Whenever a new Resident Evil title is announced my inner fanboy has two emotions; delight and dread. I’m delighted that I will be playing another iteration of my all time favourite series, yet I dread playing it because I know I am building up my own hype for the inevitable disappointment, because no Resident Evil will ever match the heights of numbers 2 and 4.
Revelations 2 was no exception to this; a spin off series that demands its own respect after a reasonable debut on consoles. Capcom decided against giving you the entire game up front, instead the game is released in episodes. 4 episodes over 4 weeks made up the games campaign. The episodic format is one that fills me with great intrigue; How will it hold the momentum and will it have those NO DON’T END THERE moments like TV shows do? More on that later. To start, let’s set the mood.
The story is set in between the events of Resident Evil 5 and 6 and for the most part keeps within the realm of sanity. As usual there’s a research facility that is up to no good researching bio-weapons. The figurehead is your usual eccentric martyr that somehow manages to convince a bunch of highly intelligent scientists to develop a new strain of virus known as the T-Phobos.
The plot follows 2 pairs of playable characters (co-op optional).
The first pairing is Claire Redfield (remember her?) and Moira Burton (daughter of Barry Burton).
The two of you are members of Terra Save, a biohazard prevention organization. You both are kidnapped and wake up in an abandoned facility in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere with a bracelet on your wrists that you cannot remove.
You’re told by the talking bracelet (fucking technology eh!) that you’ve been injected with a virus as part of an experiment and that the virus will trigger once the subject starts showing signs of fear. The voiceover is that of a woman known as the ‘Overseer’ and throughout the episodes your mission is to track her down and get answers. Essentially Claire is the muscle and Moira provides a flashlight that temporarily blinds an enemy when shined in their face. Moira also carries a crowbar that allows you to bypass certain locked areas as well as open chests that Claire is unable to.
The second pairing sees the return of the infamous Barry Burton and a young girl named Natalia. Barry arrives at the mystery island six months later in search of missing Moira (no fucks given about Claire). Early upon his arrival Barry meets by happenstance a lost young girl named Natalia, who claims she was with Moira when they were heading towards the communications tower. Natalia is also wearing a fear identifying bracelet. Somehow Natalia has managed to stay alive the entire time despite being a child whose only abilities are to point at stuff for herself or Barry to pickup, throw bricks at enemies or use her small hands (Barry’s are too big; You know what they say, big hands…big guns) to open chests. The episodes that have you controlling this pair involve you traversing the mystery island to find the missing Moira.
The relationships between the two pairings are commendable yet not at all original. You can tell that Capcom have tried to recreate the Joel/Ellie (from The Last of Us)relationship here. With Joel and Ellie you had a back story; you had loss on both sides. With Barry and Natalia, it’s just like Barry’s daughter is MIA, now BAM- you’re on an island together; care about their journey together. It is for this reason it feels forced and does not have the desired effect. What makes it more disconnecting is Barry’s dialogue; it’s not so much the actual script (which at times is borderline cringe-worthy, he comes off as a creepy dad), but the way it’s delivered it results in a lack of emotional attachment by the player.
Claire and Moira have a far more erratic relationship and it’s hard to get a solid sense of their intended link. This is mainly due to Moira Burton’s conflicting personality. One moment she is cursing like a rebellious teenager, the next she is scared and in need of Claire’s guidance and then she is comforting young Natalia. Their relationship works best when Claire is portrayed as the older sister figure. Moira’s rebellious tone although galling at first is more lucid once you learn more about her.
The setting and atmosphere are best summed up using this old line: Good from far, far from good. The areas look well-detailed and well-designed until you get up for a closer look. The texturing is awful; downright rotten. It looks like a HD port of a PS2 game and it is not as if it has come at the expense of another feature. Maybe it’s because it is a multi-platform game, or maybe Capcom didn’t give the developers a big enough budget. Whatever the reason, it certainly takes away from the immersion the player feels with the world, because some of the environments are very good.
There are two areas in particular that really stood out for me. The most impressive was the mansion at the end of the campaign when playing as Barry and Natalia. It was nostalgic to be inside a (somewhat) beautiful mansion in an RE game that, coupled with the game’s soundtrack, definitely made it one of the highlights of the game. The other main highlight occurred early during Barry’s campaign. Barry and Natalia find themselves in a forest that is shrouded in darkness; add to this the sounds of the infected coming from the dim surroundings (who do randomly attack), and you have one of the very few times I genuinely felt tense playing the game.
This is one of the biggest concerns with the RE series lately, the apparent action direction coming at the expense of survival horror tone. It is hard to take a game seriously as survival horror when you are armed to the teeth and have a buffet of ammo. Capcom needs to implement the right balance like they did with RE4. While Revelations 2 does have its moments of attempting to pay homage to the series roots, the game ultimately creates nothing more than faux tension.
It does this by giving you a shit load of ammo, making you shoot a shit ton of enemies, thereby exhausting said ammo. Then in the next area you’ll have to progress with depleted supplies by either evading or knifing them and judiciously using what ammo you have left. Instead of feeling a sense of helplessness I felt frustration that the developers have teased me with such riches of ammo in one area, only to give me jack in the next.
The gameplay itself is solid, albeit stock-standard, as it always is from Capcom. The smooth shooting and running mechanics as well as a mostly cooperative camera are some of the major facets of the game that stand out. Over the course of the game you’ll be tasked with the usual finding keys and security cards to unlock various doors. Every now and again you’ll need something different like an eye for a retina scanner or a kog (yes, kog with a k) for a door.
There is the usual hierarchy of enemies, all of which are well detailed. The bosses are especially visually well-designed and are even a touch frightening. Now it wouldn’t be a Resident Evil game if it didn’t have its collection of bullet sponge bosses. It’s almost become a tradition for the franchise. There isn’t many typical boss fights in this game, in fact I would say there are only two. There are several times where you take on waves of different difficulty enemies, but the two boss fights are rather underwhelming with the final boss providing little to no challenge whatsoever.
This time Capcom have decided to implement a few stealth sections. Although these are a nice addition (conserves ammunition too), they are rather underwhelming as they’re ridiculously easy to progress through and this minimises any tension created.
The guns are your typical guns from an RE game; handguns, magnums, shotguns, sniper rifles, assault rifles and SMGs. Claire and Barry both have different arsenals available and you can upgrade your guns with parts found along the way. You also get skill points throughout the episodes which are used for upgrading skills such as increasing firepower, healing by your AI-controlled partner and more efficient item usage. Upgrades on guns can be switched around but skill upgrades are permanent.
For the completionists amongst us you can find your usual emblems and collectibles scattered throughout the island, however these are irrelevant to the games’ story and have no real purpose except for those hunting trophies (no I didn’t find them all – God damnit!).
As mentioned before I was interested in seeing how the episodic format would hold up. I think Capcom have nailed it to a degree. One episode released weekly maintains the momentum of the story over the 4 episodes. However, the episodes start off with Claire and Moira and finish with Barry and Natalia. Part of me believes the episodes would have been better served carrying on from where they left off. But for the main part the pacing was fairly consistent.
The ending to Episode 2 made me curse at the TV and the episodic method; it was that good. The wait was worth it because Episode 3 is the standout, the jewel in the crown. It creates a sense of anticipation for how both timelines will end and the inevitable showdown with the Overseer. The climactic final episode is almost an anti-climax of sorts. Claire and Moira’s airtime is disappointingly short, while Barry and Natalia’s episode is drawn out to lengthen the experience. It jars the momentum and anticipation the game had built over the previous three episodes.
The game also has an additional mode called Raid mode. Essentially this is a timed circuit where you need to kill a certain amount of enemies within the time limit. The faster you do this the quicker you level up to get rewards like better guns and new characters. I haven’t played much of this mode but it reminds me of mercenaries with an upgrade system.
Overall the game is a solid piece of software, the episodic format, though at times jarring, works well when Capcom do it right and is something that I am not against in the future. The only issue once again is Capcom’s vision for the franchise, which is almost an unfair statement because Revelations 2 is a good game at its nucleus.
The eternal question for the franchise remains: Can the series still be classified as survival horror? Given that Revelations is a spin off series to the main game, there is a bit more flexibility with creativity and focus. The problem is that it plays like 5 and 6: Action-packed with a few light scares thrown in. Capcom needs to stop trying to please all fans of the franchise and stick to what it does right. Because what it does do right it damn right nails.
Reviewed on PS4.