Too hard? Worth playing again and are the scenarios different enough?
Tl;Dr: Is the totally remade Resident Evil 2 worth a second trip through Raccoon City? Absolutely. Rebuilt on the Resident Evil engine introduced for RE7, its still the same game you remember but enough surprises to keep you on your toes. Is it difficult? If you’re a novice to the Resident Evil series then possibly, but that’s the point. Its survival horror, you’re supposed to feel like its impossible. As for how the two campaigns differ, well they are very similar with the same story beats, albeit with some unique experiences depending on character. The second run through is more similar than it is dissimilar; you start the game farther in, puzzles are remixed and its more difficult. Is it worth it to go through? If you want the “true” ending and to unlock a new game mode then yes. The play experience is different because where you once thought there would be one or two enemies, now there might be more. Mr. X will also be a constant threat more so than the first go round.
I’ve been a fan of the Resident Evil video game series since the first entry was released way back in 1996 on the original Playstation. All I knew about the game was it took place in a mansion, and there were zombies. As a kid, I gained a phobia of ghouls when my grandmother thought it would be fun to do a marathon of undead movies when I came to visit her one weekend. Playing RE was reliving that childhood trauma. The dialogue and voice acting was terrible and the zombies weren’t, in hindsight, that scary (their polygonal bodies look more at home in Minecraft nowadays). Nevertheless, I felt absolute terror. After finally beating the game, I felt that it kind of, sort of, helped with my fear of zombies (kinda, sorta…) When RE2 was released two years later, I was so pumped for the next installment that I took time off of work just to play. It was definitely an improvement from the first (better environment renders, larger scale) but I felt underwhelmed. My favorite thing about the series is the story. I look for every diary, journal, brochure, anything that would give me a window into the lore I soaked up. RE2 had less of the story snippets in written form, only because the story progressed in-game. Silly squabble but just how I felt. Gone were some of those first-hand accounts that make RE so amazing (“itchy…tasty”). Its why Code:Veronica and RE Remake are my favorites. The story, the breadcrumbs of information, all made the horror that much more enjoyable. RE2 has a good story, and good side characters, but just felt like there was something missing.
RE2 Remake is still the same story, which reminded me why I felt the way I did the first time around. That said, the game is completely rebuilt. Using the Resident Evil Engine Capcom created for RE7, this isn’t just the best looking Resident Evil game, its one of the best games I’ve seen in recent memory. Gone are the fixed camera angles and pre-rendered scenes (something the RE Remake still employed), instead we get photorealistic environments and the most claustrophobic ordeals experienced in a game. There is even a side quest that’s exclusive to the remake that gave me some of that side story content I was craving.
For the uninitiated, the game allows the player to chose between two characters, Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield. Once the game is completed with one (doesn’t matter which), the game gives the option to play a “2nd Run” where the player begins at a different starting point. The two characters first run through have some unique story beats but otherwise its the same game. In the second run through, puzzles have slightly different solutions and the enemies are for more relentless. Going through the second time gives the player the “true” ending of the game with a final boss fight and opens up a new game mode, the “4th Survivor”, essentially a speed run with limited resources and everything thrown at you.
After beating the game in both scenarios, (I tried the “Hunk” mission and just said screw this), I had some feelings about the game and apparently a few folks did too. I read the IGN review and could see how for someone who wasn’t familiar with the game could think there was no point in playing through it again. By the time I read it a correction had been added to the review stating there was “factual” inaccuracies so I didn’t think anything of it. The Internet had other thoughts of course. On YouTube, vlogger Dreamcastguy spoke about a reddit discussion whether or not the game was too hard. After reading through that thread I understand why some might feel the difficulty of the game may be excessive. Here, I’ll talk about my overall experience with the game. Going forward there will be spoilers…
Was the game too hard?
In a word: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I wouldn’t say its “too hard” to beat but what I would say the learning curve is steep for new players. I said to a friend its like the Infinity War of games: if you haven’t played the game the last twenty years they sure weren’t going to hold your hand with any tutorials. Throughout the game there are helpful hints and if you die enough times the game will offer to go into “Assisted Mode” where weapons will auto target, health will slowly replenish and enemies aren’t as tough. What I gathered from the reddit discussion was some folks felt there wasn’t enough ammo and Mr. X, the super Tyrant that relentlessly follows you throughout the majority of the game made it too frustrating to finish. I think, because the game just throws you into the action, (and if you didn’t read any guides or watch any videos) you might not know how to proceed. New players wont know from past experience that this game (and most of the earlier entries of the series) aren’t about action, but about survival. As Dreamcastguy said in his video, its about item management. Probably not a good idea to blow through whole clips of ammo on one zombie, knowing there are probably three more down the hall. This becomes especially important when you face enemies that are drawn by sound. Blasting your way through a corridor might not be the best strategy. Not utilizing the map to know if you’ve cleared an area of items will also be your downfall, as you could be leaving precious ammo and health behind.
Some of my issues have nothing to do with the veracity of the enemies (though Mr. X can get to be a little tiresome when you’re trying to get from one point to another to complete a puzzle or retrieve an item), but with the item management in general. One of the most impressive aspects of the game is the lighting effects. For large parts of the game you’ll be in the dark with a flashlight as your only aid. This is purposeful: in the first four entries of the series (RE1-3 and C:V) the game used fixed camera angles which kept the player guessing as to what was around the corner. With the camera over the shoulder in the remake, the player has full view of what’s in front of them. To give that feeling of suspense, your field of view is narrowed by what the flashlight illuminates. This is terrifying at first. You can have eyes on an enemy and not realize they’re not the only ones in the room with you. However, when you’re looking for items this gets annoying. Newer players also may not realize that backtracking is pure Resident Evil. Getting an answer to a puzzle that you ran into on the other side of the precinct and having to run back to progress in the game is common. In the dark this becomes a chore, especially when new enemies show up to hinder your path.
Another issue some players had was knives, used both for defense and offense, degrade over time. I was OK with this, but like others I thought, if you could stack hand and flash grenades, why couldn’t you stack knives? My only other criticism is, in most other entries of the series you are able to combine ammo with weapon to reload. This is not possible here, forcing the player to reload in-game. Makes sense realistically but you can combine ammo, gunpowder and items so why not reload in menu? In a boss fight this sucks especially when some weapons have seriously long load times. Not a complaint but just feel it arbitrarily made things more difficult.
Does this make the game too hard? I didn’t feel like it did though I can see why for others. You wont know not to engage Mr. X unless you die and you get the hint on the load screen. No point in wasting your ammo on him. Same with the lickers, they are blind but have superior hearing so you can conserve lots of ammo by simply walking by them. Lots of trial and error in the game if the player is willing to learn but I think giving the player more information up front would be have helped in this regard.
So, is the “2nd Run” worth playing through? Or is it the same game?
That’s easier to answer. Yes, its definitely worth playing the “2nd Run”. As most reviewers noted, it doesn’t matter who you start the game as. Both games hit the same story beats and you have to complete the same goals. There are some unique aspects to each. You both meet a different side character that you control for a short time (one story being stronger than the other), and there are different areas accessed. In the “2nd Run” you start the game farther in and access the RPD from a different route. This is different from the original. The first play through affected the second: items you picked up wouldn’t be there for the next go around. I think this is a good thing for those saying its too hard. It takes the spontaneity away but this is made up for by the experience. Mr. X shows up much earlier on and is in true Terminator form. He will not stop. Areas that had only one enemy now might have more, so if you think “hey, let me clear this area” you’re in for surprise.
Some areas, I like to call safe rooms (the ones with a box and typewriter) are usually off limits to enemies. Second time around not so much. SPOILER: The main hall is one such safe room (though Mr. X will chase you in there in the first play as well.) You meet Marvin here who rescues you from an area that’s filled with zombies. I found that going through this area and into the main hall I wasn’t followed my zombies (some areas they will break through doors). Sadly, Marvin is hurt and succumbs to his injuries. You can take him out before he turns or wait. “2nd Run” he’s already up and has friends. I figured going back into the area it would be the reverse and not be followed. Then I heard that familiar growl, turned and saw Marvin had followed me in. This happened a few times where I thought I’d be safe because it didn’t happen the first time only to be surprised the second. This kept my anxiety levels high.
Finally, the characters themselves are different and are both worth playing through. Leon is your archetypal hero, wanting to do the right thing. He has fewer weapon options but they all do their job. I never felt like I had too little ammo. Claire has way more weapon options and not enough ammo. On top of all this she’s squishy, taking less hits to get to that dreaded Danger status. She is more interesting as a character with more voice lines and interactions. One isn’t better than the other. Leon seemed more straight forward where Claire seemed a little harder, not knowing which weapon was best to bring (I did do the “2nd Run” with her which may have had some impact). I preferred her side character Sherry over Ada in Leon’s campaign. NOT REALLY A SPOILER BUT SPOILER: Sherry’s mission is new to RE2. While she was in the original, there is a whole campaign ala Hello Neighbor that gives some seriously disturbing and tragic diary entries which, for me, made up for the lack of entries throughout the game. This gave me my lore fix.
As for the IGN “controversy”: the reviewer, Daemon Hatfield, remarked that the two play throughs were the same which affected his score. It turned out he had not played the “2nd Run” but the new game of the alternate character. He maintains that, while he made a mistake, “The two playable characters’ stories aren’t as different as I’d hoped, but I enjoyed nearly every gory minute of my return to Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield’s shoes.” Other issues of IGN aside, I don’t disagree. The experience is different but there are parts of the game (the sewers) that I just felt like I was going through the motions. Jumbling the order of puzzles didn’t make it different. There are different cut scenes and goals but those are achieved doing relatively the same thing.
Is the game short? Again, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I’ve seen “no-hit” play throughs of two hours and the general consensus is it can be beat in eight. I took fourteen because I wasn’t in a hurry. That’s still fairly short so it would’ve been nice to have more content the second time but the amount of detail put into the game (and promises of DLC forthcoming) I’m willing to forgive.
Ultimately, this ends up as my third favorite Resident Evil only behind Code:Veronica and RE Remake and followed by RE7 and RE0. That said, this is exactly where I want to see the series go. If Capcom decides to remake the earlier games I would not be mad. I really started to pull away from the series when the games went for more action. If I wanted that I’d play an action game. As stressful as it is, I want to obsess over my inventory. I want to find every item, every document. I want to be terrified of what’s around the corner. I hope that the Ghost Survivors DLC will give us more and I certainly hope Capcom realizes what they have and expound on it.