This week, Yahtzee reviews Resident Evil 2.
Oh, Resident Evil 7, you've made me the happiest game critic in the world! But what furrows your brow, my love? "Oh, I was just thinking about when I was Resident Evil 2." Well, why the fuck were you thinking about that?! You've moved on, Resident Evil; you're a good game now, about genuinely creepy things happening to real characters but with an ironic self-awareness that gives you that crucial edge.
"Yeah, but people seem to like Resident Evil 2. I think I should remake it." Oh, you poor, beautiful, deluded video game box art on legs! You do that, and you'll get half the audience complaining about its lack of modern sensibilities, and the other half complaining that it's not like how they remember it. You don't need them; you've got me now! Don't throw it all away for nostalgia's sake! You're romanticizing the past and overlooking the negatives from those days: the pathetic plots, the prodigious PlayStation pixels, that weird "zombie eating flesh" sound effect that sounded like someone repeatedly stomping on a juice box. You do this, and you'll be sliding back onto that dreadful path that led us to Resident Evil 6, the game best summarized by replacing the "I" in "Six" with a "U". Fine! Run to your remake friends, but I'm going to give it a damn good kick in the sensibilities!
So I was already iffy on the RE2-make, 'cos the very idea is what we call a "mouthful of dinner plates" because it makes me do this: Eeeeeehhh… And then reviews started coming in, and virtually all of them praise it for being "true to the original", and that made the dinner plate double in size: Rrrrrrgghh… Who gives a fuck if it's "true to the original"? I'll tell you who: cunts. Small-trouser-ed nostalgia-nauts who burrow ever deeper into their comfort zones at the slightest threat of a challenging new idea. Then I played through Resident Evil 2 - both bits of it - and I can state with resounding certainty that it's "alright". This is the part where all the cockthroats swoop down on the comments like flies to a dead dog and go, "Ooh, an 'alright' from Yahtzee is high praise anywhere else! Buzz, buzz!" Eat that dead dog's last panicky burst of diuretic shit, cockthroats! Resident Evil at its best is something I found electrifying, and this conflux of old ideas and slightly-less-old-but-still-old ideas is barely two licks of a 9-volt.
The problem might have been that the plot is still trying to build suspense about its twists and reveals despite the fact that we already know everything that happens. I was playing the fourth sequel to this game, like, three years ago; it's like watching a fucking nativity play, at this point, except without the slim hope that someone might piss themselves and cry, this not being Metal Gear Solid. Raccoon City has fallen to the zombies in such a way that no one else in the country noticed. Only, like, two people have tried to enter the city since the outbreak started - I'm guessing it's not exactly a tourism economy - the two being Leon Kennedy, a rookie policeman who looks and speaks like a grown-up member of Hanson struggling to find work in later life, and Claire Redfield, the sister of former protagonist Chris who felt the best way to get back in touch would be to show up in person at his workplace rather than, say, a Facebook nudge.
The intro really emphasizes the increase of scope from zombie-infested mansion to zombie-infested city, as the camera pulls back to reveal a dense network of chaotic streets that form together into the Resident Evil 2 logo. Very nicely done! Just a shame that the subsequent game takes place almost entirely in a single building. All right, fine, there's a secret laboratory as well, but come on; every Resident Evil game has one of those. If you're going to count that as a location, you might as well count the fucking options menu.
But credit where it's due, Very Dense Enid 2 is a very solidly-designed game; it certainly makes the most of its limited space with its multiple story paths running through its labyrinth of hallways that you must explore and unpick like a mess of tangled Christmas lights. The game balances the "survival" part of "survival horror" perfectly, ensuring that you're forever low on stuff but always have just enough to squeak by. It's as much about strategy as action, as you plan your next route and decide if it's worth expending the ammo to down every monster for the count, or just pop them in the face and run as you would casually whip a passing exposed buttock as you sprint through the men's locker room with a wet towel. But that doesn't mean the action's any slouch; the now-inevitable RE4-style combat is as solid as ever, the guns have the right kick, and the gore effects are just delightful. What's that on your face, Mr. Zombie? BLAM! Oh, it's the skirting board.
What I don't like so much is the big, indestructible neckbeard in a trench coat and fedora who pursues you relentlessly from room to room because you made the mistake of admitting that you liked an anime once and now he won't leave you alone until he's shown you his entire Blu-ray collection. I get that once we've gone over the hallways enough times to start getting familiar, we need something to keep us unnerved, and he certainly does that as his massive, Pocky-inflated bulk stomps towards you, making all the walls shake, but over time, he becomes more annoying than scary, like those Silent Hill 4 ghosts that keep nibbling your bum and playing the stereos too loud while you're trying to get the exploration and puzzle-solving done.
Eventually, you realize that his mum told him he can't follow you into certain rooms, so I'd duck into a safe room and listen to his thundering footsteps echo through the building, not having a chuffing clue where the fucker actually is. Then I'll pop my head out and--Oh, he's right outside, boring a Licker to death with his opinions on Sword Art Online II; back in the safe room! This isn't creepy survival horror; this is a mailman trying to negotiate with an angry dog in a front yard.
Come to think of it, all the boss encounters are a bit yawn-some; I'm sure having to navigate around a giant muscle man in a small room trying to peck at their weak spots while staying out of range of their claw swipes was the height of creativity back in the PlayStation Middle Ages, when expectations were even lower than the fucking pixel resolution, but Resident Evil has come up with, like, 97,000 more creative setpieces since then, and put them all in Resident Evil 4. "Oh, but it's being true to the original, Yahtz!" Lick my gritty Pritt Stick, viewer!! I did enjoy my time with the RE2-make, but the enthusiasm I can summon is limited largely because of its "truth to the original", with all its banal bubo-bursting boss fights and charisma-vacuum characters, and frankly, I think it's a step back after RE7.
There's a bit early on where Leon and Claire reunite either side of a fence that's like watching two awkward teenage school friends running into each other at the county fair. "Hey!" "Hey, whatcha doin'?" "Not much." "You look pretty." "Thanks. That zombie's gonna kill you." "I know, right? They're so annoying!" Ethan Winters could out-personality either of them, and he was just a pair of wrists that occasionally swore. It's a classic example of what was once termed a "second-order idiot plot", or a situation that could only exist if every character is an idiot. "Hey, I'm gonna ride my bike to another city to see if my brother is at the police station." Did you try phoning the police station? "Uuuuuuhhh…" "Hey, I'm gonna make a virus that transforms people into gigantic super-strong monsters with military applications." How would that be more efficient than just dropping a big bomb? "Uuuuuuhhh…" And anyway, wouldn't it violate the square-cube law? "Uuuuuuhhh…" Oh, never mind; just spit out the dinner plate.
- Hazardous waste product: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- And you just know Chris Redfield is one of those infuriating hipsters who won't get on social media out of principle
- Leon Kennedy: the floppiest Resident Evil protagonist