Welcome to Racoon City
When it comes to Survival Horror games, It’s hard to think of a series more iconic than Resident Evil. While there are many series that helped define and popularise the Survival Horror genre, only a few managed to do so in a way similar to Resident Evil.
Capcom had done well to impress gamers with their first installment in the series. The limitations of the PlayStation hardware meant that in order to achieve higher levels of fidelity the backgrounds had to be pre-rendered which in turn meant camera angles had to be deliberately placed. However, as an interesting side effect this meant that players would feel uneasy as they skulked down corridors, unable to see what was lying in wait for them at the other end. The terrifying unknown wasn’t the only factor that struck fear into the heart of gamers as they were only given 6-8 slots, depending on the character, to track and manage any items picked up during the playthrough. Players would also have to track their health as they fought off the undead and explored the mansion solving puzzles and finding keys.
Resident Evil 2 was released on the PlayStation in 1998 to critical acclaim. Many would praise the game for its atmosphere and audio but would universally condemn the tank controls and janky voice acting. Much like the first game in the series, RE2 would have static, pre-rendered backgrounds, fixed cameras and would focus on the immediate threat of the living dead with a shadowy subplot involving the ever classy Umbrella Corporation. New to the series, however, was the “zapping” system which lets players affect certain elements in each characters storyline. Picking up a weapon in route A would remove it from route B and choosing to secure a hallway would make it safe for the rest of route A but in route B the undead would have broken through thus making it much more dangerous and giving players one more thing to track and fear.
As time went on Resident Evil would remain a shining example of how to do video game horror correctly and many players would revisit the series to attempt a faster complete run and boast about it online and 20 years later Capcom would announce and release a remake for fans to sink their teeth into.
Calm Before The Storm
We open up the game with a close up shot of a juicy looking burger, barely taken out of its wrapper, sitting on the dashboard of a vehicle. The camera pulls out and a trucker grabs the burger, brings it up to his mouth and takes a satisfying bite as a voice on the radio can be heard telling a story of a stumbling woman who attacked him one night while leaving the bar. The radio host, being of sound mind, teased the caller and suggested he had one two many beers, however, the caller adamantly insists that he “barely had a buzz on” and goes on to describe his attacker as looking like a “corpse”. Mr. Trucker makes a comment about his wife also looking like a corpse and takes another bite as the radio begins to lose signal and as he begins to fiddle with the dials and buttons a woman can be seen in the distance crossing the road. The trucker looks up at the last possible but it’s too late and the poor woman is slammed into the front of the speeding truck as he stomps the brakes. As it comes to a complete stop the truck throws the woman a few feet ahead. Blood drips down from the grille as the trucker climbs down out of his cab, clearly in shock and muttering “No! No… no” to himself as he walks over to her limp body. He bends down and grabs her wrist but is shocked to discover she has no pulse. As he stands and puts his back to her body, she slowly stands back up and the scene cuts to black.
The previously thought dead woman rises again
Elsewhere, Leon is driving towards Racoon City, oblivious to the chaos unfolding around him. Pulling up to a gas station he notices there is a distinct lack of people so, being a rookie cop, he decides to investigate further and enters the building. All seems normal inside the darkly lit interior but as Leon moves deeper in, he sees the shop owner sat down clutching at his neck and motioning towards the open door. Past this door is Leon’s first introduction to undead threat as an Arklay Officer fails to apprehend a recently turned zombie and has a huge chunk ripped out of his neck as a result. This is the game’s way of letting players have a taster of what the majority of their play time will be. This single zombie can be easily dispatched or stunned with a shot to the head and/or legs but once the player makes it back out into the main shop they have no choice but to run as there is now a small gathering inside. Reaching the front door we are treated with a cool introduction to Claire as she comes barging in, trying to outrun the dead, and ducks as Leon quickly dispatches her pursuer. They both climb into a nearby police car and speed off towards Racoon City. Leon tells Claire that he is a cop and she in turn tells him that her brother is an officer too and she is trying to locate him but they don’t get to converse for long because eventually they are blocked from going any further and just as they are formulation a plan, they truck from earlier comes barrelling towards them at speed. The resulting collision causes an explosion that separates the two but they vow to meet up at the Racoon City Police Department further on ahead. This section feels like Capcom’s way of letting players know that you can’t always fight off the dead and so Leon must now run away through the gauntlet of burning cars and the recently animated to get to safety.
Leon and Claire surrounded
Safe Inside The RPD Station
The real game starts once you enter the police station as now you’re fully responsible for exploring, gathering items, saving your progress and managing your inventory. The lobby of the station is your safe space, you will find a typewriter to save the game, a magic black box where you can store items and retrieve them throughout your progress and lastly it serves as a sort of hub location where you can access all of the other floors and most of the important rooms. For now you can’t go really go anywhere but inspecting a nearby laptop will show you a police officer running for his life and yelling to get the door open in the east wing, but the safety shutter is somewhat broken so Leon has to climb under it and this is where most players will start to panic as the whole corridor is suspended in pure darkness.
The previous games instilled fear because you couldn’t control the camera and something could be waiting just off screen to murder you but in RE2: Remake the camera is now placed closely over the shoulder of Leon and Claire and so the fear now comes from not being able to see in the dark or what’s creeping up behind you. Of course this new camera also means that you have better control of where you’re looking/shooting which makes a lot of encounters easier but still as stressful as many zombies will take more than 5 shots to properly kill; it’s easy to be overwhelmed. At the end of the East Wing you come across a police officer who gets instantly torn in half but not before gifting you a tiny notebook that reveals a hidden path out of the station, which we’re going to want to use, and helpfully notes the solution to revealing this hidden path. Back in the lobby we meet Marvin Branaugh and Leon gets to suit up in his big by policeman uniform which is an updated version of his classic outfit with the huge shoulder pads. We’re given a radio and a knife, which we can use to open the shutter to the West Wing and this is pretty much how the player will spend the rest of their time in the police station. An important item will be locked behind a door and the player will have to find a key or solve a puzzle in a different location in order to open said door and retrieve what it was guarding. Luckily players have access to a map and can fill in the blanks by either finding maps in-game or by visiting the location. The map will also colour a room in red if you haven’t fully searched it, which is a nice feature.
An Officer, half the man he once was.
It’s easy to start feeling at ease during the first hour or two of the game because players will likely be retracing their steps and covering ground already tread and even the new Lickers, which have been made faster and deadlier to accomodate for the new camera system, become less terrifying. However, shortly before leaving the police station Mr. X will make an appearance and, providing you survive the first encounter, will start stalking you through the darkly lit corridors and even bursting through walls just when you start to feel safe. Capcom have cleverly decided to use Binaural Audio technology for Mr. X which lets you accurately predict where he is based off the pounding of his footsteps but also putting you on edge when the sound is coming from the room next door; headphones are recommended for at least your first playthrough. It’s easy to outrun Mr. X because he will only ever walk, although when he spots he sort of power walks after you, so it’s easy to run through a room or lead him around an object and run away, but in another clever twist the previously safe police station lobby is now accessible by Mr. X which means the only way you can avoid him is by ducking into a save room with a typewriter.
Mr X gon’ give it to ya
The Undead Road to The Platinum
Resident Evil 2: Remake can be difficult at times and going for the platinum will test your skills and patience, however, since you’ll be replaying the game a few times you’ll likely know the layout of each area and have an iron grasp on the mechanics.
Firstly, I tackled both routes on Assisted difficulty, now usually I like to start a game out on the hardest difficulty but I’m aware of how challenging Hardcore can be so I swallowed my pride and chose an easier setting. During both of my playthroughs I focused on finding as many collectibles as I possibly could, however, I wasn’t too bothered if I missed one as I could always come back later and mop up any I missed. During these first playthroughs I would write down any combinations to lockers and safes and make a note of all the puzzle solutions and locations of important items I would need for my next run. Playing the game on Assisted, I feel, took some of the fun out of the encounters as you are given a sort of soft lock-on when aiming at enemies and after completing route A I switched to Standard and had a much better time.
A Hero Emerges Complete Leon’s Story
A Heroine Emerges Complete Claire’s Story
Secondly, I focused on putting all my notes that I had taken earlier to use and went for S Rank on both Leon and Claire’s routes. For this I chose their A routes as I was more familiar with these runs and I felt like they were much safer than the B routes. Getting an S Rank in RE2: Remake is all about time so I tried to get through each stage as fast as possible and ,since the game doesn’t punish you for abusing the save feature on Standard, I made sure I had back-up saves in every major section in case I needed to shave some time off here or there; in the end getting an S Rank on Standard isn’t all that hard and you have more than enough time to achieve it.
Leon “S” Kennedy Complete Leon’s story on “Standard” or “Hardcore” with an S rank
Sizzling Scarlet Hero Complete Claire’s story on “Standard” or “Hardcore” with an S rank
Thirdly, I decided to go all in and get an S+ Rank on Hardcore whilst making sure I didn’t use any healing items, open the item box and making sure I took less than 14,000 steps. This, I would soon discover, would test my patience and sanity like no other game before it. Hardcore changes a few things like puzzle solutions, item placements and enemy aggression, but, most importantly, you now needed to use Ink Ribbons with the Typewriter in order to save and if you wanted to get an S+ rank on Hardcore you can only save 3 times. This part would take me many hours as I was too stubborn to save during the police station section as I knew I could get clear that part in under 20 minutes, but my plan kept falling apart shortly after leaving the station behind and I would die before a save point or I would get cocky and decide I could probably get make it further before saving. Luckily, I had gotten to a point where I could speedrun Leon’s route A in around 1 hour give or take a few minutes, so retrying on Hardcore didn’t feel like the kick in the teeth I thought it would be.
Hardcore Rookie Complete Leon’s story on “Hardcore” game mode.
Hardcore College Student Complete Claire’s story on “Hardcore” game mode.
Finally, I had gotten to the last trophy on the list. Finish the “4th Survivor” scenario in the Extras section. This is a short mini story featuring Hunk, one of the soldier sent to recover and item which ended up starting this whole undead nightmare, who has to make it out of the sewer to the front gates of the police station in order to be extracted by a helicopter. My official completion time for this mode is 10 minutes but I don’t mind telling you I probably spent 5 hours trialing and failing catastrophically to learn the routes and strategies that would eventually get me to safety.
Grim Reaper Complete “The 4th Survivor” extra mode.
As hard as it was I had arrived at the front gates and Hunk was safe. The trophy for completing this extra mode popped and followed immediately after that shiny platinum trophy popped and I let out a gargantuan sigh of relief. My time with RE2: Remake had come to an end, but it had left such an impression on me that I decided not to uninstall the files because I knew I would be back again to blow off some steam and attempt to beat my fastest records.
A Racoon City Native safe at last.
Resident Evil 2: Remake was a delight to play and whilst it left some aspects behind it’s still definitely a brilliant and faithful remake and every bit as fun, scary and worth your time as the original was.
Tips to Survive
Below are some tips that I’ve put together from my time with the game.
- Playing the game on Standard difficulty first will better prepare you for Hardcore later
- 1 or 2 shots to either the head or the legs will momentarily stun a zombie so you can sprint by
- If you want to see if a zombie is actually dead, you can press to bring up your knife and to slash at it.
- Try and get as many hip pouches to expand your inventory as you can but don’t be afraid to leave one behind if you have to
- Combining herbs is great but only combine them when you really need to
- Use the item box as much as you can, it’s great for item management. Only take what you need, store the rest.
- If an item has a red mark on it then it can be destroyed as it has served its purpose
- Don’t waste ammo on Mr. X, just try to out manoeuvre him.
- Don’t run near Lickers, they are blind and will respond to loud noises. Walking is fine.
- Try and think ahead. For example, when you first enter the Library, move the stack of shelves as far as you can so when you use the jack later you can quickly finish moving them and get away before Mr. X can stop you.
- It might be worth studying speedruns on YouTube or Twitch before your S+ run so you’re more prepared.
- When a zombie smashes through a door there is a brief period where you can run through them and out the door before they can finish their animation. This is good for speedruns