Review: Resident Evil 2

Back in November I reviewed the original Resident Evil game. Today, I’m going to take a look at the sequel. As most gamers are aware, the first Resident Evil proved to be an extremely successful game.  It spawned a slew of sequels, remakes, and even films. The original game has gone down in history as a classic. So, you might wonder how the successor of such an iconic game might stand up…  let’s find out.

First, let’s discuss the version of the game I played for this review. For this playthrough, I used Resident Evil 2 (Dualshock Version). This is the only edition of the game available on the US Playstation Store. It features the original release with added rumble controller support.  This version also includes two additional unlockable modes of play. The Dualshock Version is widely considered to be the definitive version of the game.  Is important to note that there was a Nintendo 64 port of the game. The N64 version did include some interesting additions such as alternate costumes, etc. But excludes some of the features from the Dualshock Version.  Finally, there was a release for the Gamecube as well. However, this version is nothing more than a direct port of Dualshock edition on a Gamecube disc.

This game takes place about two months after the end of the first title. (If you’ve not played the first game, it’s highly recommend that you do before jumping into Resident Evil 2 – the game will make little sense if you don’t.) By this time, the T-Virus has spread like wildfire and Raccoon City is teeming with zombies.  The game follows the stories of two individuals; Claire Redfield  (sister of Chris Redfield from the original game) and a Raccoon City police officer – Leon Kennedy.  Claire has come to Raccoon City in hopes of finding her brother, unaware of the virus and the current state of affairs. It doesn’t take her long to realize that something is terribly wrong. After a nearly fatal encounter with a zombie, she is rescued by Leon. Together the two of them head towards the police station hoping to find both shelter and answers. However, a tragic accident causes the two to become separated.  Split up and alone, Claire and Leon must explore the seemingly abandoned police station in search of answers. Assuming of course, they can manage to survive…

In many ways, Resident Evil 2 is very similar to the original game. The controls, the graphics, and the overall presentation are nearly identical. Like the first game, players can choose between three difficulty levels. There’s also an arranged (Rookie) version of the game as well.  Also, like the first game, players can choose which character to play (Leon or Claire). The main difference here is that the experience for one character can change slightly depending on choices made when playing the other character. For example, if you choose to play as Leon, you can either take of leave some items that you come across during your playthrough. If you decide to leave them, then once you complete the game – you can play again from Claire’s perspective. During this second playthrough, the item that Leon left behind will be available for Claire to find and use.  To get the full experience of Resident Evil 2, you will want to play through the game with each character.

The game originally came on two different discs. A Leon disc and a Claire disc. When starting the game for the first time, you can choose to start with either character. So, this really gives you a total of four different scenarios in which to enjoy the game;  Leon’s story followed by Claire’s, or Claire’s Story followed by Leon’s.  The gameplay does changes slightly depending on which order you decide to go with. – Completing all four will unlock a little mini game-mode called “Extreme Battle”.

From a lore perspective, Resident Evil 2 does a fantastic job of taking the storyline from the original game and expanding on it. In the first game, the backstory was interesting, but seemed a bit shallow at times.  In Resident Evil 2, more behind the scenes info is revealed. Suddenly, I found myself hooked on the lore behind the game.  The storytelling is told through a combination of exposition, cutscenes, and in-game breadcrumbs. So, the more you explore, the more easter eggs and details you can manage to discover. It’s all masterfully done.

Just like the original, Resident Evil 2 does a good job of building tension in attempts to scare the crap out of players. The spooky environments, ambient noises and jump scares are all very well done. In some ways, even more so than in the original. The voice acting in this title also seems to be a tad better than that of the original game, but… not by much.

My biggest fault with the title is again, the clumsy controls. This game works just like it’s predecessor. Again, are stuck with a stiff, tank-style movement scheme. Which, at the time, was pretty standard. But these days, the playcontrol is cumbersome and archaic. Despite this issue, I found the game to very enjoyable. The good certainly outweighs the bad.

Difficulty: Variable –  The Dualshock version features three levels of difficulty: Easy, Normal and Arranged. Just like with the original game, the easy option reduces the difficulty of the game considerably. Monsters are weaker, and ammunition is more plentiful than in Normal mode. The Arranged version here is different than “the arranged version” found in the first game. Here, “Arranged” (AKA: Rookie Mode) starts you off with access to some very powerful weapons and infinite ammo.  – Regardless of which version you play, I found the game only gets easier as it goes along. The first few moments of the game can be very intense and you’re often being swarmed. But as you play and manage to secure areas and increase your arsenal – things get a lot easier.

Story: This came continues the story laid out in the original game. More details are provided that help to clarify some of the more mundane aspects and to really flesh things out. Despite introducing us to some new characters, the connections to the first game are clear and very well done.

Originality: In many ways, there’s a lot about this game is very familiar to the first title. But, Capcom managed to keep things feeling fresh with a change of scenery and a few new enhancements. Having multiple/concurrent character scenarios is quite an original idea that really sets this game apart as well. While Resident Evil 2 is very much a sequel to the original, it manages to stand on it’s own.

Soundtrack: Just like with the first game, the soundtrack is very minimal. The music is sparse and often used as a tool to build tension. But, when there is music to hear, I found it to be an improvement over that found in the original game. RE2 also uses ambient sounds to help set a spooky tone. All of it is very well done. The only complaint I have here are some minor gripes with the voice acting. But to be honest, I’ve heard worse.

Fun: Resident Evil 2 is a fun, entertaining successor to the first title. Again, it would be the perfect game to play on a dreary stormy afternoon or late in the evening with all the lights off.

Graphics: The pixelated graphics and the low resolution FMV movies are very dated by today’s standards. But at the time of the release, they were considered very well done. Just like with Resident Evil, RE2 still manages to capture the spooky atmosphere it needs to unnerve it’s fans. 

Playcontrol:  Again, this is one the weakest point of the game for me. The characters in the game is controlled using the old, clunky “compass rose tank” style of movement. Players used to modern 360 degree movement will need some time to get adjusted. Overall the controls feel stiff and antiquated. But in the long run, they are manageable with a little practice.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content: YES – Extreme violence and gore. 

Value:  This game is available as a PS One Classic on the Playstation Network for $9.99. Even today, this price is well worth it.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I have to give this game a four star review, but for slightly different reasons than the original. Whereas the first game scored some major points with atmosphere, this game beats it on storyline. Plus, being able to experience it from multiple scenarios and actually have them inter-lap to some extend is brilliant. At the time, it was a brand new experience.

Available on: PSN

 

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

Resident Evil  –  Resident Evil 2  –  Resident Evil 3: Nemesis  –  Resident Evil: Code Veronica  –   Resident Evil Zero  –  Resident Evil 4  –  Resident Evil 5   –   Resident Evil: Revelations   –  Resident Evil 6  –  Resident Evil: Revelations 2   –   Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil HD Remake

The Umbrella Chronicles   –  The Darkside Chronicles

Umbrella Corps

Review: Resident Evil (Director’s Cut)

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Proceeding with both my PS1 era and creepy Autumn game initiative, I now present a review of the Playstation classic: Resident Evil. This is a title that is heralded among gamers as one of the greatest survival horror titles of all time. Without a doubt, this is the game that really launched the genre into the mainstream. My very first experience with Resident Evil was the enhanced remake of this game back on the Nintendo Gamecube, but for this review I wanted to go back to the roots of the series. So I chose to play through the Director’s Cut edition of game.

That being stated, let’s go ahead and take a moment to clear up any confusion regarding the different retail versions of Resident Evil that exist.

First, there is the original release: This is the game in it’s purist form. The US version of the original game came under heavy criticism for being censored. For whatever reason, Capcom decided to remove references to smoking and also some of the more violent imagery was cut from these opening scenes as well. Regardless, the game still received a Mature rating. So, to me and many others, the decision to censor the game made little sense.

Second, The Director’s Cut: Originally marketed as being uncensored, but later found to contain the same edits as the vanilla release (apparently due to an error). This version of the game features some basic enhancements to the playcontrol, as well as a new Beginner Mode and “Arranged Mode” (sort of a remix for item and monster placement). A second version of the Director’s Cut also added controller vibration support. For many, this is considered to be definitive PlayStation version of the game – and this is the version I’m focusing on for this review.

Third, The remake: In 2002, a remake of the original game was released exclusively on the Nintendo Gamecube. This was the first version of the game that I experienced. This version includes revamped graphics and sound, a higher degree of difficulty, and some other major and minor changes.  Recently, an enhanced HD version of the remake was released. I have decided to review this new version separately at a later time. So for now… on the the review.

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The set up for Resident Evil is simple; the game takes place in the fictional locale of Raccoon City. Recently a number of bizarre murders have occurred on the outskirts of the area. An elite group of police officers known as STARS were sent to investigate. When this group did not return, a second team was dispatched to investigate the situation. The game begins when this second crew locates the crashed helicopter of the original team. While investigating the crash, the team is attacked by a pack of enraged, monstrous dogs. Unable to combat them effectively, the STARS officers run to a nearby mansion for shelter. Inevitably, the team gets split up in the chaos. The goal of the game is locate your missing companion(s) and explore the mansion for clues regarding the whereabouts of the former STARS team members. As the player, you can choose to control either STARS’ member Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. Each character has their own set pros and cons, and the flow of the story will change slightly depending on which you choose. Regardless, the overall plot is the same.

It doesn’t take long for the hero to realize that things at the mansion and surrounding area are far from normal. The place is crawling with… zombies! As you continue to play and explore, the story-line that unfolds is one of classic B-movie horror.

The basic premise of the game is to explore the mansion and locate your fellow STARs members so that you can escape the nightmare in which you find yourself. Initially, a large part of the mansion is closed off, but as you explore and obtains keys and other items of interest, you are able to continually probe deeper and deeper into the mysteries that lie before you.

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As each new area is unlocked, each step into the unknown is wrought with danger. As you play, you’ll soon learn that the comfort of trekking through familiar territory is quickly replaced with dread each time you set foot into a new unexplored wing of the mansion. You never know what type of horror may be lurking around the corner. To make matters worse, weapons and ammunition are scarce and a valuable commodity.  This is made even more so by a very limited inventory space. Your character can only hold so many items. So often, you will find yourself stumbling upon something of value, with no way to hold it. Luckily, there are special storage boxes located at various locales in the game. These can be used to store your valuables and free up precious inventory slots.

Resident Evil does a masterful job of keeping the tension at a fever pitch. Everything from the creepy atmospheres, to the music, to the gruesome monsters is masterfully crafted. The game does lack in a few crucial areas however. The first, being the play control. This game controls very similarly to many of the early third-person 3D games of the era, which I’ve always found to be somewhat problematic. Your character moves in a tank-like fashion. You point them in a specific direction and then move them forward. This makes for some rather stiff and clunky navigation. Combine this with turning the corner into a room full of zombies and it can make for a easy death – simply due to the difficulty of trying to navigate away from danger. As I mentioned, other games of the time had the same control scheme (Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, etc). Second, the voice acting is simply horrid. I mean, it’s REALLY bad. But I’m able to overlook it by imagining the whole thing is a spoof of a terrible B-movie. (Sadly, I don’t think that was the actual intention of the developers.) Finally, the whole inventory system is overly cumbersome. I understand how space-management can be an important aspect for some games, but in the case of Resident Evil, I feel it’s largely unnecessary.  For example, to even save your game you are required to keep “Ink Ribbons”. These are a consumable item that can be used at typewriters you may find scattered around. Using a ribbon in a typewriter will allow you to save your progress. So yes… you can technically blow all of your saves by running out of ribbons and find yourself in a heap of trouble late in the game.

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Despite these annoyances, the game is a masterpiece. It’s certainly worthy of the hype it receives. On top of the excellent storytelling and tension that you get from the game itself. Having two characters to choose from adds a good level of replay-ability to the game. While the background story for both Jill and Chris are the same, each characters sees the scenario unfold differently. Plus, there are differences when it comes to playing the two characters. For example, Chris is a bit tougher and can seem to take more of a beating. But Jill can hold more gear and is able to pick locks, this allows here access to more of the mansion right from the beginning. And if that’s not enough, the Arranged Mode featured in the Director’s Cut mixes things up even more, giving even veteran players a new experience.

All in all, I recommend Resident Evil for nearly anyone who loves retro gaming. For fans of the survival horror genre, this is a must-play. I know that the new HD Remake of the game is shiny and tempting, but there’s really something charming about the original PS1 version that is also deserving of your attention.

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Difficulty: Variable –  The Director’s Cut version features three levels of difficulty: Beginner, Original and Arranged. The Beginner option reduces the difficulty of the game dramatically. Monsters are weaker, ammunition is more plentiful, and there seem to be fewer monsters overall. Original difficulty matches that of the game during it’s original release. Arranged is a bit of a different bag. Arranged Made changes the location of items and monsters, making the game completely different for players that already know their way around. – Generally speaking – I do recommend the Original mode of difficulty for most players. But gamers that simply want to enjoy the storyline may find Beginner mode more suited to their tastes.

Story: The story line behind Resident Evil is surprisingly complex. It’s starts out simple, but slowly builds as layer upon layer is uncovered by the player as they proceed through the game. Much of the plot reminds me of what you might find in a cheesy B-grade horror flick, which is fine by me. It works well here. I have not played any other games in the series yet, but I think it’s safe to assume that the plot will only expand in later games. I’m interested to see what’s to come.

Originality: For many, Resident Evil is the original survival horror title. It may not technically be the first in the genre, but it certainly paved the way. A lot of the game design elements seen in Resident Evil come from other games, but it’s combined here in a way and in an atmosphere that makes it all unique and memorable.

Soundtrack: This game features a very minimalist soundtrack, which works very well. Music is used to queue up tension, or in some cases even relief. (Anyone exploring the mansion who opens an unknown door – only to hear the “Storage Room Music” knows exactly what I mean.) Sadly, the game suffers from some pretty terrible voice acting.

Fun: Resident Evil is the perfect game for late Autumn nights. This is one to play in a quiet house with the lights off. I had a blast with this game. Admittedly, more than I expected to.

Graphics: The pixelated graphics and the low resolution FMV movies are very dated by today’s standards. But at the time of the release, they were considered very well done. Despite the dated look, Resident Evil still manages to capture the spooky atmosphere it needs to succeed. 

Playcontrol: This is one of the weaker points for the game. The character in the game is controlled using the old, clunky “compass rose tank” style of movement. Players used to modern 360 degree movement will need some time to get adjusted. Overall the controls feel stiff and antiquated. But in the long run, they are manageable.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content: YES – Extreme violence and gore. Some language. 

Value:  This game is available as a PS One Classic on the Playstation Network for $9.99. Even today, this price is well worth it.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – If you’re curious to see what the hype is all about, or if you’re interested in the seeing the origins of the survival horror genre, this is the game for you. In fact, as long as you’re not completely adverse to games that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up… I recommend Resident Evil to nearly anyone old enough to play it. It’s a real classic.

Available on: PSN

 

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

Resident Evil  –  Resident Evil 2  –  Resident Evil 3: Nemesis  –  Resident Evil: Code Veronica  –   Resident Evil Zero  –  Resident Evil 4  –  Resident Evil 5   –   Resident Evil: Revelations   –  Resident Evil 6  –  Resident Evil: Revelations 2   –   Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil HD Remake

The Umbrella Chronicles   –  The Darkside Chronicles

Umbrella Corps