Here's the Thing

What the Resident Evil 2 Remake Got Wrong

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #113. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.

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First off, I adore the remake of Resident Evil 2. To the point where it’s finally dethroned the remake of the first game as my favorite in the series – a title that was uncontested for . . . holy shit, almost 17 years? Right, anyway, here’s the thing. I could fill this entire digital magazine extrapolating on the things I love about this game, but instead I want to talk about the biggest problem it has: the way both character scenarios overlap.

Last month there was this big brouhaha with a review that took issue with the lack of new content between Claire’s and Leon’s playthroughs and many people (myself included at the time) chalked it up to the reviewer not doing their due diligence and missing the 2nd Run option when continuing after beating it the first time. After completing a 2nd Run myself, I can say with certainty that the reviewer was not wrong. There’s nowhere near enough overlap between the two scenarios and that really sucks.

To be fair, there is some. The main character in the 2nd Run starts from a different spot, they don’t ever get to interact with a particular character that’s encountered early on in the first playthrough, and whoever is selected for this follow-up will have the final (as in the final-final) boss battle. But like, that’s it? Sure, there are other differences between playing as Claire and Leon, like certain areas that one character will never pass through or specific rooms in the RPD that only one of them can access, but that stuff isn’t exclusive to the first or second runs – it’s just exclusive to who you play as. Leon will never visit the orphanage, Claire will never find the club key, and so on.

There are two reasons this bugs the shit out of me. First, the original game that came out over 20 years ago already handled this better. Certain things like some characters or a few areas were specific to Leon or Claire, but events from the first playthrough felt like they affected the second. Some items wouldn’t be available the second time if they were taken the first time; the second scenario’s main character always dealt with Mr. X; each scenario involved multiple encounters with William Birkin but at completely different stages of his mutation. Given the technology and the fact that I can recover a knife lodged in a Licker’s neck on a return trip through the RPD several real-world hours after using it, I’m not sure what the excuse is for this oversight.

I know it sounds like I’m being nitpicky but consider for a moment that there are little moments between scenarios that actually do overlap. For example, if you play as Leon first you’ll find a room with a broken window, and if you follow up as Claire you find out how that window broke. Why, then, are so many of the event triggers exactly the same between runs? A body falling off of a bench was spooky the first time, but the exact same body falling off the exact same bench at the exact same time on the second playthrough just feels lazy. At the very least just leave it on the ground so there’s a little hint of permanence?

The boss fights bother me the most, though. With the lone exception of each character’s final boss encounter (I don’t count the one in the sewers because it’s less a fight than a set piece moment), all of the other boss fights are the same. It baffles me that they couldn’t do something as simple as stagger the boss encounters between runs. Hell, even Mr.X’s big appearance the first time through is exactly the same the second time despite him appearing before that moment in the second run – and the fact that Leon and Claire have different ways of getting around that portion of the building so it seriously shouldn’t have been difficult to simply use the way players can progress or not progress to work around this.

It’s the one thing that bothers me about this remake amidst a ton of other things I absolutely adore, but that only makes it all the more glaring. They could have handled this better. They did handle this better over two decades ago. The technology can handle it, there’s a (very small) handful of moments that even hint at this, but the ball was completely and thoroughly dropped here.

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Rob Rich is a guy who’s loved video games since the ’80s, and has had the good fortune of being able to write about them. The same goes for other nerdy stuff from Anime to Godzilla, and from Power Rangers toys to Transformers. He gave up on Twitter, because Twitter is garbage, but you can still find him on Instagram and Mastodon.

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