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The limited-time Resident Evil 2 demo is actually kind of brilliant

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“Always leave them wanting more.”

It’s a well-known maxim in the entertainment industry. A quote often attributed to the greatest showman, P.T. Barnum – though that assertion has never been conclusively proven – it instructs entertainers to effectively quit while they are ahead. Or at least, to always ensure the audience hopes you’ll come back, rather than wishes you’d stop.

Video games are most definitely an entertainment industry. A recent BBC report – based on a study by the Entertainment Research Agency – suggests that in the United Kingdom, the video game industry is worth more than half of the country’s entertainment industry. At £3.66bn last year, that makes it more lucrative than the video and music industries combined.

“Always leave them wanting more” is a notion that the UK entertainment industry is well-versed in. Fawlty Towers famously only ran for two seasons. That’s the classic example, but in more recent times, the fantastic Spaced ran for just two, while Black Books stopped after three.

Compare that to comedies in the US. If they’re not cancelled, they run until they fall down. As great as Steve Carrell is, it speaks volumes that the US version of The Office ran for nine seasons before fizzling out, while the UK version that spawned it spanned just two seasons.

“Always leave them wanting more” is not a mantra that video games, on the whole, do well with. Between the reductive consumer opinion that longer games are better (some nonsense to do with value for money?) and the bloat that befouls open world games (which are de rigueur) they tend to be lengthy to a fault.

There’s no doubt that the Resident Evil 2 Remake will be a moderate-length adventure. From memory, the 1998 original clocked in between six and eight hours to complete; though if you hunted down all the secrets you could almost double that runtime. Given the extended presentation and improved cutscenes in the remake, even if the playable areas were 1:1 (which they aren’t) we can still expect the new version to clock in a longer runtime than the original.

The demo, though? That runs for just half an hour, and once it’s done? You’re unable to play any more.

Resident Evil 2 demo

It’s not permadeath; you can die and reload and restart as many times as you like. You can even “beat” the demo and start again if you’ve got seconds left on the clock, but once those grains have drained from the egg timer? You can’t play any more. You can only watch a trailer (and follow a link to buy the full game from the store).

Well, that’s not entirely true. You can, for example, switch to a different platform – the demo is available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One – or log into different PSN or Xbox Live accounts on your consoles to take multiple stabs at it.

But for the vast majority of us who frankly can’t be arsed to set up additional profiles to take on the Resident Evil 2 demo more than once, that thirty-minute slice is plenty. It’s tantalising, even. Small, but perfectly formed.

I didn’t do everything in the demo, for sure. I met Lieutenant Branagh, of course, and ventured further into the police station. I boarded up some windows to keep intruders out (that was a nice touch) and killed other zombies that made it in. I walked down a corridor where I expected a very specific jump scare and nothing came. The developers have been clever enough to rejig some of the scripted sequences so that experienced players can still be surprised; that will be key to the success of Resident Evil 2 as an explorative horror experience. I even managed some extra things, like find the hidden camera film and develop the photo it contained in the dark room.

I found the key, then started making my way back down to the lobby for the cut-scene that marks the end of the demo. I spied the licker, a few times, but never ran into it. Then the demo ended, with me moments from the door that would’ve seen me complete it. And do you know what? I’m fine with that.

There isn’t enough mystery in this world, so for a game like Resident Evil 2 – that people literally know inside and out – to deliver a demo that’s genuinely left me coming away wanting more? That’s quite an achievement.

Under other circumstances, I might have been tempted to pick the Resident Evil 2 demo apart on multiple play-throughs in the name of criticism, but that artificial limit prevented me from ruining the mystique. I’m actually grateful for that, and it’s made me more excited for the game than I already was.

So in summary, more time-limited and one-shot demos would be great, thanks.

As they say in showbiz: “Always leave them wanting more.”

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