We got on a trip back through time while I review this PS1 classic...
Back when the Playstation was big, Capcom came out with a game called Resident Evil. It was one of the first games dubbed "survival horror", and scary it was. With the success of the first Resident Evil, it was inevitable that Capcom would release Resident Evil 2. Resident Evil 2 was better than the game from which it got its name - not only did it do that, but its also superior to all of them that came after it.
Resident Evil 2 comes on two discs, and each disc contains the story for one of two different characters - either Claire or Leon. There is a feature where if you beat the game with one character and then start with the other, you'll play through that character's "B scenario". In other words, the game will be affected by certain things you did the first time through. As cool as this feature sounds, it's hardly implemented, which is a shame considering how cool it could have been if done to the fullest. The stories are pretty much identical anyways, so there isn't a whole lot of reason to play through it again unless you just liked it enough to do it.
You can play the game in original or arrange mode. In arrange mode, you start off with a Gatling gun and rocket launcher, both with unlimited ammo. This, needless to say, makes the game too easy, but it is nice if you just want to breeze through the game to kill a day or so.
The visuals are decent in Resident Evil 2. The backgrounds are pre-rendered, so they look nice, but that also means their static and void of any sort of life. The characters are okay to look at - not by any means hard on the eyes, but definitely not eye candy, either. Enemy design is well done. Zombies wear different clothes, and the other enemies look creepy as well. The biggest short-coming visually is the static camera (due to the pre-rendered backgrounds), which is faulty at best. The camera definitely isn't your friend in this game, although there are times when it is in a good location and doesn't obstruct any important points or, more importantly, enemies trying desperately to kill you.
Sound is excellent. Even today I think the music is eerie. It's subtle, but even at that, it's spooky. The moans and grunts of zombies are sometimes annoying, but definitely come in handy, because it can sometimes be the only means you have of even knowing there's a zombie around (see aforementioned gripe about camera angles). Voice-overs during cut scenes are well done, too. I'm not saying the audio isn't showing its age, but it's definitely some of the better music of the Playstation era.
Controls are the tank controls that Resident Evil abandoned with Resident Evil 4. Even though the controls are stiff (and that may be a compliment), I never find them particularly hindering. Despite gripes to the contrary, I never have any problems controlling the characters. The rest of the controls are simple and easy to work, so most people won't have any problems picking up this game and playing it.
Overall, Resident Evil 2 is definitely the best in the series. People who praise Resident Evil 4 as holding that title will argue until they turn blue in the face, but I think Resident Evil 2 was just a better game. With a story that is good but not intrusive, visuals that are quite strong for any Playstation-era game, and audio that is nostalgic but well-done, Resident Evil 2 may very well be the highlight of any Playstation game collection.