Title :Resident Evil 2
Platforms :Sony PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, Nintendo GameCube, PC
Publisher :Capcom
ESRB Rating :Mature
Game Rating :8.9
Review by :Ken Gagne

When Capcom launched the original Resident Evil in early 1996, it became a gaming phenomenon, rated as one of the best PlayStation titles ever, and starting a multi-million dollar franchise. Capitalizing on its success, Capcom invites players back into the world of survival horror in Resident Evil 2. [PSX version reviewed here] 

Some of the first game's plot is given away as a matter of necessity for setting the stage for the sequel; if you have not yet played the first title, go do so first. 

The Umbrella corporation once experimented outside the urban Raccoon City with a mutagenic virus capable of turning humans into zombies, and other biological weapons. Now the plague has spread to the city itself. This terror involves Leon, a rookie cop, and Claire, a young girl looking for her brother, co-star of the first Resident Evil. In their journeys they'll encounter a number of other characters, some of them through imaginative hooks from the first title. There's also much background story, but little of it matters. What's happening in the here-and-now is more interesting. 

This continuation of the story offers a host of new features. There are many more weapons, and the gore level is accordingly higher (hence, the "for mature audiences only" rating). The cheap, yet amusing, live action sequences have been replaced with computer-generated scenes. 

The game can be played as either Leon or Claire: each have their own slightly different scenario and abilities. Once the game has been completed with one character, a "second quest" mode for the other person becomes available, in which storyline, item placement, and other aspects differ. This is incentive enough to play through the game at least four times, each taking three to five hours. 

The graphics have not been updated much since this game's predecessor. One enhancement is the detail level on the characters: they keep a careful eye on all suspicious activity, and damage taken in battle has visible effects on their performance. Every room has fixed camera angles which switch when appropriate as the characters move about. Some items are small and easy to miss, although many others provide relief by glittering to attract attention. 

Music plays an important role in generating this game's horrific atmosphere. It knows when to pipe up and scream of danger, or when to let the silence speak for itself. Listening for approaching enemies is necessary to be prepared for their attacks. These sound effects and others, such as echoing footsteps in the precinct hall or the explosion of a grenade obliterating a monster, work wonderfully. The voice acting and dialogue are improved. 

Claire and Leon must be guided through this nightmare; fortunately, the controls are a dream. Movements are always from their perspective, so the changing camera angles do not impede their progress. Some improvements have been made concerning the manipulation and accoutering of items in inventory, correcting flaws made in Resident Evil. A new auto-aim feature proves useful when enemies surround. 

Unfortunately, Capcom seems to have forgotten some of the elements that made the original such a hit. This time around, the puzzles are simple, usually consisting of finding a key in one room to open a door elsewhere. Even those puzzles that do exist seem out of place in this urban setting, as compared to a mysterious forest mansion. The horror level is high despite the surroundings, though, with creatures jumping out at the most unexpected times and places. The game progresses continually from one area to the next, seldom going back to old territory to explore as a new section becomes available. The heavy arsenal of weapons should hint at the new focus on battle, with at least three fairly difficult boss-type encounters. Yet even the frequency of foes seems diminished. Overall, this game is easier than the original. 

Resident Evil 2 had much hype behind it. It doesn't live up to the legacy of its origin, but that's a high laurel to attain in the first place. By comparison, this game lost some glitter; on its own, its still an amazing title with plenty of replay value. Any fan of the original should consider this an essential addition to their library.

This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 26-Jan-98