Look, let’s get it out of the way, I’m not the best person at handling horror games and jump scares. I’m even worse at, it turns out, handling horror games and jump scares in front of multiple people watching me, which I’m ashamed to say happened at Gamescom 2018. I played a section of Claire’s campaign from the Resident Evil 2 remake and things got tense.
Going into the short demo for Claire’s campaign, I was told that whereas Leon’s demo from E3 in June was more themed around exploration, Claire’s demo is more action-oriented. Capcom wasn’t exactly lying, as within mere minutes of loading myself into Claire’s boots, I was face to face with the mutated William Birkin. What a brutal way to open the Gamescom demo for the Resident Evil 2 Remake.
If I wasn’t already sweating buckets after dodging through the packed halls of Gamescom, I definitely was now. Claire has a pistol, a submachine gun, and a grenade launcher on her at the start of the demo, which you might think is a decent arsenal, but Claire has to use everything around her if she hopes to best what was once William Birkin.
I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and so going into the Resident Evil 2 remake having never played the original, I’d like to assume that William Birkin was a nice guy. He’s not anymore though, with a massively mutated right arm holding an equally large axe, which unfortunately connected with Claire a few times more than I would have liked. Birkin drags himself around the underground sewers of the Raccoon City Police station, like a man being forced to carry out terrible acts against his will.
And as he comes shambling towards Claire, you’ve got precious little ammunition to protect yourself with. A mark of a great horror game, in my mind, is a game that gives you barely enough ammo to get by on, forcing you to scavenge around in panic moments after you empty a pistol dry. This is what made the Resident Evil 2 remake boss fight against William Birkin so fantastic, in that the monstrous creature is tough, forcing you to land hits on his mutated arms repeatedly, which is constantly swinging back and forth as he shambles around.
The arena that the fight takes place in plays a huge part in making this one of the most memorable demos I’ve played in years. The sewers beneath Raccoon City invoke memories of the cramped corridors of Aliens, as Claire worms her way between pipes and over grates, constantly keeping an eye and an ear out for Birkin. The fact that the monster can entirely disappear throughout the fight, only to jump down behind Claire seemingly at any moment, completely ramps up the tension.
We all know the pattern of a boss fight by now: hit it in the weak point until it dies. This is basically the flow of the William Birkin boss fight in the Resident Evil 2 Remake. Although it’s a tried and tested formula, the battle against Birkin thankfully doesn’t last long enough for it to become tiresome and unwelcome. Running for a few tense minutes (or if you’re like me and can’t work out the weak point immediately, longer), you get your fill and no more.
If your last taste of third-person Resident Evil was the messy Resident Evil 6, Capcom's upcoming remake should finally let you forgive and forget. While the 2012 entry in the series also offered multiple campaigns, each with a different gameplay focus, the combat was convoluted and the scares forgettable. Hardcore Resident Evil 6 fans will tell you that players simply didn't understand how to get the most out of the complex control scheme. In going back to a simpler time, Resident Evil 2 excels at the basic things.
After the Leon Kennedy demo from E3 2018, and now Claire’s campaign demo, the Resident Evil 2 Remake is certainly shaping up to be one hell of tense journey through Raccoon City. And it looks amazing in 4K, too.