Resident Evil 2 (1998)
Resident Evil was one of the first Playstation games I played, having heard many stories about it from my older brother. Naturally when I heard a sequel was on the way I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The original had been so atmospheric that my only fear was a follow-up wouldn’t capture that same chilling essence. Writing today I can confidently say Resident Evil 2 is the best of the series I’ve had the pleasure of playing.
Resident Evil 2 is set two months after the events of the first game where a deadly virus had been released at a remote mansion on the outskirts of Raccoon City. A new virus – the G-virus – has now spread throughout the city and turned the majority of its population into zombies. Arriving in the city independently of each other on the same night are two strangers, Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield. Leon is a rookie police officer arriving in Raccoon City for his first day as a member of the RPD (Raccoon Police Department), while Claire is looking for her brother Chris, one of the protagonists from the first game. Finding the city infested with zombies Leon and Claire make their way to the police department and uncover the source of the virus outbreak – the clandestine activities of a scientist named William Birkin.
While the first Resident Evil game offered two characters to choose from in Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, Resident Evil 2 comprises six games in one! During the still impressive introduction to Leon and Claire’s stories the two characters flee a zombie advance by climbing into a police car. When a zombie on the back seat attacks them Leon ends up crashing the car. Before Leon or Claire can gather themselves, an out of control truck, with a driver turning into a zombie at the wheel, bears down on them. Leon and Claire climb out of their respective sides of the car and are separated in the city having to make their own way to the police station where their paths cross once more. This separating event is crucial to the structure of Resident Evil 2. Each character has two scenarios A and B to play through. Scenario A must be played through first which offers a conclusion of sorts to the game but not the whole story. In order to see the real ending you have to play through Scenario B. If you play as Leon, escaping from one side of the car at the outset, and complete Scenario A you will unlock Scenario B for Claire which depicts different events as she escapes from the other side of the car. The same applies if you play through Scenario A for Claire. In that version the police car crashes head on rather than spinning and impacting rear first. The path Leon traverses in Scenario A is now taken by Claire while in Scenario B Leon now follows the route Claire did in her second scenario. Confused? Aside from this difference defined by the intro Leon and Claire encounter different characters during their scenarios. Claire becomes protector of a young girl named Sherry and also encounters the corrupt police chief Brian Irons. Elsewhere Leon meets a mysterious woman named Ada who is looking for her boyfriend John, as well as a journalist Ben who has uncovered corruption within Raccoon City’s police force. There are also two bonus games to unlock but my lips are sealed on those. It would spoil the surprise!
Resident Evil 2 plays the same as the first game but there have been many improvements. You still heal your characters with first aid sprays and medicinal herbs and although the menu is similar it navigates a lot faster and smoother. You are limited in the amount of items you can carry but handy chests are located throughout the game for storage. There’s a lot more fairness in terms of combat where zombies that grab you to take a bite can be pushed away rather than being allowed to injure you before you can react as in the first game. Zombies and dogs are familiar enemies from the original but Resident Evil 2 introduces a new breed of monster – lickers – while among your many memorable encounters are giant versions of familiar animals and a monster that stalks the police station and frequently takes on new forms for every one you manage to defeat. You’ll have little time for a rest as you negotiate the different scenarios! Puzzles are prominent in Resident Evil 2 and you’ll find that your actions in one scenario can affect those for the other character in the second scenario.
The locations are just as good if not better than the first game. The four scenarios for the two characters offer plenty of scope to keep playing especially to unlock the different endings as well as two secret scenarios, different outfits for your characters but, best of all, super duper weapons like a rocket launcher with infinite rockets for you to play through the game again and fell your enemies in their dozens without breaking sweat. It’s more than worth all the hard work to partake of this privilege, I can assure you.
I loved Resident Evil 2 when it was first released and playing through it more than ten years later the impact remains the same. It doesn’t take long to finish each scenario but you’ll have a lot of fun fighting zombies and weird creatures while solving the many puzzles and enjoying the still impressive cut scenes. Superior to the original and still my favourite in the series this one deserves to be remembered fondly long after the smoke has stopped rising from the ends of your zombie felling guns.
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