Resident Evil 2: What Makes Mr. X Such a Compelling Enemy

The Resident Evil 2 Remake really impressed me in how it so elegantly translates a PlayStation 1 era game into a smooth modern experience. I want to clarify that I haven’t played the original, meaning my thoughts on the game will be somewhat limited. So instead of giving a full review I want to focus on one element of the game that really impressed me and I feel elevated the game as a whole. The enemy T-00 also known as Mr. X.

On first glance Mr. X isn’t functionally far too different from the Predator-like enemies common in many horror games, like Amnesia or Alien: Isolation. Overwhelmingly powerful, you can’t defeat him through conventional combat, the only option is to run. This is the major difference, though. You can run, but you can’t hide. Hiding can be a great horror trope. Hiding is pure tension, stillness in hope that the monster cannot find you. The problem with hiding, is when you build a lengthy game around that idea, hiding becomes routine. You see the monster, you hide, you wait, then you go back to what you were doing before. After several hours playing a game this becomes unexciting and predictable. This is a major reason I feel many horror games become tame and lose their fear factor as you get further into the game.

So why is running more compelling? This is because of Resident evil 2’s incredible level design, at least in the Raccoon City Police Station. The Police Station is like web of interconnecting spaces that loop back on each other, comparable to the Metroid games, though on a much smaller scale. Mr. X forces you to think about this level design. If he blocks your path to an area you need to get to, you better find another path to take. If he storms into your room while you’re trying to fulfill your next objective, you better find a way to loop back around. He is introduced so perfectly, effortlessly lifting the crashed helicopter that once blocked your path, now this huge, imposing figure blocks your path instead. Good luck getting back to the main hall. You can instantly tell he’s someone not to be defeated easily. By this point you will have explored almost every required area of the Police Station. All that’s left of the area is some backtracking to find certain items and solving certain puzzles. Mr. X prevents this backtracking from becoming boring by remaining a constant threat throughout and he will test your established knowledge of the layout of the Police Station you have gathered from your previous playtime as he hunts you down. While the smaller scale of the level design keeps his obstructions from wasting too much of your time.

The next reason Mr X is so frightening, is how he heightens the threat of other enemies in the game. The obvious example is the Licker, an enemy that reacts only to sound. Running from Mr. X will alert a Licker. Run into a room with a Licker and suddenly you’re in a lot more trouble then you were before. This heightened threat also applies to standard zombies. If Mr. X pursues you down a narrow path, where a zombie awaits, you now have a limited amount of time to take that zombie out, before Mr. X catches up to you.

On my first playthrough I was already impressed with Mr. X as an enemy. Yet the B route develops him even further, by making a simple change to the game. After Finishing the game, you will have a good knowledge of the level design, the combat and the puzzles. How do you keep that stuff interesting on a second playing? Add Mr. X into the game right from the moment you enter the Police Station. Now all the puzzles you solved previously, all the enemies you fought, all the items you have to collect, right from the get-go are accompanied by the ever looming threat of Mr. X. His pounding footsteps haunting your quest right as you’ve started. This is an excellent way to add an extra layer of challenge to a game you’ve already completed and kept me engaged on my second playthrough.

A lot of the points I’ve made really don’t come from anything unique about Mr. X as an enemy. My original point remains right, in that it really doesn’t take much of a different approach from similar enemies in other horror games, in terms of literal enemy design. This, though, is praise to how much of an incredible game the Resident Evil 2 Remake is. This one elements slips in and heightens the other elements of the game. The enemies become harder, the level design more important and the puzzles more stressful. Mr. X makes Resident Evil 2 a better horror game. When one element of a game can blend with and elevate all over parts of a game, like this, then the designers have created something truly special.

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