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Resident Evil 2 (PlayStation) artwork

Resident Evil 2 (PlayStation) review

"Am I destined to hate survival horror games? I shudder to think that I might shun an entire genre because of my experience with only one game. However, it just so happens that this one is considered one of the genreís quintessential games. I usually find the idea of passionately hating a game a bit absurd, but in some cases I really have to make exceptions. Among the most widely acclaimed of these exceptions would have to be Resident Evil 2, a game thatís about as interesting and lively as the z..."

Am I destined to hate survival horror games? I shudder to think that I might shun an entire genre because of my experience with only one game. However, it just so happens that this one is considered one of the genreís quintessential games. I usually find the idea of passionately hating a game a bit absurd, but in some cases I really have to make exceptions. Among the most widely acclaimed of these exceptions would have to be Resident Evil 2, a game thatís about as interesting and lively as the zombies it throws at you, and could only be more stupid if it were any longer.

I really couldnít get into Resident Evil 2 the first time I tried to play it. After approximately a good twenty minutes of playing, I simply put down the controller and turned off my PlayStation. I was that unimpressed, unimpressed by a game receiving unbelievably high scores from all the major gaming sites. I just didnít like the game, but it was really hard to give someone a valid explanation why, having only played it for twenty minutes. In order to do this, I would have to slog through the entire game.

Funnily enough, I never actually got into Resident Evil 2, no matter how many times I tried to play it. Every single time, I felt compelled to turn the game off after that first twenty minutes. After a few years, I managed to muster the mental fortitude necessary to plod through this game. It was a most arduous task, but with my unwavering resolve, I came out triumphant. The reward for my selfless efforts being the explanation that I could never before articulate, but I was empty-handed otherwise.

Evidently Capcom knows little in the way of game design. The key design principle behind any game, regardless of genre, should be fun. A game should entice you to play and keep you coming back for more. This is something that Resident Evil 2 never exhibits. I have already illustrated the adverse effects; Every single step I took and every single shot I fired just brought me closer and closer to pushing that power button. Oh the urge to press it was ever so strong, but I had to press on.

Letís backtrack to the time when I first let this abortion into my PlayStation. After choosing one of the gameís two characters, starting a new game, and watching an uninformative, cinematic movie with some of the worst voice acting I have ever heard, I was thrust into the gameplay. Surrounded by zombies and in control of my character, I needed to make an urgent decision.

Do I fight? No, thatís not a plausible solution. There are too many zombies and I donít have enough bullets. The lack of ammunition often forced me to avoid combat, and this is a trend that continues throughout most of the game. Many of the potential fights had to be avoided for the sake of conserving ammunition for unavoidable conflicts and boss fights. Otherwise, I may have found myself in a position where Iíd have to restart the game because I didnít save enough shotgun rounds for a boss. A knife is provided, but getting this close is a dangerous move, and it doesnít seem even remotely effective.

So the only alternate solution I had was to run. I chose to do this, not because it was plausible, it was just the lesser of two completely unfeasible solutions. After spotting my character on the pre-rendered background from the gameís fixed angle, I attempted to direct him around the slow-moving zombies, only to find myself heading straight for them. This is all thanks to what is quite possibly the worst control scheme I have ever seen. Capcom made it so that the direction you press is consistent with the characterís orientation, rather than the cameraís orientation. The benefit of employing these controls is that it makes the screen-to-screen transitions slightly more smooth. However a highly counterintuitive and unresponsive control scheme is not a price Iím willing to pay for smooth transitions.

Resident Evil 2 is probably one of the only games in which I found myself fighting with the controls at least as much as the enemies, if not more so. Fighting the controls is a laborious task, making the process of avoiding zombies needlessly difficult, while the process of killing them is laughably easy. That, is quite simply irony at its finest. This happens despite the facts that both characters canít even handle the recoil of a 9 millimeter pistol and that the gameís enemies take so many hits to fall. The zombies, which make up the bulk of the gameís enemies, just make for such easy targets, because if they moved any faster, theyíd be stationary.

An auto-aim feature is included along with Resident Evil 2ís atrocious aiming system, which is particularly helpful when going up against some of the quicker creatures. However no matter how fast the enemies move, there is never any point in Resident Evil 2 when these action sequences are even remotely fun. All encounters boiled down to standing still (because thereís no other way to shoot), slowly pumping rounds into the monsters. If they got too close, I simply repositioned myself, and continued firing. One would think that boss fights might be a bit more interesting, but sadly this is not the case. Itís exactly the same; I just needed to use stronger weapons for them.

In some horribly vain and half-baked attempt to break up the monotony of poor action sequences, various puzzles have been included to slow you down. Nothing truly bent my mind, but likewise, they didnít really seem to stimulate my mind either. However, more often than not, the puzzles come off as wildly inappropriate and nonsensical. Because they often require you to pick up various items, they successfully highlight one of Resident Evil 2ís most illogical design errors, the ridiculously limited inventory. Further, itís not possible to set items down on the ground when the inventory is full, which would be a logical design choice.

Instead, Resident Evil 2 uses a system of chests poorly placed throughout the entire game. All of these chests magically share the same contents. For much of the game I was trying to squeeze in as many weapons and healing items as I could into my inventory, which provided me with a dilemma when I needed to pick up a puzzle item. Do I waste a healing item? Or do I laboriously backtrack to the chest I saw ten screens ago, drop the healing item in the chest, go through the same ten screens again to get back to the puzzle, and then pick up the item to solve the puzzle? This constant feeling of ambivalence never ceased until the end of the game.

When I finally reached the end, I was very surprised to see the total amount of time I invested: a modest six and a half hours. However the experience of going through Resident Evil 2 is such that it seems almost interminable. Time flies when youíre having fun, but Resident Evil 2 clearly isnít about fun. I think I can see clearly what Capcom intended to do when they put this game out; Resident Evil 2 is a vigorous and strenuous test of human willpower. Few developers release games for the purpose of testing the character of their audience. I now stand triumphantly and proudly. This is my reward for withstanding such grueling punishment.

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Community review by radicaldreamer (January 19, 2005)

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