Resident Evil 2: Dual Shock Edition: Review (1998)

Survival Horror. A term that wasn’t invented until Alone In The Dark came upon us in 1992. Released for the PC before being ported to the 3DO, it was ground-breaking for its time featuring fixed camera angles, tank-like controls, a likable protagonist; Edward Carnby, creepy environments, puzzles to solve, combat and of course a ton of atmosphere. All of these facts led it to be critically acclaimed and it was a breakthrough title at the time.
Alone in the Dark screens

Alone In The Dark was the first attempt at the Survival Horror genre

Naturally many, many people wanted to take advantage of this new success in a different genre and many game developers tried and failed to live up to the standard Alone In The Dark set. Until Resident Evil was made. At the time, the Sony PlayStation had just entered the ring of new consoles and it was lacking a killer app, something that would help keep it driving home sales to sustain its lifespan. Capcom, a company known for making Street Fighter games and the Mega Man franchise decided to make a survival horror game that would ultimately change the way horror games were made forever. Enter Resident Evil.
Resident Evil

Resident Evil was a major success for Capcom and the Sony PlayStation

Resident Evil or Biohazard as it’s known in Japan really set the tone for what was to come. First off it had likeable characters. Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker, Chris Redfield, Barry Burton. All these characters are still well known today and fans of the series really love to mention these characters, due in part of them becoming icons in survival horror games. Secondly, it had a great story. With bizarre murders happening around Raccoon City and the missing S.T.A.R.S. members from Bravo team, the Alpha team from S.T.A.R.S are sent in to investigate. Once they reach the site, the helicopter is found but, only the remains of a corpse is found. The team is attacked and now the player had to survive the horrors that await them in the mansion.
"Jilly Sandwich"

The game has legendary voice acting… For the wrong reasons

To help advance the story, the player could find different diaries entries and files, written by various people, detailing what was going on behind the scenes. It helped develop the series and gave insight as to what was really happening in the mansion.
Finally, my favorite reason for the game being so good was its awfully, hilariously bad voice acting and script writing. Say what you will about it but, Resident Evil was so campy in this aspect, it was actually good. All of the legendary lines spoken by the actors and their delivery is so bad it’s funny. It kills the serious mood the game tries to establish but, you cannot help but laugh once dialogue starts to be read out by the voice actors.
Zombie dog!

Resident Evil had numerous jump scares

By copying what made Alone In The Dark so great along with adding different features, Resident Evil sold like hot cakes on a cold winters day. It became the first Playstation game to sell well over one millions copies worldwide, a feat that many other games would soon join after this one. So with success running high, Capcom wanted a sequel to the game and not long after release, they began to develop it.
Just a note here, I will not be talking about the cancelled version of Resident Evil 2, since it would take too long to write here in this review. For those of you who want to see that, click here:

Now onto the meat and potatoes of this review; Resident Evil 2. This game puts you into the heart of the now famous Racoon City virus outbreak with two new characters to use; Leon S Kennedy and Claire Redfield, the sister to Chris Redfield, the protagonist of the first game. As the two characters fight and make their way out of the city, they are joined by Sherry Birkin, a child who was sent to the police station for protection but, now wanders alone in the virus ridden city. Then there’s Ada Wong, a spy who is sent to get information on Umbrella, the pharmaceutical company responsible for starting the whole incident in Raccoon City, along with retrieving the G-Virus sample for analysing.
Resident Evil 2 Characters

Players could choose either Leon S Kennedy or Claire Redfield

I won’t give away many details of the story after that since that is the beauty of a video game; playing it for yourself to find out what happens in the story. Plus seeing how complex the Resident Evil story can get, you’d get lost trying to read and understand it. So, here’s what I think of Resident Evil 2 at a gaming point:
So right off the bat, there are two disks to choose from; one has Claire’s scenario and the other has Leon’s scenario. Basically, Resident Evil 2 has what’s called the ‘Zapping System’. What this means is both characters have an A and B scenario and in return that’s four total scenarios for you to play. So whoever you choose first, you’ll play their A scenario. Once that scenario is completed, the other character’s scenario is unlocked and once you complete that, you can swap them over to see a different side to the story. This also affects what items each character gets and well as changes to the scenario depending on what character picks up what item in each scenario. It all sounds complicated for a horror game but, in truth this system does not really do much for me since the changes are so small, it feels more like padding than substantial content. It just ends up being an afterthought than a fully, fleshed out idea.
CGI in Resident Evil 2

An example of what the CGI cutscenes look like in Resident Evil 2

Now once you truly start the game, a voiceover monologue will talk about what happened in the previous game. I like this because not only does this allow players to recap what happened in the story but, newcomers will get a taster as to what the characters in the first Resident Evil had to experience in the mansion incident. It really gets you in the mood to experience survival horror once again.

Sherry, the character Claire must protect during her scenario

Then depending on who you picked, that said character’s intro movie plays. We see both characters face a zombie for the first time and how they deal with it before finally both characters cross paths. Now the cutscene is in CGI rather than the live action scenes from the first game, which I might add were poorly shot. This change is better, it’s certainly more serious looking now and I can see it’s much faster paced this time around, reflecting the developers decision to go in a more Hollywood style of gaming. The movie itself is…. Cheesy at best to be brutally honest. The animation is a bit stiff and the voice acting, while miles better than Resident Evil 1, it’s still bad. But, overall, so far so good.
This is where things get complicated. There’s a lot of ground to cover here so, please bear with me. Right, once you finally start playing, you’ll once again note that Resident Evil 2 moves quicker than the first game and also features better animation from the characters. Sadly, the tank controls from the first game returns, making turning and dodging still cumbersome to do. With the increased pace, running into walls and getting stuck becomes more of an issue than before. I’m telling you, the amount of times I’ve tried to turn a corner, only to then become stuck on a wall is too many to keep a count of. Then again, the game adds a new auto-aim feature so your character will lock on to enemies, even ones on the floor, very useful me thinks.
Sharp shooting required in narrow corridors

Fighting in narrow corridors is tough work!

If you are unlucky enough to end up bitten, you’ll find yet another new mechanic; you can quickly shove off zombies by quickly hitting the square button to push them off you. You’ll still take damage but, less so than in the original game, where you had to hope you wasn’t killed by zombies biting you, since you couldn’t do a thing about it.
 If you do take a lot of damage, the characters posture will change from running fine to holding their arm in pain to slowly limping if on the verge of death. Certainly better than checking the status screen every single time you get hit. To recover health you can either use first aid sprays or, the better way of recovering health is to collect herbs. Green herbs restore health. Red herbs do nothing unless mixed with a green, which then makes it equivalent to a first aid spray. Blue herbs cures poison and all herbs can be mixed together to create various different herb mixtures.
Resident Evil 2 had some scary bosses

One of the many bosses you’ll be fighting

Speaking of zombies, other creatures to fight will include zombified dogs, a new creature called lickers, a creature you will grow to hate and not just because it has a razor sharp tongue. Also you will fight crows, plants, naked zombies, spiders, a killer moth, (no joke) and numerous boss battles that I will not spoil for you. Trust me when I say, all are fun and challenging to beat.
Now in the first Resident Evil game, each character had different attributes and support characters to help them throughout the game. In Resident Evil 2, both characters play the same. The only differences are the starting items and the support characters. Leon starts off with a lighter and has Ada as his support character for more firepower.
Claire starts with a lockpick and has to look after Sherry once she is following Claire. Sherry cannot attack therefore putting those who use Claire under more stress. In fact, to further back this up, Leon can upgrade his weapons by finding keys to unlock small desks around the police station. That and the lighter is way more useful in this game than the lockpick, which is only used to unlock those same desks and nothing more. Claire is the harder of the two to use.
Resident Evil 2 had lots of puzzles

The first puzzle in the game on show here

The puzzles, which were hard to solve in the first Resident Evil are near enough glazed over in this game. All puzzles have hints to help you find out what you need to solve the puzzle but, these puzzles are very easy for the most part and I feel like they slow the game down, making it tedious to keep running back and forth throughout the police station. It’s so easy even the maps are not really needed for this game. Because you have a limited number of spaces in your inventory, you have to dump items you do not need into these magic boxes peppered throughout the game.
There were lots of guns in RE2

The inventory and status screen

It’s just annoying to keep going to these boxes when you accidently pick up too many items at once. Also, you have a limited number of ink ribbons to save the game with, meaning saving the game is necessary to do; die once without saving and you’ll have to start the whole game….. Over again! Gosh. Ammo is limited too so, if you want to kill every enemy well, it’s just not going to happen. You’ll run out of ammo then you may as well restart the game over if you cannot find anymore.
Let’s move onto graphics. Now in 1998 this game was one of the best looking games of its time. It featured better 3D animation on all models, better rendered pre-rendered environments, much more detail into characters, creeper environments and more varied locations to visit this time. Of course the inclusion of the CGI animation in the cutscenes also helps to keep the story going forward.
Zombie loves the floor

Not exactly the best looking animation here…

But, these days Resident Evil 2 is very outdated in this department and really needs a remake at this point. The characters movement is stiff and robotic, the pre-rendered backgrounds stick out like a sore thumb compared to anything that is rendered on real-time 3D, characters legs and arms will constantly clip through and look blocky, the camera angles don’t make seeing things easy sometimes, the lip syncing on the CGI cutscenes is almost always off and the whole thing has a cheesy/campy look to it.
Pre-rendered backgrounds were common on the PS1

Pre-rendered backgrounds really stick out here

Continuing with the cheesy theme, even the sound has suffered here. Where do I start? The voice acting. It’s a billion times better than the first Resident Evil game but, with how blitzed the voice acting in that game was, it wasn’t hard to improve on it. Saying that, the voice acting is still poor and the script, while once again massively improved, characters still sometimes say really weird lines at times. The other sound effects such as gunfire and zombie grunts also sound unrealistic and cheap to the ear. It’s clear here that the sound effects have dated so badly, it’s very hard to take them seriously now.
The music and the ambient sounds however do actually hold up quite well. The ambient sounds help to make each environment feel creepy to explore and the music really does help to drive home the fact that you’re in a city, trapped and trying to escape this nightmare. It certainly makes you weary that each step you take could be your last and it really makes the atmosphere feel more to life with it playing.
Overall Verdict:
For all its flaws, Resident Evil 2 is a fine squeal and it was exactly what the series needed at the time. Faster gameplay, more shock and terror and a good build up on an interesting story. While many aspects are dated now and can turn players off, Resident Evil 2 is a game that just makes you keep coming back to it, even when you complete it because let’s face it; how can you put down a game that improved on the first game in a huge number of ways? All in all, if you haven’t already, play this game and brace yourself for some shock and terror in Racoon City.
Scary monster

This guy….Boy he’s one deadly customer

Presentation: 5
Dated and cheesy presentation do not make the game look good but, for all that is wrong with it, the good bits are still keep the horror vibes going strong.
Gameplay: 6
Hard to control, very easy and tedious puzzles suck out some of the fun here. When you then add camera angles that obstruct your view sometimes, as well as not being able to save frequently and having to backtrack a fair amount is a big problem for newcomers. That being said, there’s something fun about this game as once you get used to it, forgetting these issues is then quite easy to do.
Graphics: 4
Blocky, muddy and sticks out is how I would describe Resident Evil 2’s graphics. It really sucks you out of the serious tone the game is trying to going for and makes it look all campy and cheesy instead.
Sound: 4
Aside from ambient sounds and good music scores, the rest of the sound effects are either cheap, unrealistic or just plain annoying. Really doesn’t make the player engrossed in the experience when the same cheesy grunt and horrid gunfire noises are heard over and over again.
Overall score: 7
Resident Evil 2 is outdated. Somehow it does just enough still to warrant a look at if you are a fan of the series or even a newcomer to the franchise. While hard to recommend now, if you are in the mood for survival horror at it’s finest, you need to play Resident Evil 2.

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Great review and very detailed. Would love to see you write some more reviews!