Game Review – ‘Resident Evil 2’ (1998)

Posted on by Dave

Platform(s): Playstation, Nintendo64, Dreamcast, GameCube, Game.com and Microsoft Windows

Bea Harper

After the surprise success of “Resident Evil 1”, Capcom decided to take another gamble with the survival horror approach and produced the direct sequel “Resident Evil 2”, and for many, this was the game that truly made gamers and horror fans alike prick their ears up and sniff the breeze. Upon it’s release, accolades by the dozen came rushing in like a tsunami of grue and Capcom realised that the “Resident Evil” title had massive franchise potential and “2” to this day still remains a prime favourite of the “RE” fan population en masse. Oh, and it also meant MON-AY.

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Set in the friendly mountain town known as Raccoon City (haha, nice oxymoron there), “2” sees the young, spunky sister of Chris Redfield, Claire join forces with the first day on the job rookie Leon S. Kennedy in a fierce fight for survival to escape the zombie and freak infested urban dead zone that has tragically been infected by the maligned T-Virus. Along the way, Claire and Leon meet the little girl lost Sherry Birkin and the mysterious red-clad vanguard Ada Wong, both of whom have a mysterious connection to the events of the viral outbreak.

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When you get past the blocky graphics that were very much a product of its time, the inherent cheese and the cumbersome controls (both of which would change when “Resident Evil 3: Nemesis” came around), and the fact that on a HD TV the game doesn’t hold up well, generally speaking, this is one of the strongest entries of the series because as the game’s ominous tagline reminds us: “If the fear doesn’t kill you, something else will”. This is an understatement. This game really demands the player to be hella frugal with their resources and to adapt to new circumstances. Two of the major locales in the game include the Raccoon City Police Department (RCPD for short) and an underground secret (is there any other sort?) laboratory that harbours far deadly horrors than the ones you see on the streets. Believe me, zombies are the least of your concern in this game because you get a menagerie of beasties to deal with including the introduction of the famous Licker and the infamous Mr. X both of which are fully determined to ruin Leon and Claire’s day.

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Perhaps what I like most about this game is its story- although at heart it is a B-grade, its still told in a compelling A-grade manner because you are constantly on the move, exploring new places and facing a plethora of unimaginable situations. When not running afoul the numerous walking corpses and genetically engineered nasties, the game cleverly states that it’s most EVIL character truly is a human being, in that case assuming the form of Brian Irons, the corrupt and more than a little fricking insane police chief who has a particular obsession with taxidermy and the mayors’ dead daughter. Yeah, this isn’t just about the rancid gore and beasties, folks- the worst monster that you could ever face is another human being and his scenes are amongst the most chilling. While the conventional argument could be made that this story and it’s content defies convention, this is a game that deals with the undead and relentless monsters- if you’re still looking for a deep and intellectual journey into the fragility of man, you’re looking in the wrong place- unless you count being decapitated by a Licker as the definition of human fragility then yes, yes it is! To play in each scenario as the Claire and Leon is a unique and varied experience, although some may take favouritism to one over the other. Leon is equipped with better firepower and has more stamina, but Claire makes up for the lack of that with agility and more resource storage. Additionally, who you play as also depends on the puzzles you are tasked with solving and when you first play it, they can be brain-benders and may lead to several cases of frustration. As with its predecessor and “REmake” you gotta use the ol’ grey matter rather than your fists in this adventure because honestly, every mistake you make will be of consequence later on down the track. BELIVE ME I KNOW. Apart from this obvious point, you really do get the opportunity to have fun because your digital avatar is in one heck of  a wild situation and living vicariously is what gamers live for. To be a gamer means to live many lives and to step into the shoes of the younger Redfield or Leon ‘The Hair’ Kennedy is but one existence among many and what an existence it is. One of the other most favoured features of the game is it’s delirious, desperate and urgent score. Music truly does have a unique and almost eerie effect on the human brain- when the ear hears something fast-paced and relentless, the mind is alert and on its toes, and the music in this game is no exception. When you hear a particular piece of music that says “Oh crap, Mr. X is here!” your heart with be thudding in your chest and your stomach will be right up in your throat.

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In addition to the main story, we also get the genesis of the Mercenaries mode with a battle game that features Leon, Claire, Chris, Ada and the long-lost third member of Daft Punk Agent HUNK, which are fun, but nothing on what this particular battle game will become.

Apart from the fact that once again, this game truly is from the time it was made, what with the clunky controls and some truly dramatically atrocious line readings (although Alyson Court and Sally Cahill are perhaps the strongest players in the roles of Claire and Ada respectively), I believe a huge negative that impacts on the enjoyment on the game comes from the fact that since gaming has evolved in terms of systems and gameplay, it’s unlikely a lot of new gamers will enjoy what this game has to offer. Recent generations of gamers have been spoiled with enormous advances in tech, and to play this would most likely result in distaste and longing for a greater luxury. Not everybody is willing to give an older game much of a time of day if they are not able to immediately be accustomed to the controls or in the most shallowest case, the graphics. That’s the nature of technology folks. If “2” ever gets the same treatment as “REmake” did, “2” could continue it’s legacy completely, plus for my coin, it would look startlingly impressive. MAKE IT HAPPEN, CAPCOM, IT WILL MEAN MONEY FOR YOU!!!

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On the whole, for those who want a challenge and a damn solid foray into “RE” with all of the trimmings, “2” is perhaps the perfect diving board into the pool- it has all of what initially made the series so prosperous and it has two strong characters to slip into and save the skin of. If you ever get an urge to play this game with the lights off all on your own during the night, absolutely nobody will hold that against you- that’s half the fun. 😀

Fun Factor: 8 – Despite the gouda, if you love your “RE” intense and essential, this game requires a regular visit.

Graphics: 6 – Good for its time, but the years haven’t been kind to this game. I do get a kick out of seeing the characters wildly gesticulate for no apparent reason though.

Sound: 7 – The music I would ordinarily score a 9, but since this is a general rating, “RE2” has seen better days.

Control: 5 – The halfway rating really does go both ways. If you are an old hand to the game it will be second nature, but if you are a late arrival, movement can be awkward and when facing enemies who are prone to cheap attacks, things can get quite hairy. Though you can always learn.

Lasting Appeal: 8 – While 1998 and its technological short-comings are a distant memory, “RE 2” offers what is at core a unique and memorable contribution to the world of survival horror that the series had on a broader scale pioneered. Hopefully though what with the advances of graphics, gameplay and quality, this one with see the revamp it so richly deserves.

68% – OK

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