Title Bio Hazard 2
Developer/Publisher Capcom
Type Action/Adventure
English Version Available (nenamed as Resident Evil 2)
Reviews #1

Review #1 by Kenneth Lee

From the moment it was first announced, Capcom's sequel to their ultimate horror-fest, "Resident Evil 2" (or "Biohazard 2" in Japan), shot to the top of the Most Wanted charts around the world. After numerous delays, the Evil has finally been unleashed (again) onto an eagerly awaiting gaming public. And the question is: Does it live up to the hype? To say "Yes" would be as much of an understatement as saying that "Final Fantasy VII" was just a minor upgrade from "Final Fantasy VI." In other words, Capcom Japan has delivered once again, with a game that is not only such a drastic improvement over its predecessor that they are like night and day, but is also arguably the second Greatest Playstation game of All-Time, right behind Square Japan's godly, Final Fantasy VII.

Sequels can always lead to disappointment. Too often, gamers have been disappointed when a sequel fails to deliver (see Tomb Raider 2, Street Fighter III to name a few). It is perhaps one of the greatest ironies that Capcom Japan - the company that practically _invented_ "sequels" (Street Fighter, MegaMan) and hence jaded many a gamer - is responsible for creating one of the most original, refreshing, terrifying and stunning games to have ever graced the console: "Resident Evil 2," truly a 'sequel' that is a sequel in name only.

Every single facet of Resident Evil 1 has been upgraded and reworked and revamped, and what we have left is a whole new monster of a game, filling up 2 CD's in all its gaming glory. Check the insanely impossible, coma-inducing, amount of detail in the gaming environment. The amount of beautiful work for these pre-rendered backgrounds rival that of Final Fantasy VII in some cases: Broken shards of glass lay littered on the floor, cracks in the marble are detectable and blood stains strewn upon the ground and walls - all in wicked, potentially-cardiac-arrest-inducing camera angles, that remind you of classic horror film perspectives (like a blind corner that you have to 'creep' by hoping against hope that some freaky, mutated monstrosity doesn't jump you and dismember your body). Then there are the 3D models for the player characters and the enemies. Like the background art, the models have been significantly changed, with higher poly counts and hence more detail. The textures for all the characters and creatures are also outstanding. Capcom went all out as we even have minor graphical touches that just make "Resident Evil 2" that much more outstanding, such as having the rabid demon dogs salivating as they prepare to jump you! You can actually see the saliva dripping off their teeth! Or having the empty shells fly off and bounce off the wall or the ground when you fire your hand gun!

The Madness continues as Capcom delivers full-blown CG movies (no more pathetic live-action FMV, ala RE1) complete with motion-capture from the Heavens! When you see the smooth, resplendent animation as Claire dismounts from her bike, or when both Leon and Claire make a break for the Raccoon Police Department to escape the hordes of zombies, you will know the Power. When you get into the game, Capcom Japan continues its prowess with beautiful hand-animated character animations: When you get hit or take damage, your walk and run stances change dramatically as well - from normal stances to slight limping to a near-dying 'crawl' as you stagger around looking for the nearest health! Suffice to say the animation and detail in the game is just as good as the motion capture in the CG movies, which is no small feat. When you fire off your weapons, the recoil from the discharge is so smooth and realistic looking that you'll be wondering if it was all motion captured.

Aurally, Capcom continues to crush, as both the sound and music have undergone significant improvements as well. It is nothing short of excellence (for the most part). The music is a wesome, filled with wonderful mood pieces that accentuate the eeriness and horror throughout the game. In between them are hauntingly beautiful piano pieces that are played when you are 'safe' (at Save points, or during certain cut scenes), and at the end credits as well. Suffice to say, I've already pre-ordered the Biohazard 2 music CD ^_^. There are ambient sound effects filled throughout, such as wind blowing, howlings, etc. and they perfectly compliment the overall experience. Lastly, the area of greatest improvement would have to be the Voices. Those of you familiar with Resident Evil 1 will immediately laugh when you remember the 'voice acting' in the first part [Barry: "Whooaa! You were almost a Jill-sandwich!" Jill: "You're Riightt!!"]. Gone are the days of 'C-movie' acting, and now most of the dialogue in the game is of 'B+ movie' acting, and all of it is correct, colloquially, except for one notable exception: Claire (the main female player you can select). 99% of the time, American voice actors in video games and anime are the laughingstock of the civilized world, with vomit-inducing, pathetic skills - most of the time you laugh when you're not supposed to. Not so here. I am going out on a limb, but I must admit that IMHO, Claire's Voice (and voice actress) is one of the best voice performances I've ever heard! Besides the fact that Alyson Court (Claire's voice actress) has the cutest, finest voice I've ever heard for a American voice actress ^_^ (and when I say "fine," I mean _fine_), her overall acting performance sounds (gasp!) _natural_ and 'normal,' like the way we all would talk and act in those circumstances! For some this may seem to be a moot point, but for someone who's weathered the years of horrible US acting performances, Alyson/Claire's voice is right up there with the best of the Japanese seiyuu.

For control, it is solid, based on the RE1 engine, but improved for better turning, aiming, and movement. Basically on any screen pressing Up on the D-pad is always to move your character forward, while Down is always moving them back. Besides that, simple button layout is set for Firing your weapon, Run, Inventory, and Action. Gameplay is deceptively simple: Survive this nightmare that is the zombie/monster-infested Raccoon City. You walk or run around pre-rendered CG backdrops, and there are various monsters and creatures that are out to put an end to your days of living. There are also various puzzles strewn throughout the game, and please note that they are all very intuitive (not the ridiculous, nonsense 'puzzles' like in Wild Arms).

But perhaps the ultimate jewel in this stunning crown is the highly original 'ZAP' Scenario system. Basically, you start RE2 as either Leon, a rookie Raccoon Police Dept. officer who shows up for the first day of duty on this unfortuitous night, or Claire, sister to Chris (from RE1), who was supposedly still in Raccoon City. Leon and Claire meet briefly in the beginning of the game, with different agendas and from there depending on who you chose, you have a different journey to travail. The items and puzzles are slightly different (in some cases drastically different) as well. The NPC's you meet and storyline all change depending on your character of choice. Also, both Leon and Claire have many different weapons (specific to them only), so that makes the gameplay even more rewarding and challenging. For example, Leon has a modified Shotgun, while Claire has a CrossBow Gun that shoots a triple shot of bolts. When you finish the game, you are treated to a gorgeous CG end movie and beautiful musical score, as well as a Rank. Contrary to what many people have been saying on the net, RE2 is _Not_ "too short," and it's certainly not over after you 'beat' it once. After you beat it once with one character, the game will automatically Save a _second_ game scenario on your Memory Card, and that is start of something else entirely! What the ZAP system does is that certain events that happened (or items you took or things you did) _will_ have a direct effect on the 2nd Scenario in the game! For example, you forgot to electronically seal the windows in the West hall. Well in the 2nd Scenario, that hall will now be filled with zombies that broke in because of that oversight! The 2nd Scenarios are completely different adventures from the 1st Scenarios. Thus if you pick Leon for example, you beat his 1st Scenario, it will Save a game called "ClaireB," which is the 2nd Scenario with Claire and her new story, and Leon's first story will intertwine! The bosses are different and the overall storyline gets even more intriguing. And the end movies for both 2nd Scenarios are Beyond Awesome!

So what Capcom Japan has given us is _4_ complete, and separate Games in one package (ClaireA, LeonA, ClaireB, LeonB)! Storyline, character development and puzzles all change. Lastly, no Capcom game is complete without secrets, and in typical Capcom fashion, gamers with Skill will be rewarded with the ultimate set of Cool secrets. What are they? I'd be spoiling it for you, but here's a hint: Ranking is very important. Rank is dependent on (1) overall Time; (2) number of Saves; and (3) Health Sprays used! Yup, it has nothing to do with weapons (except the infinites). FYI: There's a misprint in the US instruction manual - it is written that there is a "Rank S, A, B, C" with "S" being highest. That's the Japanese rank system, in the US, it was changed to "Rank A, B, C, D, E" with "A" being the highest. So if you beat the game with a certain Rank (A, B) you'll unlock certain Armaments of Retribution and Justice! He he. You'll unlock certain weapons and scenarios if you beat the game without Saving, or in a certain Time limit, etc. The ultimate secret requires True Man-sized Skills as you must crush the 2nd Scenario with a Rank of "A" (and the 2nd Scenario is twice as hard as the 1st Scenario). One other cool thing is that the secrets will 'carry over': If you satisfy all the conditions for all the secrets, you'll get them all! For example, I beat the 2nd Scenario in 2 hours 15 minutes, with No Saves, and used No Health Sprays, and voila! I unlocked the jackpot! Let's just say, if you got the skills, it's worth your time. The one last secret they put in requires even more skills, and it is Hilarious! Let's just say it has something to do with a soybean by-product related to Miso soup and Soy Sauce.

In conclusion, my words cannot properly relay just how impressive and immersive "Resident Evil 2" is. In a day and age when wanton violence or excessive saccharin litters the game systems, Capcom Japan delivers _True Horror_, as this is one of the few games that has ever really scared me. You want Terror? Try "Resident Evil 2" on for size. In a time when we wondered what could possibly follow up "Final Fantasy VII," "Resident Evil 2" is a worthy successor. Game of the Year for 1998! (at least until Metal Gear Solid comes around).

Final Scores (out of a perfect 10):

Graphics
9.6

+ Super-detailed, gorgeous, pre-rendered environments
+ Great CG movies with the best motion capture animations ever!
+ Truly horrific creatures and bosses.
+ Excellent in-game animation for player characters.
+ 4 separate, bad-ass endings for each of the scenarios!
+ Excellent detail on the textures for the monsters and players.
+ Smooth consistent frame-rate (30fps) with no slowdown.
- Slight pixellization on the textures (only in certain situations).
- Minor polygon clipping (limited situations).
Sound/Music
9.7
+ Goose-bump-inducing creepy BGM
+ Wonderfully soothing piano pieces.
+ All the music _blends_ together with the game effectively
  to create the perfect ambiance.
+ Alyson Court.
+ Did I mention Claire's sweet voice? ^_^ Some of the Best
voice acting I've heard ever in a video game.
- Slightly B-movie acting for sub-characters and Leon.
Gameplay
9.5
+ Solid, responsive control of the main character(s).
+ Exploding monsters! Cap them in the head with a strong
  weapon and watch the chunks fly. Nice effects.
+ Intuitive puzzles that are challenging, but not too hard.
+ Great boss encounters. Excellent AI.
+ Accessibility for all gamers: Easy, Normal difficulty, plus
  Skills-based Rank System for hard-core gamers.
+ The 4th Survivor!
+ Weapons of Justice!
+ The T*** Survivor! ^_^
- Slight collision problems at times (minor).
Overall
9.7
"The Greatest Game of 1998 (so far), and easily one of the Greatest 
                 games of all-time on the Playstation." 
        

Review Copyright © 1998 by Kenneth Lee (klee@interplay.com). Please feel free to email me with your comments, questions or criticisms about my review. Thank you very much for your time.