I’ve put more hours into Resident Evil 2 than any of the other mainline titles. Resident Evil 4 is a very close second, but at that point in the series, the old pre-rendered backgrounds were long gone, and the perspective changed completely. Resident Evil may have started the mainstream trend of survival horror, but Resident Evil 2 improved on it so much so, the former pales in comparison. This is one of the only titles that I consistently play through at least once or twice a year (Dino Crisis 2 being another one of those, as stated here). Now, I know I’ve already covered Resident Evil 2 before, but I figured I’d try and hit on some other points. I’m going to test a format in these articles from now on, using the following bullet points:
-Music and Sound
For the uninformed, I played this on the Dolphin Emulator, using the Resident Evil 2 Seamless HD Project. Its a breeze to set up and get running, and in my opinion is the de-facto way to play the game now. Using learning AI to squeeze a ton of detail out of the backgrounds, this version is visually rebuilt from the ground up while retaining the classic gameplay. With that out of the way, lets dive in.
The stories in the Resident Evil games are not exactly modern works of art. They are, in short, absolutely nonsensical. That being said, they are certainly memorable. They range from “so bad they’re good” to “campy, goofy and hilariously over the top.” Resident Evil 2 has somewhat of a cohesive story; you play as either Leon Kennedy or Claire Redfield trying to escape Racoon City after a zombie outbreak. S.T.A.R.S, the special team from the first game, attempted to expose Umbrella and their development of bio-weapons, but they were smeared by Chief Irons and the Racoon City Police Department. The infection gets out of control and moves from the Arklay Mountains (where the Spencer Mansion from the first game is located) and makes its way into the town. It ends up how everyone expects, and soon the entire city is full of infected; enter Claire and Leon. Separated at the beginning of the game, each character encounters different things in their stories depending on if they choose their “A” or “B” route; more on that in a bit. Overall, it’s pretty straight forward, with some natural curve-balls along the way. It’s not hard to figure out; there are no real revelations or anything like that. Its the equivalent of a popcorn movie or a summer blockbuster; there to provide and excuse for the audience to blast zombies in the face. The story, or what little of it there is, is just good old fun. What kind of fun would that be, however, without some good gameplay to back it up?
I’ve done this song and dance many times over, and I’m sure I’ll do it until the day I die. Its no secret I enjoy tank controls (almost everything I have written about games has me talking about them in one way or another), and this game is one of the best examples of it. With that out of the way, I can dive a little deeper into the core of Resident Evil 2. The systems from the first game remain; you have a few weapons against the hordes of undead. Ammo and health management is present once again, bringing in a slew of new weapons and even some upgrades for Leon. The old staples are there, like the shotgun, pistol and the grenade launcher. New to the mix are the bow-gun, the MAC11, the Single Action Army (considered the greatest handgun ever made by a well known psychopath) and a few others. Also on the table are Leon’s upgrades; his handgun can be turned into a burst machine, his shotgun can be made into a gib cannon, and his magnum becomes so strong its damage is made second only to the rocket launcher. You have a few more bosses this time around, with some on the more human side, and others not so much. The beloved Mr. X makes his debut here, and even though he becomes a joke after the first fight with him, he’s still an excellent antagonist. The G monster is a particular favorite of mine; it also becomes a joke beyond the first fight, but that’s something you have to be willing to accept in this series before Resident Evil 4; there just really wasn’t a good way to design a boss encounter (with an exception here or there; the Gator was easy, but so incredibly cool).
The game from a visual standpoint is a leap above the first Resident Evil. Textures are way more crisp, backgrounds feature more detail, and the overall design of the game is vastly improved. Staring with the main characters, there is so much more personality put into the characters based on their outfits alone. A wild think at the time, their outfits actually change over the course of the game, giving the characters a visual sense of progression. The monster roster is also expanded, with zombies having several different models, including a female one or two (equality!). Resident Evil 2 also introduces some new monsters, including the Licker (which is a personal favorite of mine because it caused me to shut the game off for a week the first time I encountered it). The original textures for rooms, objects, and scenery are all cleaned up from the previous entry, with cleaner line work, shading and rendering. The environments vary quite a bit, especially in the second half of the game. The Lab area in particular is dirty and full of grime; a far cry from the sparkling clean evil labs seen in other forms of media. The star of the show by far is the Police Station. Comprising the first half (ish) of the game, the Racoon City Police Department is full of odd puzzles, lacks enough desks to properly staff a city police department, and has a personality that the other environments just lack. Not to say they aren’t good in their own right, just not as strong as the ol’ RPD.
Music and Sound
It says a lot when I can still remember music years from when I first heard it; that’s how I know it affected me. Resident Evil 2’s music and soundscape captivated me as a kid. Hearing the distorted moans and wind sweeping through the streets as I fought my way to the police station was nothing short of amazing, and it still kind of is. Sure, lots of games do a great job on the visual front, but sounds still lack these days, even in AAA games. The same thing goes for music. The iconic safe room music, the RPD soundtrack, Claire’s final encounter with the G Monster; it’s all memorable in typical Capcom fashion. Likewise, the monsters and sound effects are all top notch , and hold up very well. The iconic Licker hiss still hits me deep in the night every once in a blue moon, and the oppressive footsteps of the Tyrant aka Mr. X will always get my blood pressure to spike (seriously, the game isn’t the hardest thing out there, but as a kid I freaked any time I had to face him). Weapons all sound good, with Leon’s upgraded shotgun and magnum as particular standouts. If anything brings me comfort in these times of mass quarantine and economic strife, it’s classic sounds and music like this.
There are plenty of games I played during my formative years that didn’t strike such a powerful chord as survival horror games did. To put it in perspective, I started playing video games in the NES era. Even growing up in retro game heaven (Mario Land, Mario World, Link to the Past, Metroid, Castlevania, etc), the stuff that really stuck out to me was always the horror games. Clock Tower, Dino Crisis, Resident Evil and Silent Hill were the worlds I got lost in. As an adult, I still visit these lands from time to time (like now), and there are some things that still capture me after all the fancy new visuals (VR included), sounds and changes to the genre. Anyone who enjoys horror (especially if you played the Resident Evil 2 Remake) owes it to themselves to play the original.
Thank you for reading; in the next weeks, I’m taking a short break from Resident Evil games in favor of my other video game related love: First Person Shooters. With the release of Doom Eternal, everyone is in a demon slaying mood, and what better way to slay demons than on an Nintendo 64 port. Doom 64 (EX version) soon.