Resident Evil 2: Umbrella go to town.
Once again we enter the world of survival horror with the second entry in the Resident Evil/Biohazard series. Like the first part you control a 3D modelled character around different static pre-drawn 2D environments killing zombies, collecting items and solving puzzles all the while trying to say alive and virus free long enough to escape your fate.
The story picks up nine weeks after the original game with the surviving S.T.A.R.S members having escaped the now destroyed Umbrella mansion and returning to their lives in nearby Racoon City. Unable to persuade their superiors of Umbrella’s guilt because of a lack of evidence not to mention the huge amount of political weight Umbrella carries in the city Chris has left the city to peruse outside leads while Jillâ€¦ well we’ll get to Jill in part three.
‘leaked into the racoon’
As this is going on unknown to anybody is that Umbrella’s T-virus, the source of the Umbrella mansion outbreak has leaked into the Racoon City sewers and before you can say mass pandemic its spread among the rat population and out into the city itself. Taking control as either Leon S. Kennedy a cop just transferred to the Racoon City police department or Claire Redfield who is looking for her older brother Chris Redfield star (or should that be S.T.A.R.?) of the first Resident Evil you have to escape the city through the zombie filled streets and into the Racoon City police department and down into the sewers that lead toâ€¦ well, why spoil that little gem for first time players eh.
After a mad dash through the city and an all too brief respite in Kendo’s gun shop you make it to the safe haven of the RPD where the game really starts and you can catch your breath without having to worry about near constant zombie inflicted death. You quickly find that the station is in lockdown mode with many of the doors and exits locked, bared or even destroyed after the initial wave of the zombie plague. After a quick bit of exploring you’ll get the first of many keys that will open up previously inaccessible areas where you find new puzzles to solve, zombies to kill or better still avoid and maybe fellow survivors who can help you.
‘mansion is relentless’
Depending on what character you chose at the start of the game the storyline will take different twists and turns with Leon being assisted by a mysterious woman called Ada Wong who’s looking for her boyfriend an Umbrella employee living in Racoon City while Claire rescues Sherry Birkin a child also with ties to Umbrella sheltering inside the station. Both storylines also featured a short section where you would control Ada or Sherry as they solved a simple puzzle to recover the vital ‘heart’ key for Leon/Claire after avoiding or killing a pack of T-virus infected dogs guarding the area.
Both storylines follow the same general beats with the odd difference in puzzles or locations with Leon having to explore the station’s jail cells and Claire using explosives to gain access to the office of the chief of police. Both characters storylines also feature the dreaded Mr. X creature, a creation of Umbrella’s Tyrant project with massive strength and resistance to regular weaponry but like the T-002 Tyrant from the Umbrella mansion is relentless but simple minded in its attacks and movements. To detail any more of the game’s storyline would be unfair to first time players so I’m going to take a few moments to talk about the Resident Evil 2 that never wasâ€¦
As even a casual glance at videogame history will tell you Capcom have never thought twice about capitalising on a franchises success (I mean c’mon how many Mega Man games were there on the NES alone) so after initial release of Biohazard/Resident Evil it was no surprise that they put a sequel into production shortly after the original release back in 1996. What might come as a surprise is that as the game’s release date in 1997 loomed large on their calendar the game Capcom had was and is a far cry from the Resident Evil 2 we know today.
‘plays just like Claire’
Sure it had rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy as one of the two main characters but his co-star wasn’t Claire Redfield it was a blond teenage student in biker’s leathers called Elza Walker. The Resident Evil 1.5 build as it has come to be know was very similar to the final release with its overarching plot of two survivors banding together to escape the zombie hordes inside the Racoon City police department but when placed side by side with Resident Evil 2 the differences are immediately obvious.
Supporting characters like shop owner Robert Kendo and doomed cop Marvin Branagh have far bigger roles in 1.5 with Kendo acting much like Barry Burton did in the original and Marvin even helping Leon and Elza to escape the station into the sewers. Just like in Claire’s storyline Elza finds and helps Sherry Birkin and apart from outward appearance of red and white biker’s leathers she moves and plays just like Claire.
The other obvious difference in the game apart from Elzas role is the RPD station house itself. The station as it is today is a strange mix of art deco and gothic (no doubt added to invoke memories of the Umbrella mansion from the original Resident Evil) but in 1.5 it was a far more modern and contemporary design. The corridors are decked out in marble and chrome rather than wood and carpet and the chief’s office wouldn’t look out of place in a high-rise corporate office block. Other non-RPD locations look almost identical with the sewers and city streets appearing as they do today albeit with a slightly different layout.
‘tofu that was coded’
Unhappy with how the game was turning out Capcom took the bold move of canning the entire project, restarting from scratch and pushing back the games release by a year. The final result was what we now know as Resident Evil 2 and Elza was relegated to a mere footnote in history.
Just like Resident Evil before it completing the game isn’t the end. Both characters have two A and B scenarios making four different games to play through with the B scenario’s revealing information about some characters that show them in a totally different light once you know their secrets (Again I’m being coy so as not to spoil the surprise) If you can complete both A scenarios with an A ranking you can unlock the minigame ‘The 4th Survivor’ where you can play as Hunk, a black clad commando tasked with retrieving virus sample before the timer runs out. There’s also a ‘The Tofu Survivor’ minigame to play with Hunk replaced by a giant piece of tofu that was coded into the game originally to test the hit detection system.
With the original Playstation version doing so well Resident Evil 2 was ported across to many different platforms since its creation. A port to the Sega Saturn was started but never completed leaving Sega fans to wait until the Dreamcast version was released. The DC version was wear identical to the PS1 original but had added support for the VMU unit that sits inside the control pad that displayed the characters health and ammo count.
‘frame rate was worse than the N64’
The Nintendo 64 version was a far better conversion that not only squeezed the entire game onto a N64 cartridge but also improved the controls and even added a mode that randomised the location of items making each play through unique and different. The Gamecube version released much later was a straight port of the Dreamcast conversion before it (you following this ok?) and aside from being able to skip cut scenes and having a slightly better frame rate was worse than the N64 version the previous generation.
Any of the above or even the PC version are a great play and show why even ten years after its creation it’s regarded by many Resident Evil fans to be the best of the ‘Survival Horror’ games in the franchise (for my money it’s Resident Evil: Code Veronica X, but I’ll save that gripe for part four) Next time we find out what happened to Jill Valentine after escaping the Umbrella mansion and meet possibly one of the scariest enemies found in any videogame ever, the T-Type tyrant or as it’s better knowâ€¦ Nemesis.