How Resident Evil 2 Introduced Me to a World of Survival Horror

Resident Evil 2

“What If I physically entered a game like this and stepped into the shoes of a Resident Evil character? Will technology ever come this far?” I said this to my brother back in 2000 while playing my first ever survival horror game, the classic Resident Evil 2. I never knew that what I was dreaming about back then would become a reality two decades later with Resident Evil 7‘s virtual-reality gameplay.

Growing up in Pakistan, I had limited resources for playing video games in the 1990s, though I had access to an Intel 80386 (usually just called a 386) and a bunch of games on floppy disk. I completed Prince of Persia and its sequel The Shadow and the Flame countless times. I had also played the 1993 International Tennis by Zeppelin games and Bomberman (Dyna Blaster). And who can forget the mighty Dangerous Dave? Oh, how addictive those classic games were.

But every era has to fade out to make way for the new, everything has to evolve, and everything must die. Our loyal 386 was not immune to the effects of time. It had to be repaired multiple times before that long-standing computer took its last proverbial breath, leaving me without access to video games for a long time.

Four years later, my father purchased Pentium II for the family, and I was excited to buy a bunch of 2D action adventure games once more. I did not know that video games had gone into another dimension while I had been away from them.

After completing Prince of Persia 3D, my first-ever 3D action game, my elder brother told me that a friend from school had recommended a survival horror called Resident Evil 2. I had never played any survival horror game before. I had watched horror movies, of course, but I was very anxious about a horror video game. What would it be like?

Resident Evil 2

We didn’t have a lot of money, but we managed to save up some cash to eventually purchase Resident Evil 2. The game’s box art had a singular eye — belonging to some sort of freakish monster — glaring back at me. That was the beginning of my nightmare.

The opening cinematic of Resident Evil 2 left a huge impact on me. I hadn’t seen graphics of that quality before, and the game’s setting was simply mind-blowing. We’re introduced to the game’s protagonist, Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie cop on his first day of the job. In the darkness, Leon notices someone injured — or perhaps even dead — in the middle of the road. He stops the car to get a better look and he soon realizes that he is being watched.

The atmosphere, with its ominous background music, pulled me in immediately. My family members were watching my reaction with knowing smirks. I was literally shivering. I wanted to run away, but I also wanted to be brave in front of my family.

It is here that Leon meets Claire Redfield, the sister to Chris Redfield from the original Resident Evil game (which I hadn’t yet played when I first experienced Resident Evil 2). Leon and Claire make plans to reach the police station for safety. However, they become separated, and they do not know that their worst nightmare has just begun.

I took control of Leon, realizing that he and I had some similarities: He was on the first day of the job, and I was playing my first ever survival horror game.

Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2, first released in 1998 for the Sony PlayStation, was directed by Hideki Kamiya and produced by Shinji Mikami of Capcom. The game won critical acclaim and developed a large fan base, eventually getting ported to PC and other platforms. It also got a stunningly beautiful remake that was released in 2019 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Resident Evil 2 takes place two months after the events of the original Resident Evil game, though the two games feature different playable characters — Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine in the original, Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield in the sequel (you will also briefly control Ada Wong or Sherry Birkin in Resident Evil 2, depending on which main playable character you choose).

The game offers a balanced mix of combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving gameplay, with an engaging storyline that’s full of suspense and thrills. It’s intense and terrifying. The in-game camera angles are chaotic and disorienting, and the controls felt smooth to me when I first played it (though many would later complain about the “tank-like controls” of the PlayStation-era Resident Evil games). While the game is mostly confined to building interiors and tunnels, the layouts are incredibly well-designed and the storyline keeps you hooked.

Resident Evil 2

Like the first game in the series, Resident Evil 2 takes place in Raccoon City during the plague of the T-Virus, a mysterious biological weapon developed by the Umbrella Corporation. The T-Virus, in case you aren’t familiar with Resident Evil lore, is what turns people into zombies.

The game features some inventory management, giving you some limited space in which to house your medical kits, herbs, important documents, and, of course, weapons and ammo. The zombies are not easy to kill, and you’ll have to shoot them multiple times in order to overpower them. Your ammo remains pretty scarce throughout the game, so you need to strategize how to overcome any group of enemies rather than barge in with guns blazing.

Resident Evil 2

I feel lucky, to be honest, that my first survival horror game was Resident Evil 2, since it had improved on so much from the first game, creating a much deeper world with better-developed characters (and better voice acting too).

As a player, I did not see any major drawback to Resident Evil 2 except the fact that you are confined to indoor spaces most of the time. This did not suit my particular tastes — I wished I could see Leon explore more of the outdoor environments.

Regardless, Resident Evil 2 was one of the most outstanding game experiences I’ve ever had. I loved the chemistry between Leon and Claire, and I crossed my fingers that there would be a next iteration. Looking back, I had nothing to fear — there have been many more Resident Evil games since then, and later games would incorporate more open, outdoor environments too. In fact, by the time Resident Evil 2 came to PC in 2000, Resident Evil 3 was already out for PlayStation. Still, back when I played Resident Evil 2, there was a possibility — in my mind, and with the limited information that I had back then — that this might be the last one.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x