As South Africa enters its 21-day lockdown in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus, it has left many civilians in the isolation of their homes. Many see this as a great opportunity to spend quality time with some family and loved ones, while others cherish diving into forms of entertainment to occupy their time and pass the weeks (when not working remotely, in that case). To cushion some of the tedium, Nexus has decided to create a daily feature in which we recommend games of varying lengths and content that could pass the time. Our eleventh recommendation in Lockdown Gaming features the dashing hairstyles of a young and impressionable Leon S. Kennedy in the acclaimed Resident Evil 2 remake.
I've wanted to talk about the Resident Evil 2 remake for many months now, but just haven't gotten a good reason to write an entire article around it - well, that is until the country went into lockdown. With nothing to do other than game, eat, and game some more, I binged the Resident Evil game series (at least the good ones) over a period of a few days. However, apart from the obvious charm of Resident Evil 4 or the redneck zombie hillbilly torture family of Resident Evil 7, this remake has quickly climbed up the ranks of my all-time favourite Resident Evil titles - even above the original - and here's why.
Story time with Sam: I'll always have a special place in my heart for the original trilogy of RE games. It all started on one faithful long weekend when I was a kid and proud owner of an original PlayStation. My local video store allowed people to rent out PlayStation 1 games, and it was always Christmas for me because the video games had a three-day rental period unlike movies, which had one day. However, it was a long weekend on a Thursday night, and the store clerk noticed I was browsing the PS1 section. Metal Gear Solid may have caught my attention, but I was at a loss. The clerk came over holding three titles from behind the counter, saying that they were about to be put up on the shelf, but he recommended I get first preference. These three games were Resident Evil 1, 2, and 3.
This was my first brush with a horror video game of any kind, and my first real experience with the Resident Evil franchise. Of course, back then (when the PS2 just came out and it was all the craze), I found it remarkably easy to acquire the forgotten relics of the PS1 collection. I buckled down and spent a good three days playing through each RE title, and after the weekend was over, I returned them to the store clerk who asked, "so did that blow your mind?". I actually remember responding with, "the second one, wow!".
The first Resident Evil felt like it was trying to get on its feet and find its identity, while the third game went full Die Hard and leaned into the action-heavy side of the horror, so Resident Evil 2 fell into a nice middle-ground between being a tense, atmospheric horror with some incredible encounters that I'll never forget to this day (the lickers, man. They haunt me). As the years went by, and I dove headfirst into every new Resident Evil game that came my way, I still never forgot the impact that the second game left on me years later. Sure, over time, the memory faded as I gradually warmed up to Resident Evil 4 being the peak of the series, but when Resident Evil 2's remake came my way, I didn't pass up the opportunity to relive a childhood memory.
So after a full year to meditate on Resident Evil 2's remake, I have but one thing to say yet again: "the second one, wow!". The remake was everything I had hoped it would be and so much more, which is extremely rare for remakes nowadays. To get the one (and probably only) negative out of the way, I am just a little disappointed that between Leon and Claire's campaigns, they don't necessarily converge as much as I'd hoped they would. The opportunities were there, but they didn't really take it that one step further. Other than that, Resident Evil 2 is a damn near perfect survival horror experience and one of the finest I've played since, well, the original Resident Evil 2.
A couple of massive improvements really elevated the experience for me. Today, I feel more at home with the fluidity and flexibility of the over-the-shoulder perspective. While I understand that the fixed camera angles of the originals were meant to create a sense of horror, if anything, Resident Evil 2's remake single-handedly proved that you can do it just as effectively - if not to greater effect - with an over-the-shoulder view. With a third-person view, you had a greater sense of your surroundings, could spin the camera in any direction, and with it came this incredible paranoia of constantly looking over your shoulder - something you couldn't really do in the original. On that note, I find aspects of the remake far scarier than the original thanks to the graphical upgrade, and will certainly age far better over time than its predecessor (this is, understandably, subjective and I probably have an army of the original's defenders lined up at my door with pitchforks ready).
I will stand by the opinion that I simply just found so much more to love about the remake than the original, and that included some aged mechanics and features that do the game greater justice with modern improvements (I'd call them solutions, but I don't want the army to sharpen their spades too). Another big one was the more imposing presence of Mr. X this time. In the original, Mr. X - or the Tyrant - was only encountered during second route playthroughs, but here, he's a force to be reckoned with right from the beginning. I loved the fact that Mr. X patrolled the station, and you could hear his footsteps behind walls and lingering on doors. It created such a palpable sense of dread and urgency that far surpassed the original, in my opinion. Running around the station solving puzzles and unlocking new paths suddenly became a lot more tense.
However, this also created a fantastic opportunity to get familiar with your surroundings quickly. You had to memorize the station like it was the back of your hand, and after a few hours, I actually got a good idea of the entire layout. This included all the save rooms, the best hiding spots, and the areas I knew were blocked off (sometimes intentionally), which meant enemy placement could be mapped better - God knows I did everything in my power to avoid places of interest for the lickers. By the end of the game - or at least before it threw you on a linear path to the finish line - I was dashing around the station like it was my own home, and suddenly avoiding Mr. X was second nature.
Unfortunately, zombies may have overstayed their welcome in pop culture. So much so, that I completely neglected Days Gone and groan whenever I see a new zombie movie coming out. The Resident Evil series, by extension, is all about the zombies - well, yes but thankfully also no. Resident Evil 2, in particular, had greater enemy variety than the standard walking undead, and these provided my fondest memories of the series. I'll never forget my encounter with the giant snake in the original, the alligator in RE2, or the... alligator (?) in RE4. Luckily, Resident Evil 2's remake retains these fantastic beasts and actually makes them more memorable. I shouldn't be the first one to tell you just how cool encountering the alligator in Leon's campaign was.
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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