When I was but a wee little child, I had accrued several PS1 Demo discs—which I believe I obtained from convincing my parents that magazines were good for me. They were like books: educational! Or maybe the true reality was I kept annoying the high holy hell out of them until they gave in. Either way, one demo disc in particular had the starting level of Capcom’s original 1998 survival horror game Resident Evil 2. I didn’t know what Resident Evil was, or the fact that it was a horror game, but I was to learn. I was to learn fast.
A cop, Leon, navigating through the fire-y, zombie-torn streets. I wasn’t used to the tank like controls, shooting, or survival mechanics of the game, which meant Leon quickly got overwhelmed with the undead (and his face bitten off). A 10-year-old Matt got overwhelmed and scarred for life.
Fast track to 2020, where a grown 26-year-old faced his childhood fear of getting his face bit off by playing the 2020 modernised remake of Resident Evil 2 on PC. As I started the game, I chose Leon as my first playthrough. He was, after all, the only choice in the demo. The first thing I noticed when I roamed around the front of the gas station was that the tutorial advised I use ASWD to move around, not the standard term WASD—a trivial thing, but odd from a PC gamer’s perspective. The second was that I could aim and look around like a standard third person shooter; I think this decision was a well-made one. I dreaded the tank controls in the originals, and while I can see that other people may appreciate them, it’s not a game style for me. The shooting was precise (and I had no issue with popping heads), although killing a zombie can range from one shot to a full mag in the head. This ultimately shortens if you shoot when the reticule shrinks to a dot, which maximises your damage.
I entered the powerless gas station and worked my way deeper into the back, until I came across a police officer getting overpowered; his face/neck being bitten off. I shot half my clip into the zombie until it was dead. After exploring, I found it was getting back up and poured the rest into his head until he was back down. Well…I had one bullet left but disaster has been…aaaand there’re more zombies in the store. I wasted the last and ran for the exit until a cutscene hit. A lovely lady named Claire opened the door, but there was a zombie behind her! “Don’t Shoot!” she said. “Get Down!” I said. She ducked, and I shot a magical cutscene bullet into the zombie. It dropped, and we sped out of there in my police car.
The game showed me at the start that it’s not messing around. You will not have enough bullets to kill everything, and you shouldn’t be trying to kill everything. You should be surviving. Killing enough so as to not be overwhelmed, and occasionally knocking a few back with a couple of bullets to pass on through. That’s not including the Lickers, or zombie dogs…those bastards need to die and stay dead. Luckily, the zombie dogs—which I was most fearful of after hearing stories in Resident Evil—are a one shot kill with the trusty shotgun; I kept a few spare shells just for them.
I also kept a few grenades and knives spare, not just for standard use, but as a get out of jail free card when I got attacked. Where you’re at the point of getting your face/neck bitten off, you’re given the option to instead make the enemy eat a grenade, or take a knife. What’s even more enjoyable is stepping back and watching it explode inside them, or, better yet, shooting the grenade to make it preemptively go off.
I also made sure to only shoot my dapper, roided up silver man Mr X in the head to stun him, and only when I had no other way around him, to conserve ammo. There were a few places that I would duck into to hide from him, or loop around to allow myself to get to where I needed to go, but there were times where I had no option but to canter around the entire police station just to avoid getting decked in the face by the Tyrant. This guy don’t care about nothing! All he wants is to make sure no one is alive to escape and tell the government of Umbrella Corps’ little whoopsie-daisy.
There are two parts of the game. One is surviving, and the other is puzzles; I liked the puzzles in the game. Especially the puzzles that weren’t necessary to proceed. Even though I didn’t need it, I had a little notepad and pen next to me so I could scribble down notes of locations and codes that I would use throughout the police station. I also enjoyed the puzzle where Leon’s colleagues put two locks on his desk to force him to get to know their names on his first day—as with their first names, you were then able to unlock Leon’s desk and get a gun upgrade. Though the twist here is that all of his colleagues are dead and you are in a way compelled to remember each name of what were to be your colleagues, but are instead undead monsters. A grim puzzle, to say the least.
I found that Resident Evil 2 gave well explained reasons for having the puzzles throughout the game. The police station was previously a museum, which is why it had puzzle-like areas very akin to an escape room game (that I can see being in a museum). Another puzzle is given an interesting context. When in the sewers, you find that Knights Construction Company designed the infrastructure, and the CEO of the company just seems to love “playfulness” and “superior industrial design”. That “superior industrial design” includes having to navigate throughout the sewers, collecting chess-piece-shaped plugs, and putting them in the correct order to open a door to progress through the story.
The one downside that I felt in the game was that I got lost once or twice—not being able to progress because I was unaware of where the gate I could open with the crank was located, or didn’t know how to get to the third level of the east side wing. While these moments were few and far between, it wasted an hour or so (before I looked at a walkthrough). I feel this is more of an issue on my end, as I’m not very perceptive and often get lost in maze-like areas.
After my first playthrough with Leon, I played the second with Claire. As Leon, you occasionally bump into what feels like your new girlfriend after a couple of hours (vice versa if you’re Claire on your first playthrough). Playing the second puts you in the opposite characters shoes during the same time of the story. When playing as Claire—despite all the puzzles being completely moved around, and some doors being locked where others are easily accessible—I knew the entire layout of the facility, and the general sense of what I needed to do. This made the second playthrough fresh, enjoyable, and also quicker. I also found that Claire’s grenade launcher worked so much better than Leon’s shotgun. Still, I’m glad I got to witness both versions of the story.
After completing the story, I jumped into the arcade modes: The 4th Survivor, where you play as Hunk, a soldier who rushes throughout the entire game linearly from the sewers to the front of the police station to escape; and the Ghost Survivors, alternative realities where those lost in the main story were able to survive in various scenarios. I found them to be great extensions of the game if you want more content. The Tofu Survivor I’m leaving for last. You’re a block of Tofu, running through a similar scenario to Hunk, only you have no weapons aside from a few knives. There is no killing in this, there is only rush. And by god was this an insane torture to endure… I can only imagine how some masochists would enjoy playing through this, or others that are nostalgic of it from the first game. Regardless, it’s great that you get so much bang for your buck in this package.
All in all, I overcame my fear from childhood and I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. The jump scares, the tension from lack of resources when facing overwhelming zombies, the rushing escape from Mr X Gon’ Give It To Ya. I’m glad that they’ve made a near perfect recreation of Resident Evil 2 and definitely encourage Capcom to keep the trend going with their future titles.