The best moments in Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise for me are when you’re up against the wall with a dwindling ammo supply, forced to reckon with monsters that will tear you to pieces.
It’s where you can never truly get comfortable with what you have, as you’re always anticipating what’s around the next corner. Having played a good chunk of the upcoming Resident Evil 2 remake, I can happily report that the game delivers on that front in spades.
At Tokyo Game Show 2018, I was able to play as Claire in two separate demos. The first featured plenty of action with a boss fight, while the second was a longer journey through the basement of the police station.
Compared to Leon’s demo, which is set at the beginning of his hellish night in Racoon City, Claire’s is set several hours in. She’s making her way through the secret areas of the police station, crawling and wandering through rooms that are not meant for the rank and file officers. Claire encounters a young girl named Sherry, who is the daughter of scientists Annette and William Birkin from the first game. Claire tries to help her, but soon encounters Sherry’s heavily mutated dad, who injected himself with the G-Virus.
Birkin is terrifying, both in his appearance, which features a massive flesh covered arm with a giant eyeball in the shoulder and in his staggering ability to shrug off round after round. Claire comes equipped with a submachine gun, a revolver, and a grenade launcher with a small number of round, and it barely feels like you’re slowing him down. He does not stop for anything, and I frantically ran away to reload as his presence drew closer and closer. The area where you fight him is constrained, with pipes and steam limiting your vision as you run in fear.
Just when you think you’re running out of ammo, Birkin finally goes down for the count. Meeting up with Sherry, you climb out of the maintenance area and enter the police station parking garage. A man who I presume is police chief Brian Irons arrives, disarms Claire, and carries Sherry off to parts unknown.
The second part of my playthrough, and the brand new demo at TGS, is set immediately after that. Claire has to follow after the police chief, but is blocked by a parking garage gate that needs a key to be opened per Resident Evil tradition. To find that, Claire must delve into the police station’s basement, where the shooting range, the kennels, and the morgue await.
Whereas the first demo focused on action, the second was focused on exploration and survival. The corridors of the basement and dark, with only Claire’s flashlight and the occasional red emergency light being the only sources of light. There were no traditional zombies wandering the halls and rooms – instead, they lay dormant on the ground or behind doors while they waited for you to pass by. The atmosphere is tense, and the RE Engine is used to great effect in this small area.
The design of the basement alone was enough to chill me to the bone, but the addition of one of the most iconic enemies in Resident Evil history pushed me over the edge. Opening the door to the kennel, I was greeted by the sight of not one, but two Lickers gorging on the corpses of dead dogs. In a panic, I fired my grenade launcher at one, before switching to my SMG and unloading an entire clip into it. That left me with no ammo to deal with the second one, who I frantically fled from into the shooting range. It was there that I was trapped, becoming food for both the Licker and the pair of zombies I awoke.
I had panicked, and I had paid the price. In my second shot at the demo, I took a deep breath and remembered the fundamentals of surviving Resident Evil. Be methodical, go slowly, and always conserve your ammo. I found more supplies when I took a moment to look around, and the Lickers were put down with much greater ease, though damage was sustained. I felt confident again, only to lost that when I retraced my steps and another Licker pounced on me from the ceiling. An old trick, but one I fell for all the same.
Through it all, it was often the little moments that made the biggest impact. Finding a car key led me to a police car whose trunk I could open, allowing me to grab a second pistol to bolster my reserves. Opening a hatch in the morgue caused a horde of very large cockroaches to pour out, which I immediately shut in fright due to how creepy they looked. Reading the police chief’s hunting journal and uncovering his strange proclivities was unsettling. The survival horror set the stage, but it was these details that wrapped it all together in a neat bow.
My demo ended before I could explore the upper floors of the station, with the tease that some things made their home in a tower I had to advance to. Claire’s demos had a good mixture of action and exploration, and it helped set the tone for what to expect once you leave the opening hours behind. With Resident Evil 2 set for release on January 25, 2019, on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, I can’t wait to see what other horrors await.