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Monday, October 29, 2012

Cool Ass Cinema Gets EVIL: 15 Years Surviving the Horror Part 2


After beating RE1, I was incredibly hyped for the sequel; a demo of which was included with the RE Director's Cut edition. RESIDENT EVIL 2 was everything I hoped it'd be and more. It did what good sequels are supposed to do -- expand on the mythology, but retain what made the initial storyline so intriguing. 

Spread over two discs and four campaigns, the sequel was able to keep it creepy; even with the scenario away from the confines of the Spencer Mansion and into the now destroyed ruins of Raccoon City.

There's more of everything -- more zombies, more monsters, more guns, more ammunition. Even though the series begins its first dip into action game territory here, the horror still maintains its prominence. The creep factor is maintained despite the expansive new world. Think of it as a massive version of the Spencer Mansion, but instead of exploring untold horrors in, around and under a spooky mansion, it's in, around and under an entire city.

The storyline concerns rookie officer Leon Kennedy and his fateful meeting with Claire Redfield, the now vigilante sister to STARS member Chris Redfield. Both try to survive the many zombies and assorted creatures that have led to the destruction of the city after the deadly T-virus is unleashed on a widespread populace. Through each of their respective campaigns, they meet various characters and learn there's a new, even deadlier bacteria, the G-virus capable of creating an even more horrifying biological weapon.

Thankfully, the weapons you (eventually) get are up to the numerous challenges you will face. Even the uselessness of the knife is required at a couple points in the game. Incredibly, there were people who somehow managed to finish these games using nothing but the knife!!! One of RE2's bonus games when you complete it is a game for those hardcore Dead-Heads where you go through the entire thing with nothing but a knife as your sole weapon.

My favorite parts of the game were the confrontation with the giant alligator in the sewer (now where have I heard that before?) and the handful of jump scare confrontations with the new, improved Tyrant, the Tyrant-103; his occasional, unannounced appearances manage to keep you on the edge of your seat. The final confrontation aboard a moving train with the Tyrant-103s final form packs a wallop and ends the game on an extremely satisfying note.

The new additions to the monster roll call include various mutant creatures, walking plant monsters, humongous and deadly insects, and these man-sized creepy-crawlies called Lickers. They're more or less a quadruped version of the Hunters from the first game. Their creep factor is enhanced by the heavy, intermittent breathing sounds they make. 

RESIDENT EVIL 2 was an enormously fun game that sold like hot cakes and went on to become the biggest selling game of the series on a single platform. It was released on my birthday, January 21st, 1998. I couldn't have asked for a better gift to myself than that at the time!


With the enormous success of RESIDENT EVIL, it wasn't long before a slew of other creatures great and small began attacking mankind. One of my favorites of these was NIGHTMARE CREATURES from 1997. The game takes place in the 1800s and deals with a satanic cult led by Adam Crowley who creates ghoulish monsters with which to use to take over the world. Standing against him is a kung fu fighting preacher and an equally skilled, vengeance seeking woman. The atmosphere is unique and infinitely creepy with a great score. The game sets itself apart from others by having two separate life bars -- one for your life and an adrenaline bar that gradually runs out due to exposure to a city-wide virus unleashed by Crowley. Your playable character must constantly kill creatures to keep this bar replenished. NIGHTMARE CREATURES 2 emerged in 2000, but it wasn't as good as the first game in what could have been a promising series.


For RESIDENT EVIL 3, things took a slight dip. It wasn't nearly as intense, nor as scary as the previous two games. It had its moments, but played more like an expansion pack of the second game. Which isn't too far off the mark considering it takes place before and after the incidents of RE2. It's still a lot of fun, just don't expect anything you haven't already experienced.

The plot such as it is revolves around STARS member, Jill Valentine,  last seen in the first RESIDENT EVIL, attempting to escape the monster filled ruins of Raccoon City. The rest of the game consists of her interacting with various characters that pop in and out of the game. One is a character named Carlos, who you will play during the game. And that's pretty much it. Like I said, it was a good deal of fun, but felt more like an extended version of the previous game.

The monsters are mostly retreads of past enemies, although the Hunters make their gruesome reprise here and in a different form than before under the name of Hunter Beta. There's also a Hunter offshoot that has amphibious features called a Hunter Gamma.

The one major innovation here is the inclusion of the Nemesis. This formidable foe is essentially the Tyrant with some modifications. He often runs after you and, unlike the previous games, running into another room doesn't save you from the chase. The Nemesis will enter the next room with you! He also carries a rocket launcher and will use it on you; not that this big boy needs one.

There's also a string of ten "quick decisions" that influence certain moments of the gameplay, or possibly affect the ending of the game. There's also a nice addition of explosive barrels for those moments when you're swarmed by many monsters and you need to "blow shit up real good."

The inclusion of gunpowder and a reloading tool offers players the ability to create different types of ammunition such as various bullets and grenades. The ending boss battle isn't quite as satisfying as part 2, but the ending movie closes things out on an explosive note.


DINO CRISIS was Shinji Mikami's answer to his own RESIDENT EVIL. It's essentially the same game, but substitutes flesh-hungry dinosaurs for flesh-eating zombies. The games plot, structure and characters are all virtually identical to the wildly popular RE series. I never cared much for the game, but it was popular enough to garner two official sequels. A demo for DINO CRISIS was included with the release of RESIDENT EVIL 3. I never played the other two games, but the third one took place in outer space and featured mutant dinosaurs.


There's been somewhere in the ballpark of two dozen RE games. Most of these were stories not associated with the main storyline and some of them I bought were pretty mediocre affairs. I pretty much hated RESIDENT EVIL SURVIVOR, a weary and bloody boring first person shooter. Ditto for the RESIDENT EVIL OUTBREAK (see image above); which differentiated itself by integrating cooperative gameplay into the mix with a varied group of people trying to survive against the gallery of RE foes. I disliked them both, never finished them and ended up giving them away.


RESIDENT EVIL CODE: VERONICA X from 2000 was a huge breath of fresh air. It was my new favorite game at the time. It redefined BIG. It gave the feeling an epic was unfolding before your eyes. Granted, it was a morbidly gruesome epic, but a far reaching plot just the same. A lot of it takes place in Europe, beginning in Paris, then shifting a chunk of the action to an island prison, the ominously spooky Ashford Mansion, than trotting off to the cold climates of the Antarctic.

Claire Redfield, in Paris searching for her brother, Chris (who we're told was sent there during the second RE), is captured during a firefight at an Umbrella facility. She's imprisoned at Rockfort Island. A T-virus outbreak occurs on the island and Claire escapes. The eccentric and unhinged commander of the island, Alfred Ashford, is at the center of the new outbreak, as well as involvement with a new bacteria, the T-Veronica virus. Meanwhile, Chris Redfield makes his way to Rockfort Island and discovers some old enemies are connected with this new Umbrella plague.

The sheer amount of creatures is staggering compared with previous games. There's multiple types of zombies, Hunters, enormous black widow spiders, parasites, man-eating worms, a mutating female beast known as Alexia and the all important Tyrant; which you must do battle with on more than one occasion including the confined space of a cargo plane. 

CODE: VERONICA X was the revamped version of RESIDENT EVIL CODE: VERONICA, the first franchise entry on a system other than the Playstation; that one being the Sega Dreamcast. I ALMOST bought a Dreamcast just for this, but after I heard it was coming to the PS2, I figured I'd wait. The game itself evened out the scares with the action pretty well, but it wasn't hard to see the series was slipping where the horror was concerned.

REC:VX was a great deal of fun filled with lots of excitement; and while more of the same, it showcased a ghoulish level of grandeur the series had touched on in part 2 and later in part 4. It also foreshadowed, ironically enough, that the best entries in this ever expanding franchise were debuting on other consoles outside of the Playstation universe.


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