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Resident Evil 2 revisited: The director of the 2019 remake reflects on the pervasive power of the 1998 original

Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking a sequel is easy to make, which is far from the truth. If your game is successful enough to be worth following up, first figure out why it’s happening, then keep the magic going, while delivering enough new content and improvements to keep the cost down for potential players. While many have had success with this, there are still many sequels that have disappointed and forgotten gamers: every Tomb Raider 2 has Alien Hearts, F-Zero X has Sparkster .

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Resident Evil 2 was actually my first Resident Evil game, so at the time I didn’t have the mansion set from the original game compared to the city in Resident Evil 2,” the Resident Evil veteran explained. However, the first work was in The series is a remake of the original game, so it’s a good explanation for the contrast between games.” Then, when I played Resident Evil, I thought different settings had different advantages in each game. Stand out: Resident Evil’s unique claustrophobic setting and atmosphere and RE2’s massive drama and entertainment,” he continued.

Residential

It’s easy to understand his point, as Resident Evil is pretty quiet after its action-packed introductory FMV. Designers gradually add to the suspense by introducing missing team members, blood, and the first zombie—a shocking moment that only works on a few screens. The introduction of Resident Evil 2 was also really explosive, as the two protagonists were separated by an explosion caused by a zombie truck driver. But once the game starts, they’re thrown into the streets of Raccoon City, surrounded by carnivorous undead.

“I think Resident Evil uses the scene where it’s stuck in one place to create tension as the nature of the situation is gradually revealed,” Hirayashi said. “But when it came time to make a sequel, that was a regular part of the story, and probably thought it was more effective to immediately communicate to the player the seriousness of the situation.” By moving the action to Raccoon City, the developers were able to immediately convey the relatively limited first game The difference between Zombie Outbreak and the sequel Total Disaster.

The story helps create a unique game location, even if some useful amenities are missing. By consciously choosing to model the RPD with something other than a modern police station, the background artist was able to create a location with multiple uses. It’s reasonable to think of it as a police headquarters, but it may contain quirks not found in purpose-built stations. Gothic architecture is striking and intimidating, even before you realize it’s full of undead too. As Hirabayashi pointed out, the idea of ​​a zombie outbreak at a police station is psychologically dissonant. “I can’t talk about the original development process. Please don’t think I’m speaking on behalf of the original developers! — but my point is that the police department contrasts nicely with the dangers of the character’s environment,” Hirayashi said. “It’s supposed to be a safe place, so finding it to be such a dangerous place is a very interesting reason.”

Hirabayashi Yoshiaki

It’s also worth noting that Resident Evil 2’s setting has improved a lot from the original game. As before, these were pre-rendered to provide the highest possible visual quality, but this time the scene was much more complex, as the original scene proved, with crashes and broken glass on the streets, The alleys are littered with rubbish. And covered in graffiti, there are obvious remnants of military blockades. Throughout the game, each scene has more detail than the wallpapers and interiors of the original mansion. The game also uses FMV’s CGI visuals throughout the game, omitting the live-action elements of the original.

But it’s not just pre-rendered images that get a major upgrade. Character models have more polygons, and new enemy designs are some of the most iconic in the series. The most terrifying of these is the licker, a blind and elusive nightmare with exposed brains and muscles and a characteristic long tongue that it uses to attack players. What makes them so memorable?

“Zombies are visually an extension of normal humans, but lickers take over the inner parts of the human body, which we all know we’re in, but rarely (if ever) see in person; yes [it] It exposes them in a way that contrasts with the more human-like zombies,” Hirabayashi said. “His ability to climb walls and ceilings smoothly is also a stark contrast to the zombies. In fact, the creature’s introduction is one of the most memorable moments in the game: as you stroll down the corridors of a police station, you see something wreaking havoc in the distance. You turn a corner and see Until blood drips from the ceiling, then cutscenes show you the lickers in all the creepy details.

Mutant masterpiece

Like its predecessors, “Resident Evil 2” offers a choice of male and female protagonists, but unlike the characters in the previous work, these characters are not agents who have undergone extensive combat training, so they are more recognizable. While he’s a trained police officer with his own weapons, Leon Kennedy is a novice who discovers a situation that exceeds all expectations on his first day on the job.

“Leon is a compelling character in terms of character and appearance, and I also think he’s been in a lot of people’s first Resident Evil game. So that they can feel a special connection to him that way, ” Hirabayashi said. Even with the game restarting development, Leon’s character design and backstory have barely changed. The folks at Capcom seem to know they have a winner, so it’s no surprise that he’s back in games like RE4 and RE6.

Another protagonist is Claire Redfield, whose character was originally conceived by Elsa Walker. She retains most of the backstory and personality traits of the original design, including her love of motorcycles and her student status, but has been rewritten as Chris Redfield’s sister to better fit the game’s overall story… resident Evil. † She’s the series’ first civilian protagonist, but she’s still a tough and capable fighter. He finds himself protecting Shirley Birkin, the daughter of the game’s terrifying mutant opponent.

“Family is one of the biggest themes in a story, so having a child character really adds to the ability to tell such a story,” Hirabayashi noted. In fact, one of the greatest fears of zombie horror is that your loved ones will not only be killed, but will turn against you, and William Birkin has retained enough of himself to stubbornly pursue his daughter. The facts make this all the more terrifying. Unusually, Shirley is unarmed, yet small and fast enough to fire on most enemies she encounters.

One of the biggest game design innovations in Resident Evil 2 was the “story switching” system. “Resident Evil lets you choose between two characters and lets you see the story from multiple perspectives. I think the team wants to go a step further than Resident Evil by combining the story and gameplay to create a beating system,” Hirabayashi Say. Each character can play scenarios A and B and investigate what would have happened if the car crash at the start of the game had gone differently, leaving the character stuck on the other side of the truck. But it’s not just a narrative gimmick: the actions you take in phase A affect other characters’ subsequent sessions in phase B. For example, a Phase A character can make things difficult for a Phase B character by using important items like take a submachine gun, or by destroying certain unique enemies that won’t appear later on to make things easier.

It’s certainly innovative, and as Hirabayashi points out, “designing a game around this feature is definitely a tough challenge.” The increased size of the game means it takes two discs to deliver the full game, even with space-saving Measures, like using chip-generated music instead of CD soundtracks (if you did, you wouldn’t notice the difference). not done). You didn’t tell – the quality is very good).

When Resident Evil 2 was released in 1998, it received a lot of positive reviews. The game received a 96 percent review from Play’s Alan Rausch, who praised the game’s “variety and exciting” locations and its stages. He also compared the relationship with the original to that of the film Alien: “The adventure has evolved from tense, gritty origins to full-on action.”

In CVG’s 5/5 review, Steve Key noted that “our forum page on Game Online had a different take on RE2, with many complaining that it was too short”, but disagreed with this assessment, noting that the two characters and their A. and B. scenarios. Edge’s review gave the game a 9/10, particularly praising the progression of the plot: the magazine considered it “more cinematic than almost any other game tried” and that “the sequel is scripted, though not exactly Shakespeare, but not exactly Shakespeare. Would shy away from things like The X-Files.” Official PlayStation Magazine from the UK also rated the game a 9/10.

a successful experiment

After all these years, Resident Evil 2 has stood the test of time. Readers of Retro Gamer voted it the 127th best PlayStation game in the top 25, and it’s 150th on the list of the 150 greatest games of all time. The game also has a huge legacy. “He’s been the inspiration for the entire series since it came out, and of course for the redesigned Resident Evil 2, he’s also the main source of all our inspiration! What we’re trying to do is design a modern gameplay that perfectly matches what we want Keep key parts of the original game intact as much as possible,” Hirabayashi said.

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Resident Evil 2 revisited: The director of the 2019 remake reflects on the pervasive power of the 1998 original

Sometimes, it’s easy for players to fall into the trap of thinking that sequels are easy games to make – and that’s far from the truth. If your game is successful enough to warrant a follow-up, you have to identify exactly why that happened in the first place, then keep that magic while delivering enough new content and improvements to justify the spend to prospective players. And while many were successful in that regard, there are plenty of sequels that have disappointed players and faded into obscurity – for every Tomb Raider 2, there’s a Heart Of The Alien, and for every F-Zero X, there’s a Sparkster. 
Read more great retro features in Retro Gamer magazine

Resident Evil 2 was actually my first Resident Evil game, so at the time I didn’t have any reference point of the original game being set in a mansion compared to Resident Evil 2’s city,” explains the Resident Evil veteran. However, his first work in the series was on the remake of the original game, so he’s well-placed to explain how the games contrast with one another. “When I subsequently played Resident Evil, I thought the different settings brought out different strengths in each game – the atmosphere and claustrophobic single location of Resident Evil, and the larger-scale drama and entertainment of RE2,” he continues.
Resi-recstion
It’s easy to see his point, as Resident Evil was fairly sedate after its action-packed introductory FMV. The designers gradually ramped up the tension by introducing a missing team member, blood and then the first zombie – a shocking moment that doesn’t come until a few screens into the game. Resident Evil 2’s introduction was also explosive – quite literally, as the two protagonists are separated by a blast caused by a zombified truck driver. But once the game begins, they’re dropped straight into the streets of Raccoon City and surrounded by the flesh-munching undead. 
“I think that Resident Evil used its setting of being trapped in a single location to build up tension as the nature of the situation was revealed gradually,” says Hirabayashi. “But when it came time to make the sequel, that was an established part of the story and it was probably seen as more effective to immediately message to the player just how much bigger in scale the situation is.” Moving the action to Raccoon City allowed the developers to instantly convey the difference between the first game’s relatively contained zombie outbreak and the complete catastrophe of the sequel.

This story helps to make a unique gaming location, albeit one lacking in certain convenient facilities. By choosing to deliberately fashion the RPD after something other than a modern police station, the background artists were able to create a location that serves a number of purposes. It can believably be seen as a police HQ, but could conceivably house oddities that wouldn’t be found in a purpose-built station. Its Gothic architecture is simultaneously striking and intimidating – even before you realise that it’s also crawling with the living dead. And as Hirabayashi notes, the very idea of a zombie outbreak in a police station is psychologically jarring. “I can’t speak to the original development process – please don’t think I speak on behalf of the original developers! – but my opinion is that a police station is a good contrast with the danger of the situation the characters find themselves in,” says Hirabayashi. “It should be a safe place, so finding it to be such a dangerous place is a very interesting motif.” 

Yoshiaki Hirabayashi

It’s also worth noting that Resident Evil 2’s backgrounds were a significant step forward from those of the original game. As before, these were pre-rendered to provide the maximum possible visual quality, but this time the scene complexity was far greater – evident from the very first scenes, where the streets are strewn with crashed cars and broken glass, alleyways are piled with rubbish and covered in graffiti, and remnants of military blockade operations are visible. Throughout the game there’s more detail in every scene, compared to the wallpaper and indoor decorations of the original mansion. The game also incorporated CGI sequences for FMV throughout the game, ditching the live action elements of the original. 
But it wasn’t just the pre-rendered visuals that got a major upgrade. Character models received an increased polygon count, and the new enemy designs are amongst the most iconic to be seen in the series. One of the most terrifying is the Licker – a blind, skittering nightmare with an exposed brain and visible musculature, with a signature long tongue that is used to attack players. What is it that makes them so memorable? 
“Zombies are, visually speaking, an extension of normal humans, but the Lickers takes the internals of the human body, which we all know we have inside us but rarely, if ever, see for ourselves; and [it] lays them bare in a way that’s a great, shocking contrast with the more human-looking zombies,” says Hirabayashi. “Its ability to climb over walls and ceilings fluidly also contrasts well with the zombies.” Indeed, the creature’s intro is one of the most memorable moments of the game – as you wander through a corridor in the police station, you can see something darting in the distance. You round a corner and see blood dripping from the ceiling, before a cutscene plays and shows you the Licker in full, gruesome detail. 
Mutating a masterpiece

Like its predecessor, Resident Evil 2 offered the choice of a male or female protagonist – but unlike the characters of the prior game, these weren’t special operatives with heaps of combat training, making them somewhat easier to relate to. Though he was a trained police officer with his own weapon, Leon Kennedy was a rookie, arriving for his first day on the job to find a situation beyond all expectations. 
“Leon is an appealing character in terms of his personality and looks, and also I think he’s been in games which may have been many people’s first Resident Evil games. So they may feel a special connection to him in that sense,” says Hirabayashi. Indeed, even when the development of the game was restarted, Leon’s character design and backstory were changed very little. It seems like Capcom’s staff knew they were onto a winner with him, so it’s no surprise that he has returned in games such as RE4 and RE6. 

The other main character was Claire Redfield, whose character was evolved from the original Elza Walker concept. She retains most of the backstory and personality traits of the original design, including her love of motorbikes and status as a student, but was rewritten as being the younger sister of Chris Redfi eld in order to better tie the game into the overall Resident Evil story. She’s the first civilian protagonist in the series, but remains a tough and capable fighter. She finds herself herself protecting Sherry Birkin, the daughter of the game’s hideously mutated antagonist. 
“Family is one of the most important themes in the story, so having a child character really adds to the ability to tell a story like that,” notes Hirabayashi. Indeed, one of the primary fears of zombie horror is seeing your loved ones not only killed, but turned against you – and the fact that William Birkin retains just enough of himself to doggedly pursue his daughter makes him that much scarier. Uniquely, Sherry is unarmed but is small and quick enough to dart around most of the enemies she’ll encounter. 

One of the biggest game design innovations in Resident Evil 2 was a ‘story zapping’ system. “Resident Evil let you choose from two characters to play as, giving you multiple perspectives on the story. I imagine the team wanted to go even further than Resident Evil did in mixing the story and gameplay system together to create the zapping system,” says Hirabayashi. Each character could play through A and B scenarios, examining what would have happened if the car crash at the beginning of the game had turned out differently, stranding the characters on the other side of the truck. But it’s more than just a storytelling trick – the actions you take in the A scenario affect subsequent sessions in the other character’s B scenario. For example, the A scenario character can make things harder for the B scenario character by taking key items like the submachine gun, or make things easier by destroying certain unique enemies that won’t appear later. 
This is certainly innovative, though as Hirabayashi notes, “It’s definitely a tough challenge to design a game around such a feature.” The increased scope of the game meant that two discs were needed to deliver the full game, even with space-saving measures such as the use of chip-generated music rather than a CD soundtrack (not that you’d notice the difference if you weren’t told – the quality is superb). 
When Resident Evil 2 was released in 1998, it drew widespread critical acclaim. The game was awarded 96% by Play’s Alan Rausch, who praised the game for its “varied and exciting” locations as well as its setpieces. He also compared its relationship to the original with that of the movie Aliens – “the adventure has progressed from tense, gritty origins to all-out action.” 
In CVG’s 5/5 review, Steve Key noted that “Our forum page on Game Online has differing views on RE2, many complaining that it’s too short,” but disagreed with that assessment, noting the replay value offered by the two characters and their A and B scenarios. Edge’s review scored the game 9/10, with particular praise given to its advances in plot delivery – the magazine felt that it was “a video game more akin to a movie than almost anything else that’s been attempted”, and that “the sequel has a script that – while not exactly Shakespeare – isn’t far short of something like the X-Files.” The Official UK PlayStation Magazine also scored the game 9/10. 

A successful experiment
All these years later, Resident Evil 2 stands the test of time. Readers of Retro Gamer voted it the greatest PlayStation game in issue 127’s top 25 list, and they also placed it highly in issue 150’s countdown of the top 150 games of all time. The game has an enormous legacy, too. “It has been an inspiration for the entire series ever since it came out, and of course, for the reimagined Resident Evil 2, it’s the main source of all our inspiration! What we are trying to do is design a modern game system which matches up perfectly with the key pieces of the original game which we want to try to keep intact as much as possible,” says Hirabayashi. 

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