Resident Evil 2: How to Get the S+ Ranking in Hardcore Mode for Infinite Ammo
I’m not a speedrunner. Not even close. I have a great deal of respect for those that can beat Bloodborne in twenty minutes while blindfolded, but I’ve never taken the time to develop that level of mastery of any game.
Earning an S+ ranking in the Resident Evil 2 Remake is not something I would normally bother even attempting, but after beating it, I just wanted to keep playing, and the tantalizing thought of infinite ammo was a great reason to keep going. It wasn’t easy, but when I finally pulled it off, I was more elated than I had been from playing a game in a long time.
For those of you who haven’t played this excellent horror remake, when you beat Resident Evil 2, you are assigned a ranking based on factors such as time completed, difficulty, weapons used, and number of saves. You’re then assigned a ranking, from B, all the way up to S+. This isn’t just for bragging rights, it also unlocks items you can use in your next run.
Achieving the S+ ranking means running through the game on the highest difficulty setting with almost no deviations from the most efficient path, skipping some of the most powerful weapons, and not maxing out your inventory. On top of that, you’ll encounter harder enemies and no auto-saving, so death is punished pretty severely.
For your considerable trouble you’ll unlock a gamebreaking minigun and rocket launcher with infinite ammo, allowing Claire and Leon to declare war on the undead denizens of Racoon City. There’s nothing more therapeutic than blasting zombies with unlimited ordinance after desperately stumbling past them for hours.
The requirements for S+ Hardcore are pretty intense:
3 saves or less (with no auto save)
No infinite weapons (with the exception of the infinite durability combat knife)
Must be completed in under two hours and thirty minutes for the A campaigns, or under 2 hours in B scenarios.
I didn’t use any frame perfect strats, and there’s no doubt you could improve on my time. But that’s the point; if I can do it, you certainly can too.
What follows is what I learned in my quest to achieve an S+ ranking in Resident Evil 2 on Hardcore difficulty. I did it with Claire, and though there is some variation in Leon’s campaign (which I’m attempting to do now) the advice applies to both, and I’d imagine the B scenarios as well. (Update: Completed S+ Hardcore with Leon, all of these suggestions apply.)
Know when to save
This is probably the most challenging requirement. You only get three saves, and it’s critical to use them wisely. If it feels as though a run is going well, as in little to no damage and good speed, saving is important so you don’t have to do it all over again. My first save was after acquiring the three medals and opening the path underground in the Police Station, before the first Birkin boss battle.
If you’re willing to keep pushing, save when you get the club or heart key, before Mr. X starts hunting you down. This will make the difficult middle section considerably easier.
I went back and forth on whether to save before or after bosses. On one hand, having to fight a boss right away allows you to restart the run if the fight goes poorly. On the other, having to fight the same bosses over and over can be irritating. Your call.
The second save should be when you reach the sewer, before the alligator as Leon, and after Sherry’s segment as Claire. This pre-sewer segment was the most difficult for me, as Mr. X is a relentless pain in the ass. Expect to die a lot here due to poor RNG (Random Number Generator, essentially luck) as you hunt down the two electrical components.
Use your final ink ribbon either when you get to the NEST, or, if you’re feeling brave, before the final bosses. This is probably the easiest and shortest segment, so if you feel confident enough to make it all the way to the last boss before your final save, you’ll have an easier time with those final two battles.
Otherwise, expect to get pretty good at the lab segment, and remember to hold onto those flame rounds and flamethrower for the plant enemies that can kill you with one shot.
Don’t be afraid of repetition
Unless you’re immensely more talented than me, you’re going to have to start these runs over and over many times. If you take too much damage, or forget a vital piece of a puzzle, expect to restart the run. It’s fine to continue on for practice, but get used to restarting regularly until your RNG and skill line up, and you feel the run couldn’t have gone much better before saving.
I recommend muting the game, putting on a tv show you've seen many times before, and just running over and over until your muscle memory kicks in and the movements become second nature. There is an element of luck involved when it comes to zombie and enemy behavior, but before you know it, you’ll have the perfect run, and you can finally save, and start it all over again with the next section.
One other thing to keep in mind. For some reason, if you Continue after you die, the game will punish you by adding time to the clock. When you inevitably die, load your last save instead of continuing to avoid this odd penalization.
Write down puzzle answers
This may seem obvious, but it’s a huge time saver. The puzzle solutions don't change, (except between A and B scenarios) so if you write down locker combinations and puzzle solutions for quick reference, you’ll have a much easier time. You’ll probably start memorizing the answers pretty quickly, but there’s no reason not to have them open somewhere as you perfect the run.
The knife is your friend
You can’t use any of the unlimited ammo weapons in an S+ run, with one precious exception: the Unlimited Durability Combat Knife. This item allows you to kill zombies without wasting ammo, and if you play your cards right or you’re desperate, it can be very useful in stun locking Birkin and Lickers.
You should avoid as many zombies as you can, but for the ones you can’t get past, shoot off their legs, and start slicing until they’re hamburger.
Keep in mind that if you use it as a defense weapon, you will have to kill the enemy to get it back, or it’s gone for the rest of the run.
Healing Items are critical
I consistently found that healing items were always in short supply. I’d rarely deviate from the optimized path, but when I did go back to get something, it was almost always a first aid spray or a green herb.
This is probably why my time was much closer to the cutoff than the best speedrunners, but it’s also how I was able to stay alive. Even if it seems excessive in the beginning, once you get to the final bosses, you’ll be glad for your huge collection of green herbs.
The importance of inventory
Also obvious, but I can't overstate how critical it is to find the right balance of healing items, ammo, and puzzle solution items. The easiest way to do this is to take notes of what you need where, and to plan ahead. Pause when you get to an item box, (time paused doesn’t count toward the ending time, so feel free to pause as much as you want) and really plan ahead. What enemies will you be facing? What puzzles will you be solving before the next time you can access your items? Planning is half the battle when it comes to surviving in Racoon City.
Also, consider carefully whether or not you want to pick up Leon’s Lightning Hawk magnum. Though it’s a powerful weapon, you can complete the run without it, and retrieving it will add a fair amount of time. Try and see if you can survive without it.
Try for yourself
There’s plenty more to be said strategy-wise no doubt, but the best way to learn is by doing. As long as you don’t get frustrated by dying, and you spend some time plotting out your approach, you might find that playing the game this way is quite fun. The repetition can be almost meditative, and the exhilaration you feel when you drop that final boss is truly exhilarating.
Maybe it’s time to get back to Bloodborne after all.