At a recent extended preview for Capcom's upcoming Resident Evil 2 Remake I had the opportunity to spend some more hands-on time with the game. My demo went through a couple phases and swapped between Leon, Ada (better than ever), and Claire. Unfortunately for me, most of that time was spent evading Resident Evil 2's stalking Tyrant, the T-103 aka Mr. X who returns tougher than ever. Only Ada and Claire encountered Mr. X, and a bulk of my saves were used during Claire's gameplay segment (more on that later).
We here at USgamer have had several opportunities in the past to play Resident Evil 2 Remake such as Leon's initial Racoon City Police Department run at E3 2018, and Claire's parking garage adventure at Gamescom. The demo we got to play recently takes place almost immediately after the two previous demos. Leon continues his worst first day on the job ever, this time joined by Ada in Racoon City's basement, and Claire ventures into the Racoon City Police Department (RCPD) proper to find that things are somehow worse than when Leon left it.
The Leon portion of the demo begins at Kendo's gun shop and continues underground into the sewers along with Ada. Like the RCPD demo, Capcom's gone above and beyond to imbue Resident Evil 2 Remake with a new sense of atmosphere and dread. There's a hazy blue palette that I'm coming to realize is a purposeful design choice for the Remake. It's tied to water, which plays an integral and sinister part of the environmental design. Everywhere I go is either wet or raining, and that's never a good thing in these games.
A little later the story switches over to Ada Wong, and yes, the character redesigns continue to kick ass. Ada gets a new toy befitting her whole secret agent thing and it's a scanning/hacking device that can see through walls and control electronic objects. The mechanic is neat, but mostly serves to solve the level's environmental puzzle.
It's with Ada that I first encounter Mr. X, Resident Evil 2's Tyrant and big bad stalker. While he mostly serves as an inconvenient roadblock in Ada's section, it's not until the Claire portion of the demo that Mr. X becomes a huge headache. Honestly, I don't know if I enjoyed my encounter with him all that much. The Tyrant system in Resident Evil games have always been equal parts fun and frustrating. There's something hilarious about a big monster dude bursting through the walls during random parts of the game like the Kool-Aid Man. Beyond that initial humor, having a hulking big bad that can't be killed stalking you is just an ingenious horror game mechanic. In the Resident Evil 2 Remake Mr. X is better than ever, which is good for him and bad for us.
As an aside he also looks genuinely creepy in the Remake thanks to the graphical updates, including an improved face model. It distracts from the goofy trench coat, as his face looks like someone tried to chisel an eldritch Frankenstein's monster out of plaster and messed up. It's gnarly and I love it.
Like the original, Mr. X bursts in during Claire's exploration of the RCPD. After showing up uninvited Mr. X proceeds to stalk Claire through the police department as players are tasked with finding a way out. I spent probably half my two-hour demo time constantly trying to hunt down various keys and solve the different puzzles all while juggling my low ammo, low health, and facing a Mr. X who feels freakishly fast this time around.
One of the great additions in Remake is how you can hear Mr. X's footsteps echo throughout the police department, allowing you to kind of pinpoint his location. But the moment you make a noise, he comes rushing towards you and it barely feels like you have any breathing room. I imagine that's the point, but it's not fun when you find yourself trapped in a room with three Lickers and suddenly Mr. X shows up.
In the original Mr. X was kind of easy to cheese if you had a strong enough weapon like the submachine gun. Starting the Remake demo with just a handgun and grenade launcher, which is sorely needed for the zombie hordes, the Mr. X portions become even more difficult. What's worse, the old dodging maneuver—where you bait Mr. X into an attack before slipping past the opening he creates—is a little harder to pull off as he takes up most of the space if you encounter him in a hallway.
It's all very exciting stuff for the first few encounters until it becomes frustrating. By the end of my demo I found myself opting to just run circles around Mr. X rather than confront him. It felt like I was cheating, but there's only so many two-hit game over punches you can take before you get antsy to finish a section.
That said, I think my frustration stemmed from the demo environment. Having played Resident Evil 2 Remake twice now, I firmly believe this is a game to savor. It feels deliberately slower than other recent Resident Evil games and it's still one of the most beautiful-looking games I've played in recent memory. It feels disingenuous to keep calling this the Resident Evil 2 Remake as I'm certain that after its launch, this will be the definitive version, much like the GameCube remake was to the original Resident Evil. I just wish Mr. X would give me a little time to think through my next moves before ruining my concentration, but I suppose he wouldn't be so good at his job if he did.