It’s Sunday morning, the day after Christmas of 1999. I wake up to the desert cold at 5am, my family is still asleep. It’s the best time of the day for me. I know that I can now give my full attention and unwavering focus to the newly released Resident Evil 2. I didn’t realize then, just how much this game and this N64 would mean to me for the rest of my life. I can recall thinking to myself “I have to get as far as possible in this game before sundown.” At eight years old, living in the desert, surrounded by mountains. There was no way I would be playing this after dark! For the rest of that day, I immersed myself in the lives of Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield. Forever entangling me into an ongoing battle to destroy the corrupt Umbrella Corporation. This was the starting point of my love for the Resident Evil franchise. My reverence for Resident Evil 2 has never wavered.
On January 25th, 2019, I will once again return to the dark confines of Raccoon City as I play the remake of Resident Evil 2 on my Xbox One X. Now, as a married man with two children, staying up long after dark is my only way to fully immerse myself in this world once again. As I think about that prospect, I can sense my inner-child anxiously awaiting the opportunity to once again, guide Leon and Claire on their harrowing adventure.
Until that day arrives, Capcom has graciously released a 30 minute, 1-shot demo of the Resident Evil 2 Remake.
Now, when I think Resident Evil 2, I think of one specific moment with one specific character. Lieutenant Marvin Branagh. Lieutenant Branagh is the doomed police officer who saves Leon’s life after he enters the Raccoon City Police Station. A mortally wounded Marvin instructs Leon to take his keycard and rescue the other survivors and to do this, by leaving him behind. Leon’s immediate protests resulted with Marvin’s firearm aimed directly at his head. Back in ’99, this struck me deeply. I had never seen such a horrific gesture of compassion, anger, and selflessness before! The imagery alone sent shivers down the spine of 8-year-old me. In this remake, Marvin makes his return. Not only do his words save his life, but now he has physically saved his life! And this time, it was Marvin’s words; that have sent the same shivers, down the same spine.
“And don’t make my mistake. If you see one of those things – uniform – or not – you do not hesitate. You take it out…or you run. Got It?” -Lieutenant Marvin Branagh.
At this point in the demo, I knew that Resident Evil 2 Remake would be one of my favorite experiences of 2019!
The beginning of the demo places you at the threshold of the Raccoon City Police Station. The station itself is rife with barricades, scattered equipment, and other various forms of debris; very much like the original. Once you begin, you play as Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie beat cop set to start his first day at the RPD to embark on what becomes the worst first day of the job ever. Upon entering the station, you are thrust into a cinematic event highlighting your first mission. Rescue your fellow officer from the security feed.
As the cutscene ends and I regain control of Leon, I notice the various ways in which Resident Evil 2 Remake has been modernized. Here are some of the updates I found.
One of the ways that RE2R (Resident Evil 2 Remake, if you hadn’t guessed that) has been, shall we say, “upgraded” is its new camera angle and perspective. We get the now-traditional Over-The-Shoulder third-person perspective, as made famous by Resident Evil 4. This camera angle became standard after Resident Evil 4. The now-standard perspective has made its way through the following installments; Resident Evil 5, 6, Revelations 1 and 2. It was absent in RE7, which had opted for a first-person perspective, and I am happy to see the third-person perspective has made its way back to the series. In RE7, the first-person perspective was not only viable but required. In RE7, you did not fend off more than 1-3 enemies at a time, in order to increase the tension a limited view was given, in the form of the First-Person Perspective. Whereas in Resident Evil 2; the enemy population is much larger. In this case, having the superior field of view offered by the third-person perspective is welcomed. At the time of this writing, I have yet to encounter any hardcore fans of the RE/Biohazard series, complain about the removal of the original fixed camera angle system from the original console and PC versions of the game.
Despite the third-person perspective, the new camera emulates a fixed camera angle when Leon and Claire are sprinting. The camera does this by quickly zooming out once the character begins sprinting. This gives the illusion that the camera’s placed on a back wall or in the corner or the room. Also, navigating a dark area will prompt Leon to automatically pull out a flashlight to illuminate his path. Here is where the new optics displays itself in phenomenal ways. Capcom’s game engine pushes itself into the higher-end features such as utilizing per-object motion blur and extensive use of volumetric lighting. The lack of in-game light provides an excellent way to shorten areas and make them seem smaller than they are. In contrast, fixed camera angles tend to widen and lengthen the areas you were in. Fixed camera angles require pre-rendered background images. Since these images do not move, your character’s movements dictated camera movement. A few steps into an area and the camera angle had changed thus, making areas seem much larger than they were. There is a welcome byproduct of this new change; the map and layout feel completely new. I have played the original Resident Evil 2 so much that if I played it today, I could be a speed running champion. Despite the familiarity, I was completely lost in the remake. Yet, once I began to explore the various rooms and corridors, I was completely overwhelmed with memories of the original locations. My hope is that this feeling is what the developers were striving for, a brand new, yet immensely familiar game.
The new perspective for RE2 is accompanied with a fresh take on the aiming system and some interesting gun physics and mechanics. I truly enjoyed pulling my gun out just to see the gun sway slightly behind the reticle. This mechanic made for some very interesting shots. In one instance, I quickly drew my gun and aimed for the head of the incoming zombie. Once the reticle hit its headshot mark, I fired, only to be rewarded with a shoulder shot. The delayed gun sway had caused me to shoot the right shoulder despite the reticle sitting neatly between the eyes of my enemy. Personally, this is not a mechanic that I enjoy, however, being handed this new perspective coupled with this gun mechanic, I do respect Capcom’s decision to try and incorporate new, more realistic aiming mechanics in the game. From my perspective, it appears that mastery of the gun sway will be a crucial component to survival in Resident Evil 2 Remake.
With all the graphical improvements, a new perspective, and gun mechanics, the RE2 One Shot Demo has me more excited than ever to play the final game. True remakes have a special power to make old things new again. Perhaps this time, I’ll be able to save Lieutenant Branagh. Perhaps not. Either way, this eight-year-old boy and twenty-eight-year-old man are both impatiently awaiting their full return to Raccoon City.
Once you’ve finished reading this, do not hesitate to pick this up. With its rich story, a mesmerizing graphical upgrade, and modernized controls, this remake of an all-time classic is already one of my top games of 2019.