game apparently uses autosaves and checkpoints, and you can manually save at typewriters without an Ink Ribbon. It all works similar to RE7. However, you can play on "hardcore" mode (which is available by default) to get an experience more similar to the original save system. Except, it doesn't work as well. In fact, it seems to be fundamentally broken.

It would be nice if the game would use Ink Ribbons from the item box,
rather than having to put it in your inventory, then put it back in the item box after you save.

Part of the reason for this is that the "hardcore" mode also doubles as the game's "hard" difficulty. On the "hardcore" mode, there are no autosaves or checkpoints, and you must consume an Ink Ribbon to save at the typewriters (just as in the original release). However, enemies also have more health and deal more damage, and resources are more scarce (Ink Ribbons apparently replace ammo pickups in certain places). This screws with the balance of the game such that the manual save system becomes less viable for a first-time playthrough.

See, part of what made me like the original save system so much is that it shifted the challenge of the game away from aiming and shooting, and onto more cerebral challenges of resource management, strategic pathfinding, and the puzzles. The enemies were generally slow, easy to avoid, and dealt relatively little damage. Jill, Chris, Leon, and Claire could take three or four bites from a zombie before they would die, and the first Resident Evil had only a two insta-death traps that I can remember, both of which are signposted fairly clearly. Aside from bosses, you would never go from full health to dead in a single encounter or room, as long as you were playing with even a bare minimum of competency and care.

RE included herb mixing [LEFT], that incentivized the player to save up green herbs till you find a red herb,
and Silent Hill 2 [RIGHT] used your frugality with healing items as a trigger for a depressing ending.

Instead, you would take a little bit of damage here and there, and the challenge was derived from having to decide whether a particular monster was worth the bullets it would cost to kill it, when to use the healing items to top off your health, when to retreat to the safety of a safe room, or when to push forward and press your luck. Resident Evil might have become more popular than other games in this genre because it was particularly good in this aspect, since it featured risk / reward nuances like herb mixing, which encouraged you to save up your green herbs until you found red and yellow herbs to mix them with. Do I use a green herb now to bring me from "Danger" to "Caution"? Or should I wait for a red herb, so I can go all the way up to "Fine"? Silent Hill 2 even subverted the desire to conserve healing items into a trigger for one of its genius endings! Thus, the challenge of these games wasn't the combat; it was the management of resources.

Difficulty and the fallacy of sunk cost

Resource management is not the principle challenge in REmake 2. The game has shifted to a behind-the-back, third-person shooter (a la Resident Evil 4), turning aiming and shooting into the principle challenge. The zombies in REmake 2 shamble and are generally slower and easier to hit than the sludge monsters of RE7, but these zombies are exceptionally good at lunging and biting the player if you get anywhere close to them. If you lack the bullets to take them down, you can't reliably run past them. You may think you have enough room to run by, but you don't! They will lunge and bite you!

These zombies are crazy-good at lunging and grabbing you as you try to run past.

Because the "hardcore" mode also doubles as the game's "hard" mode, the zombies hit harder, and I die in just two bites from a grunt zombie. This means that every individual encounter can bring me from full health to dead with just a single slip up or two. This wouldn't be so bad if the zombies weren't so uncannily precise at lunging and grabbing the character as I try to run by, and forcing me to take cheap hits if I'm low on ammo. There's actually significantly fewer zombies in this game compared to the original. Rooms that had 5 zombies in the original game, now only have two -- maybe three. But they are so much harder to kill, and virtually impossible to run past unscathed.

I don't know, maybe Capcom is expecting me to shoot the zombies once or twice to stagger them, then run past? But ammo is in such short supply that if I spend a single bullet, the fallacy of sunk cost kicks in, and I want to finish the zombie off. This is especially true on "hardcore", where it might take four shots to the leg to knock a zombie down. At that point, you might as well try taking four or five shots at the head and try to take the zombie out permanently!

Part of what made the REmake of the first game so successful is the introduction of the Crimson Head mechanic. If you didn't burn a dead zombie's body, it would come back as a faster and more dangerous form. You didn't have enough lighter fuel to burn every zombie, so you had to be judicious about which ones you burned. Because killing a zombie and not being able to burn it was more of a liability, I would use a bullet or two to stagger a zombie and run past in that game. Not so in REmake 2.

Why didn't the Crimson Head mechanic return from REmake?

The Crimson Heads was a brilliant addition to REmake, so why wasn't it ported into REmake 2? The closest this game gets to a similar mechanic is the ability to use planks to board up windows and prevent more zombies from pouring in later in the game. This, I guess, reinforces the idea that you're in a city that's overrun by zombies, and you can be overwhelmed with them if you aren't careful. Boarding windows is a nice mechanic, but the Crimson Head mechanic is better. Crimson Heads and lighter fluid would have been a better mechanic for "hardcore" mode than simply turning every enemy into a bullet sponge.

In any case, the frequent cheap hits and low character health mean that I cannot afford to take a second hit, so I have to top off my health whenever I am able. This completely undermines the element of attrition and strategy that made the original save systems work and allowed it to so effectively build tension over long stretches of the game. The original games (and REmake and RE7) were fairly generous about how much punishment I can take; thus, allowing me a few screwups before killing me.

On "Hardcore" mode, even grunt zombies will kill you in 2 bites!

REmake2's "hardcore" mode will kill you at the drop of a hat, no matter how carefully you manage your supplies and resources. Then it's back to the last save point for you.

That harsh punishment for dying worked well 20 years ago, when you could take a few hits and then decide whether you wanted to risk pushing forward, or retreating to the safety of a safe room, or to backtrack to find more healing supplies. If you got yourself killed and lost an hour or more of progress, that was on you! Dying and losing progress isn't on the player any more in REmake 2. Death doesn't come about as a result of inefficient exploration or poor resource management. It comes because you walked into a hallway with two zombies, missed the headshot, and got bit to death, despite having been at full health when you entered the hall.

In the originals, you could take a
bit of punishment before dying.

Now, players who want that old experience of playing a game of careful, deliberate exploration, logistics, and resource management (an experience that RE7 successfully translated, despite being in first person!) are stuck having to be perfect when it comes to aiming and shooting too. "Hardcore" mode, and the difficulty level should have been two separate settings! I should be able to chose to play the game on the standard difficulty (with zombies having standard health and dealing standard damage), with the Ink Ribbon save system enabled.

If, on the other hand, you want to say that "hardcore" mode is supposed to be for repeat playthroughs, well then that completely defeats the purpose of the save system! Having limited saves only builds anxiety and tension if the path ahead is unknown. If you have already beat the game, understand the map, understand the enemies, know when boss fights are coming, know where valuable items and supplies are, and know how to avoid conflicts, then you're under less pressure to save. You know what's coming, so you can plan out when to save in order to optimally use your resources, or create easy points of return if you end up having to save scum.

In hindsight, maybe I should have been more harsh on RE7 for its cassette saves. That game unlocked a similar "madhouse" difficulty after you beat the game. That difficulty introduced consumable cassette tapes that were used to save (as a stand-in for Ink Ribbons). A similar complaint can be levied against that game: once you've beat the game, the limited save system is less meaningful (if not completely moot). Both RE7 and REmake 2 do mix things up a bit in a repeat playthrough in order to mess with your sense of security, but I still feel like you'd have too much knowledge of the game for the consumable save items to have the fullest impact.

RE7 did have a "madhouse" difficulty that included cassettes as a stand-in for Ink Ribbons.

RE7, however, relegated its "madhouse" difficulty to replays only, so it was clear that the standard mode (with checkpoints and autosaves) was the intended way to play. REmake 2 makes its "hardcore" mode available from the start, which muddies which of the two modes is the way that the developers intend you to play. RE7 also has the benefit of being a totally new game (even though it pays homage to the original), so it can get away with changing up its save and checkpoint system more easily. REmake 2 is a remake (d'uh!) of a classic game. That classic game had Ink Ribbon saves as a fundamental component of its design, so the remake should be played with Ink Ribbons as well.

Either "hardcore" saving needs to be independent of the difficulty level, or there needs to be a difficulty between standard and "hardcore" that introduces the Ink Ribbons (which also reduces ammo availability), but which doesn't mess much with damage or hit point balances.

Kobayashi Maru

The real killer here is that even the standard mode is fundamentally broken. Unlike in the previous games (and other good survival horror games), REmake 2 allows you to back yourself into a corner in which it is literally impossible to proceed.

If you ran out of ammo in the older RE games, you could always go back and get your knife.

Despite the fact that you could blow through all of your ammo and healing items, the original Resident Evil games (and also games like Silent Hill) never allowed the player to put yourself in a position in which it is impossible to damage enemies. Yes, it could be possible (in Resident Evil) to put yourself in a position in which you do not have enough ammo to kill a boss on this particular life, and therefore have to die. But you could always go back to the most recent save, pull the trusty old combat knife out of the item box, and tank the boss with melee. It might be prohibitively difficult to beat a boss with the combat knife, but with enough practice, it was possible.

This is not true in REmake 2. The combat knife in this game has a durability meter, and when its durability reaches zero, it breaks and disappears from your inventory. So not only can you run out of bullets in REmake 2, but you can also destroy or lose your knife, which leaves you with zero damage potential. This isn't something that going back to an earlier save can fix.

The combat knife in REmake 2 can break, leaving the player with no offensive capabilities at all.

I could not get past the first G-Man boss fight in my first playthrough (which happened to be in "hardcore" mode). I went into the fight with only six shotgun shells to my name. My combat knife had long since been lost. And I had only 1 green herb and 1 flashbang. But I still had four Ink Ribbons! My six shotgun shells (combined with the three boxes of handgun bullets, the measly 2 extra shells, and 2 frag grenades found in the G-Man arena) were not enough to get through the boss.

I played the fight seven times over two evenings, and could not deal enough damage to finish him off. I tried to conserve all my bullets so that I would only shoot the giant eye, and I threw both frag grenades at him when the eye was exposed. I got him down to critical health (the eye turned red and bloodshot), but ran out of bullets before I could deal the killing blow every time, and did not have access to a knife. No additional ammunition spawns in the arena, and I did not have a melee weapon (or even a punch) with which to deal damage. It was impossible for me to get past this fight.

I ran out of ammo before killing G-Man every time.

Save-scumming should not be mandatory!

Now maybe the 3 boxes of bullets, 2 shotgun shells, and 2 frag grenades found in the arena is actually enough to kill this monster -- if you land a bullseye with every shot and every grenade throw. But I'm not perfect. I don't know anybody who is.

Yeah sure, maybe I could have gone back to an earlier save and conserved more ammunition. But that doesn't matter. I shouldn't have to. The game's designers should not have set up the rules so that the player can ever be stuck in a situation in which you cannot defeat an enemy that blocks progress! They should never set up a situation in which you have to save scum. That is a fundamental flaw, and I cannot make excuses for it. Say all you want about how bad the original's save system, tank controls, combat, or voice acting was. At least its designers were smart enough to ensure that the game is beatable.

I was stuck. I had to restart the game from the beginning -- this time on the "standard" difficulty and with Claire.

My first Leon play was at an impasse, and I had to restart (on standard mode) as Claire.

But I had to do so with the realization that, even on standard mode, running out of damage potential is a possibility. Even on standard mode, it is possible to blow through all your ammo, lose or break your knife, and be left with no way to possibly deal damage to the inevitable boss. I mean, you'd have to play extremely terribly in order for this to happen, but it is possible. So be sure to stagger your saves, so that you don't have to restart the whole game!

The first REmake separated the regular
combat knife from defensive "daggers".

This is probably the exact reason why the first REmake had two different knife items: the regular combat knife, and the defensive daggers. By trying to roll both these concepts into one item, Capcom has effectively broken the game.

And there's really no way around it. Even if Capcom removes the knife's durability (or allows it to still be used after its durability reaches zero), you could still run into a situation in which you defensively stab it into a zombie, but then don't have the ammo to kill the zombie and recover it. Again, you'd be stuck with no ammo, and no knife, and having zero damage potential. If you don't require players to kill a zombie to retrieve the knife, then the knife would allow you to always escape zombies without taking damage, and would break the game in the opposite direction. Short of giving the characters a punch or pistol whip, I'm not sure if there's any resolution to this conundrum.

I would say that the fact that the knife is generally weak, and the fact that it takes up an inventory slot, means that it probably doesn't need durability at all. Maybe instead of using it like the defensive daggers of the first REmake, Capcom could have set up a kind of "parry" or "counter" window with the knife that allows you to stab or slash lunging zombies to push them away with minimal damage to yourself -- and without stabbing the knife into the zombie and losing it from your inventory.

You temporarily lose the knife if you stab it defensively.

And no, the knife durability, and the need to conserve ammo is not "realistic". In real life, if I run out of ammo and break my knife, I'd throw the gun at G-Man's big squishy eye. Or I'd grab a pipe and try to bludgeon him. I mean, he gets a pipe! Why can't I have one?! Or I'd push him over the railing (which is what happens if you beat him anyway). Or I'd try climbing out of the arena and back to safety. Failing all else, I'd punch, kick, scratch, and claw to preserve my life as long as possible. I wouldn't just give up and say "Welp, I'm out of bullets. Guess you have to just kill me now."

Armed with the knowledge that the game could be rendered unplayable if I wasn't more judicious with my supplies, how did standard mode turn out? The rest of the game's design is pretty good. Despite shifting away from the static cameras of the original (and of REmake), and utilizing an over-the-shoulder camera similar to Resident Evil 4, REmake 2 maintains the horror atmosphere and more deliberate gameplay of the original. In fact, some masochists might even say it's even more deliberate (and somehow better designed) because you can now back yourself into an unwinnable corner. I do not fall into that camp. Hard is one thing. I'm fine with hard. Impossible is another thing entirely, and that is unacceptable.

The knife is mapped to its own button, eliminating a lot of tedious inventory juggling.

Even though the knife is the source of the game's single most fundamental flaw, the fact that it is mapped to its own button (even though it still takes up an inventory slot) is an excellent design change that mitigates some otherwise annoying inventory juggling. This is perhaps the single, greatest innovation from Resident Evil 4, and I was disappointed that the first REmake didn't work this way. I even like the idea of the risk/reward element of stabbing the knife into a zombie defensively and temporarily losing access to it. If only the durability issue and lack of alternative melee damage potential didn't undercut these otherwise good ideas...

The inventory in general has also been upgraded with multiple ease-of-use improvements. Most notably, you can now combine an item that you pick off the ground with an item already in your inventory, or swap the new item with an old item in your inventory. This means that if your inventory is full, you can still pick up a new item if it's more valuable to you than another item in your inventory. If you're hanging onto a green herb, and you find a red herb, you can immediately combine them, even if your inventory was full before you picked up the red herb. This definitely falls under the category of "It's about damned time!" I was dumbfounded that this simple improvement was not implemented in REmake, so I'm glad to finally see it here. There aren't any decoy items (like the broken shotgun or fake key in REmake), so this feature isn't played to its full potential.

You can now immediately mix an item off the ground with an item in your inventory, even if the inventory is full.

It's too bad that you can't examine an item before putting it into your inventory. Capcom also didn't bother to remove the annoying Ink Ribbon juggling at item boxes. I love the Ink Ribbons, but I really wish the game would just let me consume an Ink Ribbon directly from an item box if I'm at a typewriter next to an item box. That way, I don't have to waste time pulling the Ink Ribbons out of the item box, saving at the typewriter, then putting them back into the item box, and also remembering to drop them off if I reload the game from that save point.

I guess they had to leave some improvements for REmake 3, eh?

The map is also improved. Just like in the first REmake, rooms are colored in red if you haven't found every item of interest yet. But this map goes one step further by also using icons to mark the locations of door locks (including which key is needed to unlock it), uncompleted puzzles, and even items that haven't been picked up. Hovering over the icon brings up a tooltip that tells you exactly what the item, puzzle, or lock is, so even if you have a smaller TV and can't read the icons clearly, you'll still know what they mean. This finally brings Resident Evil's maps up to being on par with the brilliant maps of the first four Silent Hill games! Congratulations Capcom!

REmake 2's map is on par with the brilliant maps of the original Silent Hill tetralogy.

Though, this improved map does create a few minor problems. Just walking by an item or puzzle is enough for it to be marked on your map, so everything in a room gets labeled by simply entering the room and walking (or running) around a bit. Once you realize this, you don't really have to search rooms ever again. It's not like the original games, where you press X to examine every pixel, looking for puzzles, items, or clues. I do wish that the map would require you to interact with something before it labels it on the map.

Escalating threat

There's also a nice sense of escalating threat throughout the first two-thirds of the game. The unstoppable Tyrant Mr. X got the jump on me a few times before I figured out some of his behavior patterns. In the meantime, however, he provided some of the best jump-out-of-my-seat "Oh Shit!" moments of the entire game -- and maybe even of any horror game I've ever played. His relentless pursuit manages to provide a nice kick in the pants to keep you moving for a large chunk of the middle of the game, and makes exploration much more tense.

Mr. X's relentless pursuit lights one heck of a fire under your butt!

Mr. X actually [sort of] solves one of the few small hiccups in the first REmake's design: Mr. X block certain routes, and force you to take an alternative route, which may cause you to run through rooms or halls with un-killed zombies, or in which a Licker has since spawned. And with Mr. X bearing down on you, you may not have the time or space to make precision attacks against the enemies in the room. You'll have to improvise! This is something that, even with its Crimson Head mechanic, the first REmake was never able to accomplish. There was no threat or pressure forcing you to take dangerous paths, and you could always take paths that you knew were safe.

I also like that the first encounter with a Licker is deferred until later in your exploration of the police station. In the original game, the first Licker is in the first hallway of the police station. REmake 2 teases at the Licker's existence in this same hallway, but you don't actually see or fight one until later on. This helps to build some more anticipation and tension. But then again, the original game also had an extra half-hour or so of exploring the city streets and fighting or running from zombies before you even get to the police station. So maybe it balances out in the end?

The first encounter with a Licker is deferred till much later in the police station.

Also, you have access to much better weapons by this point, so that first Licker actually ends up being easier to deal with. So ... eh?

In general, this game does a fantastic job of building and maintaining tension. Part of that is the severely limited ammunition and health items. Part of it is the legitimately tough enemies. And part of it is a well-constructed atmosphere and sense that threats can come from anywhere, at any time. Scripted, gimmicky jump scares are few and far between, but legitimate "Oh shit!" jump scare moments (which may or may not be scripted) also happen from time to time.

All the dumb block-pushing puzzles are gone!

In general, the atmosphere is helped by the fact that the environments seem to be less whimsical. This is the opposite of the approach taken in the REmake of the first game, which further "gamified" some rooms and puzzles of the Spencer Mansion. REmake 2 replaces some of the more "game-y" set pieces and puzzles from the original with more believable locks and barriers. Sure, the crests and secret door under the station are still here, but the annoying block or statue-pushing puzzles are gone.

... The little things it gets wrong

But these genuine improvements are offset by yet more poor design choices or omissions. These aren't fundamental problems like the save system, difficulty settings, and knife durability, but the are things that I'm surprised weren't caught in play-testing and addressed. Or maybe play-testers did bring them up, but Capcom didn't care?

The biggest "small" problem is that, despite all the running away that you're forced to do, there is no chase camera. You can click the right stick to re-center the camera. This is useful, but I'd much rather that holding the right stick in would reverse the camera angle so that I could see the monstrosities that are pursuing me. The inability to easily look over your shoulder is most noticably unbearable during boss fights (which always involve you running around a small, confined space with the boss breathing down your neck), and during the large chunk of the middle of both scenarios in which you're being pursued by Mr. X. There's a lot of other, smaller chase sequences scattered throughout the game as well, and I can't easily see how close the pursuer is or whether I have enough lead to turn around and take a shot.

It sure would be nice if I could see the monster that's chasing me!

Yes, you can rotate the camera around to see behind you, but doing so is slow and cumbersome. In the tight hallways and claustrophobic rooms, you really don't have the time or space to be maneuvering the camera like that -- especially when dealing with relatively fast-moving enemies like Lickers, G-Man, or Mr. X. The original games' static camera angle generally gave the player a decent view of what's going on around the player character, so these chase sequences were probably a lot easier in the original -- assuming you were decent with the tank controls.

The Mr. X sequences are made more frustrating by the fact that I couldn't seem to damage or slow him down at all. I shot him in the face with a grenade, and it didn't seem to phase him at all. In rooms where you need to search for items or solve a puzzle (like the sliding bookcases in the library), the ability to slow him down or stun him would be a godsend. Instead, you have to kite him into areas where you have enough room to get around and behind him (the library is actually a great place for doing this), but that process can be tedious.

Even a flame round to the face did not seem to slow down Mr. X.

Apparently you can stun him. I reloaded an old save to test it. It takes a lot of bullets or two flame rounds (on standard mode). That's a pretty ridiculous ammo requirement!

What was even more annoying was the fact that the game doesn't give me any real indication of where, exactly, Mr. X is. You can hear him stomping around when he's nearby, but there's no indication of where the sound is coming from. Is he on the other side of the wall? On the floor above me? Right around the corner? I don't know. Because of this, I spend an inordinate amount of time hunkered down in the safe room waiting for him to go away. Then I pop open the door, step out, and he pops up from around the corner, so I duck back into the safe room.

And once he finally does wander off (because he apparently thinks that I traveled to another part of the police station through the magic portal inside the item box), I only have a minute or two to get anything done before he shows up again. The tension, fear, and apprehension that he creates quickly gives way to annoyance and frustration, since I couldn't get him off my back long enough to get anything meaningful done.

On a more technical level, I also found the audio balancing to be a bit off. In the early cutscenes, in particular, it was very hard for me to hear or understand the dialogue, since the dialogue was drowned out by sound effects. I had to reduce the sound and music volume by 50% (leaving voice volume at max), but that didn't even seem to do anything. Do these settings even work?

The audio got better as the game went on, and I had an easier time hearing and understanding dialogue during most of the rest of the game.

An uncooperative cooperative game?

The story itself is also full of cliches and contrivances -- especially where the Sherry character is involved. But it's a Resident Evil story, and I'm not exactly here for the quality writing...

That being said, a better-written story is an effective way of pulling the player into the horror, and this game just flat-out doesn't do that. Why exactly are we going to the police station? Why exactly are we staying in the police station after we find out it's overrun with zombies? Why is the little girl locked in a room in which the convenient escape tunnel is hidden by a piece of paper that's been duct-taped to the wall? Who is Mr. X, and why is he so determined to kill Leon and Claire? Lazy writing like this doesn't exactly keep me invested in the story or the characters.

Leon and Claire don't interact at all, except for one brief (awkwardly flirty) conversation.

I was also disappointed that there wasn't more interaction between Leon and Claire. They meet at the beginning of the game (and talk as if they're old chums), then they meet up one more time mid-way through the police station (and Claire gets awkwardly flirty), and then they don't see any trace of each other at all until the very end of the game. I never played through the entirety of the original games -- I think I escaped the police station in Leon's A scenario and got eaten by an angry sewer alligator, but that was as far as I got -- so I can't be sure if this lack of interaction is a case of the remake sticking too close to the original game, or if Capcom actually took some interaction between the characters out.

I was expecting more interaction between Leon and Claire.

I know this is a survival horror game, and that whole genre usually works best by creating and maintaining a sense of isolation and claustrophobia. Having a companion negates those feelings. But at the same time, giving you a helpful companion, and then taking that companion away can also create a feeling of isolation and helplessness. Having to part with your hard-earned supplies to give them to the other character would also be a great way of making the player feel dis-empowered.

I was hoping to see Leon and Claire meet up more often, and have more distinct scenarios. Each character has a unique side quest for most of the middle of the game, but then their scenarios converge again. Other than that, both characters' scenarios follow virtually the same path. They both explore the entirety of the police station, solve the same puzzles, and end up in the same lab. In fact, up until the first boss encounter with the G-Man, their scenarios are virtually identical! There's even a bit of discontinuity, as several occasions in the B scenario requires you to re-solve a puzzle that the other character should have already solved in the A scenario.

I expected that characters would be meeting up more often and handing off equipment and weapons to each other. I expected supplies left behind by one character to be accessible to the other character. I expected that each character would explore areas of the police station and town that the other never even sees. I expected them to maybe cooperate to solve a few puzzles, or maybe even bail each other out of a life-threatening situation (a la "Jill-sandwhich"). I expected there to be more exploration of the city. I expected that the Crimson Head mechanic would return in some form, such that zombies that aren't bunt in scenario A show up as Crimson Heads in scenario B. None of that happens.

I wish there was more gameplay out in the city streets.

Heck, I was expecting that we might see some clever and creative co-op multiplayer mode, in which two players play each character's scenario in parallel. You'd meet up for some critical plot points, puzzles, or boss fights, but would otherwise be completely isolated from each other (unlike Resident Evil 5, where you play the whole game together). But decisions that one player makes would affect the other. Like if I kill some zombies in an area that the other player will visit later, those zombies are dead when they get there (or they turned in to Crimson Heads because I neglected to burn them). Or weapons or supplies that I don't pick up would be available to the other player. Or if I make some loud noise in one part of the map, it might lure Lickers and Mr. X away from other parts of the map, which may free up the other player to more freely explore without those threats. Stuff like that.

Capcom would have to come up with some clever way of handling the death of one player or the other (would it send both players back to the last checkpoint or save game?). They'd have to come up with some system for gating one player's progress while waiting for the other player to catch up. Maybe the leading player can watch the other player through security cameras, and maybe even give them hints over an intercom? There would have to be some drop-in / drop-out mechanic, and an A.I. to play the other character if no human player is available or willing.

But it could all be doable with a little creativity and a solid creative vision. Resident Evil 5 did most of this stuff almost ten years ago! And games like Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne have completely redefined how multiplayer games can work. Being able to play REmake 2 together with a friend would have been welcome. Again, so such luck.

I was surprised there isn't some kind of indirect multiplayer campaign.

A classic marred by poor design choices

After beating Claire's A scenario on the standard mode, I tried Leon's B scenario on "hardcore". I thought that maybe, now that I was familiar with the game and better understood how "hardcore" works, I would enjoy it more and could forgive Capcom for frustrating me so much earlier.

The game completely skips over Leon wandering through the streets to get to the police station and begins with the awkwardly flirty scene of Leon and Claire meeting through the gate after the helicopter crash. When that cutscene is over, the game gives you control within arms' reach of a zombie. If you do not immediately b-line away, you'll get grabbed. So it looks like the B scenario is going to continue the trend of doling out cheap hits.

After letting the zombies kill me so that I could restart and try to get through this opening segment without damage, I found the early exploration of the police station to be problematic. There were zombies in every direction that I went, with the narrow corridors making it virtually impossible to run past them unless I could first kite them into a more open area. To make matters worse, Mr. X is introduced almost right away as being already somewhere in the building.

It was certainly tense!

Leon's B scenario gave me control with Leon already in arms' reach of a zombie.

Knowing that I couldn't waste a single bullet, and that I had to preserve my knife's durability so that it would be available for any future boss fight -- but not knowing how many spare bullets I would need to save -- I found myself feeling paralyzed, and unwilling (or unable) to even use the resources that I did have at my disposal. My problem isn't that the game is hard. My problem is that the design constraints make the difficulty feel artificial. The moment that I started feeling compelled to use cheese tactics (like popping in and out of a safe room to reset the aggro of zombies in the adjoining hall), I realized that I almost certainly was not going to enjoy this "hardcore" playthrough any more than I enjoyed the first one that I had to abandon.

But I powered through. I did a little save-scumming to experiment with routes and weapon efficacies -- which I probably should have done from the start, but it honestly never occurred to me that headshots weren't worth more damage until after I had completed Claire's standard scenario. I cleared out the zombies in the hallway outside the Dark Room, but avoided shooting any other zombies (except to take the legs out of one zombie at the top of the third floor stairs). And I was able to beat the first boss encounter and progress beyond that first blocking point. It cost me 40 bullets, 10 shotgun shells, 2 grenades, and a flashbang (way more than what was provided in the arena!), but I did it.

It pains me to have to give this game a grade any lower than an A. After how well REmake and RE7 turned out, I was expecting to be blown away by this game. It's a good game, but the bungling of "hardcore" mode and the fundamental design flaw of the knife's durability are inexcusably poor design decisions that I just cannot let slide.

Other Game Reviews I've Published

Alan WakeAlan WakeAlien: IsolationAlien: Isolation
Amnesia: a Machine for PigsAmnesia: a Machine for PigsAmnesia: the Dark DescentAmnesia: the Dark Descent
Among the SleepAmong the SleepAssassin's Creed IIIAssassin's Creed III
Assassin's Creed IV: Black FlagAssassin's Creed IV: Black FlagAssassin's Creed: OriginsAssassin's Creed: Origins
Axis Football 18Axis Football 18Back to the Future Episode OneBack to the Future Episode One
Backbreaker FootballBackbreaker FootballBanishedBanished
Batman: Arkham CityBatman: Arkham CityBattlefield 1Battlefield 1
BloodborneBloodborneBloodborne: the Old HuntersBloodborne: the Old Hunters
Call of Duty World War IICall of Duty World War IICatherineCatherine
Cities SkylinesCities SkylinesCities Skylines: After DarkCities Skylines: After Dark
Cities Skylines: Green CitiesCities Skylines: Green CitiesCities Skylines: IndustriesCities Skylines: Industries
Cities Skylines: Mass TransitCities Skylines: Mass TransitCities Skylines: Natural DisastersCities Skylines: Natural Disasters
Cities Skylines: ParklifeCities Skylines: ParklifeCities Skylines: SnowfallCities Skylines: Snowfall
Cities: Skylines: Match Day & ver. 1.4Cities: Skylines: Match Day & ver. 1.4CitiesXL & Cities XXLCitiesXL & Cities XXL
Dark SoulsDark SoulsDark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLCDark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLC
Dark Souls IIDark Souls IIDark Souls II: Scholar of the First SinDark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
Dark Souls IIIDark Souls IIIDark Souls III: Ashes of AriandelDark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel
Dark Souls III: the Ringed CityDark Souls III: the Ringed CityDead Space 2Dead Space 2
Death's GambitDeath's GambitDemon's SoulsDemon's Souls
DmC (Devil May Cry)DmC (Devil May Cry)DOOM (2016)DOOM (2016)
DreadOutDreadOutF.T.L. (Faster Than Light)F.T.L. (Faster Than Light)
Fallout 4Fallout 4Fallout ShelterFallout Shelter
Far Cry PrimalFar Cry PrimalFinal Fantasy XIIIFinal Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XVFinal Fantasy XVFirewatchFirewatch
Five Nights at Freddy'sFive Nights at Freddy'sGame of Thrones (Telltale series 1-2)Game of Thrones (Telltale series 1-2)
God of War (2018)God of War (2018)God of War IIIGod of War III
Gone HomeGone HomeGrand Theft Auto VGrand Theft Auto V
Hellblade: Senua's SacrificeHellblade: Senua's SacrificeKingdom Come: DeliveranceKingdom Come: Deliverance
L.A. NoireL.A. NoireLifeless PlanetLifeless Planet
Lollipop ChainsawLollipop ChainsawMad MaxMad Max
Madden NFL 11Madden NFL 11Madden NFL 12Madden NFL 12
Madden NFL 13Madden NFL 13Madden NFL 15Madden NFL 15
Madden NFL 16Madden NFL 16Madden NFL 17Madden NFL 17
Madden NFL 18Madden NFL 18Madden NFL 19Madden NFL 19
Mars Rover LandingMars Rover LandingMarvel's Spider-ManMarvel's Spider-Man
Master of Orion: Conquer the StarsMaster of Orion: Conquer the StarsMaximum Football 2018Maximum Football 2018
Metal Gear Solid V: the Phantom PainMetal Gear Solid V: the Phantom PainMiasmataMiasmata
Middle-Earth: Shadow of MordorMiddle-Earth: Shadow of MordorMiddle-Earth: Shadow of WarMiddle-Earth: Shadow of War
Monster Hunter: WorldMonster Hunter: WorldNCAA Football 11NCAA Football 11
NCAA Football 12NCAA Football 12NCAA Football 13NCAA Football 13
NiohNiohNo Man's SkyNo Man's Sky
Papers, PleasePapers, PleasePortal 2Portal 2
Red Dead RedemptionRed Dead RedemptionRed Dead Redemption IIRed Dead Redemption II
Resident Evil 2Resident Evil 2Resident Evil 7: BiohazardResident Evil 7: Biohazard
Resident Evil RemasteredResident Evil RemasteredRock Band 3Rock Band 3
Room 404Room 404Shadow of the Colossus (2018)Shadow of the Colossus (2018)
Sid Meier's Civilization VSid Meier's Civilization VSid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New WorldSid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New World
Sid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & KingsSid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & KingsSid Meier's Civilization VISid Meier's Civilization VI
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond EarthSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSilent Hill 4: the RoomSilent Hill 4: the Room
Silent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill: Shattered MemoriesSilent Hill: Shattered Memories
Sillent Hill DownpourSillent Hill DownpourSimCity (2013)SimCity (2013)
SimCity BuilditSimCity BuilditSomaSoma
Spider-Man: Edge of TimeSpider-Man: Edge of TimeSpider-Man: Shattered DimensionsSpider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Star Trek TrexelsStar Trek TrexelsStar Wars Battlefront IIStar Wars Battlefront II
StellarisStellarisStellaris mod: New HorizonsStellaris mod: New Horizons
The Amazing Spider-ManThe Amazing Spider-ManThe Amazing Spider-Man 2The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLCThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLC
The Evil WithinThe Evil WithinThe Evil Within 2The Evil Within 2
The Last GuardianThe Last GuardianThe Last of UsThe Last of Us
The SaboteurThe SaboteurThe SwapperThe Swapper
The Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3: Wild HuntThe Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This War of MineThis War of MineThis War of Mine: the Little OnesThis War of Mine: the Little Ones
Tomb Raider (2013)Tomb Raider (2013)Total War: AttilaTotal War: Attila
Total War: Rome IITotal War: Rome IITotal War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2
Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTotal War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTrineTrine
Tropico 5Tropico 5Ultimate General: Civil WarUltimate General: Civil War
Uncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUntil DawnUntil Dawn
What Remains of Edith FinchWhat Remains of Edith Finch 

Comments (1) -

Mr. Eff
Mr. Eff
02/11/2019 19:14:25 #

I understand your criticism of the knife, to a degree - the player should always be left with some sort of offensive mechanism. Maybe it would have been better if the knife was indestructible, but you could still lose it during a bout of self-defense. But I also think that if you're having to rely on a knife in a boss fight, you've backed yourself into a corner too deep to get out of. And that's not the fault of the game's design.
Also, I think it's completely the point that Mr. X. is hard to stop. It would take a lot away from the game if he could be stunned more easily, and once you figure him out, he's quite manageable. It's all about that initial shock, and seeing your weapons fail against him, that make him so intimidating on your first scenario or two.
I can agree with some of your points - there could be a bit more variation in the scenarios, there are some contrivances to the plot, there are some cheap hits, and the ink ribbon saves should have been an option apart from difficulty. And I have a few critiques of my own - I missed the beautiful music, the death animations can be tedious, and NEST is a bit short.
But overall, it was almost everything I wanted out of an RE2 remake. I liked it better than RE7, and I think it may just stand on par with REmake 1.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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