PSU Champions: Resident Evil 2

Continuing our series of PlayStation games that could be benefit from a new lease of life on PlayStation 3, we present to you something that could well an truly be bought back from the dead; the horror classic, Resident Evil 2 (or rather, a remake of it)

Name: Michael Harradence

PSU Role: Journalist, Editor

Age: 23

Game Title: Resident Evil 2 (Biohazard 2 in Japan)

Platform: Sony PlayStation

Publisher: Virgin Interactive (Europe) Capcom (Japan, North America)

Developer: Capcom (Production Studio 4)

Release date: 1/29/98 (Japan) 1/21/98 (North America) 5/8/98 (Europe)

Synopsis of original game:

Set two months after Capcom’s original survival horror masterpiece, Resident Evil 2 takes place in the mid-western town of Raccoon City, which has now been infested with zombies and all manner of grotesque creatures. With the S.T.A.R.S now disbanded, players are cast in the role of rookie Police Officer Leon S. Kennedy (also the protagonist of Resident Evil 4) and college student Claire Redfield; sister of S.T.A.R.S Alpha Team member and star of the original Resident Evil, Chris Redfield.

Faced with an overwhelming army of the living dead, Kennedy and Redfield are forced to take refuge in the nearby Raccoon Police Department prescient, where they unravel the many mysterious surrounding the nefarious Umbrella Corporation and it’s recent endeavours in to biological experiments. The plot expounds on the activities of the company, introducing a number of new characters such as Dr. William Birkin and his research into the G-virus; a powerful viral toxin, capable of transforming living things into creatures far beyond that of any walking corpse. 

Staying true to the original’s formula, Resident Evil 2 again incorporates fully 3D rendered character sprites exploring pre-rendered backgrounds, as they player attempts to solve a variety of puzzles, whilst traversing numerous locations including the streets of Raccoon City, the R.P.D, Sewers as well as a hidden Laboratory as they battle through armies of walking corpses and an assortment of BOW (Bio-organic Weapon)

Why is the original so good?

Fans unanimously view Resident Evil 2 is the greatest survival horror experience ever created; while the original received massive praise, it wasn’t until the sequel that the series achieved both critical and commercial success, racking up sales of 4,960,000 units as of September 2005 — and with good reason.

Resident Evil 2 took the premises of being trapped in a secluded mansion overrun with nightmarish beasts, transposing them into a fully-fledged city full of walking corpses. Locations were far more expansive, allowing you to explore more environments, enemies came in all shapes and sizes and in greater quantities, and the puzzles were generally more frequent and challenging. Not only that, but the games production values also benefited from a major overhaul, replacing the cheesy (but oh so delightful) Live Action videos of the original with layers FMV sequences to advance the plot, as well as improved voice acting, sound and visual effects.

Retaining the core elements of the original accommodated an immersive, terrifying experience, albeit on a much more elaborate scale. One could liken it to George A. Romero’s Living Dead series, and its humble, low-budgetary inception in 1968, followed by the epic 1978 sequel, Dawn of the Dead – it was everything fans could want, only that much bigger.

This is best exampled in the addition of two scenarios per character – an “A” scenario, and a “B” scenario. For example, completing Redfield’s A quest unlocked Kennedy’s B quest, allowing the developers to flesh out the game’s intricate storyline with added detail and all new cut scenes exclusive to each scenario. Additionally, players were rewarded with a rank after completing the game, allowing you to unlock secret weapons, hidden costumes and a mini game called the “4th Survivor”, giving the game a far greater lease of life than its predecessor.

This combined with the usual array of massive boss fights, shock tactics (including the player finding themselves stalked by an inexorable, hulking bio-weapon dubbed “Mr. X”) and layers of atmospheric touches, its not hard to see why Resident Evil 2 is regarded as the series as its shockingly best.

What would a PS3 remake add?

One only has to gaze with blind, undead eyes at the spectacular Resident Evil remake (or REmake, as it’s been colloquially labelled by gamers as) on GameCube to get an idea of what Sony’s latest piece of hardware could bring to its sequel. And, we’re not just talking on a graphical level; there are many more territories Capcom could explore with the advent of new hardware to make the project far from just an incremental upgrade with a slosh of new paint.

First and foremost, the developers have a whole city to expand up on in terms of locations. While the original incorporated a fine selection of environments, it never quite grasped the scale of the doomed Raccoon City to its greatest potential (though this was elaborated more in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Outbreak) As such, there’s no reason to suggest why Capcom could not expand more on exterior locations, perhaps even pitting our heroes against a slew of lumbering undead in a playable section of the original games intro.

Furthermore, other locations, such as the network of sewers could also be greatly improved; if there’s one flaw the PS original had, it was its length (speed runs accumulated no more than a poultry 1h and 20mins) This is clearly something Capcom should have no reservations of doing, either, as evidenced by the sheer amount of content implemented in the GameCube remake of RE1; estate rooms, graveyards and secret passages are just some of the many areas included in the goretastic 2002 rebirth.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, various plot details could be broached in order to harmonize with latter instalments, as well as expanding roles that were previously left undeveloped in the original version. In fact, a few ideas thrown in from the unreleased ‘Resident Evil 1.5’ wouldn’t go unnoticed by long time followers, similar to how Capcom reinstated the Trevor family subplot found in beta version of Resident Evil in it’s subsequent remake.

Naturally, however, visual quality was always going to be a major selling point of any remake. And quite simply, the prospect of witnessing pre-rendered backgrounds facilitated by the added graphical muscle of the PS3 has us salivating at the lips. In fact, you could expect nothing short of photo-realism, giving the fact the GameCube remake’s pre-rendered backdrops still stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anything found on the Xbox 360 or PS3 – and that’s from a console a full generation behind Sony’s black box.

Make no mistake – these backdrops would be a far cry away from the static, lifeless editions seen in the original PSX original. Expect each meticulously crafted location to be supplemented by an array of FMV for added punch, such as raging fires, rippling water, scattering insects, dancing shadows and much more as you guide your character around the war-torn Raccoon in all its blood-stained glory. Furthermore, and unlike the original, the power of PS3 would afford the developers a chance to inject some much-needed life and emotion into the games cast, eliminating the need for the laughable hand motions and over-the-top body language seen in early instalments.

Of course, a quality visual presentation is no good without its ability to incorporate one element intrinsic to any Resident Evil instalment – the fright factor. All titles have successfully conveyed a prevalent sense of fear throughout (admittedly some fell short as the series progressed, though), but the PS3 would no doubt be able to take this to the next level; new effects could be employed to accentuate all manner of pant-wetting sequences not possible before, similar to how the raging thunderstorm of the Resident Evil remake bought to life the deathly quiet Spencer Mansion of the PSX original. And, while Resident Evil 2 is generally far less claustrophobic than its predecessor, we’ve no doubt that some imaginative use of the series trademark static camera angles could breathe new life into some of the more sterile interior locations that you’d hardly recognise them.

The possibilities, as the saying goes, are endless. However, one things for sure; if such a project did ever see the light of day, it’s fair to say it would be quite simply the greatest survival horror outing of all time – reinvented.

Stay tuned for more PSU Champions in the near future. For now, why not speculate on the possibilities on our forums?