Resident Evil 2 is a game that preyed on my paranoia while simultaneously giving me the tools to face it head on. Following in the footsteps of Resident Evil 7, Resident Evil 2 puts you in a horrific claustrophobic environment and challenges you to survive using finite resources while you try to uncover just what started this zombie apocalypse in the first place.
The game features protagonists Leon Kennedy, a fresh recruit for the Raccoon Police Department and Claire Redfield, a college student looking for her brother Chris, who also works for the R.P.D. Each character has their own campaign featuring unique weapons with interconnected stories.
The game is simple enough to play. Carefully gather resources as you explore your surroundings and kill whatever stands in your way, or run. Your inventory space is small, and players will be rewarded for effectively using everything they come across. Board up windows to keep zombies from breaking in, combine gunpowder to make more ammo and grind herbs to keep your health up.
Resident Evil 2 triumphs in establishing a setting that is both terrifying and fascinating. Halls are narrow and quiet with zombies both inhabiting the station and trying to break through the windows. What’s more is it’s never easy to tell exactly if a zombie is truly dead. Many times I’d leave zombies at my feat after several headshots only for them to lunge at me on the ground when I revisited the area hours later. Lickers are another feral horror lurking throughout the game that are blind but act viciously to any sound they hear.
But one particular enemy stands out among all others. Affectionately known as Mr. X, this hulking, fedora-wearing bio-weapon is designed to hunt you down and chase you no matter where you run to. You cannot harm him. Your only option is to flee or attempt to stun him with bullets or grenades.
X gonna give it to ya
Mr. X, unsettling and terrifying as he is, is a fantastic design element that brings a unique kind of tension to the game. It forces you to explore carefully, especially since you can hear his heavy boot echo through the halls of the station. He can hear you and track you regardless of how well you think you outran him. Though I love to hate him, he’s an essential component that returns to ruin your day again and again, even after you’ve left the station for good.
Resident Evil 2’s story is simple on the surface. Claire is trying to find her brother who’s been off the grid for a long time, and Leon is a duty-bound rookie cop who can’t help but investigate what’s going on. Add in bio-terrorism shenanigans and the mysterious Umbrella corporation and you’ve got a recipe for something that’s over the top, yet grounded by a small but compelling cast of characters.
No they are not dead yet.
Fan favorite Ada Wong, a mysterious ally in Leon’s campaign, has excellent chemistry with Leon and both deliver fantastically cheesy one-liners that helped make an otherwise tragic tale lighter in tone.
Similarly, Sherry Birkin works with Claire in her campaign and offers her own unique perspective that presents the player with information that Leon’s perspective never gets to see.
Even if it’s predictable at times, Resident Evil’s story is supplemented with various notes and memos from different characters. Finding these around each of the game’s four main environments give extra life to a story that’s solely inhabited by the undead. I loved discovering pieces of clues left behind by former officers and memos on the computers of Umbrella employees that helped me piece together the greater picture of what was unfolding as I progressed. Best of all, it’s there if you want it, and you can skip them if you don’t.
Leon and Claire’s campaigns each have two routes to them. The first acts as an introductory route with whichever character you play as arriving at the police station before the other. The second act puts you in the perspective of the character that arrived at the station second. Aside from offering a different start, the second playthrough offers a new weapon, new enemy and key item placements and a definitive ending not shown in the first routes.
Even though I liked the second routes more, repetition does set in to some degree as I visited the same locations and killed the same enemies and bosses each time.
Those who wish for a plethora of bosses in their games may be disappointed in Resident Evil’s recurring boss appearances but I found each encounter to be enjoyable despite the fact that it’s mainly the same character each time.
Leon, get out of there!
One of my biggest takeaways from playing Resident Evil 2 was that despite my lack of enthusiasm towards the horror genre in general, it presented me with a game that was too much fun even if I reacted to every jump scare in the entire game.
I was enamored with every environment and felt compelled to explore and loot every room so that I could watch the area turn from red in color to blue on my map, indicating that I had found every item it contained.
The game is fairly short, with my longest playthrough clocking in at under ten hours, but because it’s designed to be played through multiple times and beating both routes with either character unlocks a new mode with Hunk, I didn’t mind at all.
Additionally, Capcom is planning to release an update on February 15 called the Ghost Survivors featuring three new playable characters.
Resident Evil 2 is a fantastic entry into survival horror for people who may be like me and are averse to the genre. It’s designed to be scary, but it gives you all the tools to not only fight back, but to explore and discovery Raccoon City’s secrets. I hope that future titles embrace the third person, slow paced perspective that is polished to a tee in this installment.
I fully expect this to be a Game of the Year contender and should not be missed by anyone who enjoys horror, action or zombies.