Like the G-Virus itself, Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 is often considered to be “sheer perfection,” in the words of character William Birkin. This was my first venture into Raccoon City, having never played the original Resident Evil until the release of the remake for Nintendo GameCube. I then played the Director’s Cut on the PlayStation when I found a used copy for $5 at a used record store.
Set two months after the S.T.A.R.S. team took out the mansion in the Arklay Mountains in the first Resident Evil, the story opens up with a recap of Umbrella Corporation’s evil doings and a warning that their experiments were far from over. Enter Raccoon City Police cadet Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield. They come to the city for different reasons but they find themselves, and each other, in the middle of a zombie takeover. As the night’s events unravel, they discover the corruption within the police department as well as the G-Virus at one of Umbrella’s hidden laboratories and seek to destroy it.
Resident Evil 2 broke records left by Final Fantasy VII and Super Mario 64 once it was released on January 21, 1998. With a $5 million ad campaign, they had well made up for it grossing at $19 million, which even beat what most movies were grossing at the box office at the time. After its success, it was eventually released on the Nintendo 64 and PC. The success of this sequel can be determined by the way that Capcom had polished Resident Evil 2 compared to its predecessor.
Resident Evil was notorious for its campy grindhouse-esque voice acting; some such nuggets of dialogue include “You were almost a Jill sandwich!” and “Wesker’s sleeping with the ultimate failure!” The voice acting in Resident Evil 2 is vastly superior, as well as the writing and the plot of the game. Some reviews of the game suggested that not all of the puzzles were enjoyable, though I personally thought they were great. Realistically, there wouldn’t be puzzles in a police station to get ammo and keys for the building, but we’re talking about a video game with reanimated bodies and science-fiction monsters, so realism isn’t much of a factor here.
Another big improvement of this game compared to the original: the musical score! Masami Ueda wrote the music to Resident Evil 2 to make the player feel the sense of cold terror creeping up waiting to jump at any corner, and at times felt like it would fit well in a George Romero film. Unlike most horror films or games, the music did not have any cues to tell you when something was coming. If anything, it was more chilling when you were in a room and there was NO music playing! Another neat feature of the music was that on one of the pieces for the Police Station level, you can hear rattling and crashes. They created the sound effects within the score! Even the music is out to get you, Barbara!
Except for the piece written for when you are in a “Save Room,” which, in this writer’s opinion, is the best use of a piano for a horror score since John Carpenter‘s Halloween. This is one of very few times in the game where it offers any comfort to your nerves, which, if they are anything like mine, were shot once the Licker jumped through the mirror of the interrogation room! I STILL have to turn the volume down for that part even to this day!
My brother, along with most of you surely, would argue that Resident Evil 4 is the best in the series. As much as I respect how well Resident Evil 4 broke fresh ground when it was released, Resident Evil 2 still infects my heart as my favorite game in the series. It is definitely in my top 5 favorite games of all time. As an amusing side note: Capcom seems to have luck with “part twos.” Among some of their best-selling games are Mega Man 2 and Street Fighter 2. I guess Capcom knows how to work a sequel.