Monday, March 26, 2012

Game A2 : Resident Evil 2 - Harder, Faster, Stronger... Better?

Claire Redfield journal entry 1 : It's been too long since I had news from my brother Chris. I was really worried, considering how dangerous his job is. I had to go check on him in Raccoon City, with no idea of what was waiting for me there... The city is overrun by zombies! These horrible creatures are everywhere! Upon my arrival, I've met a guy, a young rookie cop named Leon S. Kennedy (why he emphasizes on his middle name initial is still a mystery to me) who saved my life by blowing the head of one these things. We got in a police car and were on our way to Raccoon Police Department when a huge truck ran into us and blowed up everything! We were then separated with Leon. I made a run for the RPD building, finding my way in the zombie-littered streets, just to discover the building itself was full of these creatures too! Inside the S.T.A.R.S Office, I found a note from my brother telling he left for Europe to get more information on the Umbrella Company (a phone call was too expensive?), just before seeing a little girl running away. I've got to find her before these things do!

Being Chris Redfield's sister does not allow you to walk around with a 9-inches blade strapped on your shoulder.

Time played : 1h15 - "You died" screens : 0 (yet)

Wow, Resident Evil 2 starts FAST! I understand the concerns of creator Shinji Mikami when he scrapped all the previous work on this sequel because he felt it was boring and too similar to the first game. It's like witnessing the difference between Ridley Scott's Alien and James Cameron's Aliens. The first movie was all about the entire crew of ship getting killed by one creature and the sequel is about knowing how many of these you can cram in the screen at one time. More is not always necessarily better, though (this example shows : the first Alien is by far considered the better movie), and it doesn't mean RE2 will be superior than the first one.

It's a great change of pace, though. I think I've seen more zombies in the five first screens than in RE1's entire mansion. The beginning of the adventure is simple. You've been separated from Leon, you're in the streets of Raccoon City, and you just have to run to RPD. If you start shooting at the zombies, you just run out of bullets real fast, so you have to learn how to avoid them. The zombies themselves are more varied too, there are zombie policemen, zombie white collars, zombie chicks... it makes for a nice setting, except when you look at them from too close, and you can see they all still look alike (of course, it's not a big issue, we're still on PSone, after all).

Before the zombie outbreak, Raccoon City already had a serious cloning problem.
Once you've attained the RPD building, though, the pace changes considerably and comes back to more familiar levels, with a huge three-stories building to explore. The rooms are locked with different keys (now being heart, diamond, club and spades, instead of sword, armor, helm and whatnot), you've got statues and ladders to push to other places, a lot of doors are "locked from the other side", showing you'll later unlock a shortcut there, and you can find ammo in little desks that are unlocked by Claire's lockpick. The whole thing is very similar to RE1's mansion, and surprisingly enough, this is where the game shines : alternating action sequences with exploration moments makes for an excellent middle ground. It's more dynamic than the first episode and is still far away from the more and more stupidly action-packed sequels.

Yup, looks like a safe place!
There is another big surprise quickly awaiting the player. In Resident Evil 1, the only enemies you encountered during the beginning of the game were zombies (and the occasional dog, or crow). When you weren't scared by the zombies anymore (if you ever were), the game introduced the Hunters, who were meaner, faster, bigger and really harder to kill. Now we are in the sequel, so what to do? The answer is simple. Once you've seen that the zombies now were coming in six or twelve-packs instead of loners, you're introduced to the Licker, a frog-like thing with a 6-feet long tongue in the first ten minutes of the game! To compensate that, you also gain access to the Rocket Launcher really quick too. Once  you've seen all this, you know you're going for a bumpy ride, which was, I think, everything the fans were waiting for at the time.

Ooooh the ugly son of a bitch.
So what I've done so far : I gained access to RPD Building, encountered Marvin the (soon-to-be-dead) captain of the place who gave me an electronic card that unlocked two doors in the hall. I unlocked said doors, met my first Licker, ran the hell away, shot a whole lot of zombies and secured the Spades Key. I've pushed two statues in a room, in pure RE tradition, and I've got a big ruby for it, which I still don't know how to use. I've found the S.T.A.R.S office, which is a fun place to explore, because you can see the desks of the guys you met in the first game (Chris' desk is a mess, while Barry's one is full of gun parts, for example). I've found the Rocket Launcher, went back and toasted the Licker, then explored a bit more. In another area, I've seen a little girl running away from the zombies. I know from my previous experience with the game I'm gonna run after her for a while, and I hate her already. I've met Leon again, who somehow gained access to the same areas of the building (while I had the Spades Key, but whatever...) and found a few notes about the chief of Police, called Irons, who seems to be a fishy fellow. We'll see what comes next!

Did I mentioned I pushed statues too?
To close this post, I've got a new issue with the Resident Evil series that comes toward a lot of games based on a similar approach. You don't go where you WANT to go, you go where you CAN go. I know it's basic video game logic and a really enjoyable one at that (the entire "Metroidvania" subgenre is based upon this idea), but when you put that in a "realism" point of view, it really doesn't make any sense. You don't really have a goal. It's just "hey, I found this Heart Key, so I'm gonna unlock every Heart Door to gain access to new areas where I'll find the Club Key!" You don't aim to go somewhere, you just go where you can. It's not that big of a deal, and when you think about it, a huge pan of early "open-world games" (as opposed to "level-based" ones) are based upon this idea... Well, it doesn't hamper my enjoyment of the game at all, so I think it's really engraved in our gamer's reflexes.

Note : As you've probably guessed considering the quality of the screenshots, I've temporarily dropped the "taking pictures with my camera" idea considering how hard it is to do this with an action game, so I'm finding my screenshots on the internet again. I promise I'll upgrade my PC with the necessary components soon enough!

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