Available on: DC, GCN, N64, PC, PS1, PSN
Developer(s): Capcom, Angel Studios, Factor 5, Sourcenext
Publisher(s): Capcom, Virgin Interactive, Nintendo
Resident Evil 2 was to be the first sequel to Capcom's most critically acclaimed and commercially successful game of the decade, so yeah, you could say creator and producer Shinji Mikami was under a lot of pressure when he promised a bigger, better, badder and scarier Resident Evil with a truckload of more zombies, as the game's production began right after the release of the first one. Wanting to stay one hundred per cent true to his word, he unceremoniously canned the whole project when it was about 70% done, and ordered director Hideki Kamiya and his team to start from scratch. After over a year and a half since it began taking form and a near dive into development hell, Resident Evil 2 finally hit the shelves in January, 1998. It turned out to be everything Mikami promised it to be, and more - no less than perhaps the best traditional survival horror game in history.
The serious disorder of the keepers of order
Paul Haddad : Leon S. Kennedy
Alyson Court : Claire Redfield
Sally Cahill : Ada Wong
Lisa Yamanaka : Sherry Birkin
Jennifer Dale : Dr. Annette Birkin
Rod Wilson : Ben Bertolucci
Gary Krawford : Brian Irons / Robert Kendo
Diego Matamoros : Dr. William Birkin
Over the course of one night, just few months after the mansion incident at the Arklay Mountains, Raccoon City turns into hell on Earth. Umbrella Inc.'s most advanced type of virus, labelled G, spreads over the city like wildfire. Claire Redfield is a young, motorcycle-riding tomboy come to search for her brother Chris, who's been missing for some time. Leon S. Kennedy, on the other hand, is a new recruit at the Raccoon City Police Department, which has become somewhat of a hive to those infected by the G-Virus. They may be strangers to each other, but they must work together to survive the viral outbreak and escape the city.
|Leon... or a newly rendered Max Headroom.|
The game begins with a disclaimer: "This game contains scenes of explicit violence and gore." To my recollection, Resident Evil 2 was the first game I ever played that had this disclaimer, since the original version of the first game didn't. The first time I saw the disclaimer on the screen, I sincerely said to myself, and to my brother who was giving me some parental advisory - or just enjoying the show - that "the game doesn't even need to be good, it just told me a good reason to play it anyway." But, it turned out to be a great game, and it did cash in on that promise. Still does. Unlike the first game, this one has endured the fangs of time quite neatly and its detailed, gory violence is still quite remarkable; the game remained one of the best-looking games on the original PlayStation right up until the end of the platform's lifespan. The character polygons stick out from the pre-rendered backgrounds with a lot less volume, and although the FMV models are ugly and doll-ish by today's standards, watching them in action is oh, so much easier on the eyes and mind than suffering the previous game's ridiculous live actors, or their nasty lip syncs.
|This guy totally missed the landing zone.|
The music by Masami Ueda, Shusaku Uchiyama and Shun Nishigaki is exceptionally good. I didn't pay a lot of attention to the score of the first Resident Evil game - Ueda was the only person of the three to work on that one - but here, it's less ambient. Dark, melodic, intimidating, very piano-driven stuff that you'd expect to hear in a Japanese horror movie. And no tacky guitar rock this time around.
Resident Evil 2 comes on two discs, and that should already give you an idea of what length, variety and visual goodness we're dealing with here. The first Resident Evil had two different scenarios - one for Chris, and one for Jill - and that was it. End of story. If you could meet certain criteria, you could play the game again using different clothes and even using a rocket launcher with infinite ammo, but there was nothing concretely new about your second round. In Resident Evil 2, both characters, Leon and Claire, have two different scenarios each. It depends on who you start out with - if you start the party with Leon, you'll first have to play through Leon A and then, Claire B. You'll then proceed to the reverse order - Claire A, Leon B. The B scenarios are a bit tougher, since a lot of stuff you do in the A scenario has an effect on the B scenario. Just an example: if you find a machinegun in the A scenario and decide to take it, it will not be available for the character in the B scenario, since the scenarios both take place simultaneously.
Leon and Claire bump into each other a few times during the game, but they both have their own ways to reach the end, and their own problems to deal with. Most of those problems are brought on by the other friendlies they meet on the way. That's right, there are two additional characters, one accompanying each from time to time, and who are even playable in choice situations. Leon has to deal with a very mysterious woman in red named Ada Wong, who has supposedly come to Raccoon City to look for her missing hubby who works for Umbrella, and Claire has to suffer the remarkable pain of looking after a lost little girl, the daughter of two Umbrella scientists who have seemed to go missing as well. If you haven't figured it out by now, children and teenagers always spell trouble in games. Especially survival horror games. Resident Evil 2 is no exception. As a matter of fact, it more or less started the trend. As much as I'd like to cut down the points due to that fact, I can't. 'Cause it's a great fuckin' game.
|The streets are crawling with zombies, and the |
chief of police is a grade A nutjob. I love this
I won't go into the inane logic of a police officer not able or willing to break into a closet or a drawer even in an emergency, this time around, and besides, the small keys are very useful. Not only do you find ammo from drawers, but also parts which you can use to upgrade your weapons. For example, your basic handgun can be equipped with a stabilizer and rapid fire to make it a much more efficient tool for killing. Which is good, since there are a lot of downright excellent weapons such as the bowgun and the machinegun, but you rarely find ammo for them. Ammo for the more basic weapons is available in large amounts - you shouldn't be TOO trigger happy, though, since there are a lot of zombies in this game. And things that are much worse.
Lickers replace Hunters, and man, these bastards do know how to make an entrance. Not only are they scary as fuck to begin with, but they can kill you with just a couple of slips of their tongues if they are close and precise enough. Without a shotgun or something better, you'd better pray when there are more than one of these guys after you. The bosses range from a giant sewer alligator to different abominations spawned by just a drop of the G-Virus, to a colossal, seemingly immortal guy in a trenchcoat only known as Mr. X, who is also a fan of big entrances. I seriously almost crapped my pants the first time this guy made his presence known. He is most definitely one of the creepiest dudes I've ever seen in a video game.
Since I've managed to play through both Leon and Claire's A scenarios without a memory card back in the day, it's not that hard to figure out that it's not impossible, in fact it's quite easy. But it's not the point. The first scenario of the game is, for all intents and purposes, only the first quarter of the game. You can't say you've beaten the game after just one scenario because there are so much details and crucial events that won't be unlocked until you've beaten all four scenarios. Doing this takes about 20 hours from the most seasoned player, so yeah, we're dealing with a lengthy, challenging game lightyears ahead of its predecessor on this front - the first and only Resident Evil game that took full advantage (and more) of having two main characters. You could say the team put a whole lot more effort into Resident Evil 2 than they should have. The next couple of games were bound to disappoint, since they were stripped of a lot of small elements that made Resident Evil 2 so great.
|X, dude... can't we just talk this through?|
I had a lot of trouble coming up with a decent written review of Resident Evil 2. I was actually considering of just rating the game. The biggest problem was that I couldn't really put my final opinion on it into words. The game was so fuckin' awesome when it came out, and it still is, but after a million playthroughs and the more recent games which are not thematically as good, but have incredible gameplay, parts of it make you want to quit in midway and just remember the game as the flawless masterpiece it was. A friend of mine, who's probably the biggest fan of old-school Resident Evil there is, managed to inspire me during an MSN conversation and I'd like to end this review by flat-out quoting him. "Resident Evil 2 was the life and death of true survival horror. There will never be another game which is as genuinely scary and action-packed at the same time. They tried with Nemesis and Code: Veronica, but they lost balance. Then they stopped trying." Might sound harsh, but that's about the way it is.
Graphics : 9.1
Sound : 7.7
Playability : 9.2
Challenge : 9.5
Overall : 9.3
a.k.a. Biohazard 2 (JAP)
GameRankings: 79.75% (DC), 63.30% (GCN), 86.77% (N64), 79.59% (PC), 92.57% (PS1)
Strangely, the game was released in North America first, and even more strangely, the Japanese version of it is notably easier and features less explicit violence.
The scrapped version of the game is known in the Resident Evil fan community as Resident Evil 1.5, a title coined by the development team. Leon S. Kennedy was the male lead, but he sported a totally different, more militaristic look. College student Elza Walker was the original female lead; her love for motorcycles is the only characteristic carried over to Claire.
Members of the original development team have expressed interest in totally remaking the game in the same fashion the first game was remade for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002.