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Time Sinks – Resident Evil 2

I’ve spent plenty of time in expansive worlds like Azeroth, Hyrule, and Final Fantasy VII’s Gaia, but games like World of Warcraft and The Legend of Zelda series come with an expected, lengthy time commitment. The original PlayStation Resident Evil games can be beaten in considerably less time, assuming you save responsibly and know where you’re going. Despite this, I managed to log as many hours in Resident Evil 2’s Raccoon City as many gamers pour into lengthy RPGs. So why return to a horrific zombie outbreak again and again? Let me tell you.

I was a tremendous fan of the original Resident Evil. I survived countless nights in the Spencer Mansion, reliving Jill and Chris’ nightmare like a horrific version of Groundhog Day. I became addicted to conserving ammo, juking enemies, and mastering the flow of the game until I was performing my own speed runs. Resident Evil 2 delivered the same satisfying survival experience at its core, but came with numerous improvements. The tank controls are still in place, but feel less rigid. Greater environmental variety takes players through the infested streets, an elaborate police station, sewers, and finally an Umbrella laboratory. Customizable weapons allow keen-eyed scavengers to boost their damage with found parts (like a beastly shotgun that blasts zombies in half). But perhaps above all that, Resident Evil 2 is built with additional playthroughs in mind.

Leon takes on Birkin's final form while wearing his alternative, super-rad street clothes costume

Capcom shipped Resident Evil 2 with two discs: Leon’s and Claire’s. Popping in Leon’s disc first means you start the adventures as the rookie cop, occasionally crossing paths with Chris Redfield’s sister, Claire. Beating the game as Leon unlocks Claire’s B Scenario – a largely similar playthrough which features new boss fights, characters, weapons, and an extended ending. This means there are four unique playthroughs available: Leon A, Leon B, Claire A, and Claire B. 

Except I was an idiot and didn’t understand the interplay between these scenarios. That didn’t affect my initial enjoyment, however. I beat both Claire and Leon’s A scenarios over and over. I had numerous “sick days” home from school where I would blow through the game with the special Arrange Mode, which unlocks rocket launchers and beefy machine guns with unlimited ammo. Repeatedly conquering this tourist mode allowed me to easily memorize key item locations, which helped me for my serious playthroughs. 

With all the fun I was having with the A scenarios alone, my mind was completely blown when my cousin showed me how to access the counterpart playthroughs. Being stalked by the B scenario’s persistent Tyrant monster, Mr. X, became one of the most terrifying elements of the game. I had spent weeks believing Claire, Leon, and Sherry Birkin all escaped Raccoon City via the Umbrella facility’s emergency train unscathed. Boy, was I wrong. Finally finishing off the mutated Dr. Birkin on the train as Leon established a new reverence for the game. I immediately started over to see the complementary playthrough that ends with Claire fighting on the train, just to see the little differences.

Meet Tofu. Playing him is about as weird as you'd expect

This then unlocked the urge to unlock the game’s additional 4th Survivor and Tofu modes. I thought the gas-masked Umbrella operative, Hunk, was among the coolest Resident Evil characters, so I made it a priority. To unlock Hunk’s mini game, players have to beat the game four times while earning A rankings. Nailing an A involves beating the game in under three hours, limits your number of saves to five, and prohibits the use of first-aid sprays (which are made by that filthy Umbrella company). Unlocking Tofu requires six As. Sprinting through the game  uncertain whether the last few hours will score you an A or not is a stressful experience, but makes the reward that much more satisfying.

I haven’t spent as much time getting hunted by lickers in the Raccoon Police Department as I have playing World of Warcraft, but I feel like I’ve spent a proportionate lifetime in Resident Evil 2. I could describe every screen of the game, the enemies you’d find there, and probably sketch out a map of Raccoon City’s sewer system. Sure, most playthroughs last under 10 hours, but when you repeat the cycle dozens of times, those numbers add up. 

Watch us beat the Leon's A Scenario in this Super Replay

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