Hearing that Capcom officially commissioned a remake of 1998′s finest zombie shooting/plant cultivation simulator was a shock to my system. It’s my favorite game and, depending on who you talk to, the greatest game ever made (you’re probably talking to me at that point). Ever since 2002′s reimagining of the first Resident Evil proved you could catch lightning in a bottle twice, fans have derided every one of Capcom’s choices that wasn’t a full-fledged remake of RE2.
“Okami’s cool. Know what would be cooler? An RE2 Remake.” “Ultra Street Fighter IV? Rad. I wish there was an Ultra Resident Evil 2.” “I wonder how many Resident Evil 2 Remakes you could have made using the budget of Resident Evil 6. At least three, I bet.” “Resident Evil Revelations 2 was terrific. But I think I’d like it better if you dropped the ‘Revelations’ and just remade what’s left…”
But now it’s happening. We can all rest easy knowing that… they could still fuck up it royally. However, If they follow my brilliant suggestions… It could still be pretty goddamn disastrous.
But it’d be neat to see them…
Stick to the Fixed Perspective
This might be a gimme already since fixed camera angles and (updated) tank-controls didn’t stop fans from downloading the absolute hell out of Resident Evil HD Remastered.
But I’ll say it regardless in case the team in Osaka has any funny ideas: you don’t need to plant the camera over-the-shoulder. There’s no need to go all RE4 with it. The foundation of the original games is the forced perspective due to the pre-rendered backgrounds – an artistic choice that allowed the developers to draw in incredible details that polygons of the time couldn’t muster.
With the uncanny amount of detailing modern graphics engines can accomplish, there’s little reason to go pre-rendered. But those fixed angles –the ones that made us tread with caution because you could sometimes hear a creature before you could see it – are just as much a part of the gameplay as ammo conservation and puzzle solving.
Keep it Vibrant
Horror, on a visual level, doesn’t have to be tonally deficient. In remaking the original Resident Evil, one of the stylistic decisions made was to zap the color out of the Spencer Estate. The game was redesigned in hues of gray and black, giving the mansion a drained appearance. It was like looking through a Zack Snyder lens.
Resident Evil 2 is a very vibrant, colorful game. From our main characters adorned in primary colors to the environment itself featuring rustic, reddish browns in the RPD building and chrome blues across Umbrella’s neon-lit labs. There’s no need to remake the game with a grim-dark pastiche.
Look at Resident Evil’s inspirations. George Romero played with color like a Crayola fiend from Dawn of the Dead and on. Or Raimi’s Evil Dead 2, a film that quite literally drips with color.
The washed out veneer worked for the mansion since “neglected property” was its intended disguise, but that doesn’t jive with a Midwestern metropolis whose corpse is still warm.
Expand, Renovate, and Play/Prey on Our Expectations
One of the most enjoyably sadistic components to 2002′s REmake was how it openly, and frequently, fucked with your expectations.
You see, while it appeared to be a faithful remake of the original PS1 classic, it wasn’t long before players realized they weren’t experiencing a repeat nightmare. New labyrinthine sections had been added. Puzzles were reworked, sometimes moved entirely. You encountered new horrors like the Crimson Heads (zombies on Red Bull that randomly revive themselves from re-death) or Lisa Trevor, a creeping Frankenstein’s Bride who’s as revolting as her story is tragic.
RE2 has a lot of room for additions. Raccoon City is a Lovecraftian playground for monstrosities and tragedy. The devs can add never-before-seen B.O.W.s that stalk you through Umbrella’s laboratories. An entire wing could be added to the cathedral-like police department holding secrets long covered up from its days as the town’s library. Maybe Leon and Claire have to venture farther into the city proper to help survivors or look for other means of escaping the necropolis.
When I was a kid, I scoured every inch of the RPD. I imagined what lay beyond the game’s natural barriers. I may have been fending for my life one herb at a time, but I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to continue soaking in Raccoon’s macabre lore. I’d love to see the remake serve as an extended director’s cut of the game.
Improve on the Scenario System
Though it’s one of the most unique mechanics at play in the original, the A and B Scenario System is, bizarrely, exclusive to Resident Evil 2. I’m amazed the feature wasn’t revisited because what it does is add a staggering amount of replayability to what could’ve easily passed as a linear experience.
The jist is you choose either Leon or Claire (let’s say Claire because she’s a QT) and you play through Scenario A with that character. After surviving through the nightmare and having thought the game complete, it turns out, no, fuck you, you have a whole ‘nother half of the game to get through.
Thus, you play through Scenario B as Leon and experience the night’s events through his eyes in which he blazes a separate, but simultaneous, path fighting bosses and solving puzzles specific to his playthrough. You will notice, however, that small choices you made as Claire (like taking or leaving a certain weapon) actually affects what items Leon can attain or, in rare instances, what areas he can access.
Okay, now that that’s done with, flip the script. Fire up Scenario A with Leon and follow through with Claire’s B to see an entirely different course of events for each character! The replay value was unprecedented for its time, and the remake can harness this system for far greater things, especially if your choices have bigger ramifications. If Leon fails to concoct a G-Virus antidote in “A”, will Sherry die in Claire’s “B”? If I pump enough shotgun shells into Mr. X during Claire’s “A”, will he stop terrorizing Leon in “B”? I want to see them ramp up the cause and effect. Add dozens of variables. It’d be survival horror à la Bioware.
Or, if you really want to modernize the Scenario System, Capcom could always give us…
Co-op multiplayer (and, stupidly, even versus multiplayer) has been incorporated to newer titles in the series with mixed results. The thing is, safety-in-numbers defeats the fear of isolationism. Everything’s less scary with a friend packing heat by your side. Worse than that, RE5 and RE6 saw fit to straddle you with an AI companion in lieu of a thinking human, resulting in microwave-instant frustration as your partner happily jumps in your way and diligently lodges themselves the level’s geometry. It dissipates all tension faster than a fart at a funeral (try it).
That’s not my pitch. I wouldn’t want a co-op companion, human or AI, trotting alongside me the entire game. No, I have something closer to a real-time Scenario System in mind. Two players would be running an A and B Scenario at the same time. Separate in their travels but obviously affecting the environment as they solve their own puzzles and find their own keys to unlock new sections of the RPD.
Maybe you can be kind and leave excess ammo in a shared item box for your partner. Or maybe type out hints on a typewriter Dark Souls style so as to keep your buddy from unwittingly walking into a massacre. Remember how Barry or Wesker would sporadically leave you little ammo caches and First Aid Sprays in the first Resident Evil? It’d be like that, except an actual person is helping you survive.
At a certain point in RE2, Leon hands Claire a walkie-talkie so he can relay her messages. What if you had a limited amount of times you could radio your co-op partner in to help you take down a boss? Two guns means each weapon is spending half the amount of ammo. Or one player could play bait while the other uses the opportunity to go on the offense. Had enough of Birkin’s pipe upside your head? Call in a lifeline – a consumable perk that you need to be just as strategic with as your bullets and healing items.
There’s a brilliant way to do multiplayer in Resident Evil yet, and a huge step in the right direction is not tethering players to each other with an invisible umbilical cord. And make it totally optional, too. Don’t force it on people. Let them come to it on their own terms. Intuitive multiplayer like that is reaching, I know. But if we’re going to remake the game from the ground up, go big. Go Super Tyrant big.