We Debate Our Ideal Direction for the RE2 Remake (cont.)

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Steve’s rebuttal and closing remarks

I take the exact opposite lesson from RE7 that you do. I don’t see RE7 in any way as a return to the series’ roots. It’s in first-person view now for goodness sake! [Editor’s note: Capcom has stated that the RE7 demo is just a preview of what to expect from the full game on an atmospheric level and hasn’t confirmed whether it’ll be in first-person view as of this writing.] The campiness is gone!  It looks nothing like any RE game I have ever seen. The game feels more like Capcom’s attempt to mimic what Silent Hills was going to be, and less like a traditional RE game. And I think that’s fantastic. I love that they don’t feel committed to one particular direction and are willing to take risks, and I’d like to see them do the same for RE2. They are going to make changes to it, just like they made changes to the original RE.

It’s interesting that you say a remake is best when it sticks relatively close to the original and only makes whatever changes are absolutely necessary, but that isn’t what REmake did at all. It wasn’t just a graphical overhaul, they changed everything: new enemies, new areas, new puzzles, a different script, etc. Sounds a lot like what you said they’d have to do if they fixed the controls for RE2, doesn’t it? And they already did this to a game that was only six years old at the time. They changed all this and you still think it’s the gold standard of remakes and didn’t detract from or denigrate the original in any way. So it’s clearly possible to make the changes I suggest and have it still feel very much like RE2. And in response to your assertion that if someone wants widespread changes to a game’s formula they should play a sequel or different game, my response is if someone doesn’t want them to make more than minor changes, they should just go back and play the original game, as it’s readily available on PSN.

REmake graveyard

To directly quote your 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.” And I don’t disagree with that. I think fixing the controls and improving the camera angles fall under the category of “building more modern trappings around the existing foundation.” The original REmake was very well received, but you have to remember, it was very well received in 2003; that doesn’t automatically mean you could release the same game and have it be just as successful now. Our expectations have changed. 13 years may not seem much to old people like us, but today’s high-schoolers were toddlers then. Imagine how they’ll react to the kind of game you propose. And I know their opinions don’t matter much to you (or me, frankly), but they’re part of the audience Capcom is trying to reach, so they do matter to Capcom as much as our opinions do. More so, maybe, since they have minimal expenses and limitless time.

Attempting to gloss over the poor tank controls of the original RE games by saying, “sure, they’re not quite as fluid as Tomb Raider” is like me saying, “sure, June Shannon isn’t quite as attractive as Margot Robbie.” Tank controls are an abomination. They originated in an era where we only had four arrows to control our character. Now we have analog joysticks that can move our character in any direction. They also came because developers were still struggling with making 3D games work properly and those control schemes were a solution to that problem. We are past those dark days. We know how to make 3D games with great controls. Tank controls have no place in the modern day. Of all the things people miss about things from video games gone by, nobody ever brings up tank controls.

And the unfortunate fact is that even the RE remake hasn’t aged that well. You think it’s unfair to dismiss static camera angles as being limiting and frustrating? Fine. Here are some screenshots I took of the game to prove my point. (Screenshots are from the Xbox One version. Game looks terrific though, I’ll give it that.)

REmake screen 1

This first image is a fairly typical RE1 area. It’s tiny. You can’t see anything around you. You can take three steps and then you’re on to another area. Not being able to see anything around you doesn’t make the game scary, it makes the game frustrating.

 

REmake screen 2

Now in this second shot, we take that previous situation and make it worse. We still have a similar tiny area, but we’ve added an enemy that we are somehow supposed to deal with. (Take one step towards the camera and you’re now on a different screen) You’re placed in constant tight corridors with no room for maneuvering, and no way to see what’s coming. The only option here is to lead the zombie south to the next area and hope there isn’t another zombie on that screen.

 

REmake screen 3

And finally, in this last shot I walked blindly through that door behind me and instantly I’m lunch. There was literally no way for me to avoid this (other than to not go through the door). Again, this isn’t scary–it’s frustrating. It forces me to learn the game in a trial-and-error method to get past it which is just an archaic game mechanic that I don’t have time for today.

I don’t necessarily have a problem with RE2 being shot with isometric camera angles and pre-rendered backgrounds, but I would ask that a) They greatly increase the area of coverage, b) add a way to see into the next area, and c) dramatically improve the controls. Even the RE4 controls are very stiff and tank-like by today’s standards. How about using the RE5 controls? They can make other changes to the game to offset these, like adding harder enemies, so the game doesn’t feel too easy now that you aren’t walking blind everywhere and have actual reasonable control over your characters. I don’t want them to lose the mood of RE2; I think RE2 was an incredible game, but I don’t want them just to improve the graphics and release it otherwise intac. I want them to modernize it so it’s as fun to play today as it was 18 (!) years ago. Because the truth is, the PS1-era games have aged worse than any generation since the original Atari. In my opinion, that’s mostly attributable to the controls and design decisions that were forced by hardware limitations.

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Chris’ rebuttal and closing remarks

For starters, I don’t think I was necessarily advocating for tank controls for the RE2 remake. All I was saying is that we don’t need to turn Leon and Claire into Nathan Drake and Lara Croft (even though Capcom has been putting Claire and the other RE gals in outfits that would make even the pre-reboot Lara blush in recent years). There is a reason
why a game like, say, Gears of War doesn’t let you do acrobatic backflips or scurry up the sides of mountains like a monkey. It just isn’t necessary for that style of game—and in fact, would detract from it, having Marcus Fenix nimbly flipping, shimmying, and wall-running all over the place. Nobody accuses Epic of intentionally nerfing the controls of Gears in order to deliberately make the game more artificially difficult. Ditto for any number of other franchises or genres where giving you the range of motion and the agility of a character from The Matrix would feel out of place. I believe the RE series to be one such example of that.

GoW art

You keep going back to RE4 and RE5, and even those games still have a slower, more deliberate pace even during action-heavy scenes. I feel like we have moved away from the “fast-running zombies” of 28 Days Later and the like and have gone back to zombies and zombie-based fiction being more about tension, survival, and always feeling like there’s a massive zombie horde creeping—not rushing—in from all sides. The Walking Dead is the perfect example of this, and that’s easily the biggest name in “zombies” right now. Hell, even games that are full-on, all-out action games that feature zombies largely go the slow, shuffling zombie route, like the Dead Rising series. So with all of that in mind, I don’t really see why there’s this huge need to have the RE2 remake control like an action game rather than a survival horror game. No, it doesn’t have to be “tank controls,” but maybe you aren’t aware that you don’t absolutely have to have tank controls in a game with static camera angles and still have the controls work just fine. The pre-reboot Devil May Cry games offered full 3D movement with constantly changing camera angles, and it was never a huge issue. All that said, saying that tank controls are the Mamma June of video game control schemes is way harsh. You owe some of my still-favorite games an apology.

We must be following two different versions of RE7, because I don’t see how it more supports your stance than mine. Yes it’s first-person, but it’s also far less action-based than the most recent spate of RE games. Even Silent Hill had gotten far too action-heavy, which is exactly why we were all so excited about Silent Hills/PT—it looked like it was going to be creepy and scary without the need for hacking away at creatures with crowbars every two minutes. RE7 looks like it’s doing the exact same thing, being more about tension and atmosphere than action. That’s what I meant by returning to RE’s “roots.” I didn’t mean literally going back to being exactly like RE1, I meant going back to being more about horror than action. And that’s the direction that the RE2 remake needs to go in as well.

Also, I still say that REmake supports my stance that the best remakes largely follow the same basic path as the original. Redoing the script, altering the layout of the mansion, and changing the locations of items and enemies doesn’t negate that—if they weren’t going to make any changes, they wouldn’t have bothered remaking it at all and would’ve just released RE1 as-is on the GameCube as they did with RE2, Nemesis, and Code Veronica. Capcom has never and will never have a problem simply re-selling us ports to games for years and years while changing very little (if anything). Again, keeping the static camera angles and pre-rendered backgrounds intact at a time when both of those things were being shied away from in video games went a long way in still making REmake “feel” like RE1, not just a brand new game that loosely retells the story and vaguely follows the blueprint of an old game. There are actually a relatively small number of true “remakes” in video game history, mostly just remasters, so there really isn’t a blueprint for what constitutes a remake that does or doesn’t stick close to the source material. To that end, there are very few games with which to make comparisons that support either side of whether REmake sticks pretty close to the original or strays extremely far from it. If this debate were to go another round (which I don’t think our readers have the energy for, if they’ve even gotten this far), I have to wonder how you’d compare REmake to something like Metroid: Zero Mission in terms of its closeness to the original Metroid.

Metroid ZM

Had this debate fully started after the RE7 announcement, perhaps it would’ve been better to have it lean more towards “Should the RE2 remake be more action-heavy like RE4-6 or follow the perceived RE7 route and be completely reinvented as a first-person adventure horror experience?” Because I will concede that I am more willing to accept an RE2 remake that apes RE7 than one that apes RE4-6, even if it would mean a huge overhaul of RE2 which is what I was originally opposed to. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for Wii was a brilliant remake of the original Silent Hill as an adventure game with zero combat. No, an RE2 remake can’t have no combat, but it could definitely be less combat heavy than RE4-6. So, while I’m still in staunch opposition to your original stance that RE2 should play like and be in the style of RE4, I will at least admit that I wouldn’t completely forsake an overhauled RE2 remake if it was more akin to RE7/Silent Hill: SM.

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