Capcom giveth and Capcom taketh away. The new Resident Evil 2 comes bearing some gifts, whilst briskly denying the dweebs a few others. The mood was set early, when the title screen didn’t greet me with Capcom’s usual clarion call – the beloved tendency it has to bellow the names of its games at you, as if to remind you that, yes, this is the game you’ve bought; yes, you’ve made the right decision; and yes, we’re unbelievably happy that you’ve done so.
The voice that announces each Resident Evil does so with a delectable mixture of malice and pride. Without it, it was clear – as it was in Resident Evil 7, where it was also absent – that we were in for a more restrained affair. Nevertheless, there remains a scattering of references to set fans of not just Resident Evil but of zombie horror in general convulsively nodding and winking. The following are the clutch of easter eggs I’ve spotted; head on over to the forums to add in any more that you’ve found.
Brad Vickers poster
It wouldn't be Resident Evil 2 without a wink, or a cluck, from Brad ‘Chickenheart’ Vickers. The erstwhile member of the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team – famous for flying his helicopter away from the horrors of Raccoon Forest, leaving his fellow S.T.A.R.S. members to fend for themselves – makes an appearance in the New Game 2nd Run mode. In the original Resident Evil 2, Vickers could be seen stalking the streets in zombified form. Here, you can spot him in poster form, plastered on a wall in the side room nestled in the underpass behind the RPD. Ironically enough, he's stood heroically on an RPD recruitment poster.
P.T. Reference (?)
Early on in the game, in both Leon and Claire’s scenarios, there’s a suspect spray paint mark that hooked my brain. In an alleyway before the police station, the letters ‘T’ and ‘P’ are visible, like an inversion of Kojima’s famous teaser for the cancelled Silent Hills. You may think me mad – that I'm seeing patterns in the yellow graffiti – but consider this: there are 26 letters in the alphabet, and the artists at Capcom just happen to have chosen these two. Coincidence? I think not – in other news, let me tell you about the illuminati…
Albert Wesker’s voice
When playing as Leon, you come across Ada Wong, the sphinxlike secret agent that's prowled the fringes of the series for years. At one point, she takes her orders from a voice at the other end of a walkie-talkie. It's swathed in static, alien and warped like the teacher from Peanuts, but we know who it is – who it has to be. It’s the ex-head of S.T.A.R.S., Albert Wesker, and we can only wonder what nefarious claptrap he’s up to. It’s a nice touch, having him haunt the game as an electronic ghost.
Starting not in the city but in a petrol station on the outskirts was a good move, and it meant that I didn’t see an iconic quote coming until it landed, like a shell casing. Resident Evil has the odd knack of bestowing the most humdrum lines with ludicrous preeminence. It’s secret is in momentarily halting the churn of gore and thudding music and having its performers weight their lines with pulpy panache.
Consider the line, in Resident Evil (2002) ‘Chris, this way!’ You wouldn’t find it in Fitzgerald, but arriving as it does just before Chris Redfield has his throat torn out by a rabid dog, and spoken with Albert Wesker’s cybernetic detachment, it’s the stuff of legend. Similarly, when Leon first meets Claire, all he says is, ‘Get down!’ But as it precedes the whip of a headshot, saving Claire a bite from behind, it’s enshrined into Resident Evil myth.
The gruff and grizzled Robert Kendo is back, and the facade of his gun shop has been given a fresh lick of neon. That’s not all that’s changed; Kendo now has an ailing daughter. She’s been bitten, and her voice carries the telltale rasp of the reanimated. It makes not just for a call back to original game but a nice reference to the progenitor virus of all zombie fiction, Night of the Living Dead. In George A. Romero’s film, one of the survivors holed up in the farmhouse basement is Harry, whose daughter Karen is infected. Harry is unaware of the sealing of his daughter’s fate, whereas Kendo appears burdened by the weight of what he must do.
Vending machine zombie
There’s a black vein of humour running throughout Resident Evil 2. It’s nice to see Mr X, the hulking Tyrant, topped with a fedora – which makes him surreally sympathetic, as if he longs to be a real boy. Early on in the police station, there is a lovely little touch: the sight of a lone zombie banging forlornly on a vending machine that refuses to cooperate.
It instantly brings to mind the line from Dawn of the Dead, spoken by Ken Foree; at seeing the shuffling horde flock to the shopping mall, he says, ‘They don't know why, they just remember.’ There’s shades of that reflection here in Resident Evil 2. Aside from anything else, it might be the first zombie – ever – whose emotions (such as they are) I empathise with completely.
We Do It!
In the main reception area of the RPD, just to the left as you come in the main doors, you will see a plinth. On that plinth is the supposed motto of Raccoon City Police Department, ‘We do it!’ And they certainly do. But the motto is a reference to Capcom’s announcement of the remake, which happened in 2015. Capcom producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi stood in front of a camera and explained that Capcom delivers what its fans want, and he took off his jacket, revealing the motto on his T-shirt. That was back in 2015. Now it’s 2019. They did it!