If we can forget that Nemesis was a poorly designed rubber goof in the Resident Evil: Apocalypse movie, we can easily state that he is the apex predator of the series. The follow-up to Resident Evil 2 had quite a few expectations to fill and, for the most part, Resident Evil 3 delivered. While not so much a fan-favorite as RE2, there was a lot to like about RE3. The return of RE‘s Jill Valentine, some new intuitive controls, and, of course, the Nemesis.
RE3 marks the first time in the series where you are limited to one character – Jill. Through this, the story is slightly more focused and straightforward – despite the plot being all about Jill trying to leave Raccoon City. RE3 director Kazuhiro Aoyama cleverly sets in pieces of RE2 to make this work as both a prequel and a sequel. If you’ve never played RE2 – shame on you – you would not be able to scout notable tie-ins such as the police station. With a large majority of the building still locked up, Marvin Branagh, the wounded police officer who helps you in the second game, is still unconscious and has yet to give anyone the keycard which unlocks the emergency security system.
Where RE3 really shines is in its latest entry of Umbrella Corps. bio-engineered tyrants called Nemesis. The hulking tank brought a new dimension to the series, invoking more cringe-inducing terror and stress than ever. As if zombies and critters jumping through windows weren’t bad enough, now you have to worry about an RPG-wielding maniac busting through a wall and chasing you around the entirety of the immediate environment – and chase is certainly brought to a whole new level indeed. It became a running joke when you would encounter a handful of zombies, but could escape unscathed by simply running into another room. Nemesis, on the other hand, will continue his pursuit no matter what room you run into. At the time, this brought a whole new level of detail in the genre. Knowing that at any given moment he will just appear and will certainly derail whatever key or plot item you’re quested to look for made Nemesis a very intense experience.
The gameplay also takes a few different approaches in this game. There will be moments when you encounter Nemesis, or certain plot occasions where you will be prompted to make a decision. It was a great alteration to the series, as it added new layers and weight for the player. Another addition to the gameplay came in the form of control although as minute as it sounds, is having the ability to turn a full 180 degrees – yes you read that correctly. Resident Evil quintessentially coined the term survival-horror, and survival certainly predicates the genre. There will be times – if not numerous times, you will run out of ammo. When those moments used to occur, you would have to make your character turn in the slowest fashion imaginable to make a run for the door and to safety. It was those moments back then that would pull the player away from the action. With the addition of the quick-turn ability- which was actually first introduced in Capcom’ Dino Crisis game – it gave the player the chance to just cap a few zombies and dash creating more seamless and dynamic gameplay.
The level design of RE3 is grand, if not grander than RE2. A lot of the setting and scenery take place in the open air of the city and a few other places around the vicinity. RE and RE2 mostly took place indoors, and those settings helped create unique moods especially when it is all about tight corridors adding a more claustrophobic feel. Aoyama definitely went with a bigger setting and atmosphere in the follow-up. The game takes you through a police station, a hospital, a local newspaper office, a clock tower and a factory. More often than not, though, people tend to forget the scope and grandeur of RE3. Not to mention you can only kill Nemesis with a Rail-Gun at the end…Spoilers.
Resident Evil 3 is the pinnacle of the series and the last of old-school survival-horror. It took everything that it did so well in the previous titles and made it bigger and better. Nemesis encapsulated fear and dread in ways rarely experienced at the time. The scene where he popped through a window and chased players through the police station has always remained a nostalgic moment, much like anything that comes through a window in the RE series. In fact, a bit of advice for anyone playing the first-gen of RE titles: beware of windows.
The Infection: Ranking the Best ‘Resident Evil’ Titles
What are the Best Resident Evil Games?
Have we really been blasting apart zombies and surviving a myriad of over-sized animals and bioweapons for over two decades? You might not believe it, but it’s true: Resident Evil was first released twenty-three years ago and with the recent release of Resident Evil 2 Remake, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
If that makes you feel old, then you’re in good company as more than a few of us here at Goomba Stomp are old enough to have actually played the original all the way back in 1996 and we’re here to remind everyone what made these games great (or not so great) to begin with, where they succeeded and where they failed. Welcome back to Racoon City folks; here is the second half of our list of the best Resident Evil games to date.
5 – Resident Evil/REmake
There is no doubt of the original Resident Evil’s impact on the gaming industry as a whole, but the fact of the matter is, time hasn’t been kind to Spencer Mansion and its inhabitants. Released at a time when 3D gaming was still in its infancy, these days the PlayStation classic can simply be described as ugly and unappealing to those who didn’t play it two decades ago. Thankfully, Capcom remade the game for Nintendo’s GameCube; dubbed the “REmake” by fans, not only was Capcom successful in bringing Resident Evil to a new generation, but they also created the gold standard for all video game remakes going forward.
Upon its release, the REmake was a technical marvel, and to this day it’s a feast for the eyes. Each corner of the mansion looks phenomenal, and enemies are genuinely grotesque. Utilizing the GameCube’s hardware, Capcom was able to add fantastic lighting effects, which drastically bolstered the game’s ominous tone, and improved upon the already phenomenal atmosphere. Other minor additions, like enhanced shadows, environmental effects, and improved audio all successfully deepen player immersion while significantly upping the tension. None of the additions or changes harm the creators’ original vision, but instead, serve to enhance it.
The technological leap from the original to the remake is especially astounding when you consider that the REmake came out a mere 6 years after the PS1 version. Since 2002, the REmake has been re-released several times, including in 2015 for 8th generation consoles. Lauded by both critics and fans alike, the REmake is seen by many as the definitive version of Resident Evil. (Matt De Azevedo)
4 – Resident Evil 7
When Resident Evil debuted in 1996, it helped popularize the survival horror genre and ushered in a golden age of survival horror video games known for their slow-pace, heavy exploration, and brooding atmosphere. A decade later, Resident Evil 4 shifted directions with a third-person shooter approach, fewer puzzles and a greater emphasis on gunplay and weapons upgrading. Both the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4 have arguably been the two biggest highlights of the series, and no other game in the franchise came close to the greatness of those two titles until RE7 was released in 2017.
The seventh entry in the series, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard swerves in its own new direction by taking the best parts of the series (a measured pace and focus on exploration) and adding a new first-person perspective. Fear is palpable everywhere and just about everything in this game can make a player jump. It immerses you like no Resident Evil before it and all of this is captured with gorgeous (or grotesque) visuals and incredible sound design which rivals the best work ever done in video games.
While the more recent entries in the series placed a focused on action and gunplay at the expense of a methodical, brutal form of horror, Resident Evil 7 does the opposite. Yes, folks, Resident Evil is terrifying again, and a bold and successful reinvention of the franchise. The long-overdue return to survival horror was just what the franchise needed and it ends up making Resident Evil 7 one of the best games in the series. (Ricky D)
3 – Resident Evil 2
If we’re talking the older style, survival-horror roots of the Resident Evil franchise, you won’t find a single game in the series that can match Resident Evil 2. RE2 is still considered by some to be the best game to ever bear the Resident Evil name and regularly finds itself in the top 5 survival-horror games of all time. It’s not hard to see why the game made such a big splash as it improves upon the original in nearly every conceivable way imaginable. The main thing worth noting is just how different its campaign is depending on who you select at the beginning. Claire and Leon take radically different routes to the end game, even meeting and interacting with completely different characters from one another, and battling alternate bosses to boot.
The use of the A/B scenario system here is a masterstroke that cannot be overstated, as it makes for four different campaigns to play through, each with its own revelations and plot twists to discover. It also helps that the dark elements are expanded and the mythology takes on a conspiratorial tone which suggests a much more menacing set of antagonists pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Finally, you have more diverse environments, better production values (read: no god-awful live-action scenes) and the introduction of the indestructible stalker trope that remains an essential part of the series to this day. A classic in every sense of the word, if you dig survival-horror, you owe it to yourself to seek out RE2. (Mike Worby)
2- Resident Evil 2 Remake
If the original RE2 was a perfect sequel, the new Resident Evil 2 is a prime example of how to remake a classic while staying faithful to the original. While the word “Remake” doesn’t appear in the title, Resident Evil 2 (2019) is, in fact, a remake of the PS1 original. Capcom built the game from the ground up, changing a few things here and there, and for the most part those changes have improved what was already a great game. Much of the critical acclaim has centered on RE2’s gameplay and thick atmosphere, and much like Resident Evil 7, Capcom has made a game that is visually stunning throughout. Resident Evil 2 has just the right amount of retro appeal, capturing the spirit of the original without being bound by it.
There are no longer any loading screen doors, and Claire and Leon no longer move like tanks thanks to a new claustrophobic, over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective that helps elevate the action and opens up new possibilities for the series’ classic puzzle-solving. Resident Evil 2’s controls are incredibly intuitive, and while the classic static angles may be missed by fans of the original, I’d argue that the new camera system actually heightens the tension. By allowing the player to have more control of what they see, more often than not a player will unintentionally put themselves in danger. For those who enjoy tight, tense, graphic horror, this game offers an ample helping, something that might not have been possible without such a major overhaul.
Capcom’s new Resident Evil 2 — which was released twenty-one years after the PlayStation original — is everything one can hope from a video game remake. It preserves enough of the source material to feel like a respectful tribute, yet changes just enough to warrant its existence. This is one of the best horror games ever made — and proof that cannibalizing old material sometimes works fiendishly well. While I have fond memories of the original game, RE2 (2019) is smarter, tighter, and far scarier — start to finish. It’s a masterclass in environmental design, sound design, level design, and atmosphere. All of that and more makes Resident Evil 2 one of the best remakes — er, ‘re-envisionings’ — of a horror classic (game or otherwise).
1- Resident Evil 4
Series creator Shinji Mikami reinvented the wheel with the fourth installment of Capcom’s pivotal survival horror series. The over-the-shoulder third-person aiming system reinvigorated the genre and the innovative quick time events added an extra layer of suspense to the proceedings. Coupled with gorgeous cinematics – a vast, upgradeable arsenal – some of the most memorable boss fights in any game and an oppressive atmosphere – it’s easy to see why Resident Evil 4 is usually cited as the best entry in the series.
Resident Evil 4 is a near-flawless game – and it paved the way for hundreds of others like it such as Uncharted, Gears of War and Dead Space to name a few. Resident Evil 4 did for the action-horror genre what Super Mario 64 did for 3D platformers. It changed the industry moving forward and like all great games, it stands the test of time. (Ricky da Conceicao)
Games That Changed Our Lives: ‘Resident Evil 2’ and Ancillary Storytelling
‘Resident Evil 2’ opened my eyes to the storytelling strengths of video games.
As a young film major back in 1999, a devotee to the precision of Hitchcock, the marvelous wonder of Spielberg (at least at the time), and the delicious wit of 40s noir and 30s screwball comedies, one of the last places I ever expected to find cinematic inspiration was in video games. By then the novelty of cutscenes had mostly worn off for me (though I was still impressed with the technical skill behind them), and I had begun to develop tastes for dialogue and plot that aligned more with the meticulous constructions found in screenplays or novels. Nevertheless, I have to admit that no single classic I’ve watched or read has had as much influence on my own writing as a video game. I experienced Resident Evil 2 on my N64, played from a bunk bed in a darkened dorm room as floormates huddled around, content to merely watch the horror unfold. Slowly creeping my way through the smoldering remains of Raccoon City, dodging packs of murderous undead while searching for clues amidst the gruesome aftermath that has taken place in the labyrinthine hallways of the Police Department, opened my eyes to environmental storytelling, narrative tools I had never before considered, and to that point had never seen so effectively employed.
Though I’ve loved them since first picking up an Atari 2600 joystick, and was often visually inspired by the fantastical settings and bizarre premises, as I grew older I turned to games less and less for my narrative kicks, less willing to forgive awkward dialog and disjointed pacing. Sure, there were a few memorable moments along the way, like the opera scene in Final Fantasy VI and a crazy ending involving Abraham Lincoln and George Washington as heavily-armed space soldiers, but even these examples, though certainly refreshing from the standard fare, seem only like window dressing for the button-pushing fun, nothing more than a break from the action or a fluffy reward giving closure for a job well done. Despite the advances made over the years, I still believe that the inherent interactivity in gaming ultimately makes the format ill-suited for storytelling (at least as I prefer it), and games like The Walking Dead, Gone Home, and The Last of Us have done little to change my mind. The main reason for this is how highly I regard pacing as a key factor in how audiences respond to the information being presented, and games simply aren’t able to control this very well, which can make even the rare dialogue that’s actually compelling still seem awkward and out of place.
Still, there’s something to be said for the way video games can create an atmosphere through allowing someone to explore a world at their own speed, piecing together a narrative like a detective on a case, discovering tidbits that might not directly relate to pertinent events but paint a picture of a larger world. Immersion is something any storyteller strives for, and constructing a believable environment that exists outside of specific plot points is a necessity for that. Certainly, this idea applies to any people featured, and for those who understand that they are not, in fact, the center of the universe, it’s helpful when a story acknowledges that the Sun doesn’t revolve around the main characters. To this end, writers are always encouraged to develop backstories for those who play even the smallest roles. What sort of lives have they lived? Do they have a job? Spouse? Kids? Siblings? An education? Friends? Religious beliefs? Were they bullied as a child? Do they play sports, and if so, which ones? What sort of music do they listen to, and why? The list can go on as much as someone cares to dig deeper. Details like this prevent what should be a fully-formed person from becoming a mere prop, and contributes to an authenticity that maintains suspension of disbelief.
Like many of the other games in the franchise, Resident Evil 2 is a mess when it comes to the main plot. Years later I don’t really remember all the twists and turns involving Leon, Claire, Ada, and William Birkin (I had to look that name up), and frankly, I don’t care. It’s fuzzy because I didn’t really care back then either. More than the particulars of those convoluted B-movie antics, however, what has in fact stuck in my mind to this very day are the contents of the various notes and files scattered about the wreckage, waiting to be read (the N64 version included even more of these documents, known as “Ex Files”). Written by citizens, soldiers, and everyone else in between, often in diary form as they realized they weren’t quite going to make it out of the horrific nightmare their mountain town had turned into, these jottings filled in a widespread catastrophe, depicting its disastrous effect on the lives of a community. From the regret of a bus passenger who wished he had written a novel, to the confessions of cowardice by a soldier holed up with his unit as they make their last stand, I was struck by the power each one of these had in conveying a broader sense of tragedy, how they let my imagination fill in the blanks of the wide variety of experiences that an event like this would surely generate, which in turn allowed the horror to slowly mature and solidify.
Without Dario’s Note, David’s Letter, Mercenary’s Diary, or the many others, the story of Resident Evil 2 would have still been trashy fun, but it would never have contained those ill-fated overtones, the kind that give real weight to a story about zombies run amok, a significance that lingers long after the jitteriness of jump scares and tense thrills has subsided. The backdrop that these files create provides a perspective from which to view the conflicts of Leon and Claire, and imparts a sense of urgency to their situation, as most would not want their plucky protagonists meeting similar grisly fates. While literally mimicking this approach in a screenplay isn’t exactly practical, their effect on me was profound, a potent reminder of the power of world-building and context. I always try to explore my own worlds a bit further now, adding moments and dialogue designed to support the themes and evoke the same sense of ecosystem.
Just as importantly, this idea also applies to settings. Time that could be better spent developing characters is often wasted on exposition – delivering a detailed explanation of circumstances and ideas through text or dialogue. Screenwriting ideally involves a “show, don’t tell” approach, but that can often be difficult when the writer feels they have a lot to explain, and they’re not confident in their vision. Early on in school, I would often fall into the trap of worrying about whether an audience could understand everything, then would proceed to make sure it was spelled out. This led to many boring scripts (some of which even I didn’t want to read anymore), and much time thinking about what I was doing “wrong.” Basically, though I had heard it many times, the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words hadn’t yet cemented itself in my brain. That would change after Resident Evil 2.
Keep in mind that I hadn’t played the first game (that wouldn’t happen until the REmake for the Gamecube), so this was my first introduction to a game with a fixed camera, and again, I was deeply impacted by the implementation of such. By carefully selecting each angle to convey precisely the information that the player is meant to see, the developers are of course better able to control the tension, building it with tight shots that have a narrow field of view (often obscuring what’s around the corner), and relieving it by pulling the camera back and letting us see our surroundings, understand where danger is, and have room to plan our escape routes. It’s very effective in getting the blood pumping, which I obviously appreciated (and still do), but it also allows the developers to construct a world where the details in each image have significance, a very cinematic notion. The Resident Evil games have all told much of their tale through the settings they take place in, but the static camera of the earlier entries is able to ensure that the environmental storytelling will not be passed by.
There’s no escaping the rampant destruction on display in the city sections of the beginning. Streets are a maze of automobile wreckage, including crashed emergency vehicles, hinting at the panic that must have ensued. Boarded windows and barricades indicate a hard-fought resistance. Smatterings of still-burning fires let us know that the horrific chaos responsible for what we’re seeing did not happen so long ago, implying that whatever caused it could still be a lurking threat (which of course, is true). Inside the Raccoon City Police Department, the initial emptiness of the main lobby shows just how alone we are, footsteps echoing into the abyss. Offices are a cluttered mess of overturned furniture and blood stains, but desks are still full of paperwork and cups of coffee, meaning whatever took place did so in a hurry. It’s reminiscent of a scene from Aliens, but the creeping pace of the game allows these observations to really sink in and fill in the dread.
For whatever reason, despite my having seen many brilliant films and played many amazing games up until that point, most of which do a perfectly fine job of setting their own scenes, something clicked with Resident Evil 2; never before had the power of these ancillary elements been made so clear to me. I still don’t consider the medium a great one for storytelling, especially as it applies to relating plots, but I learned not to ignore the other elements at play, such as the skillful ways of achieving immersion done better than possibly any other format. The potential is there, and maybe someday video games will figure out how to overcome their limitations and make their own Citizen Kane, but for now, because of Resident Evil 2, keeping an open mind about where my own inspiration can come from is a lesson I’ve never forgotten.
‘Resident Evil 2’ is Still the Survival-Horror Game to Beat
When Resident Evil arrived on the scene back in 1996, it changed horror gaming forever. The almost unheard-of genre known as survival-horror exploded into the stratosphere as one of the industry’s greatest success stories, and one of gaming’s most well-known franchises was born. Even as the original title was a fantastically unique and incredibly frightening experience, though, it also had a short list of readily apparent problems. From the meme-worthy cheese of the voice-acting and dialogue to the ill-advised live-action opening at the game’s outset, Resident Evil in its first iteration lacked the confidence and clarity of vision to reach the true heights it was capable of. All of that would change in 1998.
Resident Evil 2, was the kind of sophomore effort that gamers dreamed of. With a breakout hit on their hands, Capcom seized the reins of ambition and ran dead ahead into the development of one of the finest sequels to ever see the light of day. Capitalizing on what worked, eliminating what didn’t, and trying some daring new ideas to boot, RE2 would emerge as an astounding, and endlessly playable follow-up.
Director Hideki Kamiya started by taking the third-person exploration and zombie-fighting mechanics of RE and applying them on a larger scale. The mansion setting of the first game was traded for an entire city, with several environments to explore, ranging from a deserted police station to a teeming sewer system. The increased scope turned the story from that of an isolated incident in the backwoods into an epidemic that would come to affect the entire United States, and as these things tend to go, eventually the world.
The standard expansion upon the premise, along with a few new weapons and enemy types, would have been enough for most teams but Kamiya had a grander vision than that. First of all, he introduced an A/B scenario system, wherein the character you chose from the outset (either the precocious Claire Redfield or the rookie cop, Leon Kennedy) actually had a profound effect on what you saw and experienced in your game. Upon the first run, players could only see the story of the character they had chosen, but after finishing the game, a so-called “B” scenario would unlock in which the alternate character’s storyline could be played, and since the experience again changed depending on who was in the “A” scenario versus the “B” scenario, Resident Evil 2 could actually be played through 4 times over with a genuinely different experience each time around.
The “B” scenarios even introduced the “stalking monster” trope, wherein a seemingly unkillable enemy known as the Tyrant would smash through walls or break down doors at the most shocking and inopportune times, pursuing the player until they were either out-witted or put down. That this is a trope which is still used nearly two decades later is a tribute to the effectiveness of the idea in its base incarnation. Even Capcom must have realized they’d captured lightning in a bottle with this idea, as the following incarnation focused entirely around it, and gave the series its first subtitle to highlight it.
With all the years and titles that have passed since, Resident Evil 2 only shines brighter. Few series’ have fallen as quickly and as hard as Resident Evil, and with Capcom scrambling again to reinvigorate their undead yarn, the masters of re-releasing are proposing yet another remake, this time of Resident Evil 2.
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So what’s the skinny? Can Capcom possibly match the success of their previous Resident Evil remake? Well, with the recent demo generating tons of buzz, and Capcom hot off the success of RE7, it seems like a safe bet that we’ll be playing one of 2019’s best games before we’re even out of the first month. Either way, a mere week sits between us and the release, so we’ll know soon enough whether to be afraid or be very afraid.
‘Resident Evil 2’ was a great second chance at a first impression
When Capcom first decided to bring their Resident Evil franchise to a Nintendo platform, the logical choice would have been to start at the beginning (a very good place to start) with the original mansion incident, the setting for a game that popularized the survival horror genre and spawned numerous creepy copycats. The saga of the T-virus was young, but already hard enough to follow, with characters motivated by mysterious pasts, greed, and various degrees of crackpottery, so a proper introduction would have been considered normal. However, apparently deciding that N64 players would have no problem being utterly lost when it comes to plot, being outsiders unacquainted with Redfields, S.T.A.R.S., Jill sandwiches, or the ominous Umbrella Corporation’s Frankenstein-like underground laboratory experiments, they instead ported over the series’ second entry, Resident Evil 2. Smart move.
As Leon S. Kennedy knows very well, being the new guy in town isn’t easy. You’ve got to win people over (or at least that one person who isn’t a zombie), as that’s the only way to survive in this zombie dog-eat-dog world. So for someone who had never owned a Playstation and was wondering what all the fuss was about over these clunky-looking “horror” games (like badly-textured polygons could ever scare me) with a static camera and cheesy dialogue, Resident Evil 2 was the perfect way for a rookie to get his or her feet wet. Better designed than its predecessor and lacking the laughably bad actors reading laughably bad lines of dialogue, Resident Evil 2 took the formula that the first game had created and ran with it, refining the gameplay to fit the N64 analog stick, offering a wider variety of environments, and expanding the dark, insidious plot with outstanding cutscenes and even more files littered about with spooky notes from the recently deceased.
At the time all those improvements would have meant nothing to Nintendo console owners, but the lure of the technological marvel that was FMV on a cartridge was too much to pass up back in 1999, and so I entered strange and unfamiliar territory, much like Leon driving into Raccoon City for the first time, unprepared for what lay ahead. Immediately having a protagonist I could identify with was a key element of my ability to roll with the game, as Leon’s confusion mirrored my own and we uncovered the mystery surrounding the events that rendered the town a zombie wasteland together. Had I understood the basis for this apocalypse the experience may have lost a certain mystery, a big part of what makes those early games such an eerie experience. We were both rookie cops at our first day on the job, with itchy trigger fingers. What Resident Evil 2 had to do was teach new players that sometimes they need to holster that smoke wagon, and it did so well.
Almost from the get-go, there were too many enemies and not enough bullets. Faster learners than myself quickly figured out that this wasn’t Contra, and running away like a coward was suddenly a pretty good option. Wasting an entire clip on one zombie left my Leon vulnerable, and he quickly succumbed to a bloody chomping after running down a dead end. It was disorienting at first, but the opening moments of Resident Evil 2 are so exciting that even those for whom the concept of conservation is foreign, they inspire a desire to see more. The original had a much slower, deliberate pace at its onset that may have turned off some who were unused to slow burns, but by starting RE2 with a bang, Capcom got Nintendo fans’ attention.
So that left wandering the smoldering streets and dilapidated police station looking for clues, piecing together what exactly was going on here, Claire every once in a while filling in some blanks about her brother. Resident Evil 2 introduced me to a whole new way of storytelling in games, where scripted breaks didn’t convey nearly as much as those little bits of diaries, newspaper clippings, and office memos. By adding additional files to the N64 version and doling out these scraps much sooner than RE1, the grim tones kicked in much sooner, drawing me into a universe with innocent citizens caught up in chaos, and perverted authorities scheming behind an entire town’s back. A wrecked bus that must be navigated on the way to the police station holds numerous corpses and the note of a man who knows his whole family is gone and is filled with regret about his choices in life. Moments like these sold me almost immediately and conveyed a sense of a rich, functioning world that very few games can.
What this all added up to after reaching the bitter end was that thanks to Resident Evil 2 suddenly I was a Resident Evil fan. Because of Leon and Claire I was inspired to try my hand at the mansion incident via the REmake, as well as pick up each of the sequels. Had I started off with the original, that may not have happened. Resident Evil 2 was better received than its predecessor and is still considered by many to be the pinnacle of those early games; what better place to jump into the series?
Capcom’s move could’ve been seen by some as a risk. Would there be enough interest in a sequel to a game most of the prospective buyers had never played in the first place, or would its release on Nintendo’s console be perceived as sloppy seconds, a quick way to make a buck off unsuspecting clueless dupes (in reality the port was given a high budget (for the time), and real care)? There’s no second chance at a first impression, but in bypassing the groundbreaking but very flawed original for this far superior sequel, the developer ensured that Resident Evil 2 would make sure the series didn’t need one.
‘Resident Evil 2’ REtrospective
You’ve just finished the most attractive and engaging CGI intro to a game that’s ever been made, and now you’re dropped head-first into a burning city infested by the walking dead. There’s none of the gentle introductions or tutorials of the 21st century – there’s not even an explanation of the control scheme or player goals at all.
But there are zombies. More than you’ve ever seen on screen. And before you even realise you’re in control, they’re bearing down on you, giving you nowhere to retreat. So, you push forward, deeper into the now-legendary Raccoon City. It’s 1998, and you’ve just started Resident Evil 2, one of the most iconic survival horror games ever made.
Resident Evil 2 was released on January 21st, 1998, kicking off a year of unbelievably prominent releases, such as Ocarina of Time and Metal Gear Solid. Players who were familiar with the first game – a landmark title in its own right, released two years prior – knew what to expect; a plethora of obscure puzzles, finicky tank controls, a strong focus on inventory management and more zombies than you could shake a Jill Sandwich at.
What players didn’t expect were the things that made certain Resident Evil 2 not only broke sales records but earned a permanent place in the hearts and minds of many, many players; intricately detailed pre-rendered environments, the surprisingly innovative “Zapping” system, all-new horrific creatures, and a playable block of Tofu, for some reason.
The “Zapping” system, otherwise known as the “A/B Path”, allowed players to indirectly choose the order in which characters Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield experienced the events of the game. Decisions made by the player in the first playthrough will affect the second; for example, picking up certain items as the first character will prevent those items from appearing for the second character, and certain events and even bosses would only appear in one path or the other.
This is a very interesting way to tell a story, and one that can only really exist in the medium of video games. It’s a shame that developer Capcom essentially abandoned this idea in future titles, instead opting for more traditional narrative structures, though we’d see the shadow of such an idea in the second Revelations game. The fact remains that this system worked extraordinarily well in Resident Evil 2, essentially allowing for four distinct playthroughs of the game before it got even a little stale.
After that, the player had two more completely distinct modes to unlock; The 4th Survivor, which featured the rarely-playable Umbrella Corporation agent/badass HUNK, and The Tofu Survivor, in which players take on the mantle of a foul-mouthed piece of Tofu, armed with a knife. It’s an unusual addition, to say the least, but one that has (thankfully!) been confirmed to be returning in the remake coming later this month.
The impact that RE2 had on the series as a whole also can’t be overstated. It introduced the world to the monstrous Lickers, fan-favourite characters Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield and Ada
Wong, Raccoon City and much more. It’s fair to say that every Resident Evil game released since has looked back to this title for inspiration.
Resident Evil 2, then, was not only wide but deep. It had production values almost unseen at the time of release, and more than delivered on promises made but-not-quite-met by the first game.
Through all its success, it’s hard to say how gracefully Resident Evil 2 has aged. Graphically, it still looks surprisingly good — while nobody would mistake it for a game from the 21st century, the pre-rendered backgrounds are detailed and clear, and the character models are as good as anything the PlayStation 1 ever had to offer.
The controls are a different matter. Relying on much-maligned “tank controls” makes the game that much harder to return to in the modern age, though there’s something to be said for the tension granted by such a lack of finesse. The player is forced to choose between standing their ground and fighting, or awkwardly maneuvering past foes through tightly-packed hallways.
When it comes to exploring dimly-lit offices for supplies, though, the tank controls actually benefit the player greatly, allowing them to make tight and controlled turns on the spot to investigate areas thoroughly. Keep in mind that this was an era far-removed from button prompts projected onto points of interest, making careful exploration all-the-more vital to success.
Resident Evil 2 comes from an age where technical restraints were built into the core of a game’s design, and RE2, in particular, understood the tension and anxiety afforded by clumsy and awkward controls. Combined with severely limited ammunition and healing items, as well dozens of enemies, and even an immortal pursuer in either character’s B path, this means that RE2 was as stressful as any survival horror game to come in the 21 years since.
However, history has since proved that such awkwardness isn’t necessary to the experience. Most famously, Resident Evil 4 proved that developers can squeeze out the same amount of suspense with a much tighter control scheme, and Dead Space went on to show how that can be taken even further. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the Resident Evil 2 remake (coming later this month) takes more than a little bit of inspiration from those titles, rather than just the game on which it’s based.
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Perhaps the most amazing thing about Resident Evil 2 is that it achieved all of this despite an extremely troubled development period. Reportedly, when the game was about 70% of the way through development, executives from Capcom and even members of the dev team, such as legendary producer Shinji Mikami, weren’t happy with how the game was shaping up. While no single element was considered problematic, the team decided that they weren’t coming together in a compelling or interesting way. So, Capcom decided to bring Noboru Sugimura on board as a writer, who suggested they scrap the story and start again.
Unsurprisingly, this decision brought about major changes. Perhaps the most major alteration came in the form of Claire Redfield’s character, who was once known as ‘Elza Walker’, a motorbike racer and student at Raccoon City. Under Sugimura’s direction, the team decided to change her to Claire, partly because of a perceived lack of connections between the first and second games (she’s the sister of one of the original series heroes, Chris Redfield).
The number of changes could cover an article of their own — a bigger focus on AI-controlled companion characters, two distinct stories that never overlapped and the police station, was changed from being “more modern” to the bizarre museum/police station amalgamation we’ve come to know and love.
We’ve seen time and again how protracted and difficult development can negatively affect the final outcome of a game. Simply look to the infamous problems of Final Fantasy XIV, or Duke Nukem Forever. The fact that Resident Evil 2 was great is nothing short of a triumph — that it’s still one of the best examples of the genre 21 years later is a miracle.
As a series, Resident Evil is synonymous with “survival horror”. It’s a series about tension, anxiety, and uncertainty, as well as cheesy dialogue and ridiculous, monstrous enemies. It’s been 21 years since Resident Evil 2 released, and even through titles as legendary as the fourth entry, no game has ever been quite as uniquely “Resident Evil” as the second game. And, barring perhaps the remake due later this month, it’s unlikely that any game ever will be.
- Rowan McDonald-Nyland
Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip. We are currently looking for Film, TV, Anime and Comic writers.
Contact us: Editor@GoombaStomp.com
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