COPS AND SLOBBERS

From pet­ri­fy­ing precincts to slaver­ing Lick­ers, we re­visit Res­i­dent Evil 2’ s orig­i­nal in­car­na­tion

Games Master - - Feature - By David Meik­le­ham

Po­lice sta­tions are pretty freakin’ scary. Boxy in­ter­ro­ga­tion rooms that ex­ist solely to in­tim­i­date. Cells full of pris­on­ers who want to show off their body art. Con­sid­er­ing their pur­pose is to process so­ci­ety’s crim­i­nal el­e­ment, it’s only nat­u­ral the av­er­age cop shop is scarier than any haunted house. Now imag­ine how much more ter­ri­fy­ing a reg­u­lar precinct would be if it were stuffed full of the un­dead, had a gi­ant al­li­ga­tor prowl­ing around its sew­ers, and slaver­ing mon­strosi­ties scut­tling across its ceil­ings. Res­i­dent Evil 2 turned 20 ear­lier this year, and Capcom marked this mile­stone by fi­nally giv­ing us the first glimpse of the up­com­ing PC, PS4, and Xbox One re­make. You’ve just seen how the gor­geously gory, re­born hor­ror icon is shap­ing up over the last few pages. And now we’re here to cel­e­brate PS1’s orig­i­nal sur­vival hor­ror se­quel in all its grue­some glory; a game that, along­side Fi­nal Fan­tasy VII, Gran Turismo, and Me­tal Gear Solid, es­tab­lished Sony’s de­but

con­sole as the must-have gam­ing ma­chine of the late 1990s.

Like James Cameron’s Aliens, Resi 2 took the ter­ri­fy­ing core of its pre­de­ces­sor, then spread the scares out onto a wider can­vas. Whereas the orig­i­nal Res­i­dent Evil con­fined Chris and Jill to the claus­tro­pho­bic cor­ri­dors of Spencer Man­sion, the se­quel drops you into a city over­run by the un­dead. Granted, you only spend a few min­utes on the streets of Rac­coon City be­fore be­ing fun­nelled into RCPD head­quar­ters, but as an open­ing salvo, the city­wide out­break showed Capcom was com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing an ul­tra am­bi­tious fol­low-up.

Zap of hon­our

En­ter the ‘zap­ping sys­tem’. A strange term coined in­ter­nally at Capcom, it ac­tu­ally refers to Resi 2’s pioneer­ing dual cam­paigns. Both Leon S Kennedy and Claire Red­field are granted an A and a B sce­nario, and what hap­pens in one char­ac­ter’s playthrough is saved to your me­mory card, sub­se­quently af­fect­ing the next. For ex­am­ple, the re­lent­less T-00 Tyrant – or Mr X, to his vic­tims – stalks you through­out the B sce­nar­ios be­cause Capcom wanted to com­bat the com­pla­cency that came from fin­ish­ing the A playthrough by in­tro­duc­ing a near-un­stop­pable en­emy. Look­ing back, it’s clear this sparked the gen­e­sis of Res­i­dent Evil 3’s ut­terly ter­ri­fy­ing Neme­sis. Cheers for that, X.

In an age where peo­ple were even more ob­sessed by the lengths of games than they are to­day, these criss­cross­ing cam­paigns were in­stantly cel­e­brated. Sur­pris­ingly though, key mem­bers at Capcom were ini­tially against the zap-happy an­tics. Noboru Sugimura, the writer of Resi 2, was one such cynic. “To tell you the truth, I was

“took the ter­ri­fy­ing core of its pre­de­ces­sor, then spread the scares out onto a wider can­vas”

ac­tu­ally op­posed to the zap­ping sys­tem,” he told JP Games Magazine back in 1998. “I knew how much work it was go­ing to be to weave to­gether mul­ti­ple nar­ra­tives… but [Hideki] Kamiya wouldn’t back down.” Thank the hor­ror heav­ens the game’s di­rec­tor didn’t budge.

In­trigu­ingly, the Rac­coon City spook-’em-up you know so well was orig­i­nally a much dif­fer­ent beast. A month af­ter the launch of the orig­i­nal Res­i­dent Evil in 1996, a team of over 50 de­vel­op­ers be­gan work on a fol­low-up. Pro­vi­sion­ally ti­tled ‘Res­i­dent Evil 1.5’, this ul­ti­mately scrapped project dif­fered from Resi 2 in key ar­eas. For one thing, Um­brella had been shut down in 1.5, while Claire Red­field never ex­isted. In­stead, Leon would oc­ca­sion­ally team with a col­lege stu­dent, called Elza Walker. Whereas Claire had a ready-made dra­matic arc tied to find­ing her brother, Elza was merely hol­i­day­ing in Rac­coon City. Mer­ci­fully, the game was scrapped even though it was 70% fin­ished, which ul­ti­mately led Capcom to re­design the se­quel as the pet­ri­fy­ing po­lice sta­tion fright­fest you adore.

Not that the RCPD’s home is even re­motely like an ac­tual precinct. A labyrinthine struc­ture that can be as op­u­lent as it is ghastly, it was once an art mu­seum… which ex­plains those fancy ceil­ings. Af­ter Um­brella took over the build­ing, it in­stalled sin­is­ter un­der­ground labs to de­velop the G-virus in, then paid off the cor­rupt Chief Irons af­ter the po-po moved in. Re­gard­less of its over­wrought ori­gins, it’s one of the most evoca­tive en­vi­ron­ments to ever grace PlaySta­tion.

While Spencer Man­sion re­mains Resi’s most iconic lo­cale, Rac­coon City’s po­lice sta­tion is a close se­cond. It’s a com­pli­cated, twist­ing struc­ture filled with elab­o­rate key puz­zles, de­vi­ous traps, and a hor­rid sewer sys­tem where rhino-sized taran­tu­las roam. By mix­ing the ba­nal­ity of a nor­mal precinct with gothic stylings, Capcom cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment that con­stantly kept you off bal­ance.

Po­lice bru­tal­ity

As sur­vival hor­ror set­tings go, they don’t come much more tightly ter­ri­fy­ing than this. Whether you’re be­ing pecked to bits by crows in a par­tially col­lapsed cor­ri­dor af­ter a he­li­copter crashes into the side of a build­ing, or bar­be­cu­ing a mon­strous moth with a flamethrower in Um­brella’s frosty cold stor­age labs, there’s so much more to Resi 2’s po­lice sta­tion than ini­tially meets the eye.

Even though zom­bies are os­ten­si­bly the stars of the se­quel, it’s the Licker that nabs the lime­light. An ap­palling cross be­tween what looks to be a skinned gib­bon, a frog, and pos­si­bly some sort of sturdy dog breed, these elas­tic-tongued

“when it comes to stand­out scares, res­i­dent evil 2 is top of the de­com­pos­ing pile”

abom­i­na­tions re­placed Resi 1’s ath­letic Hun­ters as the se­ries’ dead­li­est foe.

The in­tro­duc­tion of this mon­stros­ity is su­perbly han­dled. While every­one talks about that dober­man smash­ing through the win­dow in the orig­i­nal’s stand­out jump scare, the Licker is de­buted in sim­i­larly nerve-shred­ding style. Dur­ing Leon’s A sce­nario, shortly af­ter he en­ters the precinct, the rookie cop passes a large, rain-lashed win­dow. As he does, a shadow darts past out­side, its form ob­scured by rain. It’s only when you’re in the next cor­ri­dor, a dis­tant, spine-tin­gling groan and the pit­ter-pat­ter of drip­ping blood greet­ing Leon, that Kennedy comes face-to-face with the Licker.

The next shot, all ex­posed brain, sinew, and sticky saliva, as the beast hov­ers above him on the ceil­ing, is per­haps the se­ries’ most iconic. Spend a se­cond too long drink­ing in this G-virus mon­stros­ity, and the ter­ror will use its scythe-like claws to de­cap­i­tate the po­lice­man. Who said the fourth game’s Dr Sal­vador had the fi­nal word on Resi be­head­ings?

Lick of the bunch

Over the course of both Claire and Leon’s sce­nar­ios, dozens of mo­ments ri­val the Licker’s un­veil­ing. Watch­ing a help­ful gun store owner be­ing eaten alive by a pack of sham­blers. A brief playable cameo from sci­en­tist-turned-se­cret-agent Ada Wong. Mr X barg­ing his way through a wall. That Licker one-way mir­ror scare. A mu­tated William Birkin try­ing to skewer Leon on a tram ride. Blow­ing up a gi­ant ’ga­tor (see ‘What A Croc!’). When it comes to stand­out scares, Res­i­dent Evil 2 is top of the de­com­pos­ing pile.

While not as seis­mic as ei­ther the de­but of the orig­i­nal, or the re­lease of Resi 4, Capcom’s first zom­bie fol­low-up had a big im­pact when it launched in early 1998. With PS1 at the height of its pop-cul­ture-court­ing pow­ers, the buzz around the game was im­mense. So much so, the late, leg­endary Ge­orge A Romero di­rected Resi 2’s com­mer­cial. As for the legacy it passed onto fu­ture games, its trench-coat-sport­ing tyrant not only in­spired Res­i­dent Evil 3’s tit­u­lar Neme­sis, it also en­sured Resi 4 had a bro­ken-in hunky hero to take its re­booted lime­light.

The fact Capcom is re­leas­ing a re­make of Res­i­dent Evil 2 speaks vol­umes for not only the PS1 clas­sic’s en­dur­ing ap­peal, but also the rev­er­ence Capcom treats the orig­i­nal with. If the cur­rent-gen re­dux can cap­ture half the mag­i­cal ter­ror of Leon and Claire’s 20-year-old fright­fest, hor­ror fans are in for one hell of a treat this Jan­uary.

Even 20 years on, Rac­coon City’s po­lice de­part­ment is still a won­der­fully chilly (if tad blocky) lo­ca­tion to shred your nerves in.

Mr X is a con­stant Ter­mi­na­tor-es­que nui­sance through­out cer­tain of the game’s sce­nar­ios. Even grenades barely slow him down.

Just like the ones in the orig­i­nal Resi, the se­quel’s puz­zles can be a lit­tle ob­tuse. What are we sup­posed to do with those drat­ted gears again?

The Lick­ers may be fiendish, but a cou­ple of well-placed shot­gun rounds will usu­ally put the drool­ing abom­i­na­tions out of ac­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.