So here we are at my number 5, a game that I recall with more clarity than many on this list. Primarily because of just how harrowing this game was for me growing up. Choosing Resident Evil 2 over so many of its prestigious and indeed less revered kindred was a fairly routine decision for me. With the exception of a few misguided entries, the majority of the series has elicited some of the most anxious, bowel shuddering moments of my gaming adolescents. The festering hounds shattering the mansions windows with poop inducing precision. The regenerator’s of Resident Evil 4 that ambled through tight corridors with muffled, gnarled breathing and unsettling palsied twitching. The Nemesis breaking through walls and the conformities of the games infrastructure with literal ferocity, by taking away the safety of entering another room to thwart an enemies pursuit. Not to mention boulder boxing in a volcano, leaches, absurd live action intros, an alphabet worth of viruses and Jill filled sandwiches. But nothing quite resonates with the same enduring terror that this habitually outlandish entry does!
Resident Evil 2 was originally a compromised purchase. Having traded my faulty copy of Crash Bandicoot 2 for Resident Evil 2 from a dubious market proprietor I really had no idea what I had let myself in for. Praise must be paid to the blissful ignorance of my mother though, who if she had any inkling concerning the games sadistic extravagance probably would have forbade me from playing it, not that I would have listened.
Up to this point in my gaming tenure I had mostly been acquainted with more child friendly platformer’s that was much more congenial to my preadolescent sensibilities. So a game of such distinct morbidity, that riled you with its ambient trepidation was so exhaustively disconcerting. My first foray into the decrepit Raccoon City wasn’t particularly successful either, as I wrestled with the controls attempting to manoeuver myself away from the advancing hordes of zombies that had emerged from the incendiary wreckage behind, only to moonwalk directly into their grasp. Wounded I staggered forward trying to negotiate my way past the abandoned cars smouldering beside me as I progressed, only to be embraced by another Zombie just off-screen. The infamous “You Are Dead!” text illuminated the blank screen and I immediately switched it off. I don’t like losing, least of all after a couple of minutes against the games first antagonist. This to me was the equivalent of losing to a goomba in Super Mario!
After considerable time had passed, my juvenile ego renewed by the games absence I persevered, slowly progressing through the ravaged streets, watching in horror as a delightfully gruff gun store owner became a happy meal for the shuffling masses and proceeded to shriek, scream and squeal my way to the cities most elaborately designed police station. This merry little jaunt through the barren streets and musky alleys allowed me to familiarise myself with the revolutionary ability to run, an ability that up to that point I didn’t realise Claire and Leon possessed?! As well as instilling the inherent obsession with conserving ammo to a pathological level, that meant every bullet I squandered just made me more anxious.
Because of the explicit fear this game provoked I could only play it in gradual, interspersed sessions. Every time I stumbled upon a save room I would exhale with exasperated fatigue, requiring a good couple of minutes to compose myself, organise my inventory, combine herbs and use yet another ink ribbon to save my meandering progress before mustering the courage to continue. The only time I’d ever play for more than half an hour is if my step brother was there. And even then we’d hurl the controller at each other as if it were a bomb ready to detonate, signifying that it was their turn to endure the company of giant poisonous tarantulas and feral alligators.
This was also back at a time when a guide or walk-through was reserved for a friend from school who’d completed the game. A friend who was so well versed in the ways of this survival horror that I’d consult with him on an almost daily basis. The stream of convoluted locks, statues, keys with specific insignia’s that had to be found to progress was baffling. Couple that with the constant threat of cannibalism and you got yourself a game that frustrates and terrifies in equal measure.
Despite its absurdity, the clunky movement and graphics that were somewhat dated even when I played it back in early 2000’s, this is still the most memorable entry in the series. I’ll never forget those sudden encounters with the zombies, the faint shuffling and bellowing moans echoing down the corridors. Coming face to face with the sharp-tongued monstrosities that were the lickers, snarling and oozing cascades of saliva as they clung to the ceilings with their serrated claws. William Birkin’s grotesque transformations, Ada Wong’s duplicitous incursion into the Umbrella facility, being hunted by a 7ft Tyrant that would just appear without warning and the dying cop who I had convinced myself was Will Smith, who always had this peculiar inflection every time he said “Umbrella”. And it’s difficult to work out whether it was intentionally sinister, poorly voiced or a composite of both, but I never forgot that scene, nor panicked as much when his slumped, lifeless body lurched up to devour my pixellated face!
Resident Evil 2 gave me more nightmares than I care to remember. Provided some of the most exquisite, genuinely poop you pants moments I’ve ever had. No game since has ever roused the same sustained chills that Resident Evil 2 dished out, nor have my gaming experiences or indeed gaming choices been the same since then. And that’s why Resident Evil 2 is my #5.