res­i­dent evil 2

Res­i­dent Evil 2 re­turns the se­ries to its roots, re­work­ing a 20-year-old clas­sic and bring­ing sur­vival horr or back to its best. OXM got hands-on and found it scar­ily fa­mil­iar…

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Chris burke

It’s been 20 years since this writer was last in Ra­coon City’s sprawl­ing po­lice sta­tion. It was an­other time, an­other con­sole. Re­turn­ing to it now is as if the years have melted away. Of course, usu­ally what hap­pens when you re­visit old games is that you re­alise you’ve re­mem­bered it through a rose-tinted fil­ter, but not this time. Res­i­dent Evil 2’ s even bet­ter than you re­mem­ber.

That’s be­cause, of course, sur­vival hor­ror in­no­va­tor Cap­com has cho­sen to re­visit its clas­sic sec­ond Res­i­den­tEvil game, up­dat­ing its vi­su­als and me­chan­ics for 2018. Gone are the fixed cam­era an­gles and the block­ier, pix­elly graph­ics in favour of the now fa­mil­iar

Res­i­den­tEvil4- style, over-the-shoul­der ac­tion cam­era, and Xbox One X-en­hanced sharply re­al­is­tic char­ac­ter mod­els, back­grounds and ef­fects. It’s a treat for the eyes and thumbs al­right, but it’s also a game that pays se­ri­ous fan-ser­vice by chang­ing very lit­tle else.

Younger gamers might find some of the game’s 20-year-old ideas other-worldly. Firstly, there’s the ’90s set­ting with quaint con­cepts such as sav­ing your progress with type­writ­ers, rolls of film that need de­vel­op­ing in a dark room, and com­plete lack of smart phones. There are also the fun­da­men­tals of the game me­chan­ics – de­vised, in­ge­niously at the time, out of tech­ni­cal con­straints and lim­i­ta­tions on the size of the play area pos­si­ble, but re­tained faith­fully and some­how still made to feel fresh here.

The ge­nius of Cap­com’s first two games was in that these lim­i­ta­tions were used to also con­vey the claus­tro­pho­bia and fear that helped the games feel like in­ter­ac­tive hor­ror movies. It’s weirdly re­fresh­ing that

Res­i­den­tEvil2’ s puz­zles and game­play de­vices still fol­low the same ideas they did 20 years ago. Keys, crank shafts and com­bi­na­tions to door locks must be found in or­der to open up ar­eas of the game’s cen­tral Po­lice Sta­tion lo­ca­tion, and con­se­quently you’ll of­ten find your­self re­turn­ing to an area time and again as ob­jects are found, puz­zles solved and doors opened up. It’s cer­tainly not an open world game – quite the op­po­site, in fact. It’s as claus­tro­pho­bic and lim­it­ing as it ever was, and we love that.

“We had re­quests from the fans for many years to cre­ate a re­make of Res­i­den­tEvil2,” ex­plains pro­ducer Yoshi­aki Hirabayashi as to why the time was right for a new ver­sion of the game. “We wanted to not only re­spond to our pas­sion­ate fan base but also de­liver a whole new zom­bie hor­ror gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that utilised the Cap­com in-house pro­pri­etary en­gine, RE En­gine, to bring it to life on cur­rent gam­ing con­soles and also at­tract a whole new au­di­ence that may not have been around for the orig­i­nal re­lease in 1998. We also wanted to have play­ers feel new kinds of pos­si­bil­i­ties for Res­i­den­tEvil by com­bin­ing the Metroid­va­nia-style ex­plo­ration and sur­vival hor­ror of the orig­i­nal game with the lat­est modern game ex­pe­ri­ence.”

And they’ve de­liv­ered that in spades, if OXM’s playthrough is any­thing to go by. Our hands-on time with the game be­gins with rookie cop Leon S Kennedy, who’s turned up for his first day on the job only to dis­cover that ev­ery­one’s dead, or un­dead. We’re start­ing some­where in the mid­dle of his cam­paign – both Leon and stu­dent Claire Red­field each have their own dis­tinct playthrough, echo­ing the orig­i­nal.

Leon meets the enig­matic Ada Wong in the un­der­ground car park, and we leave with her to go out into the pour­ing rain in an eerily silent Ra­coon City street.

A quick word about the rain. It’s awe­somely cool. We love every­thing about it from the at­mos­phere it con­veys to the way Claire puts her arm up to shield her eyes from the down­pour, and the way Leon shakes his sleeves of ex­cess wa­ter when he en­ters a build­ing from out­side.

It’s not just the weather that’s im­proved though, but the game’s story beats. Leon and Ada need to pass through a gun shop, and it’s here we see a strong ex­am­ple of the re­make’s newly emo­tional depth for the first time. The gun shop owner emerges with a shot­gun trained on Leon and Ada, in a beau­ti­fully-worked cutscene in which it be­comes ap­par­ent he’s pro­tect­ing his daugh­ter, who’s turn­ing into a zom­bie. It’s har­row­ing,

emo­tion­ally, and also pro­vides a mo­ti­va­tion for Leon to con­tinue to risk him­self in the out­break, rather than just get­ting the hell out of Rac­coon – some­thing that was just not re­ally con­sid­ered too much in the orig­i­nal. It also helps in show­ing real di­men­sions to the main pro­tag­o­nists Leon and Ada – some­thing that the se­ries has oc­ca­sion­ally strived for, par­tic­u­larly in the heav­ily story-led episodic

Reve­la­tions2, which also stars Claire. Here, the writ­ing of the new Res­i­dent

Evil2 is top-notch. But rest as­sured, if you’re a fan of the se­ries’ schlock­ier, B-movie aes­thetic, there’s still some of it lurk­ing below the sur­face as Leon still de­liv­ers choice lines like, “Chew on that, you son-of-a-bitch!”

Down and dirty

We fol­low Ada down into the city’s sew­ers. They’ve never looked so dis­gust­ing. As Leon slops his way through the city’s sub­ter­ranean crap­pipes, we’re ever-alert for mon­sters of course – and it’s not long be­fore we get an earth­quake-level rum­bling and a glimpse of… some­thing huge… pass­ing by in an ad­join­ing sewer.

It’s an­other nod to the orig­i­nal, in which Leon is chased down a sewer by the giant al­li­ga­tor. It’s a nice touch for all those who re­mem­ber it the first time. The al­li­ga­tor is not the only faith­ful re­turn. Ada Wong’s im­prac­ti­cal heels and slip of a red party dress (did she come from an ac­tual party? Does she al­ways dress like that?) also re­turn, as we take con­trol of the mys­te­ri­ous agent for the next sec­tion of our playthrough. This fo­cuses on puz­zles as Ada chases evil sci­en­tist An­nette Birkin, the wife of T-Virus cre­ator Wil­liam Birkin. Ada has some neat tech that can be used to hack into and change the flow of fuse boxes and power ter­mi­nals, and trace power ca­bles to their source.

Pretty soon, Ada’s stuck in a locked con­trol room with no way out, and a sin­gle zom­bie. This is the first time in the playthrough that we ac­tu­ally get close to one of the sham­bling dead, and it’s quite the eye-opener. Ada only has a hand­ful of rounds in her hand­gun. No prob­lem we think, re­mem­ber­ing how easy it usu­ally

“No mat­ter how many times we shoot this zom­bie, it gets back up again”

is to off a soli­tary zom­bie with one well-aimed bul­let through the brain. These zom­bies just won’t stay down. They’ll godown, but no mat­ter how many times we shoot this one through the eyes, it gets back up again. We try shoot­ing out its legs, but it’s still crawl­ing around try­ing to nib­ble Ada’s high-heels. And now we’re out of ammo. We have to lo­cate the source of the door lock’s power, so we can switch it and es­cape – not easy when you have to keep one eye on where the lit­tle an­kle-biter is while he crawls around try­ing to snack on our calves.

It’s a nice turn­around for the se­ries which had at times be­come more about the ac­tion, par­tic­u­larly with 5 and 6. Now, one sin­gle zom­bie is enough to cause you sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems, and a fair de­gree of scares.

Ex­it­ing the room is out of the fry­ing pan and into, well, a room full of zom­bies. Here we re­ally strug­gle, as we have to use Ada’s de­vice, called an EMF Visu­al­izer, while try­ing not to get eaten by half a dozen of the things. Af­ter a num­ber of deaths and restarts (pun­ish­ingly back to the first room again), Ada solves her puz­zle and we’re on our way. But now we’re out of the fry­ing pan, via that room full of zom­bies, and quite lit­er­ally into the fire. An­nette Birkin has Ada trapped in a fur­nace. The clock is tick­ing down – we have one minute to stop its ig­ni­tion us­ing our very best puz­zle-solv­ing skills. Can any­one smell burn­ing?

Things get Claire-r

The next part of our playthrough puts us in Claire’s shoes, and be­gins in the same park­ing lot as Leon’s. This time Claire’s be­ing fol­lowed around by An­nette and Wil­liam Birkin’s lit­tle daugh­ter Sherry – an ally by this point. Un­for­tu­nately, we meet an Um­brella stooge who wants to take Sherry back to her par­ents against her will, and she only agrees when he threat­ens to kill Claire. He, we later dis­cover from a pic­ture in a news­pa­per that’s ly­ing around the po­lice sta­tion, is Po­lice Chief Irons – though 1998 gamers will recog­nise him in­stantly, with an HD makeover of course. Irons takes Sherry away, but we no­tice that there are some con­ve­nient-sized ac­cess hatches and holes in walls that a small per­son can crawl through – as with Natalia, the child who helps Claire in Reve­la­tions2 by ac­cess­ing such spa­ces – so we’re think­ing that Sherry may have a sim­i­lar role. We’ve been

teased that there is a new sec­tion of the game in­volv­ing an or­phan­age, new to the re­make and likely a part of Sherry’s story.

Back and forth

Now we have ac­cess to the Po­lice Sta­tion proper, and this is where we be­gin the fa­mil­iar game­play me­chanic of find­ing keys and other ob­jects to progress through the many rooms, re­turn­ing to the same ones of­ten to find there are new mon­sters present. Ac­tu­ally, how many rooms does this bloody sta­tion have? Hon­estly, we’ve seen enough cop shows to know US po­lice sta­tions are never this big.

First we need to re­trieve a di­a­mond-shaped key (one of a fa­mil­iar set of heart, di­a­mond, spade and club-shaped keys), for which we first need to get through the ken­nels. We brace our­selves for zom­bie dogs, of the kind that gave us night­mares af­ter the first game. In­stead we find Lick­ers (oh sure, that’s much bet­ter) – the game’s iconic, grotesque and vis­ually chal­lenged wall crawlers.

Claire has her trade­mark gre­nade-launcher with flame rounds, so we’ve soon bar­be­cued the hor­ri­ble things. Tak­ing a look through Claire’s lim­ited in­ven­tory, we find more fa­mil­iar­ity. Flame and Acid Rounds re­turn for the gre­nade launcher, with ammo craftable from found gun­pow­der. Those red, green and blue pot­ted plants are back too. Green ones heal, blues detox­ify; reds are com­bined with the oth­ers for ex­tra-strength. There are stash boxes where you can store stuff you don’t need on your per­son – use­ful as your in­ven­tory is lim­ited; and things like the gre­nade launcher, or ex­tra-large cogs or bits of puz­zle-ma­chin­ery, take up two slots. It’s an­other part of the me­chanic that will have you run­ning back and forth across the map to re­trieve that thing you found ear­lier, that you’ve now dis­cov­ered a use for. This is very much in keep­ing with the se­ries as a whole, and some­thing we fondly re­mem­ber about the 1998 game. “The team al­ways wanted Res­i­dent

Evil 2 to stay true to the orig­i­nal but also de­liver the best zom­bie en­ter­tain­ment ex­pe­ri­ence to date,” says Hirabayashi. The RE En­gine was cre­ated for Res­i­den­tEvil7, and Cap­com were keen to use that to its full po­ten­tial here. Hirabayashi ex­plains that the mis­sion was to “fine tune the modern hor­ror ex­pe­ri­ence

“One sin­gle zom­bie is enough to cause you sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems”

that we saw crit­ics and fans re­spond so well to with Res­i­den­tEvil7. We know that one thing our fan base is re­ally into is the lore of the se­ries, so for us it was im­por­tant to re­tain that clas­sic Res­i­den­tEvil2 sto­ry­line and clas­sic game­play ex­pe­ri­ence – whilst still mak­ing small de­sign tweaks that al­lows it to match modern gamers’ ex­pec­ta­tions. For ex­am­ple, the ad­di­tion of the sub-weapon al­low­ing you to es­cape at­tacks, cus­tom cre­ation of ammo, weapon mod­i­fi­ca­tions and so on are game me­chan­ics we’ve added that will make the ex­pe­ri­ence even more ex­cit­ing.”

Ex­cit­ing, yes. Scary, def­i­nitely. In the morgue there are a num­ber of ca­daver trays just wait­ing to be opened. Some are empty; one of them, and it ac­tu­ally made us jump, is full of enor­mous cock­roaches. A cou­ple of trays have corpses on them… which are in no way go­ing to get up and bite us. No, def­i­nitely not. One of them has some­thing glint­ing in his hand. We take it, and we’ll let you guess what hap­pens next…

To­tally stuffed

We can now ac­cess the frankly over-the-top Po­lice Chief’s of­fice. As in the orig­i­nal, Chief Irons has a thing for taxi­dermy, and his of­fices are stuffed with stuffed things, even a tiger. It’s also so gor­geously and faith­fully recre­ated that if you played the 20-year-old game you will feel a sense of deja vu, al­beit in much higher res­o­lu­tion. But as we’re run­ning back and forth all over the cop-shop, things are get­ting in­creas­ingly fran­tic as ammo runs short, and the zom­bies start to over­run the po­lice sta­tion.

Ar­guably, the se­ries’ tough­est mon­ster is the trench­coat-wear­ing Tyrant some­times known as ‘Mr X’, and his ap­pear­ance now stirs in us a long-dor­mant ter­ror we’ve been sup­press­ing for years. This big bas­tard is like the Ter­mi­na­tor – an un­stop­pable mu­tated su­per sol­dier that you can do noth­ing but run away from. He’s not too hard to evade, as he’s quite slow – but try to run past him and he grabs you by the face and throws you across the room; get cor­nered by him and he pounds you into the floor with his fists. He’s now on our case, and that’s go­ing to make things dif­fi­cult – es­pe­cially as there are now loads of Lick­ers around the place, and more zom­bies than ever.

When you’re grabbed, if you have a knife, a tap of LB en­ables you to es­cape by stick­ing your blade into the crea­ture. It’s wise to fin­ish it off just so you can re­trieve the knife, which acts as a ‘get out of jail’ card for when

“We have a lot of re­spect for the orig­i­nal game and want to treat it with care”

you get over­whelmed. Grenades can also be rammed into zom­bies’ mouths, use­ful for tak­ing a few of them out. Zom­bies are re­lent­less and have never looked bet­ter or moved more fright­en­ingly to brain­lessly over­power you. At one point we were taken down by two of them at once – it’s pantwet­ting stuff; dis­cov­er­ing that zom­bies are even-worse than you thought.

We barely have time to ad­mire the recre­ation of the po­lice sta­tion’s iconic front desk, locker rooms and of­fices as we hare around try­ing to find the ob­jects we need – con­stantly hav­ing to go back into a room we know is full of bad things. Mean­while the Tyrant is fol­low­ing us, we have no ammo, and so our playthrough ends in in­aus­pi­cious de­feat. The game, when it opened up to us, also threw so many mon­sters at us that we be­gan to re­ally, se­ri­ously re­gret not con­serv­ing ammo ear­lier on. It’s ac­tu­ally a re­ally key el­e­ment of the orig­i­nal Res­i­dent

Evil games that we’d al­most for­got­ten about – the se­ries in­vented ‘sur­vival hor­ror’ af­ter all, and each de­ci­sion you make, par­tic­u­larly re­gard­ing re­sources and routes through each room, the lim­ited ammo and tac­ti­cal ap­proach needed, is still key to that.

“We have a lot of re­spect for the orig­i­nal game and want to treat it with care,” stresses Hirabayashi. “But at the same time, we felt the need to bring some­thing new both to new play­ers and those who have ex­pe­ri­enced the orig­i­nal. So we kept some key parts of the game the same, while re­build­ing the game­play, story, puz­zles and the route you take through the game around those parts. As for fan ser­vice, yes, we def­i­nitely wanted to keep as many of those iconic mo­ments as pos­si­ble which we know ev­ery­one re­mem­bers fondly.”

There’s no doubt Cap­com has pulled off a fan-pleas­ing re­make of a fondly re­mem­bered clas­sic. But more than that, the game’s vis­ual and game­play up­dates should help it to be­come a true modern clas­sic when it lands in Jan­uary 2019.

above Leon and Claire are the stars once more.

above Cutscenes are su­perb, with con­vinc­ing an­i­ma­tion and voice act­ing.

ABOVE Claire’s never looked love­lier, or dirt­ier, than with the ben­e­fit of Xbox One X’s vis­ual ca­pa­bil­i­ties. BELOW It’s a Tyrant, and it’s bloody dif­fi­cult to kill… help!

above The Tyrants re­turn, and this time they’re wear­ing hats.

above We tried not to stare at his boil, we re­ally did.

above Oh my word, just what did you eat, Rac­coon City?

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