Why Resident Evil 2 is a perfect remake

Annotation 2020-03-19 194744

Remakes don’t have the best reputation in gaming. In the eyes of many gamers, they’re something of a plague on an industry that seems content to perpetuate rather than innovate. There have been examples of fantastic remakes of classic titles like Halo: CE AnniversaryShadow of the Colossus or the plethora of Pokemon do-overs in the form of FireRedHeartGoldOmegaRuby and others. However, the ones that become more famous – or rather, infamous – are those which bastardise the original through inferior performance, technical issues or simply a fundamental misunderstanding of what made those games so special in the first place. The remakes of Silent Hill and 3 immediately come to mind, as do other games such as Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio CollectionGoldenEye 007Dark Souls: Remastered, Batman: Arkham Collection, among many others and trust me, I could keep going.

While some of these were certainly flat-out bad video games, the more common outcome is the aura of laziness that oozes from their cracks. The main grievance people have with this remake obsession is this: why remake a game for a new generation if the original is already there are, for that matter, much more fun to play? These re-releases, while good as a method of preservation, do little to expand upon where their predecessor so strongly succeeded for the people who loved it. So, what’s the solution? Do we just accept that remakes are always going to be inferior and move on with our lives in this agonisingly prolonged capitalism-ridden existence we call life? Worry not, dear reader, for Capcom has presented us a saviour for our woes, and what better franchise to show everyone how to do a motherfucking remake than Resident Evil?

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The phenomenal quality of the Resident Evil 2 remake came as a true shock to the system. This project had been in development hell for a number of years, presumed dead in the water, and yet here it was, in January of 2019, and it was amazing; so amazing, in fact, that it topped review aggregate scores for the rest of the year. There was just something so unbelievably refreshing about the entire design of Resi 2, which came as a surprise to its many pre-release sceptics who criticised the shift to an over-the-shoulder perspective as a weak attempt at appealing to mainstream demographics. While there may be some truth to that, it can’t be argued that the change in gameplay definitely adds to the scares. Rather than having the camera pulled way back like Uncharted, it’s instead nice and close to Leon/Claire, adding this sense of claustrophobia to every encounter. This becomes much more apparent when you’re grabbed by a zombie, at which point the camera zooms directly into your character’s face as they have their neck noshed to pieces. Being forced into such an uncomfortable situation only serves to heighten the tension, as well as being a mechanic that I honestly haven’t before, or at least not executed to this high a standard. These are huge changes to make compared to the omniscient fixed camera angles of the original and while some people will simply prefer that kind of style, there’s no denying that the shift in gameplay creates an experience wholly unique to the remake and the game would be worse off without it. What’s also fantastic about the close-in camera is the remake can replicate that familiar fear of walking around a dark corner without knowing what’s ahead, which was initially created by those fixed camera angles. However, rather than being a very carefully directed set of shots, Remake‘s fully controllable camera means scares feel more organic, despite often being just as scripted.

Speaking of camera control, the remake is also objectively easier to control and allows for more freedom of movement compared to the original. Rather than being a simple matter of pointing at the thing with the awkward-to-use tank controls and pressing the shoot button, the remake has the magical addition of ✨ dual stick controls ✨. Now, instead of being forced to stand in one spot, you can move while aiming, which also decreases accuracy, adding another layer of decision making to encounters. However, to compensate for the fact that precision aiming is much easier, zombies take a lot more of a beating. Oftentimes, it’ll take between 3-5 headshots just to down them – yes, DOWN them, they’re not necessarily dead for good – and adding to that concern, they move in stumbling, often unpredictable ways that means you never feel quite safe. While other zombie games turn the enemy into generic cannon fodder and not much more, Resi 2 manages to make these painfully overused antagonists scary again. I never got bored of fighting these guys, as they never once stopped posing a real threat, even when it’s just one undead asshole in a narrow corridor. It brings back that sense of panic the original evoked for many back in the day, while being a very different kind of challenge to overcome.

Resident Evil 2

That’s the important takeaway here: tank controls aren’t an inferior gameplay type, but instead simply a different kind of experience. People enjoy those controls because wrestling with their stubbornness only adds to the tension of encountering the next foe. I can understand why that would be so effective, but here’s where I admit my horrible truth: I haven’t played any of the fixed-camera Resident Evil games. I have tried playing the GameCube Resident Evil remake but I really struggled with the controls. As a dirty garbage Gen Z-er, I was raised on the third person shooters and dual stick controls of the PS3 era, so attempting to wrestle with these weird, dated mechanics felt like learning a new language from scratch. Ultimately, I ditched Resident Evil after about an hour of simply not getting it. However, Resident Evil 2 has changed my perspective in a truly magnificent way. Since the remake’s controls were much more in my league, I was finally able to engage with the elements of old Resident Evil I’d heard praised so often: the intricate level design, the cleverly crafted scares, the joyous stress of inventory management. Tank controls were a solid brick wall placed to prevent my enjoyment of what made these games so special years ago, and realising this midway through my second playthrough almost made me shed a tear.

Having such a strong emotional reaction to such a straightforward change in design is why I believe there is artistic worth to remakes. Resident Evil 2 proves that a remake doesn’t have to be this soulless imposter puppeteering the skinsuit of the original, but can instead be not just the OG’s beautiful offspring, but also potentially the next coming of Christ. Like, the original is God, creating the foundations, while the remake is Jesus, spreading all the cool things God did but modernising the message to be less extremely bigoted and ethically unreasonable, and the shitty sequels to the original is Joseph because they’re the embarrassing cuck who gets sidelined as the greater story progresses… Huh. Gonna be honest, that metaphor went off the rails, but that doesn’t change the fact that Resident Evil 2 managed to achieve something truly unique in the realm of video games. I’m seeing similar positive changes in that new Final Fantasy VII remake, switching out the often tedious process of turn-based combat in favour of real-time twitch gameplay, while still maintaining the basic mechanics of managing health and magic points while fighting. It really feels like a natural evolution of the old formula and I can’t wait to try out the full game next month.

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Old games should be treasured and remembered for what good they brought to the industry, but that doesn’t mean we have to excuse their flaws and pretend like they’re untouchable masterpieces and remnants of the gaming golden age etc etc. It’s okay to love something and also criticise it; games are these huge complex beasts consisting of various highs and lows, and Resident Evil 2 shows that a remake can exist alongside its original while not overshadowing its successes. The critical and financial success of the remake proves that sometimes there is worth in examining why old games were so beloved, and building on those ideas for a new generation of gamers to enjoy. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day ❤

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