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The Endings Of Resident Evil 2 Explained

When it hit the original Sony PlayStation in early 1998, Resident Evil 2 from Capcom was an instant hit. GameSpot's Ryan Mac Donald praised the survival horror sequel from director Hideki Kamiya and producer Shinji Mikami as "the first really big, ultrahyped blockbuster of '98," going further on to explain that "what Capcom has pulled off is more an interactive, cinematic experience than a video game." TotalGames called RE2 "one of the most clever, crowd-pleasing, tense, dramatic, beautiful, and playable games ever conceived." Indeed, the tale of rookie cop Leon Kennedy and university student Claire Redfield has captured the hearts and minds of gamers from around the globe.

20 years later, the arrival of the Resident Evil 2 remake was equally applauded. The Guardian's Keith Stuart says it's "horror game design as true craft," and GameSpot's Alessandro Fillari calls the revamp "a terrifying experience like no other." And, true to Capcom tradition, the refurbished elements contribute to a slightly different story with a few fresh twists and turns (and a few different endings, to boot). Without further ado, here are the endings of Resident Evil 2, explained in all their virus-laden glory.

Umbrella's incendiary backup plan

Resident Evil 2 tells the story of what happened to Raccoon City after the events that ravaged the Arklay Laboratory facility in the original Resident Evil. In case you missed it, this clandestine lab, located beneath the nefarious Spencer Mansion, was the site of several ill-fated experiments involving the Umbrella Corporation's mutagenic Tyrant Virus. In Resident Evil 2, the T-Virus has invaded nearby Raccoon City, where police officer Leon Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield must race to prevent the spread of a new strain of the Progenitor virus — the Golgotha Virus — while desperately ensuring their own survival.

In the game's final chapter, Leon and Claire must escape Umbrella's NEST Laboratory, with the only remaining samples of the G-Virus in-hand for proper disposal. And Claire's last scene with Sherry and Annette Birkin in the Security Room helps us learn a few details about the facility's proprietary self-destruct protocols. During Leon's encounters with a mutated William Birkin, the automated research facility (taking cues from Ridley Scott's Alien and its sequel) forces our heroes into a time-sensitive endgame. "Attention: Unauthorized removal of a [Level 4] virus detected. Facility lockdown initiated. Self-destruct sequence will begin when lockdown is complete." (And it's seemingly no small coincidence that Claire's costume here resembles the tank top and cargo pants made fashionable by Sigourney Weaver in Aliens). Simply put, as Annette explains to Claire: the self-destruct code is ultimately in place to prevent the G-Virus from ever leaving the building.

Annette Birkin's final sacrifice

Doctors William and Annette Birkin were two of NEST's administrators and were architects of the Golgotha Virus. But unlike William, who succumbed to hubris and a series of horrible mutations at the hands of his own creation, Annette manages to atone for her wicked deeds in a final moment of sacrifice. During the climax of Leon's story, Annette attempts to neutralize her beastly husband shortly after Leon obtains the G-Virus sample in the lab. William (in the transmogrified form of "G") crushes his wife and throws her limp form against a wall before he and Leon battle. Once Leon neutralizes G and the mechanical lift becomes operational, Annette implores Kennedy to destroy the sample moments before her extensive contusions render her unconscious.

Leon — who plans on handing over this evidence to the higher authorities — has a rude awakening when Annette suggests that FBI agent Ada Wong is in fact a mercenary who will sell the G-Virus sample to the highest bidder. Later, Leon confronts Ada on the catwalk and Annette appears yet again; before collapsing one more time, she shoots Ada to ensure the G sample doesn't fall into the wrong hands. Meanwhile, during the climax of Claire's story, we learn that Annette made it to the Security Room in the North Area of the NEST facility for one last heroic effort to save her infected daughter, Sherry. With her final breath, Annette urges Claire and Sherry to safety with the security clearance from her Admin Upgrade Chip.

The redemption of Ada Wong

Ada Wong is a mercenary who masquerades as a helpful FBI agent throughout Leon's story. Leon discovers the truth of their relationship a little too late, however, after Annette Birkin reveals Ada's true intentions for the G-Virus sample. Moments after Annette's apparent death, Leon confronts Ada with this revelation. With a sigh of regret, Ada turns on Kennedy, levels her gun at him and asks: "Why couldn't you just hand over the sample?" Leon reveals that as much as he wanted to trust her, he didn't. The subtext here is that these two people care a lot more for each other than their circumstances in life will allow.

Following a brief standoff, Leon drops his weapon and dares Ada to pull the trigger. Just when Ada begins to redeem herself by lowering her weapon, Annette reappears and shoots the double agent, sending her over the edge of the falling catwalk where she hangs for dear life. Leon isn't strong enough to save her; and in one final moment of tenderness, Ada encourages Leon to let her go. As she plummets to her fate, we consider a more heroic side of Ada Wong, and imagine what a few more moments of discourse and understanding could have provided for these star-crossed companions. And yet, there's more in store for Ada — she's revealed to have somehow survived this calamity during Leon's final battle with the Super Tyrant, when she repays his compassion by fortuitously hooking him up with a rocket launcher.

Saving Sherry Berkin

Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield's stories both detail the intricacies of Annette and William Birkin's meteoric fall from grace. But while Leon's tale is told through the lens of his association with the mercenary Ada Wong, Claire's story spends decidedly more time exploring her relationship with Annette and William's daughter Sherry. Claire's escape from the NEST laboratory after her encounter with William Birkin is relatively uneventful until she reconnects with Sherry and her mother in the North Area Security Room.

After confirming to Claire that Sherry has been rid of the G-Virus and its effects, Annette finally succumbs to the life-threatening injuries she sustained at the clawed hands of her mutated husband. In the wake of Annette's death, Claire acts as a surrogate mother of sorts for the orphaned child, quickly rising to the task of protecting her against all odds as they escape the self-destructing facility and the horde of ivy zombies and other horrors that lurk throughout. Echoes of Lt. Ellen Ripley's relationship with Newt from Aliens are unmistakable, especially during the self-destruct sequence. But this serendipitous sisterhood is a pragmatic one. Claire has no qualms about reminding Sherry of the grim danger they face. Her reply to Sherry's youthful appreciation of her kindness is laced with a sober rationality: "I'm really glad I met you, too, Sherry. But save your thanks until I get you out of this place."

No more G-Virus?

Most of Resident Evil 2's major plot points involve the control and/or eradication of the Golgotha Virus, the insidious strain of Progenitor virus that was developed by William and Annette Birkin for Umbrella. Designed to unlock the biological secrets of immortality via cellular regeneration, the G-Virus turned out to be a lot more hazardous than its crackpot creators expected it to be. As the "Vaccine synthesis" file in RE2 explains, "Any beings infected by the G-virus will reproduce through the impregnation of an embryo within another living being. Unless rejected by the host, the embryo will undertake a process of gradual cellular invasion, infecting the host's cells on a molecular level as it rewrites their DNA." Thanks to the diligent efforts of our heroes (and the relative ineptitude of our villains), the G-Virus introduced in RE2 becomes virtually extinct by the game's finale.

During the final chapter of Leon's story, the final G-Virus sample is all but lost when Ada drops it moments before her apparent death. "Nobody gets that sample now," Annette Birkin explains after she fires the bullet that sends Ada over the ledge. The vial is dropped an unknown distance and (seemingly) never recovered. We can, however, imagine that Sherry is a potential carrier of the virus, despite being cured of its taint. But the Golgotha Virus as a main plot point makes its final stand here in Resident Evil 2. Sherry is "free of the G-Virus," but it's hard to say what virulence remains.

The true identity of Mr. X

Leon and Claire spend much of their time in the Resident Evil 2 remake avoiding a mysterious agent of the Umbrella Corporation known as Mr. X. This tall, muscular, trench-coated figure is nigh unstoppable. The true nature of the furtive Mr. X is revealed during the final battle of Leon's story, when Leon is fleeing the self-destructing NEST research facility. Mr. X is, in fact, T-00 — a Tyrant T-103 that was sent into Raccoon City to recover the G-Virus sample from Sherry Birkin's pendant and kill surviving officers of the Raccoon Police Department (namely, one Leon Kennedy). Fans of the original Resident Evil will recognize T-00 as a beefed up version of that game's final boss. As RE2 writer Noboru Sugimura told Japanese magazine The PlayStation in 1998, "after talking we realized that making the Tyrant so strong would render the existence of the G-Virus meaningless ... to solve that problem we came up with the idea of the Tyrant having a mission to retrieve the G-Virus."

Mr. X finally catches up with Leon during the climax of his story. As the fire from the crumbling facility burns away his coat, we see Mr. X in his full mutated glory as the Super Tyrant. Fortunately for Leon, Ada Wong somehow survived her perilous fall from the catwalk and arrives right on time to surreptitiously drop off a handy rocket launcher. These anti-tank rockets are just what the doctor ordered, and dispatch the nearly invulnerable Super Tyrant with swift justice.

Leon accidentally fell in love

When Leon Kennedy first meets Ada Wong in the parking garage, she saves him from a brutal close encounter with a zombie dog. She introduces herself as an FBI agent — a lie that Leon quickly accepts from the alluring woman without further investigation. Ada's helpful demeanor ultimately betrays her stern advice to "do yourself a favor: stop asking questions and get the hell out of [Raccoon City]" before she disappears into the night. These two meet again several times throughout the events of Resident Evil 2, and Ada continues to prove herself a worthy companion for our danger-prone protagonist. During Leon's mission to retrieve the G-Virus from Umbrella's NEST facility, Annette Birkin spills the beans on Ada's actual MO, which leads to Ada's fall from the catwalk and subsequent reappearance during Leon's fight with the Super Tyrant.

After Leon reaches the bottom level during his escape from the facility and boards the moving train, he takes a moment to reflect on his tumultuous relationship with Ada and idly examines her ID bracelet. "I can't believe I actually miss her," he tells himself as the train takes off into the subterranean expanse below Raccoon City. In this tender moment, Leon's earlier confrontation with Ada on the catwalk comes into focus: he wasn't just putting his life on the line to stir up a humane spirit in his erstwhile companion, he was risking it for the love of a woman who ultimately shared the same honorable spirit.

William Birkin's final form

Antagonist William Birkin, head of the Golgotha Virus research project, undergoes a series of grotesque mutations throughout the course of the game after exposing himself to the G-Virus. During the finale of both Leon and Claire's stories, the player is confronted by the cantankerous doctor after obtaining the G-Virus sample. We witness Birkin's baleful transmogrifications into the second and third phases of his G mutation as Leon flees the research facility. During this middle phase of his mutagenic devolution, Birkin is a four-armed monstrosity covered in large extra eyes. Claire encounters a fourth stage of Birkin's mutation after she gets the train online during the self-destruct sequence.

Only later, once Leon is united with Claire and Sherry on the subway, are we treated to a teaser of a fifth and final iteration of G when a large, bulbous form attempts to rip through a subway car door seconds before we cut to black. One gets the impression that Birkin survived and his ultimate form has yet to be fully revealed.

You'll unlock RE2's true ending by completing a second playthrough of the game with the other character in 2nd Run mode (just be sure to select the 2nd playthrough option). Here, during the 2nd Run finale, you'll encounter Birkin's fifth stage form: an oversized, amorphous mass of tentacles, teeth, and eyes. After G's defeat, the real narrative conclusion of RE2 can finally be seen when Leon, Claire, and Sherry walk hand-in-hand into the apocalyptic sunset.

The 4th Survivor

Mr. X isn't the only clandestine operative of the Umbrella Corporation in Raccoon City. Completing a 2nd Run playthrough of Resident Evil 2 also unlocks the 4th Survivor campaign as featured in the original RE2 release on PlayStation. This hidden ending from the 1998 classic is so beloved, Resident Evil 2 producer and senior manager Yoshiaki Hirabayashi actually confirmed the return of the fan-favorite mode during an E3 2018 interview with Trusted Reviews prior to the remake's release. The 4th Survivor alternate game mode is named after the Umbrella agent code-named Hunk, leader of the ill-fated Alpha Team, and provides an alternate perspective on the events surrounding Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield in Raccoon City.

You'll play as the "Grim Reaper" himself as he fights his way out of the Raccoon City Police Department (aka Point K12). After successfully running the "boss rush" gauntlet of infected enemies, Hunk emerges into a Raccoon City that's fraught with peril and destruction. Moments later, our gas-masked anti-hero is safely extracted from the zombie-ridden hellscape by the Umbrella agent code-named Nighthawk — making Hunk the only Umbrella Corp agent to actually survive the events of Resident Evil 2 from the inside.

Raccoon City in ruins

The intro of Resident Evil 2's campaign refers to Raccoon City as "an industrial city in the heart of America." Unfortunately, various iterations of the deadly Progenitor virus are noxiously pumping through that heart beat by biohazardous beat. Even after Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield have left the ordeal behind them, we understand the hard road ahead. The fiery finale of the 4th Survivor campaign and the lurking presence of the T-Virus fundamentally set the stage for the continued trials and tribulations of Raccoon City under the virulent boot of the Umbrella Corp (notably, the events of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis). Although the heartland town still stands, when you also consider the "true ending" of Leon and Claire's campaigns and their railbound battle with William Birkin's Stage 5 G mutation, the future of Raccoon City looks awfully bleak.

Even before the final moments of the game, the grim future of Raccoon City and the greater Resident Evil universe is easy to imagine. Sherry Birkin paints a vivid picture of the dread that's already swept the town when she first meets Claire: "My mom called and told me to go to the Police Station because it was too dangerous to stay at home."

The Tofu Survivor

Completing Hunk's 4th Survivor campaign unlocks "The Tofu Survivor" mission, where you'll play as a giant lump of tofu (a fun-loving return of the classic parody mode from the original Resident Evil 2). This is the toughest of all of the campaigns — largely because you're only armed with a knife and your soybean wits. Completing Tofu Survivor unlocks additional Tofu characters with different loadouts, like Konjac (who wields effective weapons like the flamethrower with a few health items) and Uiro-Mochi (who sports a handful of grenades but no healing items). And, should you manage to survive the preposterous ordeal of fighting through the virulent wastes of Raccoon City as a giant slab of bean curd, you won't be claiming any trophies or achievements for your troubles — only the hard-earned accolades of high scores and record-setting completion times await this ludicrous warrior at the end of its harrowing journey.

Obviously, the Tofu Survivor mission offers a decidedly more absurd conclusion to the Resident Evil 2 saga. And although it's unlikely to be considered part of the official canon of Resident Evil mythology, one does wonder what kind of perverse mad science the Umbrella Corporation employed to turn an unwitting human being into a large piece of tofu. Only time, and Albert Wesker, will tell ...