Who Ya Got: Leon Kennedy vs. Claire Redfield
The remake of Resident Evil 2 is only a week away and the hype is almost too much to handle. After spending my brief 30 minutes with the “One-Shot Demo,” my only complaint about the game is that I couldn’t play more of it. As soon as I entered my first dark corridor I was immediately overcome with nostalgia, as the memories of playing the original game with my older brother in the basement of our childhood home came rushing back. The remake stays true to the overall sense of tension and fear that accompanies every step. As someone who played through the original multiple times, I was pleased to see that they have rearranged how certain events unfold. In a game that relies on tense moments followed up by jump-scares, a “shuffling of the deck” was needed to keep returning players on edge. Graphics that were formerly polygonal accompanied by the most outrageous camera style have seen drastic improvements, leading this version of Resident Evil 2 to feel completely modern.
Reprising their roles from the original, Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield return as the playable characters. Both have become fan favorites of the series through their various appearances over the years. The beauty of the original game (and it appears to be set up similarly in the remake) is that each character played through their own story. They were joined in the same setting but their goals were vastly different, which gave Resident Evil 2 some serious replay value. Naturally, with two strong, fan-favorite characters, and using just their stories from the original game, the question needs to be asked: Who ya got?
As Resident Evil 2 begins, Leon S. Kennedy arrives in the war zone that is Raccoon City as a rookie cop for the city’s police department, and wouldn’t you know that it’s his very first day. Everyone knows the first-day jitters that come along with starting a new job: you don’t know anyone, you want to make a good impression, and you also don’t want be the person who burns popcorn in the office microwave. Luckily, Leon doesn’t have to worry about any of that as all he has to take care of is an entire town which has turned into zombies thanks to Umbrella Corporation’s vicious T-Virus. Right away you feel a sense of sympathy for Leon, as no one deserves to get dumped into a situation like that on their very first day of work. Rookie cops routinely have a lot to learn in regards to maintaining law and order in a new town, and that is multiplied by ten once you throw zombies into the mix.
Leon is, as expected, clueless when it comes to understanding what has occurred and how to go about fixing it. His inexperience in a new job, in a new city, allows Leon to easily connect with the player. We learn as Leon does, leading us to continually root for his success. However, Leon does prove to be a little too trusting of Ada Wong, a spy working to steal Umbrella’s more powerful G-Virus. That inexperience, and potential fear, could have proved costly, but luckily Ada makes the choice to assist Leon in the end.
One feature that I believe works against Leon is his story path genuinely felt like the easier play through. The weapons he had access to - that Claire didn’t - were often more powerful. Resident Evil 2 is at its best when you genuinely feel like your character is in danger. It’s tough to feel that tension when you’re blasting zombies with the quick-shooting Remington M1100-P shotgun, or you’re roasting zombies with a flamethrower. On top of both of those, Leon also wields the very powerful Desert Eagle. You’d expect a police officer to be able to get his hands on some powerful weaponry, especially considering the game takes place inside the police station. However, sometimes Leon can feel a little too powerful for a rookie cop on his first day in the middle of a zombie outbreak.
Claire is the sister of Chris Redfield, who was one of the main protagonists in the original Resident Evil. After the events of the first game, Chris has gone missing. The disappearance of her brother has brought Claire to the mess that is Raccoon City. Claire is an avid motorcyclist and is seen sporting a knife commonly used by the S.T.A.R.S. Unit (the unit Chris belonged to). The knife served as a reminder as to why she showed up to the hell on Earth that Raccoon City has become. It was also one of the few items she came equipped with in order to deal with what awaited her.
The motivation leading Claire to Raccoon City makes her stand out. That coupled with her determination and capable skills saw her quickly achieve fan-favorite status. As it was easy to relate to the innocence of Leon, it’s just as easy to relate to Claire’s desire to be reunited with her missing brother. She has no idea what she’s getting herself into and that doesn’t matter. The desire to make sure her family is safe and accounted for drives her forward into the dark uncertainty that is the ruins of Raccoon City. Along the way she’s connected with Sherry Birkin, who we come to find out is the daughter of scientist William Birkin. William is revealed to be one of the main antagonists of the game as he inadvertently caused the T-Virus outbreak, and injected himself with the G-Virus, turning him into a mutated monstrosity. The pairing of Sherry and Claire works well as both are on a search for their respective family members, and that bond gives them the extra boost they need to push through some traumatic moments.
As mentioned in Leon’s section, Claire’s play through can feel slightly more difficult because of the weapons at her disposal. Yes, she is able to use the very powerful M79 Grenade Launcher, but that’s one shot at a time and you have to reload before you can move again. Not the most ideal weapon when you have zombies coming from all angles. She does have access to the Bow Gun, a personal favorite of mine, and while it’s not as powerful as some weapons, its quick fire ability works well against hordes.
When it comes to Resident Evil 2, you truly can’t go wrong in character selection. Leon and Claire are both relatable, determined, and strong characters that are a joy to fight zombies with. Since their debuts, they’ve both appeared multiple times and have cemented themselves as the characters that come to mind when the topic of Resident Evil comes up. However, in the cutthroat business of “Who Ya Got?” there can be only one! The final choice goes to Claire Redfield. Her motivation pushes her over the edge as the tenacity she shows in an effort to find her missing brother is heartwarming. The ability for her to use the Bow Gun is an added bonus as, like I said, that was one of my favorite weapons in the game.
Those are my thoughts on another tough edition of Who Ya Got? Let us know who you prefer by leaving a comment or giving us a call at (347)-509-5620.