The Old Gods – Resident Evil 2

We hold them in such high regard, but do they really deserve all the praise that they get?  The Old Gods is a series of articles on RoH looking back at some of the survival-horror classics.

Most of us were still pretty young when Resident Evil 2 was fresh on the slab.  The Resident Evil series was changing the face of gaming before our very eyes.  And for some of us, sitting down in front of the TV with a controller glued to our hands would never be the same again.

Resident Evil 2 was first released in 1998 for the Playstation console.  Since then, it’s been re-released on the Nintendo 64, Windows, Sega Dreamcast, the Nintendo Gamecube, even a modified version of the game was released for the handheld (no seriously!) and a 99x version, both by Tiger Electronics…for real! We’re itching (and tasting 4) for a remake the likes of REmake, and seeing how Resident Evil 2 stands out as a fan-favourite right next to RE4, all of our scratching might not completely be in vain.

Taking a fresh look at Resi 2, there are some obvious things we need to…ignore.  For instance, the graphics are really not the best for modern television screens.  But lucky for us, we’re playing on a PSP-go, with the PSN version, so the jaggies aren’t all that bad.  By today’s standards, it looks like hell, but if you take a look at other games at the time, Capcom’s method of design here was superior to anything else we’ve seen.  The backgrounds are pre-rendered with playable characters and NPCs super-imposed above the background.

This method of design made the various locations of the game look absolutely fantastic with unique lighting effects and loads of pre-rendered gore.  It’s another thing that makes the game a little easier on the eyes looking back at it 11 years later.

Aside from some of the atrocious voice-acting, the sound production in Resi 2 was pretty top-notch.   The Raccoon City streets portray a sense of urgency – ‘get out of here, get out of here FAST!’  The lobby of the Police station echoes with the piano-like notes of the tune played here.  Much like Akira Yamaoka’s Silent Hill music, these tunes can make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end even on their own.

Resident Evil 2 – Raccoon City
Resident Evil 2 – Police Station
(click for audio)

When I was younger, I specifically remember stepping onto one of the top balconies in the Police Station lobby, hearing the hiss of a Licker, doing a 180 and high-tailing it the hell out of there.  While it might not have the “get me the fuck outta here!” power today as it once did, I still get the “ohshitohshitohshitohshit!” feeling whenever there’s something else in the room.   The added anxiety of not being able to see what might have been only steps away from you was an added bonus.

Playing through the game again however does point out some of the rather cheap game play mechanics the game uses to increase playtime.  This game ‘can’ be completed in just over two hours.  The running time is increased by fetch-quests and hunting down items.  Yeah…you’ll give yourself a brain cramp trying to remember where the Spade key is (or trying to find it in the first place) and backtrack through the entire damned station to find a gigantic motherfucking jewel hidden in a priceless painting that you have to destroy to get.


However, backtracking through places you’ve already been, running out of ammo, trying to make due with your knife but failing miserably and limping around the station like you sprained your ankle and threw out your back is what made this game great, right?!  All joking aide, it does create a sense of desperation – trying desperately to get out of this twisted place alive.  The classic Resident Evils had this feeling down pat, but there was no more game where that desperation shows more than in Resident Evil 2.

That feeling of desperation might have something to do with the two title characters.  Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield were definitely a lot different than Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, weren’t they?  The two characters were designed to be remarkably different.  Leon was designed by Hideki Kamiya, who has admitted that even though he was a fan of Chris Redfield, he wanted Leon’s character to be completely different.

As a result, while Chris Redfield seemed extremely macho, Leon’s character developed an inherantly weak appearance.  He seemed a little less capable of doing the job than Chris, Jill or Barry, but we theorize that it’s one of the things that made Resident Evil 2 stand out amongst the others.  Sure, Leon might have been a police officer, but he was a rookie – completely inexperienced (although we imagine no amount of policing experience could prepare you for a zombie apocalypse).  Claire was just a college girl with an older brother who taught her a few nifty tricks.

RE1 had taken place in an isolated mansion full of lab-coat wearing researchers and strange monstocities, but Resident Evil 2 brought the infection to the people!  It turned Joe Schmoes, bus drivers, journalists, police officers, sanitation workers…prostitutes, all into zombies.  Seeing familiar elements of society transformed into pixelated undead monsters hit close to home (not the prostitutes thing, fyi).

Playing Resident Evil 2 in 2011 is a lot different than playing it in 1998.  There will always be compromises when playing through any older game, but there’s a final element of Resident Evil 2 that makes the game an amazing addition to any gaming collection, survival-horror or otherwise.

Sometimes, it’s not what’s in the game that tells the most compelling story.  Any true fan of Resident Evil can attest to going through a game and desperately searching for little memos, bits of paper, letters to loved ones, plaques on walls, a little piece here and there of literature that tell a largely untold story.  The story of these everyday people fighting a losing battle.

David’s Letter
My sanity is at its end…I still can’t believe this is happening.  We lost another man yesterday.  Meyer; one of our better marksmen.  He saw me panic once we were overrun by the zombies, but he came back to save me.

But when the time came to return the debt, I ran.

I can still hear him calling out my name.  I can still hear the screams coming from behind.  The sound of his flesh being stripped from its bones.  I was afraid…terrified…

It’s the 27th.  The fight to stay alive continues.  I took out several zombies who managed to break through the barricades.  Now I’m cutting through the chill with whiskey, unloading my Mossberg on anything undead.  That shotgun’s become a close friend of mine.  I’ve blasted many a zombie into fertilizer with it.

We’ve lost 12 men as of yesterday.  In 3 hours, we’ll bicker about trivial things in the meeting room.  It’s a total waste of time.  When I finish this bottle, my old friend Mossberg will be turning one last body into fertilizer.

Peace at last.
I can hardly wait.


Don’t have it?  …Well why the hell not?  Resident Evil 2, along with Resident Evil: Director’s Cut and Nemesis can all be purchased through the Playstation Network.  Or you can just bust out your old PSX, N64, Dreamcast or Gamecube and kick it old school.



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