By: Chris Hodges and Steve MacDougall
Introduction / Steve’s opening statement
The first Resident Evil was released twenty years ago in 1996. The game, while not being the first survival horror game, quickly became the most popular, and came to define the genre for millions of gamers. An extremely well-regarded sequel was released two years later. A mere six years after that, Capcom remade the original RE and released it on the GameCube. For this remake they upgraded the graphics tremendously, and mostly did away with the tank controls (where it was exclusive until last year when it released on PS4/XB1 and PC).
Capcom announced in August of 2015 that they were finally going to remake beloved classic Resident Evil 2. Now that we know a remake is coming, it leaves us wondering what the remake will look like. Will it be a remake in the lines of the first remake, with isometric views and awkward combat? Or will it be more like Resident Evil 4, a game that released in 2005 to rave reviews and is considered by most to be considered the best RE of all time? RE4 did away with the isometric, fixed camera angles, and instead put you in large environments that you could actually see all at once. The combat, while still awkward, was greatly improved. The introduction of a powerful kicking move let you stun an enemy (which helped you save ammo) and also knock down a group of zombies at once.
My personal feeling is, now that we have the blueprint for the most beloved RE of all time, why not borrow from it? Why limit ourselves to old technology that makes the game-playing experience more frustrating? Why deliberately go back to before that breakthrough of a game and pretend it never happened? In fact, 2005 was a long time ago too, I’d like to see them further upgrade the combat and movement, making the game less stiff and more responsive. There are a lot of objections to those things; that is largely what Resident Evil 6 tried to do, and that’s the most hated game in the core series. But RE6 didn’t fail because of the controls, it failed because it tried to leave the horror genre behind completely and become an action title. There are fears that if you give the game the controls of a great third-person game like Tomb Raider, that it wouldn’t be a horror game anymore. To which I say that if you are relying on bad controls to make your game scary, you have a bad game. As a remake, asking for Tomb Raider-like controls may be too much and change the game too much, so I’m willing to settle for making the game play as much like RE4 as possible. This seems like the best solution: Modernize the cameras and environments and controls, but still feel like a Resident Evil game.
Chris’ opening statement and rebuttal
To me, what makes for a great remake of something is when you do your best to retain the spirit of the original and build more modern trappings around the existing foundation. That’s why the remake of the original Resident Evil–often referred to as “REmake”–remains one of the best video game remakes of all time. It took the soul of the original and simply brought it up to modern visual standards while tightening and polishing up the gameplay, pace, and other mechanical elements.
By 2002, when REmake was released, static camera angles were already on their way out, even in the survival horror genre. Silent Hill was two games in (with a third coming closely behind), neither of which had static cameras, and even RE itself had made the switch to 3D environments with a moving camera several years earlier with Code Veronica. So it was definitely a very conscience, deliberate move on Capcom’s part to build a game with intricate pre-rendered environments (which take a lot more time and artistry to craft than 3D ones) and static camera angles at a time when gaming had already largely moved
beyond such “old-fashioned” tropes. They wanted the game to still “feel” like Resident Evil 1, just with a modern coat of paint and polish. And to that end, they succeeded beautifully, creating a game that is now considered one of the best games in the series period, has basically rendered the original obsolete, and was so good that Capcom got away with remaking that remake over a decade later, primarily just to make it HD and tweak a couple of things. Thus, Capcom was able to do an HD remaster of a 2003 remake of a 1996 game and have it still look and play wonderfully in 2015. The static camera and pre-rendered environments were precisely the reason for that.
For those reasons, the Resident Evil 2 remake should follow the same path. To do a complete overhaul would be a mistake, and would miss the point of what makes for a great remake. If you want to revisit that specific time and place within RE’s fiction in a more modern, RE4-style setup, then maybe a direct follow-up to RE2 would be more your speed. The RE series has always jumped all around the canon timeline, so it wouldn’t be all that strange to suddenly have a new game that takes place directly after, before, or even concurrently to RE2‘s story. Then Capcom would be free to make it as modern and 3D and action-y as they want, while also allowing people the chance to explore some of the familiar areas of RE2 with the same characters–or see the entire story through Ada Wong and Sherry Birkin’s perspectives and only occasionally cross paths with Claire and Leon instead of vice versa. At that point, it’s not really a straight “RE2 remake” anymore and they’d be more free to tinker with different play styles and mechanics.
It might seem like a trivial difference, whether you do a sequel or a remake to RE2, but I feel it’s a big one. Once you proclaim that you are remaking a classic game, there’s a whole different and very specific set of expectations that goes along with it that you don’t have when you’re simply making a sequel to something. Messing with beloved games is a tricky thing, and the best bet—and the one that seems to go over the best—is when a remake sticks relatively close to the original and only makes whatever changes are absolutely necessary to make the game playable and pleasing to look at today. And to that point, I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss things like static camera angles as being “limited” and making the gameplay experience “more frustrating,” or controls that aren’t necessary as fluid as Tomb Raider as “bad controls.” I wrote an entire article defending static camera angles so I won’t repeat it all here again, but static cameras and limited range of movement are stylistic/creative choices that were made to maximize a tense, dramatic, scary experience (not only because of hardware limitations), and RE2 was built with that in mind. To completely overhaul the mechanics and the visuals to play more like RE4, you’d also have to change the game into being more action-focused (which RE4 was), and completely change a lot of the puzzles and the signature moments to compensate for the drastic shift in control and camera. And again, at that point, is it even a “Resident Evil 2 remake” anymore or just a whole new RE game that happens to take place in a Raccoon City police station and star Leon, Claire, Ada, and Sherry?
Resident Evil 7 was announced right in the middle of our writing of this debate, and it’s very clearly meant to be a return to the more straight horror-based roots of the franchise and a move away from the action-oriented direction the series has been on since RE4 (though it didn’t go full-on third-person shooter until RE5 and RE6). To have the RE2 remake go for a more RE4 feel would be counter-intuitive to what is obviously meant to be a return to classic form for a franchise that has long since lost its way. Instead, a more traditional RE2 remake would complement RE7 rather than be at odds with it.
[———–CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE ————->]