Resident Evil 2 – PlayStation
Release Date: January 21st, 1998
Genre: Survival Horror
Nerd Rating: 8.5 / 10
Reviewed by InfiniteKnife
My first reviews in this series were Resident Evil 4 and the original Resident Evil, but make no mistake, this one is the reason I’m a die-hard RE fan. I first played Resident Evil 2 when I was 13 and it was my first real introduction to horror games. It was terrifying to be running around avoiding zombies and I remember that feeling of being tense and scared was really enjoyable for me. I got into the rest of the series soon after and have played every title that’s been released on a console since.
It’s been about 2 months since Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine survived their experience at the Spencer Mansion, and now Raccoon City is in full blown zombie apocalypse mode. Unfortunately for rookie cop Leon Kennedy and Chris’ sister Claire, there is a bad day waiting for them as they unknowingly drive right into the crap, which quickly hits the fan. They meet, team up, and get separated, setting up their individual scenarios.
Leon is reporting for his first day on the Raccoon Police force and Claire is looking for Chris, who disappeared after Resident Evil. Both meet a character that is exclusive to their part of the game. Ada Wong and Sherry Birkin meet up and accompany Leon and Claire, respectively, at different points. They find out that the zombie outbreak in the city was caused by Umbrella and Sherry’s father, William has created a new version of the original virus. Things went bad and he got mutated into a big, scary creature and serves as a recurring boss that both characters encounter throughout the game.
If you played the first Resident Evil, you’ll feel at home with the controls. People I’ve talked to either love them or hate them, without much in between. My take on wonky control schemes is that you need to adapt to them to be able to enjoy the game and they are a big part of what make the whole experience. It’s tough to imagine playing these early RE games without the somewhat clunky, yet functional controls. Up and down move you forward and back and you steer with left and right. Now that I think about it, running feels smoother in Resident Evil 2, especially when trying to navigate around enemies.
Attacks are simple enough. Hold the trigger to aim and press the action button to unleash whatever you’re holding. You can aim up and down at 45 degree angles, which allows you to have a better chance for headshots and to take out legs. No shooting while moving, either. You have to come to a complete stop to be able to attack anything, which factors into strategy when taking out groups of enemies and bosses. Reloading can either be done by trying to fire a shot after the ammo in your gun is depleted or by going into the menu and combining the ammo with the appropriate one. You’ll want to get used to manually reloading often.
Visually, I think Resident Evil 2 looks great for its time. The pre-rendered backgrounds allow for a lot more detail and make the environments look a lot more realistic. The character models moved more smoothly and realistically than in the first Resident Evil, though there are still some funny arm motions during some of the dialogue. Speaking of dialogue, it was still pretty bad but nowhere near the first RE. I felt like the bad lines added charm and never had a problem with them.
The inventory system is almost identical to Resident Evil. Both Leon and Claire have 8 slots to store items. It’s still more than a little ridiculous that a key takes up the same amount of space as a grenade launcher, but we just had to learn to deal with it. Also, while I appreciate that all characters in the early installments of the RE series have some kind of 6th sense that tells them when keys are no longer needed and can be discarded (inventory management), it’s ridiculous and always bugged me.
While the first RE did allow you to play the main game as 1 of 2 characters, each with their own storyline, Resident Evil 2 takes it a step further in a really cool way. If you choose to begin the game as Leon, you play through his story, woven together with Claire’s, complete with different character encounters and different boss fight locations. First time through, you play the selected character’s A scenario and when you start a new game under the same save file, you get the other’s B. This gives you 4 different playthroughs which, for a first timer, would probably take about 10-15 hours to get through.
I thought the music was great in RE2. It does a good job of making you feel alone while trying to survive the zombie apocalypse and seems to change perfectly with the different areas and situations you encounter. It gets intense when needed, like during boss fights or other times when something big and scary jumps out at you and helps relax the nerves in the save rooms when you know you’re safe, for the moment.
I don’t feel like the game was overly difficult, but it does have a learning curve to get comfortable with the controls and to learn the enemy patterns. Playing it now, it’s a snap, but one could say that about a number of games they’ve played through several times over the years. There is a hard mode for the brave, and some fun goodies to unlock for fun like the famous unlimited rocket launcher or mini gun. These are unlocked by beating the game (any scenario) within a certain time, under a certain number of saves, and by not using first aid sprays which are a full heal.
In addition to the main game, there is a separate game mode called The 4th Survivor. In this mode, you play as a Umbrella mercenary named Hunk and are tasked with escaping Raccoon City with a sample of the G-Virus. Your ammo and health items are severely limited so you need be on your game to get to the end. You’ll encounter most of the enemy types in the game, including bosses, but are not required to defeat them. Some are tougher than others to get passed, though. There is another version of this game mode featuring Tofu, a cleverly named 6ft block of tofu armed only with a knife. Otherwise, it’s the same as playing as Hunk. As you can imagine, it’s a massive bitch to complete.
Later, a different version of Resident Evil 2 was released call the Dual Shock version which enabled use of the rumble feature and analog sticks of the PlayStation Dual Shock controller. This is worth mentioning because it also introduced a new game mode called Extreme Battle. This was similar to the 4th Survivor, but instead of simply getting to the end, you had to retrieve 4 bombs while also avoiding lots of bad guys. You could play as 4 different characters, each with different starting weapons. This is the beginning of what would become Mercenaries mode on later RE titles.
Resident Evil 2 still holds up as my all-time favorite title in the series. I think it’s a combination of nostalgia and still holding onto what makes a good horror game, resource conservation, non-overpowered characters, and creepy music, to name a few. If you still own a PlayStation or PlayStation 2, you need to have this one in your collection or we can’t be friends. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
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