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Resident Evil 2 Remake: Welcome Back to Raccoon City

The video game sub-genre of ‘survival horror’ ultimately boils down to one simple goal for its players: survive. Unfortunately for fans of that purity of purpose, Capcom’s Resident Evil series started going downhill once the games shifted to become more action-based. However, with the release of Resident Evil 7 (2017), it seemed as if the company was going back to their roots through their creation of a truly terrifying, modern survival horror game.

The recent remake of the franchise’s most popular installment, Resident Evil 2 (2019), uses the same game engine as Resident Evil 7 and manages to create a game that is nostalgic but somehow different in one way or another. Set within the hallowed halls of the Raccoon City Police Department, fans of the original game will instantly recognise the familiar setting but will also feel as if it is chillingly unfamiliar.

The game is built with Capcom’s RE Engine which includes new graphical and rendering techniques which enable highly photorealistic rendering and realistic shading. The game suddenly feels realistic unlike the original version where characters, objects, and sets were blocky and angular. This heightened photorealism adds to the remake’s fear factor as the cartoonish suddenly looks realistic.

“The zombies that you face in the remake are gorier and more horrific than the ones that you faced in the original.”

The RE Engine also successfully creates an overall atmosphere of horror, unease, and anxiety. The world design immediately transports players into the decaying and infested Raccoon City, building a sense of immersion. The game’s use of binaural audio further adds to its creepy atmosphere. Players are now able to locate where zombies might be hiding by using their hearing, or they might also feel wave of panic and nervousness hit them as they hear Mr. X’s footsteps get louder and louder by the second.

Additionally, Resident Evil 2’s remake is significantly darker than the original. In the early stages of the game, players have to navigate the dark and eerie halls of the Raccoon City Police Department with only a flashlight and a pistol, or revolver, with minimal ammo. The lack of light creates tension and fear as players of the game are never quite sure of what waits around the corner. The game also effectively uses smoke and fog to hide what lurks in particular areas, contributing to a sense of uneasiness.

Aside from the game’s chilling atmosphere, zombies are another terrifying factor that players need to keep track of. With the upgrade in graphics, the zombies that you face in the remake are gorier and more horrific than the ones that you faced in the original. Defeating them has also become more challenging as they possess a smarter AI. A head-shot does not instantly result in an instant kill anymore which can leave players in a crisis if they run out of ammo.

Furthermore, as the game does not require loading screens anymore, zombies can now follow players into various rooms. In the original, it was possible for players to simply dodge and avoid the zombies by moving on to the next room. The remake makes sure that players are never really safe from these creatures.

The Resident Evil 2 remake also heightens its gore factor through its improved graphics. When zombies are shot by the player, it is common to see blood and guts fly out from them. Parts of a zombie can also be dismembered if the player were to strategically shoot the right areas.

In terms of gameplay, the Resident Evil 2 remake features a third-person, over-the-shoulder style of gameplay instead of a fixed camera angle as seen in the original. Some might argue that a third-person perspective isn’t going to make the game more terrifying. However, the remake features a camera that is still incredibly close and personal, ultimately adding a sense of claustrophobia.

“New and improved AI has the ability to hunt and track down the player.”

Similar to the original game, the remake features a limited inventory space which forces players to carefully choose what items they want to take. Picking up ammo over herbs can mean that you have enough bullets to defeat zombies, but it also means that you cannot heal yourself if you have been severely attacked.

Puzzles also make a comeback in the remake, but now they pose a bigger risk. The game now expects its players to solve these puzzles in real time while enemies are lurking around. Players will need to think more strategically and logically in order to solve these puzzles without dying. Weapons also work differently as players are required to reload in game instead of in the menu. This highly contributes to a heightened panic that players may feel if they find themselves in a sticky situation.

One of the biggest differences in the Resident Evil 2 remake is the appearance of Mr. X. Unlike the original where he only appears in the B scenario, Mr. X, also known as the Tyrant, now makes his first appearance in the A scenario of the game. The original version of Mr. X only posed as a danger until the player decided to move to another area of the game, however, in the remake, Mr. X poses a larger threat as his new and improved AI has the ability to hunt and track down the player regardless of how far apart you are. The game’s director Kazunori Kadoi commented on how Mr. X’s AI has improved since the first game:

“From an AI perspective, they’re fairly different. In the original game, Tyrant wouldn’t break through rooms aside from very specific events. He mainly acted as a threat that stayed with you until you were able to successfully run and load into another section of the game. In this game, Tyrant will track you down regardless of being rooms apart from each other, so the fundamental components of his AI are vastly different.”

Mr. X now not only brings fear and panic, but also a sense of anxiety as his movement is unscripted and uncertain.

Overall, the Resident Evil 2 remake is successful as it manages to balance the amount of horror, action, and exploration. The use of the RE Engine has greatly created a modern remake of a loved classic that redefined the survival horror genre.

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