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Parasite Eve 2: Retrospective

A genetically superior survival horror...

Science has given us many things - aeronautics, Naomi Hunter, silly putty... But if Parasite Eve 2 's shooty mix of RPG and horror has taught us anything, it's that when the wrong people go paddling in the gene pool, science can turn very nasty. And by 'nasty' we mean face-eating, skin-tearingly fatal.

The game is set three years after the events of the first game, which saw hordes of mutant nasties gnawing on the inhabitants of New York City.

Since then, protagonist Aya Brea has been recruited by MIST, a subdivision of the FBI that specialises in hunting down the neo-mitochondrial creatures (NMCs) responsible.

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It might sound like borderline nonsense, but the science-goes-balls backstory of Parasite Eve is surprisingly compelling stuff, based on the world of weird conceived by novelist Hideaki Sena.

The first Parasite Eve was spliced together from Square's traditional RPGs and popular survival horror elements. The sequel scalpels off RPG gristle, such as random battles and timed combat, and replaces them with giant Kevlar gun-elbows.

From the first encounter with an NMC murder chicken to the colossal, grinding boss battles, the combat is almost ceaseless.

KILL OR BE KILLED
Unlike other survival horror games, you get piles of ammo and you're positively encouraged to step up and gun down as many multi-assed genetic whoopsies as possible.

This is where the one of the few remaining RPG elements pops its wang on your shoulder: you can only get stronger by killing creatures, so instead of avoiding them as in Silent Hill, sultry heroine Aya hunts them like the world's most heavily armed exterminator.

It's an effective way of keeping things energetic but the amount of fighting can become an inconvenience, especially since the action freezes every time you get into a scrap.

Puzzles involve a hefty share of busywork and backtracking, and wading through the waves of constantly respawing fuglies can quickly turn to drudgery. It's a common problem with horror games of the era, but it still feels laughable that your ladytank heroine can have her progress impeded by locked doors and picket fences.

Being so action-heavy, the traditional tank control system feels dated and unacceptable. You're invariably faced with an increasing number of fast-moving enemies, so the disco spinning controls seem inappropriate, even if the lock-on targeting helps ease the gun-pain.

Failing to avoid enemies and consequently getting stuck in a clunky reload animation is like Dante's Seventh Circle of Ouch. However, if you're able to ignore the control foibles, then combat is often hectic and enjoyable.

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As well as being armed to her polished teeth, Aya can unleash the nasty with Parasite Energy; her equivalent of magic powers. Split into four schools, she can spend points accumulated by fighting NMCs on things like healing herself, increasing damage output or toasting enemies.

It adds further punch to some already surprisingly deep combat, with secondary fire options for most guns and some engaging customisation options.

If you like to suck up the death smell as you dispense mitochondrial horrors, snap a bayonet on your assault rifle for that personal, stabby touch.

SAVE US
While the fighting is pretty constant, the pacing can feel off at times. In particular, the time spent in the dusty yawnscape of Dryfield can drag. Amongst all the shooting there are moments of frustration; save points, for example, are sparse and occasionally badly placed, while the overwhelming number of enemies means fighting your way to them even after the boss fights.

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