Needless to say, my excitement had reached maximum levels by the time the annual event had reached its conclusion. One of the reasons behind this is because the Resident Evil series is one near and dear to my heart.
The original Resident Evil 2 (Capcom, 1998) is one of my personal favourites. So, with the recent demo for the remake currently on the lips of every gamer worth their salt, is it likely that we would be justified in spending £45 on the full release upon launch later this month?
Whadda Ya Thinkin’?
Throughout this feature, I will divulge into my opinions on the demo’s gameplay and atmosphere as well taking note of the improvements made while finishing off with my predictions on the quality of the finished product. So, sit back, relax and enter the survival horror.
Firstly, let us commence with the most important aspect of any game, the gameplay. The original Resident Evil 2 provided player with a great amount of freedom. Instead of being given a strict, singular objective to hit at any given time, they were encouraged to explore the environment unassisted. This allowed the player to move at their pace which I am personally a fan of.
While objectives do exist in the demo, they are kept relatively vague and the end of the demo seems to suggest that the player may be faced with multiple objectives at once. Even better, there is nothing to suggest that the objectives fall into a hierarchy. As a result, I never felt as though my hand was being held, or that I was being directed. However, I also never felt safe. For a horror game, this is ideal.
Methods of a Survival Horror
Resident Evil 2 Remake devises many methods to keep you feeling anxious. For example, although many fans may be saddened deeply by the removal of door opening loading screens, this decision allows enemies to follow you through doors if the player is detected. This adds an extra layer of strategy as I could also attempt to sneak past an enemy and enter a room without being followed. Having this option is terrific even if players fail to utilise it. As matter of fact, the emphasis placed on strategic planning in this demo will be guaranteed have fans smiling from ear to ear.
While item management, ammo conservation and ammo creation are welcome returns, the wooden boards are a more than welcome newcomer. These can be used to board up windows around the R.P.D. Station to prevent zombies from bursting through and swarming the player. As these boards are few in number, deciding where to use them should be a process in and of itself.
I love it when a game makes me think, and the Resident Evil 2 Remake Demo certainly provides sufficient food for thought. In fact, the most impressive part of the demo is that it heavily indicates the full game to be just as, if not more, cerebral than the original. As I played through the terrifying 30-minute demo, I was teased with sneak peeks of reworked puzzles from the original, as well as a far greater number of new puzzles that I was expecting. This demonstrates that the development team have gone above and beyond to make this experience as fresh for die-hard fans as it will be for newcomers. This is fantastic to see as I would most certainly feel cheated paying £45 for a simple reskin.
Finally, for me, the element of the demo that elicits the most fear is how it establishes a sense of claustrophobia. Much of the Police Station is made up of narrow, dark corridors chocked full of zombies with serious blood lust. Manoeuvring around them takes as much skill here as it did in the original. I often found myself carefully considering each step to avoid damage which was wonderfully refreshing.
Furthermore, the atmosphere that the demo creates is equally as effective at keeping me tense and on edge as the gameplay. In a similar vein to the realm of film, clever lighting is a key component in horror games. As luck would have it, the Resident Evil 2 Remake demo does not disappoint. Like Resident Evil VII before it, Resident Evil 2 Remake implements dynamic lighting.
Many of the previously mentioned corridors in the Police Station are pitch black. Therefore, ‘Leon’ must use a torch to illuminate his path. This torch casts eerily ambiguous shadows which would throw even the calmest of players for a brief second. Needless to say, it became difficult to trust my eyes after a while as I stared long at an ominous shadow, unsure of whether it was innocent or sinister in nature. I may have been anxious, but I found thrill in the anxiousness.
On another note, one of the most memorable aspects of the original game was the score. While I did not get to hear much of the musical offerings this time around, what I did hear impressed me greatly. Although I was not impressed to the point where I could recreate the musical accompaniments that graced my ears like the original, I was impressed by how classic the score felt.
Silence, Not High Notes Please.
Nowadays we are too often greeted by high pitched strings in horror titles. However, Resident Evil 2 Remake prefers the use of more ambient pieces which fit perfectly in the background, becoming one with the environment. This works tremendously well as each piece of music makes the player feel the emotion that it intends to make the player feel in a much subtler manner than the horror scores of today.
Often times, I took no notice of the music, but I could always feel the effect. While on the subject of the demo’s aural experience, let us discuss the sound effects. As I cautiously explored the now ruined and desolate R.P.D. Building with only the echoes of my footsteps and the groans of a zombie at an unknown distance from me to score the experience, I began to get tingles. Just like in yesteryear, the Resident Evil 2 Remake utilises a minimalistic approach to its sound design, relying on the implementation of sounds for things you cannot yet see to get the butterflies racing.
As a human race, we are always most frightened of what we cannot see, which makes this decision a genius one. I found myself forced to use my imagination which will always terrify me more than the physical being behind the noises.
A True Remake…
What better way to conclude this section than by discussing the most important character in the game: the R.P.D. Building? Way back when, in 2002, the remake of the very first Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996) achieved the seemingly impossible task of making the Spencer Mansion feel more alive than its original incarnation. A lot more set dressing was added, and great effort was put into providing the mansion with a properly lived in aesthetic. Consequently, the mansion felt so much more alive.
In 2019, Capcom continues the good work. Although the optional reading the player can partake in excellently provides them with brief snippets of history, taking one look at any room in the Resident Evil 2 Remake demo instantly informs you of what down prior to the player’s arrival.
Each area of the Police Station is brimming with character and myriad elements of environmental storytelling such as the vast array of makeshift medical treatment areas. One can only imagine what chaos it must have been to treat so many in such a confined space and, as briefly discussed earlier, using one’s imagination is much more effective than expositional dialogue and readings.
Stunning Detail, From the Corridor Up!
As one can imagine, this remake has already displayed some significant improvements over its older counterpart. Of course, it goes without saying that the power which comes from the RE Engine ensures that this game is a real looker. Everywhere you look, there is stunning detail to be found which enhances the story without the need for cinematic cut scenes.
‘Marvin Branagh’ also seems to be receiving more character development. A man who was once relegated to playing the tragically helpless damsel in distress is now more than ready to take out as many zombies as he can before inevitably turning himself. Further, the new voice actor provides excellent performance. Every line is said with passion and conviction. Consequently, this sparks hope in me that ‘Sherry Birkin’ will follow in Marvin’s bloody footsteps, evolving from a scared young girl to a capable survivor in her own right.
The game’s producers have confirmed that the development team spent a great deal of time improving the game’s story and characterisations. What further proof is required?
n00bs are Welcome
Thankfully, new players will be on an equal footing with veterans such as myself as many of the game’s scares of been reworked, new areas have been added, and familiar levels have been given a new coat of paint. As I explored the R.P.D. Building, pistol at the ready, I felt as though I was doing so for the first time. I very much look forward to being scared all over again when the 25th comes to pass.
Along with this, I look forward to being challenged all over again as I tackle the new puzzles on offer to me. My excitement only increased with each new cerebral challenge I encountered but could not yet solve. Without a doubt, the Metroidvania level design which made older Resident Evils so special will be making a triumphant return to the realm of third-person survival horror.
The future continues to look blindingly bright for Resident Evil. From what I’ve experienced in the demo and witnessed in the trailer which plays upon completion, the Resident Evil 2 Remake will focus on survival rather than action. As well as this, it will create a tense atmosphere bolstered by reworked and original scares to keep the audience’s palms sweating from beginning to end.
These predictions are further evidenced by the passion expressed by the game’s producers ‘Yoshiaki Hirabayashi’ and ‘Tsuyoshi Kanda’ who seem set on making this game the greatest yet in the Resident Evil series. The evidence in the demo itself to back up these points includes the emphasis on strategic play through the use of boards and careful manoeuvring.
Survival horror has made its return and, if this demo is anything to go by, it is here to stay. Come the 25th of January, I will be taking the full product home with me to enjoy until the release of another long-awaited Capcom title later this year. I highly recommend, but do no demand, that you do likewise.