Why Resident Evil Remains One of the Best Console Games Ever.
As a kid in the eighties, I thought video games were amazing. Though home video game consoles were becoming available, such as the Atari 2600 or the ColecoVision (which used Nintendo technology), not everyone had them.
Even as fortunes were made in the new market, companies were competing for consumer dollars with expensive units and accessories at a time when the economy was still recovering from a disastrous recession.
The best most vidiots could do was feed quarters into someone else’s stand alone version of TRON or Kung Fu.
Early Home Console Gaming
The home computer revolution was in its infancy as well, the hobby systems of a select few technology buffs having evolved into corporation-driven juggernauts that were successfully manufacturing the home consumer’s consent – you needed a computer in your home, right? How else could your kid keep up?
But whether you were buying a workstation or a game console, the large-scale introduction of the computer into the American home meant that video games could now be enjoyed domestically. There was one problem.
The graphics were horrifying.
The worst offender was the Atari 2600, with versions of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong that might as well have just displayed the words “Thanks, Sucker” when you turned them on.
I mean, does anyone remember Yar’s Revenge (1983)? What in the hell was that supposed to be, anyway? It would be years before I took up any real interest in playing video games at home.
Flash-forward to the late 90’s. I was re-entering college a few years after my last attempt, and was sharing an apartment with an old friend when I noticed his Playstation. I asked him what the big deal was. Were there any games that were worth a damn these days?
He listed a few that he had sitting around, and talked about how the CD-ROM format allowed for a ton of graphics and playing time.
Since the day’s business was done, he fired up a game that he thought I would appreciate.
“It’s like playing a horror movie,” he hinted.
Resident Evil (1996) – CAPCOM
After tolerating the live-action intro and the animated cut-scene where I was told that Jill was the master of unlocking, the game steadily creeped me out. The sight of the first zombie chewing into a victim plus the genuinely spooky settings and music were enough to make sure that my roommate didn’t have proper command of his game system for several days. It must have been embarrassing to watch.
Created in 1995 by Shinji Mikami for CAPCOM and released in Japan as Biohazard, Resident Evil takes place in, around and under an abandoned mansion outside a fictional midwestern town called Raccoon City. After several bizarre and grizzly murders in the area, para-military police units are sent in to investigate, only to take refuge in the aforementioned mansion.
Resident Evil 2 (1998) – CAPCOM
I didn’t know it at the time, but the sequel had already been released to an adoring fan base. My roommate unwittingly called down the thunder one night when he returned home and tossed a gently used copy into my lap.
It was two CD-ROM’s chock full of delicious survival horror fantasy. We made a quick dinner, sparked up, and loaded the first disc. No one saw us for two weeks.
Resident Evil 2 (1998) is one of the most engrossing games I have ever played. Period.
Yes, it’s over ten years old. Yes, there are much more amazing things out there right now – of this I am aware. But the sheer level of immersion into the universe that the cats over at CAPCOM dreamed up is something I haven’t experienced very much in my life, and I’ve wasted a lot of time on various forms of entertainment.
Even the music is unreal. The game features a full-blown cinematic score conjured up by Shusaku Uchiyama, Shun Nishigaki, and Masami Ueda. I don’t know who they are either.
Resident Evil 2: Play Smart, Not Hard
Polygonal characters? Check. Static backgrounds and fixed cameras? You bet, and I dig every pixel of it. This game is everything at once: scary movie, action film, murder mystery. You not only have to find weapons and stockpile ammunition for them, but you have to find creative ways to use them on tons of zombies and other mutated monsters that pop up at different points in the story.
The game also requires the player to manage time and resources wisely, each decision affecting the outcome of events to come later. In fact, you have a choice to make as soon as you open the box that the game comes in.
Resident Evil 2: Great Character Design
The game has two playable characters, rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, sister of Chris Redfield from the first installment. You can start with one or the other depending on which disc you choose.
Claire is a bit faster but more efficient when it comes to ammo and storage. Leon is slower, but can take a bit more damage. Though the true status of a character’s health is best determined by checking the item screen, the developers came up with a genius way of portraying this during game play, making the traditional HUD unnecessary.
If a character is healthy, their posture is straight and they can run at top speed. If they are hurt, they hold their side and hunch slightly. If your player character is near death, he or she limps like it’s their job.
Leon and Claire have parallel adventures, traversing similar ground, even meeting up at different intervals. They solve different puzzles and have access to different areas. The genius thing about this set-up is that when you finish, say, Claire’s adventure first, save the game, then boot up Leon’s disc with that saved file, his game changes to suit the decisions you made on Claire’s go around.
Resident Evil 2: Great Re-playability
You don’t actually beat Resident Evil 2 unless you complete both discs. There’s even an expanded ending that hints at the adventures in store for both characters in future installments.
The other cool thing regarding this scenario is that you can begin the saga anew by beginning a fresh game with Leon’s disc first, then playing through to Claire’s. The enemies and weapons in several areas have now changed. So if you want to really split hairs, Resident Evil 2 is not one game. It’s four.
The playability only increases when you realize you can unlock weapons and costumes and even alternate mini-games by playing smarter and not harder. Many know the breakdown and I’ll not lay it out here.
And by the way, the monsters are just bad ass.
This game was consistently voted at the top of various lists in the gaming community and has to date sold something like 5 million copies worldwide. The series has had ups and downs, the main sequels (RE3 and RE4) being the best examples. Several shoddy offshoots have been released from the main storyline, earning predictable results. Resident Evil 6 is due November 20, 2012, the anticipation of many a gamer sure to make it a success.
Resident Evil 2: One of the Best Video Games Ever