As far as gaming in 2019 is concerned, Resident Evil 2 has been dominating the headlines.
I have to be honest, when The Ghost Survivors was first announced I wondered whether Capcom would stagger the release of the three enclosed episodes – Forgotten Soldier, Runaway, and No Time to Mourn – over a three month period.
Instead, we get them all in one block and a few extra additional surprises on top! All for free. Gaming in 2019 is the absolute best.
Admittedly, each of the ‘What If’ scenarios are quite small, roughly 6-7 screens each. But each one is set at a different point in the game, so they all look, feel, and play very differently. Not least because each character has different weapons, and they’ll be fighting against different types of zombies.
So it’s important to note that each episode increases in difficulty, with Runaway deemed as a two star run, No Time to Mourn three stars, and Forgotten Soldier a tougher four stars. You can play them in that order, of course, but Capcom have also provided a ‘Training’ difficulty for each episode, which basically eases you in the action with improved item frequency, more weapons and slots in your inventory.
The kicker, of course, is that your score won’t register onto the online leaderboards. But, you know, fair deal, and it pretty much means you can play these however you like without being played out by difficulty. There’s no set order, after all.
Before you enter the action as well, you can customize the look of each of the leads – Robert Kendo, Ghost, and Katherine Warren – giving them everything from a terrifying zombie face to a tiger mask. All sorts of customisables can be unlocked dependent on set conditions within each of the episodes, prompting you to keep going back in to unlock all of them.
So, yeah, The Ghost Survivors is designed for replayability. Of course, you could run through each of the episodes one time to see the ending and be done with it, but the aim is to create something akin to the 4th Survivor Mode with lasting appeal where you can be competitive with the rest of the world.
And it works so well. The odds get really stacked against you as you’re sprinting through the levels, choosing your shots wisely and figuring the layout of the land. Often patience is needed to find a way through, as much as a bit of dumb luck.
The goal isn’t necessarily to kill every zombie – frankly you probably don’t have the ammunition for that – but to combine your skillsets for the most effective run possible, in terms of speed, score, and damage taken.
The three stories are quite tragic in that they tell a version of events that never actually happened. Capcom recommends you probably shouldn’t play these before finishing the both Leon and Claire’s version of the game, but we’ll just try to avoid spoilers as much as possible to say that these stories are a total 180.
Before each run, you see a brief slideshow of the events in the lead up to you taking control, giving you the briefest glimpse into why you need to run and how you can escape Racoon City.
And I really like that. The Ghost Survivors can’t be called an expansion on events or part of an ongoing story, more of an alternative, imaginary perspective using secondary characters to deliver new content. It also lets you play as beloved, recognised characters who you never expected to be in control of which is extremely cool fanservice.
As you’ve come to expect from Res 2, it’s really intense as Katherine and Robert aren’t as well equipped as Leon or Claire. I mean, Katherine’s wearing a slender white dress with barely any cover for her upper body for God’s sake.
Ammo conservation has never been more critical, even with backpack wearing zombies dropping nice bundles of loot and sparsely dispersed vending machines dispensing one valuable item from a selection of three.
The backpack zombies, in particular, are interesting as they often carry something like a key which you need in order to progress. And when they’re sticking very closely to Lickers who only respond to sound, you start to get an idea of how your strategies need to adapt for each situation.
Of course, it doesn’t help that some of the new enemies require unique strategies of their own. Katherine has this new mutated form of creature she has to go up against that can only be hurt with powerful burst, magnum type weapons, so you have to make sure you’ve equipped the right weapon.
While Robert is fighting purple-headed zombies which, when killed, let off noxious vapours that can poison you if you’re too close. Step back too far, though, and you could end up in the clutches of another zombie. The need for caution and blue herbs has never been more apparent.
Ghost, meanwhile, is a bit of a bad ass with his flamethrowers and machine guns. With his full on body armor and military training, he seems like he’s got everything figured out. Except for a hulking, hat-wearing maniac often breathing down his neck.
I’m a big fan of The Ghost Survivors and what it’s set out to achieve. I never expected three short stories – even if that’s kind of what we’ve got – but for starters, the tales don’t actually make sense in relation to the overall plot since they’re events which never actually happen.
And with a slew collectibles to find, outfits to unlock, new pulse-pounding music, each character’s unique traits and the setting they find themselves in, plus one big surprise in particular which I don’t want to spoil, this is seriously well conceived, wonderfully implemented content.
Did I mention it’s all free?
Of course, we’d all love to see more from Leon and Claire, and maybe even some DLC for Ada or Sherry. Perhaps Capcom have more story-driven DLC for us down the road, but for now, this is the perfect excuse to dive back into Resident Evil 2, no matter how many times you’ve played and finished it.
Whether you picked the game up at launch, or you’ve yet to experience the horrors of Raccoon City, the overall package just became even better value for money and is as good a piece of free DLC as we’ve ever seen.
What’s your fastest time? Which accessories do you use? Do you have a favourite campaign?
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