Title: Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Platforms: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
Price: $39.99 (Retail), $24.99 (Digital Complete Season Pass), $4.99 per episode (4 Episodes + 2 Bonus Episodes)
A copy was provided by Capcom for the purposes of this review
She awakens inside a dank and poorly lit prison cell. A few moments to collect her wits and she’s up on her feet. It isn’t long before she can hear Moira calling out to her. Barry’s daughter is a good kid even if she desperately needs a filter between her mouth and her brain. If this was the first time she’d be taken against her will and held captive she might be a blubbering mess right now. That’s not Claire Redfield, though. She shot her way through the zombie onslaught of Raccoon City, took on Umbrella Corporation single-handedly and has seen far more in a few years than most see in a lifetime. There’s some sort of sensor attached to her wrist, indicating a yellow status and the door to her cell just opened on its own. Time to grab Moira and get the hell out of dodge.
A Return to Form
Resident Evil: Revelations 2, the follow-up to 2012’s Revelations, is the sort of corrective motion that can stop the ship from being dashed upon the rocks. It is no secret that the Resident Evil franchise has had a bit of an identity crisis the past few years. The last generation, in particular, was a rough one for the progenitor of survival horror. Mikami’s shadow still hangs over the series as a whole, but Revelations 2, the tenth installment in the long-running series, serves as a reminder of what made us fall in love RE in the first place. It is markedly more conservative than its predecessors yet far more focused. Resident Evil 5 and 6 suffered from the same malady of just not knowing what the heck it wanted to be. RE4 started the trend towards more tense action and less horror. Revelations 2 sticks with that idea as opposed to dipping a toe into action and dabbling a bit with the notion of horror as prior games have. The episodic release format was also an interesting means of doling out gameplay and narrative that, ultimately, worked to its advantage.
The story follows long-time series veteran Claire Redfield and the incomparable Barry Burton. The wisened one-liner machine that is Barry Burton is a bit of a legendary figure in the history of Resident Evil. He is a former SWAT team member turned weapon specialist for STARS who made a brief appearance in the first Resident Evil and made for some of the worst yet clearly best lines of dialog from the first game. He is a family man, ex-military and, ultimately, a far more likable character from the beginning than either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield ever were. The manipulation of his behavior by the villainous Albert Wesker only served to further shade what is one of the best supporting characters in the history of video games (not just Resident Evil, folks). He did, however, have a few daughters. One of which, Moira, plays a critical role in Revelations 2. She, along with Claire Redfield, work for a company known as TerraSave. They seek to clean up the disasters left behind in the wake of bioterrorism and the like. It is a noble pursuit that lands Claire and Moira both imprisoned on an island. Barry arrives later to investigate the disappearance of his daughter and Claire. Upon making landfall, Barry encounters a strange young girl named Natalia Korda. It seems she has an innate ability to see what lies ahead, pointing out potential threats (even the invisible ones – Yes they brought that back) and highlighting their weaknesses.
A Moist Barrel of Character Development
Characterization is strong throughout though Moira really stands out. Her predilection for off-the-cuff swearing serves as a tribute, of sorts, to her Father. One of the first things we hear her say is something about a “moist barrel of fucks” and, well, it only gets better from there. Natalia, though she doesn’t spout expletives, is one of the stronger child characters we’ve gotten in a game in some time. She is not only extremely useful in regards to Barry’s side of the story, but she serves as our connection to both Claire and Moira throughout the island as players progress through it. Moira’s flashlight (a deliberate choice on her part as she “doesn’t do firearms”) serves not only to highlight hidden objects (usually ammo, health items or various gemstones that are worth BP — the game’s currency for upgrades) but also stunning opponents. She can then swing a crowbar for knockdown/melee kills. Once upgrades are applied unique combinations between Claire and Moira can be unlocked when it comes to finishing off the legions of mutated undead awaiting the player. Natalia’s ability to highlight threats, point out weak points and the like is bolstered by her ability to toss bricks. These bricks are, well, a bit overpowered and offer the ability to stun much as Moira’s flashlight does. It requires a bit more accuracy than the flashlight but works just as well. Barry can then get in there, mix it up and finish off foes with ease. The interplay between Barry and Natalia works well as Burton’s paternal side kicks in yet it becomes abundantly clear that he couldn’t go too far without her help.
The story, as convoluted and, well, dumb as it can be at times is pure Resident Evil. Don’t take that to mean it’s a bad story. It is full of dialog that is comedic, overwrought and rarely approaches exposition dump territory. Will it win awards for the quality of storytelling on offer? Not likely. It does, however, tell one that hums along at a brisk pace, actually features revelations at the end of each chapter and, what is the best feature of all, cleverly twists what would be a typical trope of the big “strong guy” coming into save the day on its head. Story threads that are not expected from Resident Evil 5 and 6 crop up here in effective ways that bolster what was already a solid and compelling tale (especially by Resident Evil standards). The bonus episodes are a bit one-note as well and, mostly, just offer context and a bit of clarification on smaller points. Play through them for the trophies/achievements but don’t think about it too much.
There aren’t a ton of scares to be found, though. This game really isn’t about the horror elements so much as it is the tense action. Gunplay mixed with the melee elements (from Moira/Natalia) provided numerous moments of tension throughout the game’s fourth episode length. There aren’t really any abject moments of terror in here aside from jumpscares occasionally. It is that lack of horror that speaks to the strong sense of direction that Revelations 2 has. It knows exactly what it is, revels in it and delivers exactly what it promises. The waffling that plagued the series for years now is gone and, hopefully, will set a precedent for titles to come.
The core gameplay in Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is some of the best the series has ever had. The last time a Resident Evil game had such strong mechanics we were knee-deep in Ganados, rescuing the President’s daughter and wondering if Leon Kennedy could, in fact, get even more badass. Gunplay is satisfying with enemies reacting to every single shot in very visceral ways. Barry being able to make use of the Python Magnum from the very start? Claire using a Machine Pistol that isn’t terrible? There are upgrades galore ranging from Quick Load and Damage upgrades to much more off-the-wall Parts including a Mega Man-esque charged shot, Focus for Scatter weapons and more. The upgrades are all found on various shelves, cabinets and lockboxes sprinkled throughout the game though some will only be unlockable via Raid Mode.
So Many Unlockables
Raid Mode is a joy to play. It is, without a doubt, one of the best components of the game as it stands right now. The episodes themselves are great in their own right, featuring great co-operative play and so forth, but here the mechanics are cranked up to 11. Running and gunning through levels is a delight and, frankly, provides the sort of pure action experience that it seems Capcom wants to shoot for. Those who played Revelations will recall how good the Raid Mode feature was though the sequel shipped without online co-op/multiplayer available. The March 31st update to the game should open up Raid mode considerably along with the inclusion of ResidentEvil.net events starting on April 1st. The volume of weapon upgrades, costumes and extra figurines available through Raid Mode alone are staggering. Replayability from Raid Mode alone should give Revelations 2 some staying power as fans wait for what Capcom has up their sleeve for the next numbered installment of the franchise.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is a return to form for a series that has, for all intents and purposes, been lost the last few years. The strong focus on intense action, co-operative gameplay along with an interesting story and character development makes for a truly compelling package. The episodic format was an interesting experiment that worked well for the type of tale being told here. Long-time series veterans Claire Redfield and Barry Burton make their return with strong complements in Moira Burton and Natalia Korda. It cannot be emphasized enough that the mechanics of this game are among the strongest ever in a Resident Evil game. The mixture of superlative gunplay and strong melee mechanics makes for a really great experience all around. The combinations possible between the two player duos only gets better the more time spent upgrading traits and attacks as well. Moira’s dialog is a mixture of stream-of-consciousness swearing and Burton family cheese that is borderline legendary. Mutated enemy types are varied, well-designed and border on the absurd in some instances (in the best way possible). Raid Mode is fun and should only get better now that online play is being included.