'Resident Evil 2' Strategy Guide: Gameplay Tips for Surviving Raccoon City

Welcome to Raccoon City! Whether you're playing as Leon Kennedy or Claire Redfield, you'll need your wits about you to survive this city-wide zombie infestation. Zombies are relentless in Resident Evil 2. It can take multiple headshots to take one down, and those are the game's easiest enemies. Plus, Resident Evil 2 is about a lot more than capping zombies; exploring and puzzle-solving are just as essential.

This guide is meant to offer a primer to new players and a refresher for old fans, not spoil specific puzzles or story moments in the game. Sorry, this isn't the post for anyone looking for safe and locker combinations. Instead, these gameplay tips are things I wish I knew my first time through the campaign.

Resident Evil 2 Strategy Guide and Gameplay Tips

First tip: Run. Capcom

A Refresher on the Story and Lore of the Resident Evil Franchise

You don't need to be steeped in Resident Evil lore to get the gist of what's going on in Resident Evil 2. It opens with about the most prototypical zombie outbreak plot imaginable and tells a self-contained story from there. But the Resident Evil series has developed quite an ornate mythology over the years, so a lore check might provide some useful background.

1996's Resident Evil is set in what was then the "near-future" of 1998. It follows Raccoon City P.D.'s special forces S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) team—Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker, Barry Burton and Brad Vickers—as they infiltrate a murder mansion overrun by zombies and other grotesqueries. Chris and Jill discover the mansion is being used for Umbrella Corporation experiments and defeat the deadly supersoldier Tyrant, who you'll come to know very well playing RE2.

The Redfields are hardcore. Capcom

All of the characters in the original Resident Evil appear in other games in the series, but they don't matter too much to the plot of Resident Evil 2. You'll visit S.T.A.R.S. offices in Resident Evil 2, but that and a document or two is about the extent of the overlap between the first two games in the series (no word on whether Vickers' cameo made it into the remake). The only real exception is Chris Redfield, whose sister, Claire, comes to Raccoon City to find him in RE2.

How to Use the Map in Resident Evil 2

LOVE MAP! Capcom

There's nothing more useful than the Resident Evil 2 map. The goal is to accrue blue. A blue room means you've collected all the items. A red room means you still have some exploring to do. Once you leave a room unexplored, the items you've left behind will appear in miniature on the map screen. Puzzles also appear on the map as an exclamation mark icon. Hover over it and text will reveal exactly what kind of puzzle it is. Once you've found an area's map (they're usually pinned to the wall in an obvious location), rooms you haven't found yet will appear, outlined in white. It's a really useful map!

Ammo Locations: Why Wasting a Few Bullets Is Not a Big Deal (Really)

Resident Evil 2 is an insanely well-balanced game. When the nightmare scenario happened—completely running out of ammunition—I had to run from a few zombies instead of fight, but the ammo was there whenever I really needed it. It's not a big deal if you waste a few bullets by shooting wide or dump a few into a deathless bullet sponge like Tyrant.

But Don't Bother Shooting Tyrant

You can stagger him, but that's about it. All good things come to those who wait (and keep running).

Fire can't kill Tyrant, what do you think your pistol is going to accomplish? Capcom

Boss Strategy Basics: They Aren't Always Killed by Bullets

In fact, bosses you kill exclusively with firepower are rare. Shootable weak points are always really obvious in Resident Evil 2, so if you don't know what to shoot, there's a good chance something in the environment can help you defeat the boss.

Check Out Reticle Deceleration in the Control Settings

There's not a done of control tweaking in Resident Evil 2. The three different control schemes mostly just shuffle around the run and quick turn buttons. But there is one setting that massively alters play difficulty without actually missing with the game's three difficulty settings: Reticle Deceleration. Crank this up and your aiming reticle will slow down when it's over a target. This makes aiming a lot easier. An actual Aim Assist setting is only available in the "Assisted" game mode. Camera speed when aiming can also be adjusted under the Camera settings. Finally, you can also change the aiming reticle's color, though it's hard to imagine doing much better than White if visibility is your priority.

How to Find Out Your Play Time in Resident Evil 2


Pause the menu and your total playtime appears in the top-left corner.

They Get Back Up

You know who I'm talking about.

These guys. Capcom

The HUD Can Be Disabled: Here's How

Aiming with the HUD turned off is terrifying. Capcom

Look under display settings. This also disables your aiming reticle. It's tough, and probably best suited for experienced or hardcore players.

Check the Records Menu for Unlockables

There are 81 different challenges with unlock rewards in "Resident Evil 2." Capcom

There's a lot to unlock in Resident Evil 2 and you can see most of it in the Records menu. There are dozens of challenges, each with a reward. For instance, shoot a zombie dog or licker out of the air to successfully pass the "Like Skeet Shooting" challenge, for which you'll be rewarded a Zombie Dog model. Or find hidden items to get the "Treasure Hunter" record. Some objectives are secret, but there are many that you can actively pursue as you play.

Shoot Those Raccoons!

Get 'im! Capcom

Destroying the Mr. Raccoon figures you'll find hidden (and often out in the open) throughout Resident Evil 2 can yield Rewards. Check them out under Records in the pause menu.

Spend Wood, Not Too Wisely

Since inventory space is so precious in Resident Evil 2, it's best not to waste a slot on the wood used to board up windows. This is a zombie emergency—would Ben from Night of the Living Dead carefully tuck away boards and nails as the undead pour in through the windows? That doesn't mean you should pop boards up on whatever window's closest; it pays to be a little strategic about this. Don't board up windows in offices or spaces you're unlikely to walk by again. The best places are in frequently traveled hallways and at the bottom of stairs. There's a window right near a crucial safe room that you'll want to fix ASAP. When it comes to zombie prevention, it's best to do it right away, it will save you a lot of ammunition in the long run. You'll also eventually find just enough boards for every window, there's not a limited supply.

Look Inside the Tin Box!

If it looks like a box, it's probably got something inside. I know that seems obvious, but consider this tip part of a larger complex of tips, all of which can be summarized simply: examine Key Items! Just do it. Make it a habit.

Keep Key Items On You

There are only a handful of mission items (called "Key Items" in-game), maybe even just one, that lingered too long in my inventory without finding a use. But keep that damn red book on you! A far more common mistake I made was packing away a story item I didn't think would be applicable for a while, then having to backtrack when I inevitably encounter the exact obstacle that needs it. It's best to prioritize mission items over gunpowder or multiple healing items. You really don't need more than one herb combo or first aid spray unless you're somewhere where poisoning is likely (and even then, you'll probably pick up the ingredients while out and about).

And don't you dare put one of the keys in an Item Box. Related:

You'll Know What to Do With the Red Jewel When You See It

Have faith. Yes, carrying it gets old.

Don't Miss the Little Red Check

Remember how I just told you to keep Key Items in your inventory at all cost? This is the upside to that crank handle or jewelry box that's been clogging a hip pouch slot: you get to throw it out, with extreme prejudice.

Most items in Resident Evil 2 can be disposed of. This destroys the item, so it should only be done as a last resort; there's no going back and picking up that ammo later. Not so with Key Items, which can only be discarded once they've fully served their purpose. As soon as a key's every door has been unlocked or a crank's every crankshaft cranked, you'll see a little red check mark appear at the top right corner of its inventory slot (it's surprisingly easy to overlook!). That means you can finally discard it.

Keep Herb Ingredients and Gunpowder Raw

Keeping gunpowder uncombined will give you ammo flexibility later. Capcom

Sometimes you don't know whether shotgun shells or pistol ammo would be a better way to use the gunpowders in your inventory. And sometimes you find a red herb right after combining two green herbs (red herb + green herb provides more healing than green herb + green herb). Since you can enter your inventory and combine items whenever you want there's no need to consolidate stuff immediately. Wait until you need the inventory space before you make an irreversible decision.

Keys! So Satisfying, Yet So Elusive

No tip, just wanted to say how satisfying the loud, clunky key sound effect is, especially coming out of controller speakers. Oh wait, there is a tip: don't tear your hair out if you never get a key you were expecting to get—it's one of the differences between Leon and Claire's campaigns. Only Claire gets the Heart Key.

It's Possible to Miss Weapons

You'll pick up most of the important stuff in the normal course of play, but it's possible to play through the campaign without picking up all the awesome weapons. Eventually, every location you visit in RE2 connects, except for one. The game will warn you when you've reached a point of no return. If you still have unexplored areas and have found ammunition for a weapon you don't yet have, it's probably worth poring over the map and going back for it. I missed at least one weapon and while it didn't make the endgame impossible, it did fill me with regret every time the game offer up an obvious opportunity to deploy it. (I will forever miss you, my abandoned flamethrower.)

You've probably encountered helpful tips of your own while playing Resident Evil 2. Let us know what you've discovered in the comments below.