Resident Evil 2

Year: 1998
Alternate Title: Biohazard 2 (Japan)
Platform: PlayStation
Developer: Capcom
Genre: Survival/horror
Rating: ***

After playing "Resident Evil - Code: Veronica" (2000), this game seems like a breeze. Taking place after the events in Capcom's breakthrough game "Resident Evil", this game introduces Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy as a couple of unlucky souls who arrive in a zombie infested Raccoon City. Claire is looking for her lost brother Chris (from RE) and Leon is a rookie cop who just got transferred to Raccoon City. As either Claire or Leon, you fight your way through the Raccoon City police station, the city sewers, and finally Umbrella's diabolical lab on the outskirts of town. At the end of the game, Chris is still missing, but Claire and Leon have a good idea where he might be.

The game looks and sounds great, and the controls are tight and responsive. The story is interesting and well written, and the level design is clever and compact. The voice acting is better than average, which helps the presentation considerably. The game is unique in that you can choose to play as either Leon OR Claire, but therein lies the game's major flaw. After playing through with one character, a secondary adventure is unlocked for the other character that allows you to see what they were doing while you were busy on the first adventure. This ultimately gives you four different versions of the same story, and the pieces don't fit together very well. The biggest problem is that both Claire and Leon have to solve the same puzzles and fight the same monsters, which destroys any sense of continuity or cohesion between the various scenarios. Very frustrating. And to make things even more confusing, once you play through all of these scenarios with a certain level of proficiency, two more adventures get unlocked for two more survivors of the horror - a soldier named Hunk and a giant block of Tofu. Yeah, you read that right...

Definitely one of the better PlayStation games out there, although a bit too hard to play for my tastes. Claire is an awesome addition to the series. She's tough and serious minded, and she's also a babe. Leon is not nearly as annoying as I thought he would be, and his naive good boy attitude is oddly endearing. Leon's most memorable quote has to be "why doesn't anyone ever listen to me?" which had me in fits of laughter. Ada Wong shows up as a welcome femme fatale, and her exchanges with Leon are quite amusing, although the romantic angle is forced and awkward, not to mention completely unbelievable. "I know we've only known each other for a couple of hours, and in that time I've shot at you, lied to you, repeatedly run away from you, ignored your advice, and left you for dead after you got shot trying to protect me, but I really do love you..." Yeah, whatever.