Resident Evil 2 review
It's my first day!
If Resident Evil 6 didn't indulge itself into just being an out and out third person shooter, the thought of Resident Evil 2 would spiral me into a deep depression that'd make me want to sell all of my Resident Evil merchandise just in an effort to never, ever think about it ever again and cheer up maybe a tiny bit. While I'm more partial to the Silent Hill series (both old school and new school), Resident Evil was what encouraged me to take those steps into the world of survival horror with its blend of item conservation, exploration, puzzle solving and zombie slaying... well, not so much the latter, but you get the picture. Resident Evil 2 is what a sequel ought to be - not only a continuation of the story or another slab of folklore in an anthology, but also new and improved while feeling familiar enough to bare the name of its predecessor without outright plagiarising itself... in simpler terms, it's an improvement on the first game.
For Leon Scott Kennedy, tonight is his first night on the force, and his first case... is to find out what happened to the police station. Sweet mother of god, what's going on here? Oh, a zombie apocalypse, that's it? Well, time to figure out who or what is behind it. If you've played the first game, you'd probably have already figured that out, but for those who haven't, umm, get yourself a credit card and buy a Gamecube and a copy of Resident Evil because you are seriously missing out. It actually develops into an interesting conspiracy theory-esque plot about how a company infected most of Raccoon City with a virus that turns people into zombies, even if the majority of its good parts are within files that you'll find throughout the game. The story gets more interesting the further along you progress because it delves more into the cause of the outbreak, and... well, at least attempts at being serious are actually admirable and somewhat decent, rather than extremely laughable as the dialogue and voice acting have had their games upped... not quite good yet, but considering that it took a whole console generation before video game voice acting got taken seriously, I'm more than willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Oh, and when you beat Leon's campaign, you'll go through Claire Redfield's, which I liked even more. Claire's out looking for her brother, Chris Redfield - you know, the male lead from the first game and then the fifth game where his muscles are seven times the size of his genitals? Anyway, Claire will eventually find herself needing to look after a little girl named Sherry, who is looking for her father. Their (being Claire's and Sherry's) relationship doesn't develop as well as you'd be used to if you play heaps of modern games, but I don't know, I still found it interesting as it allows them to open up more as characters, learning a bit more about Claire. With Leon, he's... just an enthusiastic cop who wants evildoers to taste his justice; Claire and Sherry can relate with each other as they are searching for family members. Overall, playing as Claire is more worthwhile than playing as Leon. Probably helps that Claire's charismatic personality is one I can't get enough of.
There are two things that make things more interesting - multiple endings and multiple characters. Well, okay, you only take control of two characters (Leon and Claire), and both will have two endings each, and the only way to play as Claire is to beat the game as Leon, but the thing is how their campaigns mesh with one another. While Jill and Chris met with each other towards the end of the first game, Leon and Claire will meet with one another a fair few times throughout. Not only that, but what you do in Leon's campaign may affect what you can do in Claire's campaign. If you get greedy as Leon, you won't have much for Claire to get and make her campaign a lot harder than it ought to be. If I could pick on something real quick, though, I've always found it a tad amusing when key items you get in Leon's campaign somehow, perhaps magically appear elsewhere in Claire's campaign. But its no big deal as what they tried to do is a great idea as their campaigns take place at the same time, and given that Leon was itching to get this case solved, it'd make sense that he got through certain areas before Claire did. All that explains why the PS1 version has two discs - you finish Leon's campaign, insert disc 2 and go through Claire's campaign. Pretty cool idea, eh? I'd say so.
Bright explosion or zombie - decisions, decisions.
While there have been big changes to the story, gameplay remains largely the same with some refinements here and there. Both characters can hold up to eight items (instead of it being that one holds six and the other holds eight [excluding a lockpick for the latter]), so it's not like selecting a character also essentially selects the difficulty level, especially when you're presented with those options anyway... But besides that, item management is the same as before - you have to make sure you're carrying what you need, which usually consists of a gun or two, some bullets, herbs (healing items) and puzzle items. Combining items is a necessity not only in making space, but also either reloading your gun or giving you better healing items, but at the same time, conservation is your friend, as items don't pop up every ten seconds; in fact, unless you vigorously explore the police station, you won't find too many items... until the last third of the game, that is. Even then, you only have so much space, meaning you'll need to choose what to carry and what to leave behind. While being given plenty of items would be seen as otherwise, I still think Resident Evil 2 has a good idea of what survival is like, both in terms of conservation and in terms of strategizing with what items to take and leave behind.
Like with the mansion, you're basically in the police station for a good amount of the game, so you'll need to look around and find ways to get into other rooms to get items that'll help you stop the zombie outbreak. While there's more emphasis on puzzles involving thought, there are still a good amount that just involve running around to find key items. It's not as tedious as you'd think because it's intriguing to explore the police station to find these items, although it tends to help if you have a few free slots as Capcom aren't above having you use multiple keys. At least acquring some of them requires you to do the better puzzles, like moving items around (aka 90% of puzzles found in 3D Zelda games), pressing switches in the right order and using files that you find to figure out and enter a password. The puzzles are, for the most part, logically placed and implemented as they're what you'd sort of expect to do in a wrecked police station infested with zombies. Some of them, like one involving gargoyle statues, make me think "hmmm what's that doing in a modern day police station", but whatever, they work just as well.
Unfortunately like Resident Evil 1, Resident Evil 2's weakness is its combat. The enemies are mere obstacles that need to be navigated around or disposed of with shots to the face, although there seem to be plenty more zombies this time around. Navigating around them isn't going to be as easy, but given that the corridors are wider, eh, why not? Shooting is the same as before - aim and fire in place. The bosses aren't quite as tedious as the first game's as they seem to be a bit easier to kill, but it still is as you'll have to run, stop, turn, aim, shoot and turn - rinse, lather and repeat. I know that it's suppose to instil a feeling of terror, but beyond that, it is tedious and combat is not something I find myself looking foward to.
You wanna talk smack to me now, bitch!?
Resident Evil 2 is significantly better looking as there seems to be more polygons put into the 3D models, allowing for much smoother animation. Facial features are more defined... as are other fine details that make the zombies more gruesome than before. But the most important part is the atmosphere, and visually speaking... well, it has some dark colors here and there with bits of wreckage around the place, but other than that and the zombies, it's shiny and not really foreboding enough for a horror setting.
The sound design is thankfully more what you'd expect. There are some synthesized ambient tracks here and there that sound creepy, but more often than not, the only thing you'll hear is your character's footsteps before zombies break through windows really loudly. It has that whole "calm before the storm" thing going for it... which I could argue is used tastelessly. Jump scares are fine for campy B grade horror movies, which is what Resident Evil strived to be before being a campy B grade action series. But at the same time, this is definitely the least atmospheric of the PS1 trilogy. The police station is shiny and there is an overreliance on jump scares. It really only has its sound design going for it in terms of atmosphere.
Despite that (or possibly because of that - take it as you will), I give Resident Evil 2 an 8.5/10. It really does feel like a grand old B grade zombie movie as there are cheesy synthesizer tracks, plenty of jump scares and a lot of emphasis on conspiracies regarding the zombie invasion and companies that may seem innocent but not really, all the while having lackluster acting and decent dialogue to convey said story. Once again, the gameplay works in the context of a horror game, but on its own terms, it's still good enough in terms of exploration and puzzle solving while having lackluster combat. It's just good times, people!
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