Batten down the hatches and barricade the doors of the Raccoon City Police Department – a remake of Resident Evil 2 is seemingly on the horizon. All-but-confirmed by a series of positive Facebook posts by a member of Capcom’s internal Research & Development department, the remake of what many consider to be one of most important touchstones in the survival horror genre is belatedly underway.
And just like the vast majority of rapturous fans currently pounding their keyboards in the general direction of Resident Evil’s official Facebook page, we’re of the opinion that Capcom should look no further than to the reception it received upon the release of Resident Evil HD Remaster back in January when it begins pre-production for the remake of its acclaimed sequel. Not only did it ship over a million units comfortably but it also became the fastest-selling digital title in PlayStation Network history; a testament more deafening than most that survival horror fans are ready to delve back into the sort of experience that propelled the series into the upper echelon of gaming consciousness back in the late 1990s.
So, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of what Capcom should be looking to do with the game’s long-overdue remake.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Resident Evil 2’s relative linearity – with its meandering, tight-knit hallways and narrow footpaths – is designed solely around what you can and cannot see; what could potentially be lurking right in your midst once the camera shifts across the environment. Its ‘tank’ controls accentuate that feeling of unease and claustrophobia as you negotiate the small crevices between yourself and a foe. It’s cumbersome, sure, but in the context of the game’s design it makes sense. The static backgrounds, punctuated carefully by the employment of fixed camera angles, were an effective method of crafting a unique and foreboding atmosphere that encapsulated the urgency of the narrative as well as the sense of dread around every corner. It’s also why an over-the-shoulder gameplay perspective would detract from the experience because unless you’re overhauling the entire design philosophy of Resident Evil 2 it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. As a result, the wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented per say; the retention of core gameplay elements, and a significant texture, lighting and resolution bump would be what yields the optimum result and it would also go a long way in retaining that well-worn atmosphere that’s become synonymous with the littered streets of Raccoon City. Naturally the power afforded to consoles of this generation would cater for a facelift with regards to character models, not to mention their animations and responses to stimuli, so long as Capcom doesn’t give Leon tree trunks for arms and a penchant for dismantling eight-foot-tall boulders we’re all good on that front.
Extend the Resident Evil narrative and setting
It’s a testament to the everlasting intrigue and mystique of Capcom’s ill-fated first attempt at a follow-up to the immensely successful Resident Evil (aptly dubbed Resident Evil 1.5) that fans are still trying to piece together the remnants of what could have been by delving into a metric tonne of unfinished code in an attempt to create a playable experience. And for zero monetary gain, no less. As a result – and in line with expanding upon the game’s setting à la the 2002 GameCube remake of the original Resident Evil – Capcom should give a considered, long-overdue nod to those passionate and persistent fans by stretching the canonical lore and setting of Raccoon City to include aspects of the original vision, principally that of extended narrative responsibility to both gun shop owner Robert Kendo and police officer Marvin ”It’s hard to believe it’s not Will Smith” Branagh. In the original concept both characters played wider roles in the outbreak, with the former becoming a support character to the original female protagonist Elza Walker, (who herself should get a mention) and R.P.D. sergeant Branagh surviving the incident alongside Leon whom he supports throughout the vast majority of the game. Subsequently, that’d give Capcom more license to expand the game into new areas more believably, thus leading to more gameplay, exposition, and a longer runtime. And delve deeper into Chief of Police Brian Irons’ checkered story while you’re at it – he’s got more skeletons in his closet than both the Spencer Mansion and Rockfort island combined.
Unlock different ways to play the Resident Evil 2 campaign
Naturally, you’re getting into dubious territory once long-held canonical aspects of the narrative are uprooted and brought into question but given the fact that the fervent support of the original vision – the potency of which far outweighs the normal reception leveled at scrapped projects by developers – has been burning for close to nineteen years now (with no signs of letting up) it would be good-natured of Capcom to provide some semblance of closure and tip its cap to the legacy it left behind. With a potential remake at hand, the team entrusted with the unenviable task will have the means necessary to really hit home with a wide-arching narrative that explores the more personable relationships forged in the face of adversity, creating a more modern, well-developed experience. In line with that – but angled from a more gameplay-centric perspective – these additions would really allow for Capcom to expand upon the ‘Zapping System’ housed in the original game, that is, the mechanic by which players control two different characters throughout similar scenarios, ultimately unlocking different ways of playing the main campaign. If Capcom was onboard with the inclusion of more secondary characters as was first planned, it would create space for a more dynamic and hopefully consequential dual-character mechanic where instances and interactions really mold the outcome.
You know the score
Another such aspect intrinsic to the game’s legacy that doesn’t need a complete overhaul is the soundtrack. Resident Evil 2’s score was a near-perfect complement to the carefully constructed nature of the gameplay. It wasn’t simply a passerby in the experience, either, it was a conduit by which a lot of the tension was delivered. The fact that the game’s fixed camera angles distorted your full view of what’s around you meant that Resident Evil 2’s soundtrack – and the set of sound effects afforded to it -could be employed to create a sense of unease of what you couldn’t see. We all know what the feeling’s like when you enter a new room and can hear the heavy-breathing and plodding of a Licker but you’re unaware of where exactly he might be, and that’s one of the most important aspects that Capcom needs to be mindful of retaining when remastering the game. Just like 2002’s Resident Evil, re-do the soundtrack to fit the established mood but don’t go overboard on changing it up just for the sake of it. There’s a reason why the game’s so revered.
Let’s go raiding
As a sign of the times, you can expect Capcom to explore some online-orientated options to supplement Resident Evil 2’s main storyline, most likely not by way of a fully-fledged team-based competitive excursion but certainly something that could resemble a rendition of the original game’s Extreme Battle mode, or even a throwback to Resident Evil 3’s time-based Mercenaries Mode. What’s far more expected, however, is a variation of the series’ now-famous Raid Mode, containing skins for all the characters that you encounter within the main game. It’s a mode that harbors a certain light-hearted charm what with its gestures and customization options and would provide a degree of comic relief when compared to its storyline counterpart. It’d go down a treat as it’s a mode that we seem to keep returning to within Resident Evil: Revelations 2. Whatever the case may be, so long as the storyline remains primarily single-player then whatever Capcom chooses to do on top of that is a bonus – just as long as Tofu remains a part of it.
When it’s all said and done, however – and despite the proselytizing in the paragraphs above – it’s worth bearing in mind that this isn’t the same Capcom as the one that worked on the original Resident Evil 2 or commissioned and developed the celebrated remake of its prequel. Both Shinji Mikami and Hideki Kamiya have long-since departed the company, leaving behind a development studio that’s been checkered at best ever since. As a result, it’s only sensible that a sizeable degree of caution is exercised as we approach re-development of one of the company’s most treasured games. That being said, fans have been clamoring for this for the best part of fourteen years so just the fact that it looks as if it’s finally happening is reason enough to celebrate. It’s about time we go back to Raccoon City with Leon and Claire – it’s been far too long.
Still craving more Resident Evil content? Don’t forget to dip into PlayStation Universe’s bulging archives and see what we hope Capcom chooses to do with the inevitable seventh entry of Resident Evil right here.
Have you been one of the many campaigning and longing for a remake of Resident Evil 2? Do you agree or disagree with the above list? Let us know in the comments section below.