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Resident Evil 2 is a game in the Resident Evil series. Following the same play mechanics as its predecessor, the game's graphics are composed of polygonal character models and items superimposed over pre-rendered graphics and fixed camera angles. The player must travel through a variety of locations, solving puzzles and fighting numerous mutated creatures in order to complete the game. The player's character can arm themselves with a variety of firearms (ammunition is limited). The game features an improved graphics engine over the previous game, allowing for more zombies to appear on-screen (up to seven at one point). In addition, the player can now determine their character's health based on their walking animation and body language. A character in the "caution" stage will cover his or her stomach with his or her hand, while a character on the verge of death will begin to limp. The game over screens are more gruesome this time, featuring the player's character being horribly mauled and killed by the creature that killed him or her, and three splats of blood splat onto the screen.

The main addition to the gameplay is a two-scenario system officially dubbed the "zapping system". As in the original Resident Evil, the game offers a selection of two playable characters, each with their own scenario. However, after finishing one character's scenario (referred as the "A" game) and saving the clear data, a second scenario (the "B" game) is unlocked in which the same series of events are depicted from the other characters perspective. Actions taken by the player during the first scenario affects the player's surroundings during the second scenario. In addition, one character also has access to one area in a B game that they normally wouldn't had access to in an A game. There's a total of four scenarios, two for each character.

Similarly to the original game, the player is awarded with unlockable weapons and other bonuses after completing a scenario under certain requirements. This time, a letter-based grading system has been implemented in which the player is graded based not only on the amount of time taken to complete one, but also on the number of times the game was saved and the number of first-aid sprays used by the player. Several hidden minigames can also be unlocked, these being The 4th Survivor, its spoof/harder version The Tofu Survivor and in some ports, a longer bonus minigame called Extreme Battle.

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