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Resident Evil Revelations 2 Review: Between Horror and Horrible
Release Date: Feb. 24 - Mar. 18 Developer/Publisher: Capcom Available For: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PS Vita
It seems a customary tradition to lament the release of a new Resident Evil game by simultaneously roasting it’s flaws and referencing the greatness of previous games in the franchise. The criticisms of the Resident Evil franchise have been measured by fans complaints of how far the once mighty series has fallen. Aside from the outstanding HD Remake of the original game last January, the Resident Evil series is in desperate need of some good news. Resident Evil Revelations 2, much like its predecessor, is a small step in the right direction. It’s the closest any Resident Evil game has come to matching the greatness of previous titles but that’s not exactly saying much.
Revelations 2 has been released in four parts over the last four weeks. It’s an episodic game, similar in structure to the work of Telltale Games. Capcom have taken this structure and misinterpreted in a way only they can. Every episode ends with a painfully forced cliffhanger that does little to advance the plot and is quickly dismissed in the following episode. The transitions between episodes keep in line with Revelations 1, providing “previously on” segments to help players catch up in between releases. However if these sections were removed, the story would flow seamlessly which only begs the question as to why this game was split into four episodes in the first place.
The first episode begins with series-regular Claire Redfield waking up in a rusty prison. A great premise that’s immediately ruined when Claire stumbles across a Moira Burton, the teenage daughter of Barry Burton from the original Resident Evil. Both Claire and Moira work for TerraSave, an anti-bioweapon NGO. Claire and Moira pair up and discover that they are trapped on an island and surrounded by zombies (what a shock). Jump forward to six months later, Barry Burton arrives on the same island looking for Moira and discovers a little girl named Natalia. Barry and Natalia team up to find Moira but get more than they bargained for. The entire game takes place on this island, which makes this a relatively small-scale setup for a Resident Evil game. It’s a welcome change considering the massive, globe-trotting, plot-shaped tumor called Resident Evil 6.
In terms of gameplay, Revelations 2 plays almost exactly like it’s predecessor. It’s a traditional third-person shooter with no cover system. Certain aspects from the previous game have been tweaked. The clumsy scanning mechanic has been abandoned and the dodge ability actually works this time around. Revelations 2 is confident enough to stand on the merits of its gameplay rather than orchestrate a series of linear set-pieces à la Resident Evil 6. The player is flanked by an AI partner at all times though neither of them use a gun. Moira can blind enemies with her flashlight and Natalie can detect enemies through walls. Players can switch between characters at any point or a have a second player jump in to permanently control the other character.
Revelations 2 incorporates elements of stealth, action and puzzle-solving rather competently. The second and third episodes in particular are great examples of what the Resident Evil series could become. Unfortunately this falls apart in the final episode, which throws away all it’s good ideas in favor of delivering a bland sequence of action set-pieces. Revelations 2 borrows many of its best ideas from The Last of Us and for some brief, fleeting moments, the gameplay is immensely satisfying. There are plenty of memorable moments throughout this game; the most noteworthy is a village assault lifted straight out of Resident Evil 4. It’s hardly a bastion of inspired game design but it’s still the most enjoyable the series has been in quite a while.
The most interesting change in Revelations 2 in comparison to recent entries in the franchise is the scarcity of ammo and recovery items. In the first two episodes I found myself scrounging every corner for bullets and just barely making it through an area. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a Resident Evil game that made me stop and think about what I was doing. This is the first game in the franchise in a long time to even mildly resemble survival horror. Towards the end, ammo and recovery items become more common and you’ll find your inventory overflowing with crafting items. Despite all this, I managed to completely run out of ammo during the final boss, prompting some creative thinking on my part.
For those who want more beyond the 10-hours it will take to finish the story, Revelations 2 comes with Raid Mode. It’s essentially a score attack mode that has the player running through a map and taking out enemies until the exit appears. There are enough levels, upgrades and unlockables to keep players occupied, assuming that you want more gameplay with no story attached.
If you happen to look further than the gameplay, you won’t find anything of quality. The dialogue has the special Capcom brand of atrocity and the characters are textbook one-dimensional (if they’re lucky). It doesn’t help that most of the poor dialogue is spouted out by what I can only assume is Capcom’s idea of what a teenager is supposed to act like. None of the characters in this game have personalities and even less have agency. The plot just runs on auto-pilot for all four episodes. If the plot wasn’t so simplistic and straight-forward, I would given up trying to put together what was going on due to lack of interest. On an audio and visual level, the game fails to impress though it looks decent enough: I would hesitate to call it ugly, but it appears as though it could have easily been released two years ago.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 sits in an awkward place between Resident Evil 6 and Classic Resident Evil games. In comparison to the later sequels in the franchise, it’s a welcome shift in terms of gameplay and it’s the best game to come out of the series since Resident Evil 4. Unfortunately, that only equates to Revelations 2 being an okay game. It doesn’t have much else to offer than what we’ve already seen from plenty of other titles.
Whatever remains of the Resident Evil fanbase might have hoped that Revelations 2 could have been the new spark to bring life back to the dead franchise. If you consider yourself one of these people, than I would advise that you keep waiting.
This review is based on a retail copy played on the PC.