Resident Evil Revelations 2 Game Review
Available on Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita
Don’t see it as a spin-off, or even as a sequel to Resident Evil Revelations – a game designed to work around the limitations of the Nintendo 3DS. Resident Evil Revelations 2 feels more like Capcom’s attempt to try something new with its classic survival horror series; something that will capitalise on the goodwill surrounding Revelations, and forge a way forward after the horrors of Resident Evil 6. Based on the first instalment, this episodic outing might just do the trick, offering enough old-school Resi thrills to please fans, but incorporating some clever new twists with which to freshen things up.
Episode One begins with the abduction of Code Veronica’s Claire Redfield and Moira Burton – daughter of series stalwart Barry – and their imprisonment inside what appears to be some kind of twisted correctional facility. For the first few hours, your main concern will be helping them escape. However, there’s a secondary strand to the storyline: Barry’s arrival at the same facility some time later, and his search for Moira with the aid of a mysterious young girl, Natalia.
Here’s the good news: while there’s plenty of action to be found in Revelations 2, the feel and atmosphere is closer to classic Resi, Revelations or the Leon segments of Resident Evil 6 than the more combat-driven Resident Evil 5 or the woeful Chris and Jake parts of Resident Evil 6. The emphasis is on exploring dark corridors and tackling small numbers of powerful enemies with limited quantities of ammunition, not on seeing how many infected you can headshot as they race towards you. There are even some simple puzzles to solve, albeit puzzles of the ‘how do I get to that item so that I can use it to remove that obstacle’ variety.
And while fans might groan at the mention of another co-op focused Resident Evil, this one has some interesting mechanics that make the second playable character worthwhile. Each pairing – Claire and Moira, Barry and Natalia – has one combat-ready character and one that’s weaker and more vulnerable, but in each case the second character has other capabilities to make up. Moira has a torch, which she can shine in the faces of monsters to stall and confuse them, plus a crowbar she can use to batter them, or finish them if they go down. Natalia, meanwhile, can sense nearby monsters (think Joel’s listening in The Last of Us) or throw bricks at them to stun them.
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Beyond that, Moira can use her torch to highlight useful items for picking up, or use the crowbar to open locked boxes. With a handy boost from Claire, she can reach places that Claire can’t get to. Natalia has similar uses, being able to creep through small spaces, and she can point out handy items for Barry to grab. When crouching, she moves almost silently, too, making her ideal for sneaking and exploring.
The result of this is a game where you’re constantly flipping between the two characters in order to reach objectives, or give yourself a fighting chance in tougher battles. Use Moira properly, and she can help Claire take down monsters without wasting loads of vital ammo. Use Natalia wisely, and you can run recon for Barry, identifying threats so that he can tackle them more effectively. It’s also a game that rewards co-op play. While the AI is generally smarter than in Resident Evil 5 or Revelations, it still has moments that will have you wishing for another human player. A slight shame, then, that it’s offline, split-screen co-op only, with no online functionality to be seen.
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Like most episodic games, this opening part is a relatively short experience, taking three to four hours to get through. Nonetheless, Revelations 2 gets an awful lot right. The controls are tight and responsive, with the best implementation of a dodge move yet in Resi. The over-the-shoulder view isn’t so tight as to restrict your vision, but your dependence on the narrow beam of a torch for illumination adds to the tension, and many of the areas are very dark indeed.
The monsters – including new variations on the Las Plagas/Uroboros enemies of Resident Evil 5/Resident Evil 6 – are a little generic, with some that could have stepped straight out of Resident Evil 4, Silent Hill 2 or The Enemy Within, but they’re relentless and challenging to fight in numbers, particularly if you ratchet the difficulty level up. At times, Revelations 2 even encourages you to think before you blast, with one fearsome confrontation having a brilliant shortcut to get through it, once you work out what that shortcut is.
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It’s spoilt slightly by the inconsistent quality of the visuals, some minor gameplay issues and an overall lack of polish. Graphically, there’s a lot to be impressed about the character models, the animation and the use of light and texture, but there’s not much to be inspired by in the prison scenery – more industrial grime and rusting metal – or even in the scenery outside the prison, which looks like so much generic wilderness from a last-generation console game. There’s a nice, gritty, matt finish to the presentation, but The Enemy Within, itself not perfect, generally looked better and more convincingly cinematic.
The save game system can also be frustrating. Revelations 2 checkpoints when you reach key points in the story, the problem being that if you’re low on health or ammo when you hit the checkpoint, you can’t go off and gather more before saving again before confronting danger. Instead, you have to run off and grab some then hope you don’t die, as dying will mean repeating the whole exercise again. The difficulty level isn’t so high that this is a major issue, but it did annoy us once or twice.
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There are also some flaws we wouldn’t expect to see in a series of this stature. For instance, we don’t expect a box we’re carrying to appear to go straight through our companion, or zombies walking continuously and cretinously into a corner. These aren’t game-breaking problems, but they do spoil the overall sense of immersion.
Yet, when all is said and done, Revelations 2 seems headed in the right direction. There’s less baroque over-plotting to the narrative and more suggestion, suspense and even humour, which helps to make it tense and gripping. At its best, it’s a deliciously creepy horror game, one minute riffing on Kafka, the next hitting you with insanity and panic. The score hits all the right notes, and sound is used to blood-curdling effect. It’s no Alien: Isolation, but Revelations 2 can be genuinely scary.
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True, it never reaches the highs of the very best bits of Resident Evil 6 or The Enemy Within, but then Revelations 2 is a more consistent beast – at least as far as this first chapter goes. The episodic structure also seems to suit Resi well, with this instalment opening up lots of questions without answering any, and finishing with a gripping cliffhanger. We’ll be interested to see whether the next chapters can maintain or even improve on the standard.
Luckily, Resident Evil Revelations 2 gives you something to keep you going until next week’s episode arrives. That something is, of course, Raid mode; the time-attack challenge mode in which you pick a character, a loadout and a mission, then work your way through a linear level, gunning down monsters and grabbing loot in the name of character progress and leaderboard glory.
At the moment it’s solo only, with no online co-op play, but it’s fast, furious and worryingly addictive, with daily special missions to keep you coming back during the Revelations 2 ‘season’, and a constant drip-feed of new gun unlocks and upgrades to serve as rewards. We’ll see more content with subsequent episodes, too, so Raid should only get better.
A promising start for Capcom’s experimental episodic take on Resident Evil, with an intriguing storyline, lashings of atmosphere and some interesting new co-op mechanics. The locations could be more attractive, and the game as a whole could be a bit more polished, but this opener has all the right hooks for hardcore fans and more casual players, and shows new signs of vitality in the once-great horror franchise.
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