This week sees the release of the new version of the 1998 Resident Evil 2 on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC. Completely remade from the ground up, with a new and dynamic story, redesigned environments and game-play innovation, it’s already set to be one of the biggest releases for the franchise in years. The excitement around the new game is based largely upon the popular opinion among fans that Resident Evil 2 was the series’ highlight.
Even before the success of the original Resident Evil, development began on a sequel just a month after the first game was completed. Whilst this game, which would later go on to be referred to as Resident Evil 1.5 by producer Shinji Mikami, differs greatly from the final version of Resident Evil 2, it did introduce some story elements that would carry over to the game, such as a citywide outbreak, Leon Kennedy and Sherry Birkin.
Upon its release in 1998, Resident Evil 2 became an instant hit, wowing fans and newcomers alike as it shifted from a small story set within the confines of a single mansion to a story that took players across Raccoon City and explored the inner workings of the evil Umbrella Corporation.
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Whilst the first game allowed players to choose from two separate campaigns to play through, with neither one of them interacting with each other, Resident Evil 2 was much more ambitious, offering four scenarios. If players completed Leon’s campaign they would gain access to a ‘B Scenario’ for Claire, which intertwined with the events of Leon’s story, and even relied on items being left behind in your first play-through for Claire to use. Alternatively, you could play as Claire, which allowed you to unlock a second scenario for Leon. This was a bold innovation to the series, and one that allowed players a greater opportunity for replaying the game, exploring both scenario options for each character.
As well as more story options, the sequel also offered improved storytelling and acting. Yes, there are a few moments where the dialogue feels awfully clunky, even back in 1998, but it’s still a big improvement over the original. The game looked more into how Umbrella worked, exploring how they bribed the chief of police to hide evidence against them, and how internal factions worked against each other, leading to a confrontation that resulted in the infection of the entire city.
Game design also made a sharp improvement allowing players to explore bigger and better looking environments that made much better use of the Playstation technology. Locations were better designed, puzzles took more thinking through and enemies were a bigger challenge.
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It’s not hard to see why Resident Evil 2 is held up as an all time classic. It took everything that made the original a success and improved upon it in every way. Story was better, gameplay was improved, replay value was increased. Filled with excitement, action and horror, it became the Aliens to the first game’s Alien.
The game may be more than 20 years old, but it’s still a great experience today thanks in large part to the effort that was put into making it. It began development before the first game was a success, so it wasn’t a cash-in or a money making sequel. It was made because the creators believed in the product, because they wanted to make something great and that’s why it’s still one of the best entries in the entire franchise. If the remake remains true to these values, if it’s made with the same love and care that the original was, it’s sure to not only live up to the legacy that Resident Evil 2 created, but will be a huge success in its own right.