Ever since its announcement, in 2015, the remake (although it's apparently bad manners to call it that) of Resident Evil 2 has shambled softly on, with not an awful lot of information bleeding out. But since that trailer at this year's E3 I've been going a little bit nutty, and I need to inflict my feverish wishlist on you all.
You should take all of this with a pinch of salt, of course, as some of it is a little bit out there. Even if Capcom don't adhere to my list, Resident Evil 2 is looking brilliant. That being said, if they miss any of these, I'll bloody riot. Warning: light spoilers lie ahead.
More of Raccoon City
The Raccoon City Police Department is one of gaming's most iconic spaces; its vast main hall is a quiet cathedral wrought in worship of survival horror. But it's the streets you run through before you get there that live most vividly in the memory: graffiti and broken glass, powdered bloodstains painted over those grainy pre-rendered photos, and an urban inferno whipping at your peripheral vision. It was a raised middle finger to the notion that fear lived only in brooding mansions.
But it was over so fast. The streets were a fleeting series of vignettes – perfectly sculpted scenes of panic, all hinting at an urban sprawl pressing up against the barricades. The remake might offer the chance to see our imagined city realised, to see the great rotting babel brought to glistening, sick-making life. More than just the chance for nauseous virtual tourism, the warren of downtown Raccoon could be the site of some devilish environmental puzzles. Imagine the folding, reflexive geography of FromSoftware's worlds, and how perfectly suited that is for the kind of puzzles Resident Evil is known for.
In fact, while we're on the subject, let's talk about puzzles. Since Resident Evil 4, the series has opted for the sort that appear rather like barrage balloons. The solutions often required little more than the smashing of a button to choose the appropriate trinket from your inventory, or the waggling of an analogue stick to rotate said trinket just so. But the older games, while hardly requiring such lateral thinking as their adventure game cousins, did have you clearing out every inky alcove, illuminating new parts of your map like Samus Aran.
Capcom needn't have us cracking the enigma code; bloodstones and bezels have always been fine, but perhaps have us stretch our legs and unfurl the map a little more. There was a moment early on in the original Resident Evil where the static camera shifted to an elevated Hitchcock-esque angle, revealing a winking gemstone for you to pluck from a marble bust. It was a show of Capcom's design gusto – from the style comes the substance. With an over-the-shoulder perspective, could diminished vertical vision play into some tricksy environmental challenges? Perhaps, taking advantage of Leon's adroit physicality, climbing and traversal could play a part like never before. There is a brief glimpse of a stone platform in the trailer, scraping downwards on tracks of whirring cogs. It's the sort of baroque puzzle that suits Resident Evil 2 perfectly; here's hoping we can flex Leon's grey matter, before it's hungrily removed.
Imagine yourself, as Leon, inching down the hallowed halls of the RPD building, probing the shadows with your flashlight, when you hear a distant, familiar rasp: ‘STARS!’ Resident Evil 3 begins on September 28, 1998, which is 24 hours prior to the events of Resident Evil 2. If Capcom was feeling adventurous, and wanted to completely empty our bowels, then it could weave the two games together.
It isn't all that unlikely, either – Capcom frequently intertwines its games and campaigns, re-framing events from different angles. The original Resident Evil 2 offered us Leon and Claire's neighbouring scenarios as two distinct playthroughs, garnished with its ‘zapping system,’ which let us impact each playthrough with our choices. Then there is Separate Ways, the excellent side-story for Resident Evil 4, which saw us stepping into Ada's high heels and keeping an eye on Leon from afar. In fact…
What would be special – and likely these days to end up as DLC – would be another spin on Separate Ways. Ada Wong is at her most sphinxlike in the original, where she worked for an unnamed competitor of Umbrella's. She slunk about, charged with purloining a sample of the G-Virus for her shadowy overlords and, given the sporadic manner in which she popped up in the original, it's a mission that got her about Raccoon City a fair bit.
A new Separate Ways mode could give us not only the piquant thrill of new areas to explore, but new ways of seeing old favourites. Ada's signature Hookshot both propels and compels: whisking her away to previously out-of-reach spots and pushing us to root around all the more thoroughly. Imagine cutting upwards, away from the gory ground, and taking to the rooftops, those same streets vivified when seen from above. In the original Separate Ways, its use was merely context sensitive, but imagine using it freely: firing it at the firmament to see what sticks, and, failing that, harpooning the shambling horde and playing zombie conkers.
'There's no reason for us to stay here any longer than necessary,' says Leon. Bollocks to that; there's plenty! The characters in Resident Evil 2 are the most iconic in the series. Leon, the flatfoot on his first day, with a foppish crop of half-closed curtains; Claire's sleeveless, crimson pink biker jacket, with combat knife boutonnière. They're both ridiculous and brilliant. But it was never just the two of them – there was an excellent supporting cast well worth fleshing out.
First, there are the Birkins: William, a scientist in the employ of Umbrella and creator of the G-Virus; Annette, his wife and fellow scientist; and their daughter, Sherry Birkin, who befriends Claire. There's Marvin Branagh, the tough cop, whom Leon meets early on, and it looks as if Capcom has increased his role, given his screen time in the trailers. There was the corrupt police chief, Brian Irons, whose pockets were lined with Umbrella's bribes. We need more of Ben Bertolucci, the investigative reporter on Irons' trail – who started sleuthing around the Arklay Mountains, well ahead of the S.T.A.R.S. And who could forget the bellicose gun shop owner, Robert Kendo, who gave Barry Burton a run for his money in gruff bastardry and extreme firepower. 'Let's split up, look for survivors and get out of here!' Leon famously suggests. Now that's more like it.
With this particular remake, the thrill of the old is injected with the suggestion of the new; and Raccoon City, the series' mouldering mausoleum, is ripe to be excavated. The streets, the RPD building, and Umbrella's vast underground research laboratory will doubtless find themselves mutated – sprouting new corridors, scrambling their innards to confuse us, or shedding their old skin entirely. But what about the places we've never seen?
Capcom did riffle shuffle some images at us in the trailers for Resident Evil 2, and, buried in the middle, was an intriguing sight: a churchlike building holding court over a moonlit forest path. Could this be a reimagining of Resident Evil 3's Saint Michael Clock Tower? That building, which saw Jill Valentine and Carlos Oliveira marooned after their tram careened through the front wall, was located near to Raccoon Park. This would explain the neatly-clipped grass outside, and the twig-strewn path winding its way to the front door.
But it may be something brand new entirely – perhaps somewhere on the outskirts of the city, close to the Arklay Forest. Either way, it’s a darksome thrill: it's Catherine window is lit up like a beacon, a modest bell tower perched on its peak, and a single lamp illumines the porch. Doubtless some truly awful shit is happening inside. Still, any port in a storm, eh?