In the original Resident Evil 2, players were left to make a lot of assumptions about Claire Redfield. She’s Chris’ little sister, so of course she can fire a gun. She rides a motorcycle, so she’s going to be tough and a daredevil. She met Leon a handful of times, but they’re buddies and trust one another. She easily undertakes the obligation of caring for a young girl she meets. With the remake, there’s an opportunity to spend additional time with her. Thanks to these extra efforts, she feels more like an actual person. Especially now, she seems more like someone who could absolutely survive a zombie apocalypse. Not that she didn’t before, but that the ability to spend more extend the story and offer more adventuring options makes things richer.
The introduction is a good way to compare. In the original Resident Evil 2, Claire only spends a brief amount of time in the gas station diner. She walks in, sees the zombies, is overwhelmed, and is quickly rescued by Leon. He shoots the one standing behind her, they get in the car, and she mentions she is looking for her brother. (She doesn’t bring up that he’s a cop too.) In this reimagining, Claire spends more time in the diner. She has her own gun when she heads in, making it easier to believe she would be able to handle the trials ahead. We see her deal with the first zombies she encounters pragmatically. After Leon and Claire meet and he shoots the zombie behind her, the two of them both, with guns raised, dash to his police car. This alteration makes a better case for her as a survivor. She still starts out scared and overwhelmed, but is the sort where it is easier to see how she grows and adjusts.
The improved and extended area sequences we see in areas like the Police Station, Sewers, and Lab also do a good job of showing how much Claire can do. The progression is completely altered. Like instead of getting the Spade Key from the turning in the Unicorn Medal, it comes up during other exploration. Lickers are teased before you run into one, as you’ll see one crawling outside the windows on the third floor before finally running into your first one. This builds tension and allows us to see Claire developing experience before having to suddenly face more terrifying and unorthodox foes. Finding keys, collecting film to find out how to solve a puzzle, and getting valves for pipes generally implies a sense of capability on not only our part, but Claire’s as well. When consulting the map and seeing notations there revealing items that couldn’t be grabbed yet or puzzles that needed specific parts to solve, it was almost like Claire was the one knowing enough to make these notations, due to what she had learned from Chris and her experiences.
The relationships Claire forms with other people are highlighted in a more effective way too. Leon and Claire share more about themselves when they first meet. He learns about her brother. We get to see them interact not long after they are separated, to show some sort of basis for a relationship and provide a chance for the two to touch base, show concern for one another, and express a desire to see one another survive. The course of events here really does a better job of defining their relationship better than the original game. I did appreciate the extra opportunities to have the two meet up, since having this parallel journey was what really made Resident Evil 2 special.
But, the other relationships Claire gets to have in her route are also handled super well. Marvin Branagh had an incredibly minor role in the original Resident Evil 2. (You encounter him in both Leon and Claire’s routes.) He was a wounded officer that gave either character a keycard in the original game. Here, he provides continual backup for a time. When you first meet him, he helps you out of a jam and gives you a knife. Later, he lets Claire know that Leon is outside the gates and tells her how she can see him again. His presence in the first game was this throwaway moment, but by getting to deal with him multiple times in the hub area and seeing his situation progress
Seeing how Claire and Sherry are with one another is another reason Resident Evil 2 makes such a difference. The emotional impact is greater here, because it gives us a better opportunity to connect with the little girl and see why Claire is so dedicated to helping her. When she first finds Sherry, we realize the terrible position she is in. Their conversations show what her mother was like and her father has become. The situations they are put in shows how experienced Claire is, thanks to everything she learned from Chris and on her own, and we watch her do her best to look after the little girl. While it may have seemed comical how often the two were separated in the original game’s campaign, the increased dialogue and opportunities where Sherry might attempt to advocate for Claire really make a difference here. (One of the encounters with Claire, Chief Irons, and Sherry is especially good at showing how much the two value one another.) Claire constantly chasing after her seems less like an obligation to move the plot forward and more like she is trying to really help a child she has connected with along the way.
Really, it is more like Resident Evil 2 is about elaboration. It is about making characters who have been better realized in later games as strong in their debut role. This is especially critical for someone like Claire. Even though she is the least experienced person in the cast here and only made two other appearances after, she is established as this strong and capable woman who could survive a zombie apocalypse. It might make people wonder how and why that is possible.
Resident Evil 2 is great, because it helps us even better understand the whys and hows. We have a better sense of what she is doing in Raccoon City. Her opening moments show that she is capable of handling herself and doesn’t make it such a shock that in the original game, Leon could hand her a spare gun and she could start slaughtering horrific monsters, solving puzzles, and helping to save a little girl. It also helps establish her relationships with other characters more, adding more poignancy to these relationships and giving us more motivation to find our way through. This remake makes Claire feel more open, knowledgeable, and real.
Resident Evil 2 will be available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on January 25, 2019.