Resident Evil 2 is a 1998 survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom for the PlayStation. The player controls rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield, who must escape Raccoon City after its citizens are transformed into zombies by a biological weapon two months after the events of the original Resident Evil. The gameplay focuses on exploration, puzzles, and combat; the main difference from its predecessor are the branching paths, with each player character having unique storylines, partners and obstacles.
Resident Evil 2 was produced by Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami, directed by Hideki Kamiya, and developed by a team of approximately 50 across 21 months. The initial version, commonly referred to as Resident Evil 1.5, differs drastically; it was canceled at approximately two thirds completion because Mikami decided it was inadequate. The final design introduced a more cinematic presentation.
Resident Evil 2 received acclaim for its atmosphere, setting, graphics, audio, scenarios, overall gameplay, and its improvements over the original game, but with some criticism towards its controls, voice acting, and certain gameplay elements. It is widely listed among the best video games ever made. It is the best-selling Resident Evil game for a single platform at more than 6 million copies sold across all platforms. It was ported to Windows, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, and GameCube, and a modified 2.5D version was released for the Game.com handheld. The story of Resident Evil 2 was retold and built upon in several later games, and has been adapted into a variety of licensed works. It was followed by Resident Evil 3: Nemesis in 1999. A remake was released for PlayStation 4, Windows, and Xbox One in 2019.
A survival horror game, Resident Evil 2 features the same basic gameplay mechanics as its predecessor, Resident Evil. The player explores a fictional city while solving puzzles and fighting monsters. The game’s two protagonists may be equipped with firearms, but limited ammunition adds a tactical element to weapon use. On the status screen, the player can check the condition of the protagonists, use medicine to heal their wounds, and assign weapons. The characters’ current health can also be determined by their posture and movement speed. For example, a character will hold their stomach in pain if wounded, and will limp slowly if on the verge of death. The protagonists may carry a limited number of items, and must store others in boxes placed throughout the game world, where they may later be retrieved. Each protagonist is joined by a support partner during the course of the story. These characters accompany the player in certain scenes, and occasionally become playable. Certain rooms contain typewriters that the player may use to save the game. However, each save expends one of a limited number of ink ribbons, which the player must collect in the game world. The graphics of Resident Evil 2 are composed of real-time generated – and thus movable – polygonal character and item models, superimposed over pre-rendered backgrounds that are viewed from fixed camera angles. The game uses tank controls, meaning that pressing up moves the character forward, down reverses, and left and right rotates, independently of the camera perspective.
The main addition over the preceding game is the “Zapping System”, by which each of the two playable characters are confronted with different puzzles and storylines in their respective scenarios. After finishing the “A” scenario with one protagonist, a “B” scenario, in which the events are depicted from the other character’s perspective, is unlocked. The player may start the “A” scenario with either of the two protagonists, resulting in a total of four different scenarios. Actions taken during the first playthrough affect the second. For example, the availability of certain items may be altered.
After each game, the player receives a ranking based on the total time taken to complete the scenario, and on the number of saves and special healing items used. Depending on the player’s accomplishments, bonus weapons and costumes may be unlocked as a reward. The original version of Resident Evil 2 contains two stand-alone minigames: “The 4th Survivor” and “The To-fu Survivor”. In both of these minigames, the player must reach the goal while fighting every enemy along the way with only the default item loadout. All later versions (except the Nintendo 64 version) add a third minigame, “Extreme Battle”, which consists of four playable characters and three stages.
On September 29, 1998, two months after the events of the first Resident Evil, most citizens of the Midwestern American mountain community of Raccoon City have been transformed into zombies by the T-virus, a biological weapon secretly developed by the pharmaceutical company Umbrella. Leon S. Kennedy, a Raccoon Police Department officer on his first day of duty, meets Claire Redfield, a college student looking for her brother Chris. After being separated, they each make their way to the Raccoon Police Station. They discover that most of the RPD has been killed, and that Chris has left town to investigate Umbrella’s headquarters in Europe. They split up to look for survivors and find a way out of the city. While searching for an escape route, Claire meets a little girl, Sherry Birkin, who is on the run from an unknown creature, and Leon encounters Ada Wong, who claims to be looking for her boyfriend John, an Umbrella researcher from Chicago.
RPD chief Brian Irons had been bribed by Umbrella to hide evidence of the company’s experiments in the outskirts of the city. He concealed their development of the new G-virus, an agent capable of mutating a human into the ultimate bioweapon. Leon has multiple encounters with a Tyrant, a monster air-dropped into the police station by Umbrella to seek the G-virus. Irons tries to murder Claire but is killed by a G-virus mutant in the police station. Claire and Sherry escape through the sewers and become separated. After splitting up with Leon, Ada finds Sherry and picks up a golden pendant the girl loses while running away. Further into the sewers, Ada reluctantly teams up with Leon again, after he insists on his duty to protect her. They encounter a middle-aged woman who fires at Ada, but Leon jumps between them and takes a bullet himself. Ada ignores the unconscious Leon and follows the woman, who reveals herself to be Sherry’s mother Annette and the wife of William Birkin, the Umbrella scientist who created the G-virus. In an attempt to protect his life’s work from special agents sent by the Umbrella headquarters, he injected himself with the virus, which turned him into the malformed creature and is now chasing Sherry because of her genetic make-up. Annette recognizes her daughter’s pendant and attempts to take it from Ada. A fight ensues, during which Annette is thrown over a railing. Ada learns that the golden locket contains a sample of the G-virus, and later – taken over by her emotions – returns to Leon, tending to his bullet wound.
Meanwhile, Claire is reunited with Sherry and discovers that William has implanted his daughter with an embryo to produce offspring. Leon, Ada, Claire, and Sherry advance through an abandoned factory connected to Umbrella’s secret underground research facility. An attack by William leaves Ada heavily wounded, and Leon explores the laboratory to find something to treat her wounds. He is interrupted by a psychotic Annette, who explains to him that Ada’s relationship with John was only a means of getting information about Umbrella because Ada is a spy sent to steal the G-virus for an unknown organization. Just as Annette is about to shoot Leon, the Tyrant appears, and she is forced to retreat. Ada returns to save Leon and battles the Tyrant, which falls into a pit of molten metal; Ada, seemingly mortally wounded from the fight, confesses her love to Leon, who leaves behind her motionless body. However, Ada survives. Meanwhile, Annette tries to escape with another sample of the G-virus but is fatally wounded by her mutated husband; before she dies, she tells Claire how to create a vaccine that will stop the mutations caused by the embryo within Sherry. After preparing the cure, Leon and Claire reunite at an emergency escape train and inject Sherry with the vaccine, which saves her life. En route, Leon is assisted in terminating the now-mutated Super Tyrant by Ada, who escapes with the G-virus in the pendant. William—now mutated into an agglomeration of flesh and teeth—follows Leon and Claire, but is destroyed when the train self-destructs. After escaping from the city with Sherry, Leon intends to take down Umbrella, while Claire continues to search for Chris. HUNK, one of the surviving special agents sent by Umbrella, completes his G-virus retrieval mission.
Development of Resident Evil 2 began one month after the completion of its predecessor in early 1996. Resident Evil 2 was developed by a group of about 45 people that later became part of Capcom Production Studio 4. Director Hideki Kamiya led the team, which was composed of newer Capcom employees and over half of the staff from the original Resident Evil. In the initial stages of development, producer Shinji Mikami often had creative disagreements with Kamiya, and tried to influence the team with his own direction. He eventually withdrew into an overseeing role as producer, and only demanded to be shown the latest build once monthly. The game took more than $1 million to create.
Resident Evil 1.5
The first footage of Resident Evil 2 was shown at the V Jump Festival ’96 in July. This build, later dubbed Resident Evil 1.5 by Mikami, differed drastically from the final version. Its plot followed the same basic outline and features a zombie outbreak in Raccoon City two months after the events of the first game. However, Umbrella had already been closed as a consequence of its illegal experiments.
The development team sought to retain the degree of fear from the original game, and introduced two characters without experience of terrifying situations: Leon S. Kennedy, largely identical to his persona in the final build, and Elza Walker, a college student and motorcycle racer vacationing in Raccoon City, her hometown. Unlike the final version, the character paths did not cross, and each character had two support partners instead of one. Leon received help from fellow police officer Marvin Branagh and researcher Linda – an early version of Ada – while Elza was aided by Sherry Birkin and John, who appears in Resident Evil 2 as gun shop owner Robert Kendo. Mikami also revealed in 1996 that the sequel would have new monsters, and the number of onscreen enemies would be increased to “around seven or more” to produce “the sensation of terror as the monsters swarm around the character”.
Real-world examples influenced character designs by artists Isao Ohishi and Ryoji Shimogama. For example, Ohishi based Leon on his bloodhound, and Annette Birkin on actress Jodie Foster. The police station was smaller with a more modern and realistic design. There were more encounters with surviving policemen, such as a superior officer of Leon named Roy. Enemy models used far fewer polygons, allowing many zombies to appear on the screen. The game employed dynamic music, and altered pre-rendered backgrounds in response to gameplay events. The playable characters could use equipment such as protective clothes to enhance their defense and enable them to carry more items. The character models were altered by costume changes and by damage received from enemies.
Believing the game’s assets were good individually, but not yet satisfactory as a whole, Mikami expected that everything would coalesce in the three months leading up to the projected May 1997 release date. Soon after, Resident Evil 1.5 was scrapped at 60–80 percent completion. Mikami later explained that the game would not have reached the desired quality on time, and that the gameplay and locations were dull.
Mikami planned to the end the series with Resident Evil 2. Supervisor Yoshiki Okamoto criticized the story, finding it too conclusive to allow for future installments. Instead, Okamoto proposed the creation of a fictional universe that would turn Resident Evil into a metaseries – similar to the Gundam and James Bond franchises – in which self-contained stories with common elements could be told.
During a period in which the team made no progress rewriting the scenario, Okamoto was introduced to professional screenwriter Noboru Sugimura, who was enthusiastic about the first game’s story. Sugimura was initially consulted on a trial basis, but Okamoto was impressed by the ease with which Sugimara solved script problems, and soon asked him to compose the entire scenario for Resident Evil 2. One fundamental modification to the story was the reworking of Elza Walker into Claire Redfield, in order to introduce a connection to the plot of the first game.
To fulfill Capcom’s sales plan of two million copies, director Kamiya tried to attract new customers with a more ostentatious and Hollywood-like story presentation. As Okamoto did not want to simply enforce the new direction, he had Sugimura discuss the plot revisions with Mikami and the development staff. The planners redesigned the game from the ground up to fit the changes, and the programmers and other remaining members of the team were sent to work on Resident Evil Director’s Cut, which was shipped with a playable preview disc of the new Resident Evil 2 version in order to promote the sequel and to apologize to the players for its belated release.
Few assets from Resident Evil 1.5 could be recycled, as the principal locations in the final build had been made to look more extravagant and artistic, based on photographs taken of the interiors of Western-style buildings in Japanese cities. The environments were created on SGI O2 computers, and each background took two or three weeks to render. The maximum number of zombies displayed on the screen at one time was limited to seven, making it possible to use 450 polygons for the comparatively detailed models of Leon and Claire. The protagonists, instead of being given visible wounds, were made to limp slowly upon receiving heavy damage. Other than the graphics, one of the most important new features is the “Zapping System”, which was partly inspired by Back to the Future Part II, a time travel-themed film sequel that offers a different perspective on the story of the original film. The voice-overs by the all-Canadian cast of Resident Evil 2 were recorded before the actual cutscenes were completed, with each of the actors selected from a roster of ten people per role. Thereafter, the full-motion videos (FMVs) were created by filming stop-motion animations of action figures, which were then rendered to completed pictures with computer graphics (CG) tools. Ada’s movie model could not be finished in time. Thus, she is the only main character not to appear in a pre-rendered cutscene.
Regional releases required several changes. The North American version contains more violent game over screens, which were removed from the Japanese Biohazard 2. Resident Evil 2 was made more difficult (and thus longer-playing) than its Japanese equivalent to prevent short-term rentals from affecting U.S. sales.
Dual Shock Ver.
The first re-release is the Dual Shock Ver., which supports the vibration and analog control functions of the PlayStation’s DualShock controller. Other additions include a new unlockable minigame called “Extreme Battle”, and a “Rookie” mode that enables the player to start the main story with a powerful weapon and infinite ammunition. The Japanese release of the Dual Shock Ver. contains a “U.S.A. Version” mode based on the difficulty level of Resident Evil 2‘s Western versions. The Dual Shock Ver. served as the basis for the majority of ports, such as the Windows 9x-based PC-CD version Resident Evil 2 Platinum. The PC version retains all previously added features and can be run in higher resolutions. A “Data Gallery” was added to the main menu, allowing the player to view movies, rough sketches, illustrations, and 3D models. In February 2006, a Japan-exclusive, Windows XP-compatible PC-DVD re-release was published. Developed by Sourcenext, it includes high-quality FMVs encoded at 640×480 pixels.
The Dreamcast version keeps the additions from the original PC release, and incorporates real-time display of the character’s condition on the Visual Memory Unit peripheral. The Japanese edition of the Dreamcast port has the subtitle Value Plus and a playable demo of Resident Evil – Code: Veronica. An unmodified port of the Dual Shock Ver. was released for the GameCube. The initial PlayStation version was re-released on the Japanese PlayStation Network in 2007, and the service’s North American counterpart received the Dual Shock Ver. two years later.