Developer: The Creative Assembly
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Linux, Mac
The battle of the stalkers.
Since Resident Evil 2’s launch at the end of January, the game has been receiving overwhelmingly positive reception (we here at GamingBolt have contributed to that quite a bit ourselves). But the one aspect of the entire experience that seems to have caught fancy of one and all is the Tyrant- Mr. X, who injects tension, urgency, and palpable fear into a game that is already teeming with those things.
But though Mr. X deserves all the attention and praise he’s been receiving (as does Resident Evil 2), it’s worth pointing out that when it comes to terrifying, invincible enemies who stalk you incessantly, nothing quite matches up to the Xenomorph in 2014’s Alien Isolation.
When Creative Assembly’s stealth-survivor title launched near the beginning of this console generation, it was universally loved by nearly everyone who played it (even though many critics were sadly a bit unfairly harsh on the game), and though it is a game that is an accomplished achievement in many areas, it’s fair to say that if not for one single mechanic, it would be a significantly less memorable experience. Fittingly enough for an Alien game, that mechanic was the Xenomorph.
The titular alien was a constant and major threat for the vast majority of Isolation, much as Mr. X is in Resident Evil 2. And sure, on paper, the two of them serve the same purpose – they both are constantly stalking the player and are nearly indestructible – but a slightly deeper look shows us that the hat-wearing Tyrant is not nearly as much of a threat as the Xenomorph is.
For all his strengths, Mr. X is a game mechanic that you can exploit and work around, because, well- he’s designed that way. As you play more and more of Resident Evil 2, you begin to notice that he’s not as much of an overpowering force as you might have thought when you first saw him lifting that helicopter like a bucket made of wicker. You begin to realize things- like you can lead him into one corner of the room to open up some space on the other side, or you can take a hit from him if you need to and still survive, or that once you do take a hit from him, he’s basically caught in a pretty long animation, giving you plenty of time to walk right by him.
The Xenomorph, on the other hand, has one thing going for him that Mr. X doesn’t- almost total and absolute unpredictability. We’re all pretty well versed with the way its AI is designed by now- a director AI regularly feeds it information about where the player is, and the alien goes to those locations to seek out the player. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s the rough and basic gist of it. What this means is that almost no encounters with the alien are ever scripted- it can creep up on you anywhere and at any time.
Mr. X’s AI, on the other hand, is a little harder to decipher. Where the alien is almost completely unscripted in its behaviour (barring a very few story-specific moments), Mr. X can be both scripted an dynamic. At several key points in both campaigns, he is spawned on you for specifically scripted scenes, but even in the RPD when he is dynamically roaming the hallways and hunting you down, his behaviour is a bit mixed.
For the most part, Mr. X behaves quite similarly to the Xenomorph. He stalks the RPD, going from room to room as he searches you, getting drawn to you as you make more noise- but that doesn’t always seem to be the case. There are a few rooms – like the Art Room, or the Bell Tower – that Mr. X cannot enter, while at least one such room – the Waiting Room on the second floor – falls directly in the path that he needs to take in various situations where he might need to follow you. In such a situation, then, he would either have to go all the way around, or would have to be spawned on you once you were far away to stick close to you.
The former might very well might be the case, but given how in many situations going through the Waiting Room doesn’t result in much of a break from Mr. X chasing you, it gives the impression that maybe there are some situations where the game spawns Mr. X in the same general area where you are- if not right on top of you exactly. So if you’re in the East Wing of the station, Mr. X might be spawned somewhere in the east wing as well, and once he’s been spawned, he would then go back to functioning the way the Xenomorph dies as he goes from room to room to look for you.
On top of that, strengths in other areas allow the Xenomorph to be able to utlize its unpredictability better. For starters, it’s much more resilient than Mr. X is. While the Tyrant can temporarily be downed to give the player a handful of seconds of reprieve, the Xenomorph offers no such quarter (and if it does, it happens very rarely). Resident Evil 2 is also more lenient with giving the player more tools to counter the threat of Mr. X with- later on in the game, for instance, callous use of more powerful ammo can come in handy against him (even if that turns out to be a bad decision in the long run, since conservation of ammo is, after all, key to survival).
The tools you have at your disposal to survive the Xenomorph’s incessant efforts to hunt you down, however, are much more limited in their scope. You can’t use your motion tracker constantly, because the noise it makes can alert the Xenomorph. Mr. X’s attacks are deadly, but they can be recovered from if you have enough health, while you also have plenty of time after that to run away from him while he finishes his animation – which is something we already discussed. If, on the other hand, the Xenomorph attacks you, that’s just game over for you.
The Xenomorph is also a lot faster than Mr. X is. While the Tyrant can accelerate with surprising agility once he lays eyes on you, the Xenomorph – simply by virtue of being what it is – is infinitely quicker, and as such, harder to avoid. And though you can hide from it in some places, if you stay there for too long, or make even a peep of a noise, it’s game over for you. Not to mention the fact that the developers also devilishly put sensors of sort in the back of the Xenomorph’s model, which means you can’t cheese the game by constantly creeping behind it.
Meanwhile, there are ways to cheese Mr. X- hide in a safe room and wait for him to go away, or trigger some puzzles (such as the medallions), and if you stay on that screen long enough, he will (once again) go away, even if he had been standing right next to you when you’d entered the puzzle. When it comes to the Xenomoprh, on the other hand, if you get caught in its line of sight, finding such generous opportunities to cheat your way away from it are few and far between.
All of this isn’t to say that Mr. X is not deserving of all the attention he’s been receiving. Resident Evil 2 and Alien Isolation are very different games, after all, and for the kind of game that Resident Evil 2 is, Mr. X works exactly as he should. There’s a lot more to contend with beyond him in the recently released remake, a lot more than poses an actual threat to the player, so that Mr. X doesn’t have to do all the weight-lifting.
And yes, Mr. X certainly spells exciting things for the future of the Resident Evil series, especially if Capcom decides to remake Resident Evil 3 and set loose the menace that is known as Nemesis- but as things stand right now, the Xenomorph is still sitting confidently on the throne it claimed roughly five years ago- as the king of stalkers.