Itchy, Tasty: How The Resident Evil 2 Remake Simultaneously Irritated & Slightly Satisfied Me
We live in a time of seemingly endless video game remakes, remasters, and rehashes. And while the “remaster” category has been plagued with some of the most horribly disrespectful ruination known to creative media, surprisingly the “remake” category has been mostly wonderful releases. We could debate for hours about whether or not remakes should even be a thing in gaming, but that won’t change the fact that they exist. No, I’d much rather complain about their flaws while implying I could do a much better job despite having zero experience in video game development. So without further ado, here is how the Resident Evil 2 Remake both deeply irritated and slightly satisfied me simultaneously.
Unlike every other Resident Evil fan on the planet, I never considered the second entry to be anywhere near my favourite instalment. That’s not to say it’s bad, it just never grabbed me like the original release or the genre-shift of RE4. I only recall playing the game once around the original release while taking turns with a childhood friend of mine on a very high-quality 17-inch tube television. So it goes without saying that my gripes and dislikes of this remake aren’t rooted in comparison to the original. I will, however, be comparing it to other releases in the series, both classic and modern, but that’s fair wouldn’t you say?
I’ve never been a fan of the “it’s scary because you are forced to run away” genre of horror games. Personally, I don’t find the idea of being utterly incapable of doing anything to stop my pursuer to be scary or fun. Sure, it can enhance stress or fear when done properly and in controlled doses, but to create an entire game around it will only breed frustration and ultimately feels lazy to me. The Resident Evil series never based itself solely on the idea of having to run away. It was a legitimate tactic of course, but it was up to the player’s choice and even skill level. They had injected certain ‘unbeatable’ elements in the series, such as Mr. X and of course Nemesis, but it was always in certain points during the game. While I personally didn’t care for those moments, it never really bothered me enough to complain, until now.
Mr. X himself isn’t overwhelmingly annoying. Once you learn his, somewhat underwhelming, AI logic and entry boundaries for the sake of the game, you can easily manage the lumbering man with poor fashion taste. The real problem lies with the changes made to the zombies. For some reason, they seem to have an almost magnetic attractiveness when they enter their grab animations. While they are slow and shambling 99.9% of the time, if you walk anywhere near them, they instantly spin on their heels and dash towards you like an unmarried woman during the bouquet toss. If this happens in a group of zombies, you might as well set your controller down and grab a drink because you’ll be watching animations for the next twenty minutes since, unless you have a “rescue item”, there will be no way of interrupting the incoming sequence of annoyance. Throw Mr. X into the mix and an aneurysm is all but certain. This changes the game from planning your movements and resource usage into “use no ammo or end up with no ammo”. Either way, you’re going to be defenceless and running for the majority of the game, especially on harder difficulties. This is only compounded by the total lack of the classic knife.
Nothing could be done to avoid this endless hell.
“Aim for the head”. This phrase has been uttered since the inception of zombies. Not only does it fit into the twisted logic of “destroy the brain to stop the unstoppable dead thing”, but it also fits in the usual gameplay mechanic and challenge of having good aim. You can eventually stop a reanimated corpse by shooting its limbs or torso, but if you wanna end it quickly, you aim for the brain, much like with humans…or basically any other carbon-based multi-celled organism. This is still true for the RE2 remake, but the problem lies in how many shots it takes. I am not exaggerating when I say I’ve shot a normal, random zombie while playing on the Hardcore difficulty a staggering sixteen times in the head before it was fully dead. On average I’d say it takes around 7-9 headshots per zombie on Hardcore. This is unacceptable. You can disagree, but you’d be wrong. There is nothing satisfying, challenging, or fun about having to shoot an enemy in the head ten times, nothing.
I’m sure someone will say you’re not supposed to fully kill each one when you encounter them, and that the zombies were designed to not die until you re-encounter them later on, thus why they take so many bullets. That is basically the idea behind the Crimson Head mechanic in the first remake. Zombies would “die”, only to come back later in the game but much faster and deadlier, unless the player used the limited amount of fuel found around the mansion to burn the corpses. So I guess RE2 decided to replace that mechanic with a bunch of bullet sponges? How creative and interesting.
The game does feature the basically unexplained mechanic of standing still to steady your aim until your crosshair “snaps” resulting in the shot dealing slightly more damage, but this only makes matters worse. This means the player who can quickly swing their aim in various directions to pull off headshots on multiple moving targets is essentially penalized for being good at aiming. But you say, “Resident Evil 2 wasn’t an action game. It was about making each shot count!” Well, you’re right, it wasn’t an action game. The camera, controls, amount of enemies and their design, and everything else in the game was designed to not be action-oriented. That’s why it worked so well. The problem with the remake is that it fancies itself an action game when it comes to aiming, perspective, damage outputs, and enemies, but then attempts to retain the survival horror of the original when it comes to ammo and movements.
Nice shot Leon! Only 235 more to go!
This is a game that isn’t sure what it wants to be. It wants that classic, stressful, survival horror it once had, but it knows that most players expect a more modern game. One with smoother movements, dynamic aiming, and a more orthodox camera in today’s market. Thus we get a game where I feel like I should be able to dodge attacks, but I can’t. Some enemies even feel like their attack patterns were designed for gameplay more similar to Resident Evil 6. I feel like someone screwed with my control scheme and I’m missing a few buttons. You need a clear idea of what type of game you want to make when it comes to controls and flow. Trying to play both styles is a dangerous idea.
In every other main entry in the Resident Evil series, the knife was always a constant. You always had that trusty little blade just waiting for a desperate situation. Especially in the first game’s remake, RE4, and RE5, the knife was a massive tactic for defeating zombies and conserving ammo. I mean I’m fairly certain that the entire idea of a “Knife Run” spawned from the original game. In the RE2 remake, it’s been demoted to the same level as a frag grenade or flashbang. You can use it as a traditional knife, but surprise, it degrades and can break after about fifteen or so uses, which is what happens when a developer mistakes overwhelming frustration with fear.
Sure these knives are all over the place, sure you can unlock an “unlimited knife” by shooting collectables, but that isn’t the point. While attempting to enhance and remake a classic survival horror game beloved by fans, they thought to remove one of the staples of the entire series, for essentially no reason at all, was a good move. The original remake featured both a survival knife and rescue knife, and it worked perfectly. I cannot for the life of me see why they changed that formula. It honestly kind of gives me a headache when I think about it.
Yes, you too can own a knife that is a worthless piece of junk!
Another problem that most people seem to agree with is the new sounds and score. While the menu sounds and intro voice isn’t really something that affects the core gameplay, the musical score certainly is. The new soundtrack isn’t bad per-se, it’s more non-existent. Most of the game you’ll be hearing no music at all, even in the iconic police dept. main hall. This does a lot to effect and potentially spoil the atmosphere and mood of the game. After my first playthrough, I honestly didn’t remember a single note of soundtrack, other than the horrible credits song. When I replayed I decided to turn on the classic sound option, and I’m glad I did. I am so glad in fact, that if there was some way to edit the console version and delete the new soundtrack from the game, I would, as I will never in my entire life want it enabled again.
The original score is so much better and mood-setting. I’m not speaking from nostalgia here; I don’t even remember the original music. It’s just better, plain and simple. I’m extremely happy Capcom includes this option, as it really improves the overall experience. What I’m downright angry about is that they only include it in the overpriced edition of the release, or for the small price of three US dollars. Really? This is what gaming has become? In order to hear original sounds and music in a remake, fans of the series (who also probably bought the original release as well) now have to pay an extra three bucks to simply enable already created noise? Absurd.
It doesn’t matter that it’s different from the original, these problems would apply to any video game. Don’t get me wrong, the Resident Evil 2 remake is a decent game; when compared to most modern AAA titles, it’s even pretty good. The atmosphere is wonderful, the visuals are great, and I am glad they did some things a bit different rather than just rehashing the exact same experience. It did scratch my itch of a classic RE title. I even think the idea of a Nemesis remake could be great, but only if they don’t fall into the same traps that they did this time around. And that’s my problem with this remake. They managed to mess up things that the series had already perfected. In a sense, they took more steps back than forward. Let’s hope they try to improve with the next release, especially if it’s going to be another remake.