Resident Evil has defined the survival-horror genre for over two decades, with a plethora of characters and storylines to keep fans engaged and craving more. The original has gotten the remake treatment on multiple modern consoles, and after years of waiting and begging, Resident Evil 2 finally has a reboot dropping this Friday. The second take on the Racoon City incident is widely considered to be the game that put the series on the map, pushing the boundaries of what a dedicated group of developers could accomplish on a Playstation. New graphics and environmental design, two discs each containing a separate hero’s point of view, and fresh zombies and baddies to kill; Capcom crushed expectations with what may be the greatest first-gen Playstation sequel of all time.
The game opens with our main characters (either Leon Kennedy or Claire Redfield), entering the city to find absolute chaos and the living dead roaming the streets. Players will immediately notice a welcome change from the original, with the corny FMV from the first game being replaced with computer-generated cutscenes. The gameplay is relatively the same as before, with puzzle-solving and blasting hordes of zombies as its staple mechanics. The differences between the storylines are moderate, as Leon and Claire meet new characters and acquire specific weapons and items – Claire begins with a lockpick and can find the grenade launcher; Leon gets a lighter and a shotgun. The starter items mostly rearrange the order in which puzzles are done, making it a minor point. The variety of characters each encounters give a certain weight and nuance to how the story plays out. Claire occasionally runs into Mr. X, a bio-weapon sent in to kill all survivors and gather a sample of the G-virus. This addition to her playthrough would heavily influence the next game in the series, which gave us Nemesis. Upon completion of each story, you’ll unlock a scenario B for both characters. Capcom may have been the first to implement a system in which your choices effect future playthroughs. Snag a sub-machine gun with Leon, and the gun will be gone when Claire tries to find it. A small touch, but appreciated by the players.
The environments are spectacular, with a graphical upgrade to boot. From zombie infested streets, to the defunct Raccoon City police station, each area the player moves through has varying degrees of eeriness. The camera angles remain the same as the first, adding an element of terror to each location you explore. It’s what you don’t see that the game draws on for horror, with enemies bursting through windows and ceiling tiles at any given moment. You can hear the shuffling and moans of zombies down the hallway, whether the camera lets you see them or not. The number of zombies in an area has been beefed up, giving players a claustrophobic, out-numbered feel to combat situations. The now infamous tank controls can make dodging and movement frustrating, adding to the tension and horror in its own special way.
Aside from zombies, the monsters and bio-weapons you find throughout Raccoon City drive home the hopelessness of our character’s escape from the city. Lickers, Giant Spiders, and a chase scene through the sewers by a monstrous Alligator are some of the most memorable moments in the game. The boss fights can be difficult at times, but they can also quickly turn into a “pull out your strongest weapon and kill it before it kills you,” fight. The B.O.W.s and giant animals have always been my favorite part of the Resident Evil series, and RE2 built upon its current collection with creative and terrifying choices.
The game features a side mission you can unlock called The Fourth Survivor, playing as the last surviving member of Alpha team, HUNK. The player races the clock to reach the roof of the police station for extraction with a sample of the G-virus to return to Umbrella Corporation superiors. A parody of this mission is also available, The Tofu Survivor. Armed with a combat knife and extra stamina, players must get to the chopper in a timed scenario playing as none other than a piece of Tofu.
Resident Evil 2 isn’t without its shortcomings. The voice acting can induce one to cringe during key plot points, with bland delivery and nonsensical lines. Voice acting for video games was in infancy during those years, and rumor has it the Japanese developers had a hard time discerning what was normal sounding to an American audience based off context. The puzzles can be silly at times (collecting Chess themed plugs to open a sewer door, for some reason), with them seeming out of place for the setting of our story, whereas in the mansion from the first game they would have been a perfect fit. The item management system can be enraging, requiring players to store and exchange items on a need to use basis. The player receives eight item slots, but a shotgun still occupies the same space as a key to unlock a door. While this can be maddening, map and game knowledge will alleviate this problem for experienced players.
Resident Evil 2 is arguably the best of the series before RE4 revolutionized the way we play survival-horror. The story and characters, combined with loads of zombies and monsters to haunt our nightmares, raises RE2 to the hall of fame. With the hype for the upcoming remake releasing this week, let us all join together to remember the GOAT that brought us countless crap-our-pants moments and adventure. Resident Evil 2 drops at midnight, January 25th, 2019.
Probably somewhere getting buffs to grind.