Surviving Resident Evil 2

Improve your odds escaping Raccoon City

Although January isn’t yet over at the time of writing this, I think I can safely say that we already have our first “Game of the Year” contender in Resident Evil 2. It’s no secret that this is a truly masterful remake — in fact, I’d argue that it pushes at the very limits of what we’ve come to expect from remakes. Here’s a game that has been completely redesigned and rebuilt from the ground up for modern audiences. This isn’t just a prettier Resident Evil 2, it’s a totally new interpretation of the Capcom classic.

If you played and loved the original 1998 PlayStation release, then chances are you’re coming to this new version with a strong dose of nostalgia. Thankfully, Capcom clearly understands this, as Resident Evil 2 taps into our collective memories like an experienced puppeteer gleefully manipulating our strings. There’s plenty of familiarity here; the setting is largely the same, and original characters return (although typically in surprising new ways and sporting much improved designs). But there are so many new twists and turns; the Raccoon City Policy Department of 2019 is definitely not the same one you remember from 1998. Not only that, but the game mechanics are significantly different now — Resident Evil 2 feels closer to Resident Evil 4 mechanically (although character movement is more fluid). Several staples from earlier games are here, but take on new and different roles. Familiar enemies, too, are now different enough to feel threatening all over again — the humble, plodding zombie of 1998 is now a truly terrifying, single-minded, hungry monstrosity with increased intelligence and awareness of its surroundings.

One element that has stayed the same — and possibly become even more uncompromising — is the simple fact that players cannot be cavalier in their approach to this game. If you make too many mistakes, if you aren’t careful and thoughtful in your approach, you could easily back yourself into a disastrous corner from which escape is nigh impossible.

With that in mind, here are five key tips to consider before you even start playing the game. I think all players will find these tips useful, but this is likely even more true if you still have the original in mind.

There are no story spoilers here, but I’d definitely advise reading no further if you want to go in completely blind.

1. The not-so-trusty knife

If you’ve played any Resident Evil games before, you’ll already know that ammunition tends to be scarce — this is especially true in the first couple of titles. Resource scarcity is something of a franchise hallmark; you’re typically in a situation where you feel like the odds are overwhelmingly against you, and a big part of your strategy ends up revolving around careful and deliberate consumption of said resources.

Well, Resident Evil 2 is no different in this regard. In fact, I’d argue it leans into the idea more than any game in the series before. You’ll find enough ammunition to scrape through, but you will be scraping, and avoiding confrontations with enemies is often more crucial than defeating them in combat.

So, what’s the tip here? Well, in older Resident Evil games, there was always a trusty back-up: the combat knife. If you became accustomed to taking out enemies with your knife, then that enabled you to conserve ammunition for more challenging situations. I remember playing through a great deal of the Resident Evil remake using the knife as my primary weapon, and only resorting to guns and other gadgets when absolutely required.

You won’t be able to do this in Resident Evil 2.

Capcom have introduced a couple of important changes that make the knife useful, but not so much as a weapon for defeating enemies in straight-up combat encounters.

For one thing, your knife will degrade as you use it. Eventually, it’ll completely break. It turns out that slicing through all that flesh and bone will blunt your knife rather quickly! Once a knife is destroyed, you’ll essentially lose it — you’ll be knifeless, at least until you pick up another one on your travels. This means you can’t really rely on the knife as a typical combat weapon anymore; it’s role has fundamentally changed in Resident Evil 2, which leads me to my next point.

In previous series entries, it was sometimes possible to shake off a zombie who lunged at you and grabbed you. Capcom tinkered with this ability in various ways throughout the years, but there’s generally been some way of shaking off or pushing back zombies (without resorting to weapons) to avoid taking damage. In Resident Evil 2, a zombie grab is almost guaranteed to result in a nasty bite to the neck (and a substantial amount of damage — even from the lowliest of zombies). This is where the knife comes in. When an enemy goes in for a mouthful, you can stab them with your knife; this won’t kill said enemy, but it will push them back and give you time to either escape or engage them with a weapon. Critically, though, your weapon will remain lodged in your foe’s neck until you kill them and retrieve it from their cold(er), dead(er?) corpse.

Old threats take on a completely new urgency in Resident Evil 2.

2. Item efficiency

Although consumable items are uncomfortably rare in Resident Evil 2, it’s still the case that inventory space quickly becomes a problem. You will hit a ceiling in terms of the amount of stuff you can carry on your person very early on. As with the original version, Resident Evil 2 provides storage boxes — these are scattered fairly liberally throughout the world. Mind you, storage boxes aren’t so readily available that they make inventory management trivial; far from it. In fact, inventory management is another Resident Evil staple that Capcom have really leaned into heavily in this release.

When you are unable to hold more items in your personal inventory, you can dump them into storage boxes. Like previous games, all storage boxes are magically linked in time and space — pop an item into one box, and it will appear in all of them. Handy. One key difference in Resident Evil 2, though, is that once you’ve “spotted” an item in the world, it will show up on your map clearly labelled. This is absolutely fantastic, and it actually makes inventory management more fun than frustrating — at any one time, you’ll have some items in storage, some in your inventory, and some out in the world waiting to be picked up.

Due to the overwhelming odds against you, it’s important to regularly touch base in a safe space (i.e. an area with a typewriter and a storage box) to save your game and store or retrieve items. My rule of thumb is to always have a couple of inventory slots spare when you are out exploring — often, you’ll come across useful items that you will want to pick up right away (for example, herbs are not useful sitting out there in some distant room of the police station — better to retrieve them as you find them, and then mix and store them for use later in the game). To put it another way: the more you leave items sitting out in the world, the more times you’ll have to venture out into danger to pick them up. Reducing the number of unnecessary trips through the environment should always be a goal, and careful management of your items will greatly assist you here.

3. Old zombies with new tricks

I know this one sounds obvious — and on the surface, I guess it is. You can’t play a Resident Evil game and not be aware of your enemies. Not only are they all around you, but in Resident Evil 2, you’ll hear zombies moving around even if they aren’t in the same room as you (more on that in a moment).

Earlier, I pointed out that players are coming to Resident Evil 2 with greater fluidity in terms of movement. But the player character isn’t the only one benefiting from years of technology and design improvement — enemies, too, bring something new to the table, and longtime players are likely to be caught most off-guard by the changes.

Zombies in Resident Evil 2 are still relatively slow and lumbering, just as you remember. But they are capable of the occasional burst of enthusiasm, especially if you venture too close. Don’t be surprised if a slow-and-confused-looking zombie suddenly spins on their heels and dives at you out of nowhere. And don’t be shocked as you kite a zombie around the room — perhaps with a desk in between you both, acting as a buffer — only to find that said zombie is quite prepared to clumsily dive right across the desk, sending objects flying in the process. Multiple zombies in one room are also deadly, even if you’ve got some distance between you and them; more than once, I’ve focused my attention on the foe right in front of me, only to find that another zombie has pincered me from the side. Clever girl.

So, yes, zombies are more nimble now. But their environmental awareness spans more than simple objects like desks. Let’s say you’re in a hallway full of zombies (not an uncommon occurrence) — in these cases, it’s often better to run (in my case, that usually involves diving blindly through the nearest door) — but beware: zombies will occasionally follow you through doors. Not only that, but the one bodily function of the undead in 2019 that still functions at full capacity is their hearing. Example: In the above scenario, I avoided a large crowd of zombies in a hallway by entering a room nearby. There was only one zombie in this room, which I decided to take out with my handgun. Unfortunately, the zombies in the hallway heard my gunshots and immediately scrambled for the source of the disturbance. Shortly afterwards, the once-quiet room was overflowing with hungry, eager monsters. Ouch.

Discharging your weapon in Resident Evil 2 is not only about prudence with ammunition. It’s also about deciding when and where to actually engage enemies, and if possible, to engage on terms that are most favourable to you. What if nearby enemies hear you and come shamblin’? Are there multiple exits? Are you prepared to plough through five or six zombies rather than just one? The tactical considerations are now far more numerous — and more serious than ever — thanks to Resident Evil 2’s brilliant enemy design.

The humble Raccoon City Police Station is full of horrific new surprises.

4. Taming a dynamic world

By now you know that the environment layout and the enemies pose unique new challenges in Resident Evil 2, especially when compared to the original game. But unlike the original — and really, all previous Resident Evil games — Resident Evil 2’s world is dynamic in a very significant and threatening new way.

When you first made your way to the police station, you actually had to pass an enormous number of zombies shuffling around the perimeter. Early on, you’ll close the front gate behind you and you’ll notice a growing mob of zombies clamouring around it. These zombies aren’t merely for decoration — as you explore the dim corridors of the station, you’ll regularly see zombies through the windows. Over time, they will clamour around the windows and begin to slam their fists against the fragile glass — sometimes they’ll blindly, stupidly ram their heads into the windows over and over again. Eventually, of course, the windows will break (sometimes right as you pass by) and those zombies will permanently inhabit the police station. The permanence itself is nothing new (when you kill a zombie, its dead body will remain in place forever). What’s new is that the police station is no longer a hermetically-sealed bubble within Raccoon City; the building itself is now vulnerable to zombie infestation over time, despite the RCPD’s valiant attempts to board up entrances and barricade hallways.

You aren’t entirely powerless in this situation. You can now actually pick up wooden boards laying scattered around the place and board up naked windows. Much like ammunition, these resources are scarce; you won’t find enough wood to board up every window in the building. But the limited resources you find can be incredibly useful, especially if you find yourself shuttling back-and-forth regularly along one or two corridors — you might decide to prioritise these, and to board up the windows in these areas.

Of course, Capcom is quite content to add insult to injury — any boards you apply to windows will actually break over time. So, my advice is to keep any boards you find as you go (pop ’em in your storage box) and use them sparingly as required. The alternative — repeatedly running the gauntlet, where you’re sprinting through a tight corridor full of zombies — can be so challenging that it can actually make some parts of the building outright no-go areas if left long enough. Be warned.

5. Prepare for the future

One of the most useful items you’ll find in Resident Evil 2 is gunpowder. There’s a pretty simple system in place here for crafting ammunition by combining at least two lots of gunpowder. If you simply combine two standard lots of gunpowder, that will produce handgun bullets. But if you combine, say, a standard gunpowder with white high-grade gunpowder, the result will be shotgun shells.

For quick reference, here are the various formulas available:

  • Gunpowder + Gunpowder: Handgun Ammo
  • Gunpowder + High-Grade Gunpowder (White): Acid Rounds
  • Gunpowder + High-Grade Gunpowder (Yellow): Shotgun Shells
  • High-Grade Gunpowder (White) + High-Grade Gunpowder (White): Submachine Gun Ammo
  • High-Grade Gunpowder (Yellow) + High-Grade Gunpowder (Yellow): Magnum Ammo

Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s terribly valuable to create a lot of handgun ammo. For one thing, you will find a reasonable — though limited — amount of it as you explore. And for another, you’ll need to expend a lot of handgun ammo to kill even one zombie (sometimes luck will be on your side, and a single, well-placed shot will cause a satisfying head explosion); I often found that it could take as many as four or five bullets to kill a single zombie (and that’s if every shot is a spot-on headshot). So, it’s quite easy to wipe out your entire handgun magazine after engaging only a couple of zombies.

My advice is to either hold onto your gunpowder for as long as possible (again, the storage box is your friend) or to begin creating more powerful types of ammo earlier in the game so that you can use them later on when you really need them (the shotgun is oh so satisfying — and still just as useful — in Resident Evil 2…).

I hope you enjoyed these tips. If you have any you’d like to share, please feel free to comment below. And most importantly, enjoy your time in Raccoon City. Stay safe!