As with so many things in life, the plan for October’s Throwback Thursday needed some changing. So, since everyone loved the Resident Evil review from last week, we’re going to continue the fun this week with my favorite title in the series, Resident Evil 2. In the back of my head, I really wanted to do the second installment last week. Don’t get me wrong, the original Resident Evil is a great game, as are many other titles in the series, but I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Resident Evil 2. I picked this game up a few months after it came out, and I was certainly not disappointed. Before I get into what made this game so great, I’d like to wax nostalgic for a second.
My gamer friends know a lot about me and gaming habits, and one of the first things they all found out about me was that I am obsessive when it comes to all things Resident Evil 2. It easily ranks in my top five favorite games of all-time. Even now, twelve years after my original playthrough, I find myself returning to this undeniable classic time and time again.
Aside from nursing a rhythm gaming addiction during high school (DanceDance Revolution & Guitar Hero), I also had to deal with another dangerous bent: Resident Evil 2 speed runs. Yes, I was that person obsessively scouring every walkthrough for the fastest possible route through each scenario. There was one summer in particular that consisted mostly of my part time job and Resident Evil 2 speed runs (our own Nick C. can attest to this). At one point, I was averaging runs under 90 minutes for each of the games’ four scenarios. I knew this game inside-and-out, and I enjoyed every playthrough. Resident Evil 2 is probably the game I have beaten the most (but not the game I’ve spent the most time on. That charming title goes to either Rock Band or World of Warcraft). So, now you know more about me then you probably ever wanted to know. Let’s take a look at what makes Resident Evil 2 the gold standard in horror gaming.
Plot/Characters – 9.5/10
Resident Evil 2‘s story picks up a few months after its predecessor ends. The infection that was thought to have been contained in the original game has spread to the nearby town of Raccoon City. The game starts roughly two-and-a-half months after the original. The main characters, Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, have come to Raccoon City for various purposes: Leon to report as the newest member of the Raccoon City Police Department and Claire to find her lost brother, Resident Evil’s Chris Redfield. Of course, things don’t go as planned and the two wind up meeting (and then subsequently separating moments later).
The story is told in two ways: you play one character’s “A” game and the other’s “B” game. (In total, there are four scenarios, an “A” and “B” game for each character.) The first half of the game has your character exploring the Raccoon City Police Department’s main headquarters, a labyrinth building with tons of puzzles and
friendly creatures things that want to eat you. I won’t spoil you much beyond that, but, as with the plot in its predecessor, a massive conspiracy is uncovered that stretches to all walks of life in Raccoon City.
Leon and Claire are both great characters, and both have gone on to lead successful careers headlining their own games. Some of the game’s supporting characters, like Sherry Birkin and Ada Wong, have also become big players in the Resident Evil universe. The four-scenario gameplay is used really well and each has their own unique version of the story. Resident Evil 2 also got packed in with two bonus campaigns: “The Fourth Survivor” and “The Tofu Survivor,” which is one of the hardest Resident Evil campaigns to-date. Overall, Resident Evil 2 is a fantastic experience that has a lot of story.
Sound – 9.0/10
To say that Resident Evil 2‘s voice-acting is better than the original’s is a ridiculous understatement. With very few exceptions, the performances were way better this time around. A more well-rounded cast of characters allowed Capcom to bring in a bigger selection of voice talent, and their more scrutinizing casting process allowed for a way better ensemble performance to deliver the story. The music cues worked similarly to those in the first Resident Evil. The moody, atmospheric environment was aided by a creepy soundtrack that keeps the player on their toes.
Graphics – 9.0/10
Capcom definitely stepped their game up with Resident Evil 2′s graphics. The animated cutscenes were more frequent and detailed this time around. Character models were way more detailed as were the environments. Interactive objects don’t stick out quite as much this time around. By today’s standards, it’s nothing too impressive, but, for the time, the cutscenes definitely stood out. Check out Leon’s opening sequence below:
Gameplay – 9.5/10
The team took the basics from the original Resident Evil and fine-tuned them a bit. The camera angles are still static (that change won’t come until later in the series). The puzzles were way more intuitive and better-integrated. In each scenario, there’s an opportunity to control another character, and that definitely adds a nice dimension. As I said above, the stories are all woven together incredibly well. The interactive elements between all of the scenarios are layered very well. Combat is tough, as are the puzzles the first time around. Resident Evil 2 will definitely challenge new comers.
Overall – 9.5/10
Capcom got everything right with this game. The story is great, the performances are memorable, the graphics pushed the Playstation to the limit, and the gameplay took everything that the original did and just did it better. It’s not often that a sequel outshines an original, and this is one of those instances. Capcom knew how to take everything fans loved about the original and introduce some new elements as well. The story unfolded way more in this game and guided the plot for the rest of the series. Resident Evil 2 remains a favorite among many gamers, and it’s not hard to see why.