Two days before the release of the Resident Evil 2 remake, I had a nightmare about zombies.
In my low-budget looking dream, I was fending off undead hordes in a sunlit hallway resembling those of Resident Evil 2‘s Raccoon Police Department (R.P.D). The dream was a result of my decision to play the game alone and anxiety began to eat away at my subconscious. As a person who gets scared easily by the horror genre, you can already imagine that plan didn’t go very well at all.
This is not the first time I’ve had the questionable idea to tackle a Resident Evil game alone.
I get these bouts of momentary “bravery” sometimes. In 2012, I told myself that the 3DS’ small screen would somehow shield me from the fear that Resident Evil Revelations would bring. Needless to say, I still have palpitations thinking about the unfortunate, transformed Rachel hunting me through the hallways of the game’s cruise ship setting.
With the Resident Evil 2 remake, I steeled my nerves and told myself it was just a game—one I was familiar with having watched my brother play it back in 1998. I failed to remind myself that it was a game with a bunch of scary-ass zombies waiting to bite me in the neck, and that the original terrified me too. And so my dreams did that for me.
It would be a few days before I gathered enough courage to try. But I copped out a little. I called up a friend to ask her if she’d do a share play of the game with me. We both get terribly unhinged by the illogical fear that horror games bring but there’s something to be said about safety in numbers. Right? As I discovered, that’s actually a resounding “no”.
With our headsets on, and state lines away, my friend and I booted up the remake after 9 p.m. on a Tuesday. Leon, I decided, would be a hero in the easiest mode the game offered. I wanted as much assistance as I could get, and in the opening gas station sequence, managed to waste all five of my precious bullets. If not for the cutscene, I’m pretty sure I would have lost my life, too.
With zero bullets, I somehow made it safely to the R.P.D. It was here the game was really supposed to begin, and my fond childhood memories of lickers chasing my brother were supposed to be re-lived in crisp 2019 graphics, and improvements, only this time with me at the helm. Instead, it was there in the very first hallway that the survival horror game ended for me. Fear took over and I could not proceed.
“I can’t do this,” I remarked. I was thinking about how I struggled with getting my aim right at the beginning of the game, my lack of bullets, and how woefully unprepared I felt in that moment. It was an all too familiar feeling—the feeling of starting a game and being frustrated at not mastering the controls immediately. And I needed a firm grip on those right away because Resident Evil 2 doesn’t waste time throwing you into its action, and certainly isn’t interested in coddling its players.
Games usually allow for this trial and error, and for players to adjust accordingly. In Resident Evil 2’s case, the intensity of the opening scene felt like there was little room for mistakes for a person like me, where fear worked against my taking control. It’s one thing to walk around an empty gas station market practicing on thin air. It’s a whole other experience being faced with a threatening monster in a dimly lit, narrow aisle, even if it’s slowly shambling towards you. In that panic, I wasted my ammo and broke the number one Resident Evil rule that was ingrained into my experiences with the earlier games. From there, it became a downward spiral.
Still reeling from my poor performance, I was met with a decision once I began exploring the police department: open a door or enter a corridor. I knew one of those options would trigger a sequence of events that would lead to my demise. Practice makes perfect they say but I would have had to allow myself to suffer a few deaths to get a feel for the game’s aiming controls. But I couldn’t take the next few steps to even make an attempt. I had never felt so paralyzed before by a game. When my friend offered to take over the controls, I cannot begin to describe how relieved I felt.
I’ll never understand why I cannot play scary games. Some of us just can’t, and that’s okay. Maybe what I should really grasp to understand is why I keep trying. Part of it is that I know I can do it if I really push myself. When the first Uncharted threw zombies at me in the last stages of the game? I pushed through despite my fear and knee-jerk reaction to quit. I managed to push through Yomawari, to the point where its jump scares and my deaths became so routine, I started viewing the game as more of a puzzle to solve. Okay, you got me. Yomawari isn’t actually that scary at all but it was to me for a short period of time! And for the record, I finished Resident Evil Revelations.
If you’re wondering how I fared with my first adventure with the Resident Evil 2 remake, I lasted all of 22 minutes and 33 seconds. That includes the few minutes I spent fiddling with the game’s camera.
Right now, I’m just a sad statistic—my contribution to the global Resident Evil 2 community is that I’ve killed a grand total of two zombies. I’m still willing to push myself to try again. I’ll just have to make peace with the fact that I’ll be dying a lot. But first I’ll have to build up the courage to make another attempt.