By Tom Tolios / April 29th, 2015
|Title||Resident Evil Revelations 2
|Release Date||March 18, 2015 (Retail)|
|Platform||PlayStation 3, PS4, PC, Xbox 360, XB1|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Mature|
Resident Evil Revelations 2 is a most curious beast; an experimental monster that is one part faithful tribute to the series and one part cynical commercial endeavor. It’s a risky fusion; normally, a publisher trying to bring a series ‘back to its roots’ would not reach out to an older fan base and expect them to embrace new business models such as in-game microtransactions, episodic purchases and extra characters trapped behind paywalls. It’s like receiving a love letter and having to pay the postage. The fan war over the Resident Evil franchise continues to rage on, with some understanding Capcom’s position, but many others angry about its evolution. I, on the other hand, was more concerned about one simple thing: is this the RE game I’ve been hoping for since Resident Evil 4?
When Resident Evil Revelations came out in January of 2012, I was encouraged by what I experienced. Although the story was told in short episodic bursts with rotating casts, settings and time jumps, I felt the survival horror and dystopian elements missing since 2005’s Resident Evil 4 were back in full force. Additionally the gameplay was identical to 5’s, but with the added abilities to reload and shoot while moving, long-overdue mechanics for the series. With the release of Resident Evil Revelations 2, Capcom has held to their promise to keep this branch of the series firmly in the horror genre while still having a good helping of modern day action gaming to draw in some new players.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 is primarily Barry Burton’s story. He is the strongest character in the game in terms of his arc and here, he goes from being a bad dialogue internet trope to a complex and tormented figure worthy of appreciation. In the original Resident Evil, we learned that Barry had a wife and two daughters, and that series’ archvillain Albert Wesker was blackmailing him by threatening his family if he didn’t comply with his intended double betrayal of special police task force S.T.A.R.S. and the now-notorious pharmaceutical corporation known as Umbrella. The canonical version of events has Barry turning the tables on Wesker and rejoining his companions to thwart his former boss’s scheme. Except for a very brief appearance in one of the endings of Resident Evil 3 and non-canonical appearances in Resident Evil 5’s Mercenaries Reunion mode and Resident Evil: Gaiden for Game Boy Color, he’s been strangely absent from the series. Still, we know he’s been actively fighting bio-terrorism in the interim.
Barry’s narrative in Revelations 2 is that events in his past have estranged him from older daughter Moira, who makes her first playable appearance here and is the companion character to the returning Claire Redfield. In the opening cinema, Claire and Moira are attending a private function for their company, Terrasave (which sprang from the events of the Teragrigia incident as depicted in Resident Evil Revelations). During the expositional dialogue, young Ms. Burton almost goes out of her way to express her frustration regarding her father’s insistence at maintaining a relationship. Moira does not like Barry, and this is never more evident than when she calls him by his first name rather than ‘Dad’ or any other terms of affection; she hates him so much she won’t even acknowledge him as her father. There are a number of things going on in the story but Barry’s troubled fatherhood is the real hook to the plot, and Capcom casts its line early.
After some further snippets of dialogue between Claire and her boss Neil, during which a possible romantic interest is alluded to, soldiers in black riot gear and gas masks smash through the windows and take Claire and Moira prisoner. They awaken after an indeterminate amount of time in what appears to be an old, abandoned prison with crumbling walls, twisted jutting cell bars and many passages blocked off by large piles of debris. It looks like a war zone in there. They find themselves fitted with LED equipped bracelets that change color based on their emotional state. As they’re trying to make sense of it all, they hear a woman’s voice over the PA system advise that they’ve just become part of her bio-terrorism experiment and the bracelet is monitoring their progress. This voice, called the Overseer, tells them that their lives are about to change and that the more they feel fear, the closer they’ll come to transforming into virally infected monsters. The Overseer just wants to see how long they can last before they give in. This is where you assume control and the nightmare begins.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 is separated by four chapters, with each chapter jumping back and forth between Claire and Moira and Barry and series newcomer Natalia Korda. There are also two ‘extra chapters’ that fill in some of the plot details for Moira and Natalia which are meant to be experienced after the main campaign is finished. Barry has received word that Moira is stranded on an island and her fate is unknown so, of course, he’s come to save them without any backup despite being in the BSAA, because it’s Resident Evil. No sooner does he set ashore than he is surprised by the mysterious young Natalia appearing before him. After some obligatory quibbling between the two, they both decide it’s safer if she join him in his search. Their bonding experience is a clear parallel to his troubles with Moira and as the story progresses you gradually learn why their relationship broke down. Furthermore, you see just what Barry intends to do to repair the damage if he ever gets the chance.
The game engine is brand new but familiar at the same time, keeping the general feel and control of the over-the-shoulder camera perspective that reinvented the series with Resident Evil 4. There are no pace-ruining quick time events or vehicle stages — a welcome design choice since the shooting action is where the game feels most comfortable anyway. The left analog stick controls movement, the right analog stick controls the camera and the triggers and shoulder buttons control aiming, shooting, healing and prepping grenades. The four face buttons switch between characters, gather resources, interact with objects and initiate the dodge function. Moving while shooting and reloading are options for keeping your distance from threats, albeit more slowly than when you are just running or sprinting. Four firearms of the expected varying types (pistols, automatic rifles, sniper rifles, etc.) can be swapped on the fly with the D-pad. Additionally, they can be customized with parts found in locked boxes and out-of-the-way side paths as you progress through the campaign. These parts can increase the magazine size, reload speed, firing rate and damage just to name a few. Players of over-the-shoulder camera games will feel right at home here, as the controls are well designed and responsive for the most part.
There is a decent amount of enemy variety to be found in Resident Evil Revelations 2, with most being various types of grotesque human experiments (staggering, walking, running), some of which mutate and rise again to turn into explosive blobs that can do serious damage and blind you or cause a bleeding condition if you’re too close when they die a second time. Another enemy type has a hidden weakpoint that must be exposed by shooting their limbs before they can be killed and can soak a lot of damage if you’re careless. Other larger enemy types either hurl projectiles from afar or come after you with a vengeance, which becomes a game of cat and mouse at times due to their larger limbs and, thus, greater attack range. There are three boss type enemies as well and they almost always have an unending stream of minions to further complicate the fight. Stunning most standard enemies with well-aimed shots allows you a small window to rush them and perform devastating melee attacks, which helps preserve ammunition and should be exploited during boss encounters when possible. There is also a knife you can spam slashes with if you run out of bullets and also use to stealth kill unwitting monsters from behind, but they will notice you if you use a flashlight or firearm near them or move too fast. Lastly, the knife can also be used to one-shot some prone enemies that are still kicking. The dodge mechanic allows you to evade attackers that are getting too grabby and gives you a few feet to work with, so you can either create further separation or just start blasting away. It makes the game easier, but feels natural in this case; the days of stopping while shooting and not being able to do a simple evasive move are long gone. Gamers need more control options, and Capcom has come through on this count.
Movement is context-sensitive to the left analog stick, and one can either run or jog. Holding down A/X while jogging will force a full sprint that works fine until the character suddenly runs out of gas and is reduced to an exhausted fast walk. It makes sense for people to get tired like this, but there is no sprint meter to tell you when this is about to happen. It would be nice for the game to give you some indication of when you’re about to get tired so you can ease up and save some stamina for an enemy encounter that comes out of nowhere. In fact, Resident Evil Revelations 2 stymies your efforts to speed through mostly empty areas far too often for my tastes, between the sprint mechanic and the sluggish climbing animations. The way the game slows the movement down to a crawl for no good reason at times is never more evident than during the ubiquitous sewer level where you have to trudge through water at a snail’s pace. At this point in the horror cycle, these gimmicks don’t build tension anymore and are only frustrating. The last time I remember this kind of mechanic being intense was the shark tank in the original Resident Evil and that was nearly 20 (!) years ago.
There is also a decent crafting system that isn’t too complicated and can help in a number of ways. Gathered resources can be used to make different types of medicine to deal with blindness and bleeding. Green Herbs can be combined with Red Herbs to increase their effectiveness. The crafting mechanics also allow you to create different types of Molotov-style explosive weapons, such as fire bombs, explosive bombs, smoke bombs and decoy bombs that draw them in before blowing up. Inventory slots are limited, so gathering too many resources can actually be a problem once you’ve got the hang of combat and aren’t just wasting your ammunition. Luckily, you can set items down to pick others up, craft and then reclaim them once you’ve cleared some space. I found it too punishing at times to limit the player like this, as I felt my reward for doing well should not be to eventually have to drop items and leave them behind, realistic though it may be.
A minimap with markers (provided you find the map item for the area) helps to show you where you are headed. Interacting with the environment is necessary to progress through the game, and, as one might expect of a two-character system, they have to work in tandem to solve various puzzles, open gates and retrieve items for each other (sadly, there is no online co-op for campaign mode, but there is a split-screen option for local play). As it regards item and resource gathering, be careful and make sure you thoroughly explore an area if you want to clean it out completely. Sometimes backtracking becomes impossible. This is most important when gathering inventory-expanding items such as larger backpacks and ammunition allowances, as well as the treasures that convert to experience points for leveling up the characters and buying new skills and abilities between stages. These skills can vary from more melee damage to a quicker recovery time after a dodge and there are multiple levels to each of the skills, which remain with you for the expected New Game+ option, so don’t leave behind any precious treasures if you can help it. This also applies to the various files you’ll find throughout the game that flesh out the plot, which are more of the ‘read on the spot’ variety and can’t be stored in an inventory tab for later reference. Additionally, the occasional lack of backtracking prevents you from gathering some of the seals you can shoot for unlocks in the gallery section of the start menu, so take care if you’re looking to 100% this game.
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