Sunday, December 9

Resident Evil 2 Review

I played on: PS1
I paid: £12.99 (eBay)
Available on: PS1, N64, Gamecube, Dreamcast, PC
Notes: N/A

Resident Evil 1 and the Spencer mansion are two of my favourite things in gaming. The first game with both the original and the remake just make me feel happy like I’ve returned home after a long day. So how does it’s sequel hold up? Well I mean it’s great, I’ve heard many people refer to it as the best in the series and even one of gamings greatest achievements.

Let’s start with the story that feels more focused and takes itself a little more seriously than the first game. You have two plots which although similar are not the same. Which one you get depends on which character you play first. Disc 1 is Leon and disc 2 is Claire, if you want to relive the canon events then you should play Claire first then Leon. We start with Claire Redfield who comes to Raccoon City looking for her brother Chris from the last game. She arrives to find the city in ruins before making contact with Leon S Kennedy. This is Leon’s first day as a police officer in Raccoon City with him arriving in town just before Claire. They both get separated and meet up at the Police station. Claire finds a little girl called Sherry who’s being hunted down by William Birkin, an ex-Umbrella scientist infected with a strange new virus. Meanwhile, Leon is being stalked by a Tyrant while trying to keep up with the mysterious Ada Wong. I love how the story interweaves and you see certain events from the point of view of both Leon and Claire. The only issue, however, is that some of the same puzzles will be solved by both characters. It makes no sense that these puzzles would be reset in the short amount of time between both characters getting to them. This is a nitpick as it’s just game logic over real-world logic but it does bug me. Besides this, I think the story is very good with the player able to learn a lot more about Umbrella and their work.

A story is only as good as the way it’s told however which leads to the voice acting. The first Resident Evil is rather infamous for how terrible the dialogue and voice acting was. Thing is the rest of the game lived up to how corny this presentation was so it didn’t feel out of place. During Resident Evil 2 the plot takes itself more seriously and this means that the stiff line delivery stands out. It’s not game breaking by any means but it did feel more inconsistent with the rest of the tone. It’s a shame and this is one point I think that the remake could really improve upon. Once again the audio design outside of the dialogue is amazing. The soundtrack is used very sparingly but when it does show itself your blood starts pumping. Most the time you will be left alone with only the random noises of the destroyed city and your own footsteps for company. The atmosphere is so tense that when it does get broken up with loud noises it always causes my heart to beat 50 times faster.

There’s more to presentation than just sound and the graphics although dated still look stunning due to the use of pre-rendered backgrounds. The chaos and destruction of the city is a wonderful contrast to the last game’s mostly clean and beautiful mansion. The character models are also more detailed and will get visibly injured holding their chest to show that they are hurt. This simple addition adds a lot because along with the ruined city around you it shows how desperate things have become. It’s no longer just enough to see you’re hurt in a menu, now you’re constantly reminded. The monster design has also been improved in my opinion. While the Hunters from the first game certainly scared me with their speed and power their design never freaked me out. I can’t say the same for the Lickers in Resident Evil 2. The unnatural way they move, look and hiss really gets to me. I have a thing with brains, I hate seeing them as it’s where the consciousness lives. When damaged even if the person survives they will never be the same. Seeing the Licker’s exposed brain then really gets to me as it feels wrong and unnatural. It should be protected and hidden behind the thick skull not exposed. I know this is a very personal thing but the Licker will always unnerve me to my core in a way that the Hunters and other monsters can’t.

Speaking of the monsters, let’s talk about William Birkin. He is the single greatest improvement over the first game. During Resident Evil the big bad is the Tyrant but you don’t even learn about it until the last section. You then find it and kill it within 10-20 minutes making the whole thing a bit anti-climatic. During Resident Evil 2, however, you will constantly hear the cries of Birkin and the screams of his victims. When you finally do see him it’s never clear, you’re only permitted to see small parts of his distorted and mutated body. The tension as you know this huge, unstoppable beast is hunting you down is amazing. By the time you have to fight him during the last section, it’s amazing. Then despite the fact that you keep killing him, he comes back, larger and more dangerous each time. Birkin has to be one of gamings best foes just with the way the game slowly teases him to the player creating this sense of unknown terror.

The thing that I love the first game for is the mansion, that place feels like home to me. The layout of the police station seems to make less sense than the mansion. It’s explained that the Spencer Mansion was designed to trap the inhabitants. The police station is a functional building and yet still has secret rooms and strange puzzles. I dunno, this just feels ridiculous to me because the police must have noticed something. In the briefing room, there’s a fireplace that when lit burns the painting above it releasing a red gem. Has no one up to this point ever lit the fire? Like I say it just seems a bit more illogical than the mansion before it. I do love the diary notes from the Chief’s secretary about how she nearly solves the puzzles by mistake. The added touch of Chief Irons losing his temper at her due to this also hinting at his true nature is very clever. Although funny this does just go to show how unbelievable it is that no one has solved these before. I also had it pointed out to me recently that the police station has no bathrooms and that makes no sense.

Ultimately the locations are much weaker than the first game. Resident Evil 2 makes up for it with much better monsters, characters and a more detailed and involved plot. I’m not sure which one is better. I think they are both equal in their greatness with each having its own highlights. If you’re after a great horror game then this is it. Even today it holds up as one of the best!

Recommendation Rating: 9 out of 10.

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