Gameplay, Story and Value:
It’s been a long time since I’ve played Resident Evil 2, at least 15 years or so, and I’ve been looking forward to sitting down with it again. I had the house to myself Saturday evening so I mixed up an Old Fashioned, darkened the living room and settled in for some good old zombie horror!
…well, at least I got the zombies anyway…
I don’t know if it’s because I’m older now, or because Silent Hill has spoiled me for horror games, but the terror I felt playing Resident Evil 2 when I was 13 has all but faded away. Now that’s not at all to say I suddenly think this is a bad game, I surely do not, but when I defeated the final boss and credits rolled I felt more like I just finished playing something more akin to House of the Dead in an arcade than a true horror experience.
This is fine. While Silent Hill was all about the slow, psychological fear, Resident Evil 2 is all about resource conservation and shooting undead monsters in the face. In this aspect, Resident Evil 2 does quite well, and the excellent atmosphere and environments only sell the experience further. The game’s a ton of fun to play through, and it incentives multiple playthroughs via two different character routes, alternate arrangements, and fun unlockables.
Surviving the zombie hordes and exploring the excellent locations is great, and while the story isn’t very deep it serves as a fun vehicle to move the game along. The tank controls work well enough here, though I’d kill for a quick 180 turn button, and being able to aim up and down to deal with flyers and crawlers is a nice touch.
My biggest complaint with this game is the infamous inventory system. Needing an ink ribbon to save is stupid, sure, but it’s the item system that really grinds my gears. Nothing is added to the game by forcing you to constantly run back and forth between storage boxes because you don’t have room for a key item, often an actual key, for a puzzle you’ve encountered 10 screens away. It’s tedious and pointless and serves as a low point in an otherwise great game.
Speaking of puzzles, I really found myself enjoying what Resident Evil 2 had on offer here. They weren’t particularly complex, in fact, they were pretty easy, but it was the way they were presented. Every puzzle and item hunt had some kind of documentation somewhere to accompany it. Technician notes, journal entries or wall plaques would all give some kind of clue or background to what you were doing, as well as more insight into the story, and I thought that was just great.
Presentation, Music and Sound:
Resident Evil 2 uses its prerendered backgrounds to good effect, aided by the fact that the models don’t look half bad either. As a result, environments are all nicely atmospheric and interactive objects have a way of standing out without looking unnatural. The monsters look great and gore is a lot of fun, and the whole package just comes together really nicely, even today. The CGI scenes look like you’d expect from a 90’s PS1 game, but there are a few memorable standouts such as the introduction of the Licker.
The game uses audio to great effect. Zombies shuffling in the distance, knocks, and creaks in the hallways, even the sounds your own characters make have a way of putting you on guard. It’s all very well down, and the sounds of gunfire and exploding body parts make the action sequences all the more fun as well. The voice work is hokey but still fun. Music is also used really well in Resident Evil 2. The haunting piano riffs in the police station are memorable and chilling, the sudden change in music when something horrible is happening still makes me jump, and even the decision to make certain areas devoid of music is made smartly.
While Resident Evil 2 may not be the same game that I remember playing as a kid, it’s still an excellent game. It’s not on the same level as Silent Hill as a pure horror game, but the experience it does provide is one that’s both unique for its time and very enjoyable still today. At some point, I’ll probably come back to play through Clair’s campaign and the alternate routes, but for now, I’m satisfied. I had a good time in Racoon City, and I’m looking forward to playing through future Resident Evil games later on in the project.