The Wee Things: Give us a Wince – Resident Evil 2

With each passing year video games strive try to capture the essence of realism. Some try to perfect the emotional aspect of humanity by immersing players in intimate story lines of love and loss. Other games go for a more practical approach to reality and ask you your character stay hydrated and well fed. The majority,  however, continue to break the boundaries between man and machine, amplifying the discomfort found in the uncanny valley through almost realistic looking characters models and environments. It’s not just the way we look that defines us but how we express ourselves and Resident Evil 2 goes that extra mile to show us that.

Being distraught, happy, or beguiled are just few of the expressions that gleam across Leon and Claire’s faces as they surmount impossible odds. I’m not simply talking about the sly looks they give each other in cutscenes, but rather the winces and exasperated expressions in the moment to moment gameplay. Providing players with diegetic feedback without having to look at their heart monitor.

It’s unlikely that anyone would be able to conquer Resident Evil 2 without a scratch – kudos if you did. So when you inevitably get mauled by a zombie or lavishly licked by another menace, Leon or Claire’s status drops from ‘Fine’ to either ‘Caution’ or ‘Danger’. During these stages your character’s face will distort in discomfort and angst. Leon takes heavy, slow protracted breaths as he struggles to catch his wind. Claire’s eyes furl closed as she winces and clenches her teeth as she takes a powerful blow. And both characters clutch their chest in hopes of not toppling over.

They are smaller details for sure, interactions you’d hardly notice thanks to the 3rd person camera. Leon and Claire’s faces being the last place you’d look if you’re being chased by a monster. It was only when I snacked on my last green herb that I holed up for safety and I noticed Leon’s face looking like a shriveled grape. I took my time to really appreciate his current wellbeing, or lack thereof, and how it made him feel more alive than if he had simply a stagnant expression.

It’s an extra mile that the developers have gone to for the sake of believability, making Leon and Claire feel more alive than they already were. Resident Evil 2’s facial animations were phenomenal right out of the RCPD gate but getting a wee glimpse of emotion from them when we least expect it helps you empathise as a player. It’s a wee thing we take for granted now, especially when the original Resident Evil 2 had barely a pixel to render the characters eyes, and it’s a wee thing we’ll keep our own eyes on in the future.

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