Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 2 was released yesterday, and while I haven’t yet had time to finish the whole of the campaign, what I have played has certainly delivered on the promise of a modernised take on the 1998 classic.
If you’ve been following the previews then you’ll know what Capcom are aiming for here — a darker, eerier Racoon City police station rendered in full 3D and viewed from over the shoulder of your character in the style popularised by Resident Evil 4. While it clearly takes influence from that classic 2005 entry for its movement and combat, the puzzles and structure remain rooted in the series’ 1990s heyday, requiring the player to ferry key items back and forth between various gothic contraptions while being mindful of their character’s limited inventory space. So it essentially plays like an incredibly polished ‘greatest hits’ of those early Resident Evil games, which is by no means a bad thing at all — those games are beloved for a reason.
One new element, however, is the unkillable T-00 Tyrant creature that begins pursuing your character roughly a third of the way through the campaign. While the Tyrant (or ‘Mr X’ as he’s colloquially known) was featured in the original Resident Evil 2, he only appeared in Leon and Claire’s secondary ‘B’ scenarios, and while for story purposes he was ‘pursuing’ Leon or Claire, this basically only amounted to a handful of scripted encounters. By contrast, in the remake he genuinely pursues you for a decent portion of the game, leaving the player to go about the police station unlocking doors and searching rooms in the knowledge that he could show up at any moment. This is an unsettling prospect in itself, but coupled with the brilliant sound design of the Tyrant’s clunking footsteps and the stomach-churning bass-drop that plays whenever he catches sight of you it’s genuinely terrifying.
The Tyrant’s presence also complicates how you engage with both regular enemies and your environment in a way that’s — as far as I can remember — entirely new for the Resident Evil series. Firstly, if you fire a weapon he will almost certainly hear you and zero in on your location. Secondly, he forces you to remember not only the layout of the police station (which by now you’ve had plenty of time to explore) so you don’t get chased into a dead end, but the locations of enemies that you’ve left alive so you don’t end up trapped between the Tyrant and a host of zombies. Earlier in the game I’d tried to be sensible and save ammo by not engaging certain enemies — especially if they were in areas I no longer needed to return to. But when the Tyrant starts chasing you one door has the tendency to look much like another, and you just want to get as far away from him as possible, which in my case often led me to barge into corridors I’d left full of zombies, or a loft I’d abandoned to a Licker.
Pursuing characters who can’t be harmed by the player aren’t anything terribly new — Creative Assembly made an entire game out of it with the superb Alien: Isolation, and Resident Evil 7 had it’s Jack Baker hide-and-seek sections. But the Tyrant in the Resident Evil 2 remake deserves attention for taking an under-utilised element from the original and allowing it live up to its true potential, in doing so adding a new layer of complexity to a series steeped in convention. The hat’s a nice touch, too.