I Wish 'Resident Evil 2' Let Me Be a More Compassionate Hero


#1

I’m playing Resident Evil 2 for the first time. Well, mostly—back in 1998, my 14-year-old self scoured the pages of a Tips and Tricks magazine walkthrough of the game, covering every gameplay beat and plot point. And I played a few minutes of it on a friend’s PS1. So I’m familiar with the scenery and structure, the quests and characters. But this is the first time I’m truly experiencing it.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/59xgqz/resident-evil-2-survivor-compassion

#3

You don’t have to steal stuff if you don’t want to though, the option is there but you can choose not to pick things up. You also don’t have to shoot zombies in the face, you could just run past them.


#4

I basically agree with all the points made, but I think most survival games (horror or not) and RPG’s (post-/apocalyptic scenario or not) have these kind of thematic problems, expressed through their intended gameplay. I don’t see anything unique about RE2 in that regard, so implicitly limiting the scope to this game seems unnecessary and maybe counterproductive (even if it serves as a good contemporary example, to illustrate said problems). This should have been a more general article about the topic in my opinion.


#5

It’s kind of weird that as such a big fan of the RE series, I’ve never actually played even a decent amount of 2. I borrowed it from a friend who, in retrospect, massively overhyped the gore involved. As a kid who got nightmares watching his older brother play through Phantasmagoria when it came out, I was still really squeamish about these things. I played through the game just a total nervous wreck, got a jump scare where a normally safe loading screen door suddenly had zombies coming right at me, and bailed on the game completely.

A little later and a little more mature, I played through RE3 and more or less every one after that no problem, but by the time I got my hands on a copy of RE2 again, it was just too hard to go back to control wise.

I had never really thought about these games in terms of being a benevolent survivor, and it’s interesting to think about your actions in the game through that mindset. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but the game does certainly seem to go out of its way to place you in a world where greater stakes are of no import. The city is beyond hope at the point Claire and Leon show up, the last supposedly safe haven is overrun and already picked clean, and healing items seem to exist only in the mythical void between cutscenes.


#6

I was sort of hoping for this too when I saw you could get boards to barricade some openings to the outside and stuff. It made me interested to see if they were going to add way more NPCs or something. But I guess they’re kind of between a rock and a hard place with that.

Remakes of movies get a lot of leeway with switching the story and characters up but the same but with this game the story and interaction was always going to be a bit limited because of the game it’s a remake of.

I think Capcom for better or worse made the game’s atmosphere more interesting in this respect though, the lobby’s makeshift triage, with the bloody cots/etc., as an example, is a new addition to the remake! The original game has great graphics and lots of cool little touches, but you feel way more alone and immediately like you’re supposed to avoid or kill anything you run into between that and the scene in the gun store. Like your first encounter with a human is a fully loaded gun wielding dude in his own gun shop and he get almost hilariously clowned on. Then for a while it just feels like Claire+Leon+Marvin are the only human beings left in the universe. The original does a great job of making you feel completely fucked and trapped for most of the game because of that and especially short bit before you get into the station itself where you have to just run away. Almost no other video game looked/sounded/felt that intense at the time. Coincidentally, my wife and I introduced our some younger relatives to the original Resident Evil 2 and the original Clock Tower last weekend. Both were big hits and it was cool to see two very different looking games be just as scary and tense to someone. Both have a really keen understanding of the lighting and look of the movies that inspired them which is a huge strength of the best RE games.

But I think RE2 (both the original and the remake) are also helped by those original PSX limitations by just not being very long games, which works in their favor. You get this mash-up of 80s zombie flick and 90s action flick in one concise burst. And the museum-turned-police station is a good way to have a building with weird art stuff/puzzles built into it that’s not going to be totally overrun with zombies and is also not just a retreat of the same mansion like they originally wanted to do.

I was kind of torn on Claire starting off with a gun too honestly. In the original she doesn’t get one until she meets Leon and he gives her his spare, and she knows how to use one and all but there’s a progression where she gets a gun from him, the car crashes, she stumbles into the gun store, gets some more ammo, etc.

But I think they figured it wouldn’t be a big deal to start her with one here due to inertia of how the story went through the games - she’s there searching for her brother and Capcom assumes we know how that plays out and that she looks up to Chris and was informally trained in handling firearms/etc. by him. So it’s not like she’s packing when going out to get groceries.

I didn’t mind it for another reason though. Claire headlines two other games, Code Veronica and Revelations 2. Both of them open up with her getting knocked out, disarmed, and trying to get out a prison, so this was a nice change of pace to just have her be competently able to fight her way out of a situation from the get go.

But but but but, Code Veronica, the Marvin equivalent wounded guy that gives the opening exposition and then hangs near the starting point character can be cared for! When you look around as Claire you can see how he’s hurt and what type of drugs he needs and actually find it later on and bring it back to him. So again those additional things in the RE2 remake had me hopeful some stuff like that would be possible.

Fortunately RE2 is such a strong game and Capcom put so much atmosphere into this that it’s awesome despite that and, hopefully, it leads to a remake of Resident Evil 3. Lord knows that’s the RE game that could use a remake the most, plus it already has a lot of points where more character interactions could be added in without really breaking the story since it was made to have a slightly more open feel in mind anyway (even if the PSX couldn’t quite pull that off and Raccoon City is a town made up entirely of alleyways and warehouses and one police station).


#7

In comparison, I’m much more forgiving with this game, but I can see how others may have this frustration. A suggestion for Danielle or anyone else who felt similarly about REmake 2 is to actually go back and play REmake 1. There are multiple instances in the game where someone is in need and you can choose not to save them or fail to save them. By the end, you can beat the game with everyone save-able or have everyone dead from your decisions.

Having beat REmake 2’s A and B campaign, I’m a bit let down it didn’t have elements like this from REmake 1. I actually find myself comparing it to that game more than the OG RE 2. I’d maybe have to think about it more, but I’m pretty sure REmake 1 has a greater variety of verbs for the player character.

Although I don’t carry the same frustration as Danielle with REmake 2, I totally have the same complaint when it comes to The Last of Us. That game didn’t do a good job of convincing me to want to be the same survivor as Joel. The lack of a choice for the player during key moments in its ending really soured me on the whole experience. I shot the guy in the operating room in the foot because I didn’t want to kill him, but, since the game can’t proceed without you killing him, he dies anyway.

I think there’s a place for games that force you into a single, dev-intended path, but I couldn’t accept Joel’s nihilism by the end. Seeing there’s a sequel coming makes me wonder if the limited choice was just to make a franchise.


#8

I’ve never considered survival horror games to be “looking out for no. 1 simulators”, and while I’m definitely enjoying my time with this remake, I think I’d actually be interested in trying a game in this genre that focuses more on caring for and keeping other people alive. It’d be a different kind of tension, for sure.

Thanks for the fresh perspective, Danielle!


#9

The original RE1 (plus its remake) and the original Clock Tower both have multiple endings depending how much you learn/folks you save and are definitely still worth checking out today. Clock Tower especially encourages it, as the ending where you try to bolt out by yourself early on ends with the killer in the back seat of the car as you’re driving off.

Another really cool and uniqie one from the SNES is SOS (no relation to the Titus puzzle game S.O.S.: Sink or Swim). It takes place on a capsizing cruise ship that sinks over one real-time hour. It’s really intense and like Clock Tower has several endings depending on how many of seven people you save and which ones (some are more important to which person you choose to play as than others).

Clock Tower and SOS also both rule because they’re really short and meant to be played in small bursts with you learning a little more about how they work each time. But more on topic with this they both encourage trying learn as much as possible about what’s going on around you and trying to save folks instead of immediately panicking and looking out only for yourself. SOS especially, your score is based on how many people you get to go with you.

I like the Disaster Report games a lot too for this. We got the first two in the US and they’re pretty cool with one having to take into account not letting their NPC freeze to death/etc. stuff with various endings and survivors meeting each other.

SOS and the Disaster Report games lack zombies and supernatural stuff but they still feel like survival horror games to me. But there’s also a few cool survival games where you play as a firefighter and have to rescue people also. The best of these are probably Ignition Factor, The Fireman on SNES and Firefighter F.D.18 on PS2.

All of these games got a little bit of attention for how unique they are, but I hate that “do survival stuff but also rescue/care for folks” could be prolific enough to be it own genre. Like the technology exists now that you could do more than have one poisoned NPC in RE1 and so on.


#10

There is certainly a game within the concept of "helping", as well as escaping yourself. It need not be this game, but it could walk in this game with tweaks. I would play a game where the setup is the same, but along the way some of what you collect you can choose to give to others.

I imagine a system where as you play you can choose to spend resources on people as you meet them. And, instances you can choose to leave weapons, healing herbs, bullets as "care packages for others to find. Or even prioritizing boarding-up windows to help your own escape or to facilitate a safer path for others.

But, I would make it a living working variable world, not binary and with no sure things. When you meet injured people you MUST triage who you save based on if you think they ARE savable. When you meet Marvin he could be wounded to a greater or lesser extent, and you can never REALLY know if what you do will save him unless you stick around long enough to see him get better…before he turns for the worse.

The same for the care package you leave. That game just pays out the scenario with all the variables, but sometimes people find the care packages or sometime they don’t. So sometimes that pack of herbs and bullets will never get picked up; but sometimes that action snowballs into hundreds being saved. Sometimes setting up the path for others using the boards is wasted because all the other variable lead too few people being able to use the path you put resources into.

I’d pay that game…but it would be a huge kick in the gut every time you try everything you could. But people still die because of just bad luck. That game would need A LOT of trigger warnings…and a cushion for when you throw the controller at the wall in tears.


#11

Danielle, I’m having a hard time clicking with your thesis here…As you describe, this is a game with basically two NPCs (not counting whichever player you didn’t choose to play as, or the Kendo gun shop owner) who potentially could be saved–Marvin and Sherry/Ada.

Marvin is explicit in his request that he is too far gone to accompany Claire/Leon, and in Leon’s story goes as far as ordering him at gunpoint to leave him in the station. It’s a little silly with all the healing items floating around, but I assumed the game wanted to stay true to the original in this regard. Sherry and Ada, however, are both central to the game’s plot, as you are at various points either trying to save, or being saved by them. When Sherry’s neglectful mom dies despite your best efforts to help her (I guess that’s one more NPC), Claire is clearly broken up. It’s not perfect, but it definitely doesn’t paint the protagonist as a looting, shooting lone wolf, either.

I dunno…I agree that a Resident Evil game that had a risk/reward system for compassion toward NPCs would be nice to see, but that’s never been the series’ wheelhouse, and I’m not sure including it would play to the strengths of Capcom’s writing, which for better or worse is very comfortable in it’s realm of “campy grindhouse”…

(Also, I assumed Claire was packing heat because of the letter in her inventory describing her concern that her brother had gone missing, not as a regular habit :slightly_smiling_face: )


#12

This reminds me Dead Rising: Chop Til You Drop on the Wii because it’s a game in between Resident Evil and Dead Rising. Dead Rising but a little more linear and in the RE4 engine but still with the survivors to find/rescue and stuff. It was dismissed and forgotten because it was assumed to be for being a stripped down port and it sort of is that but is kind of a new game and unique at the same time. A remake of that on this engine would be great.


#13

You have me imagining a version of RE2 remake where you can save NPCs by giving them healing items and ammo. You are forced to slow down and protect them whenever you run to the next safe room. They give you nothing useful for gameplay, save for a bit of lore and maybe some tips on what to do next. Each NPC you try to save is a handicap you willingly choose to put on yourself.

Would many people save the NPCs? Probably not. Escort missions are notorious for being the most difficult and frustrating parts of survival games, especially since failing to escort an NPC usually results in a “Game Over, Try Again.” But having the “option” to save people would surely add an interesting layer to the game. Just think of what a “Any% all survivors” speed run would look like.

I’d never considered this mechanic for RE as I have always played the games as the loot-all-the-things lone survivor. Thanks Danielle for putting this exciting idea into my head.


#14

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#15

They’re just asking why the game isn’t further designed to focus on more than survival, which is a thing survival horror has done before. Someone pointed out the Resident Evil 1 remake already in how the ending you get depends on how many people you managed to save. Even Silent Hill 1 changed the ending you got based on how well you explored the situation and prepared, which could result in a few more people besides Harry surviving the end of the game.

It’s a fair criticism, especially for a 2019 remake of something released in the 90s that already makes substantial changes to the original game. It would be genuinely cool to have some sort of system based around helping people, and as the poster above you pointed out, you could tie this in further to the survival resource management to create more stress and involvement on the player’s part.


#16

This is objectively false regarding the RE series with the exception of RE1 on the PSX. If you play any other RE game from RE2 on you have to poke around a bit for it but you’re supplied with enough ammo to kill every single enemy in the games when playing on normal. The RE2 remake making the zombies ultra durable is something new even by RE standards and is the exception rather than the rule.

I posted a little about this earlier but it’s kind of an interesting mash-up. RE2 was always more action horror than horror action, the remake goes for a noticeably more horror atmosphere closer to the flicks that inspired the first game rather than the bigger budget stuff that inspired the second, and putting those two together can come off a little oddly in the remake itself. The game is great but people are going to notice that in different ways.

I wouldn’t mind an attempt at this from Capcom just on the basis of RE4 being one of the best escort missions ever made.


#17

Oh dang, how did I forget about Dead Rising…I think I even finished the first two games in that series, too. They do kind of approach “compassion” as “completionism”, but I think that’s an acceptable compromise in a very arcade-y batch of games.

Also, reading “Chop Til You Drop’s” Wikipedia page, it does make it sound like a pretty different experience! I always found the constant time limit in those games to be more of a disservice than anything else–would welcome one that keeps the playground mechanics, but adds a bit more structure to it’s missions…


#18

Bad News: It’s just a Wii version of the X360 game. This means it’s the worst version of the game. Massive chunks of content are removed and barely any zombies are in it. The game was dragged hard when it first came out and for good reason. Dead Rising 4 loses the time limit, but it’s also the single most generic entry in the series, you’d pretty much get out of it what you’d get from any open world action game made in the past decade (except now there are zombies).


#19

Counterpoint: Chop Til You Drop is a fun total conversion of RE4.


#20

That sentence counts as a war crime in multiple countries


#21

Enjoying a video game someone else didn’t like: literally a war crime in multiple countries.