By Tom Tolios / April 29th, 2015
Partner characters Moira and Natalia have a few special abilities that make for some teamwork elements which are new to the Resident Evil franchise. Moira is the only one of the two between her and Claire that has a flashlight, and she can use it to locate hidden items that can’t be gathered otherwise. She can also use it to blind monsters and stop them in their tracks, making them vulnerable to Claire’s special melee strikes or gunfire. Moira can use her crowbar to open barred doors and supply chests with special items in them. Both of these activities take time and the supply chests are essentially a context-sensitive minigame where you have to find the ‘sweet spot’ with controller vibration before you can pry the locks off. I can tell that they were going for tension with the crowbar puzzle mechanics but in most cases there are no nearby threats to ramp up the thrills, and it just ends up being an exercise in tedium.
Natalia can sense monsters that are lying dormant and those that are nearby in adjacent rooms (and believe it or not, there is actually a sound reason for this in the story). Like Moira, she can point out otherwise-hidden items (usually ammunition) for her or Barry to pick up. She can throw bricks at monsters to either kill them or wake them from a dormant state so Barry has plenty of time to blow them away rather than stumbling upon them at the last second. When the computer takes control of Natalia, she will tell Barry when he needs be careful. Some invisible enemies will occasionally show up to complicate things even more, and Natalia will point them out for you and tell you where to aim before firing. I found the computer to be only so accurate with its directions and, erring on the side of caution, would use an automatic rifle to spray a line across my field of vision. When I saw the blood splatter, I squared up my aim and finished off the unseen threat. Natalia can fit into small spaces and unlock doors for Barry and she can also open special chests with hidden locks that are too small for Barry to get to with his hands. This mechanic is similar to Moira’s crowbar chest opening ability. I decided not to ask any questions about why these chests even exist. In Resident Evil, these things are just part and parcel of the world around you. Natalia doesn’t have a flashlight like Moira does, but Barry remembered to bring his so no wandering around dark halls and tripping on fallen debris.
Companion AI in general is not much of a concern, because they don’t really do much of anything in most instances. Unlike Sheva in Resident Evil 5 or, well, ANYBODY in Resident Evil 6, they aren’t wasting ammunition being ineffective and leaving the bulk of the work to you anyway. Most of the enemies come at the player-controlled character except in those instances where the two are isolated and a monster happens to find itself with the noncombatant partner. In those cases, the companion is better off just running away or getting somewhere where the combat-oriented character can clear the threat. Thankfully, there is only one instance in the game where enemies grab your partner and force a rescue and that was more of a cinematic moment at the end of a fight than a standard game mechanic. Escort elements are rarely well executed in games these days, so it was a relief to not have to deal with it. Also, a simple command system can make the companion either come to where you are or stay put as the situation requires. Still, one can’t help but wonder what the limit could be if Capcom just committed to giving you an independent and capable AI partner once in a while. They really seem to want to force this issue, even with the Revelations branch being more horror oriented. The companion AI is never as robust as it could be, and this is just one more example.
The animation is smooth and moves at a very good clip. If it’s not 60 fps, it certainly feels that way. It’s strange that a series rooted in big screen sentiment as much as Resident Evil has made the jump to this frame rate on consoles, given the market’s seeming obsession with the ‘cinematic experience’ in recent years (a trope RE is certainly partly responsible for.) I, for one, welcomed the shift, as it felt just right to play it this way. Blur isn’t much of a problem when rotating the camera, which are detailed with expert precision and are super gritty and textured. I found the game’s graphics to be satisfactory, as it’s important in helping to capture the mood of a post-apocalyptic setting like this. Character models look generally good, but there is some Uncanny Valley stuff happening at times. Claire looks ashen and sunken-eyed far too often. It’s unfortunate because she’s always been one of the more emotive characters in the series, but, in this entry she seems to have had the life drained out of her. Barry has a great design, but doesn’t look remotely the same as he did in either version of Resident Evil or in the Mercenaries Reunion mode of Resident Evil 5. Moira, Natalia and all some of the principle characters look great but some of the secondary NPCs are serviceable at best. The monsters look spectacular though, and they should since you’re going to see a lot of them as you play through.
The music and voice acting are nothing to write home about, but are competent and get the job done. The soundtrack is your typical arrangement of discordant strings and drums with a few stingers thrown for the occasional jump scare and some uptempo songs for the boss fights. One area where I thought the music worked against the tension was in that a typical battle track would start up whenever enemies were on the move whether you could see them or not. I felt it would have worked better if the music only played when the threat was imminent. The sound effects are all right but don’t really stand out that much; there’s nothing more to say other than ‘guns sound like guns and running sounds like running.’ There is one effect in particular that I thought was really great, however. When invisible enemies are getting close to you, the screen starts to gradually warp and change colors in a psychedelic blur and the audio effect is similar to hearing echoes while underwater. It’s a fairly unique sound effect and I thought it was good for generating tension and anxiety, made all the more palpable because invisible enemies can one shot the player if they grab them.
The voice acting itself is fine, with Barry sounding eerily identical to that of his first appearance in 1996’s Resident Evil for PSX. The first time I heard him talk in Revelations 2, I wondered if they went back and got the original voice actor for nostalgia’s sake, but they actually hired someone else that apes it really well. His delivery is perfect and the growl in his voice is exactly as you remember, but the dialogue is delivered with more skillful direction. There are a few lines from the characters that are pure fan service, paying homage to classic Resident Evil-isms like ‘Jill Sandwich’ and ‘Master of Unlocking.’ Be listening for them — they’re a real treat to hear. At times, the characters will interact with each other as they move but the dialogue is mostly uninteresting. There are a few instances where they say things that are important to the character development. I generally found that I didn’t care for most of it and wished they would have just stopped and had an in-game scene when they wanted to reveal the important tidbits.
The script, in general, isn’t very well written and could probably have used a couple of revisions. I guess we should just expect this out of Resident Evil but it still feels like they’re trying too hard to write dialogue that can be taken seriously, given the context, after all these years. They came close with both Resident Evil 5 and 6 but there are still a lot of groaners there, too. One point to mention about the voice acting is that Claire’s voice has been changed and while I like James Baker’s work just fine in this game, I missed Alyson Court’s unique and pitch-perfect delivery from previous entries. Since this game is more meant for the long-standing fans (and the copious amounts of fan service found within prove that), not casting Court as Claire Redfield when she was capable and ready to do it again feels incongruous.
The mission based Raid mode makes its return in Resident Evil Revelations 2. In Raid mode, players fight their way through various portions of the campaign and eliminate enough, or all, enemies to clear the stage and get rewards to level up their characters, unlock and enhance abilities and purchase new weapons and custom parts. Naturally, the rewards earned are based on the player’s performance during the mission. Every character gets a few skills and weapon slots to start with, while the rest are locked behind a level cap. The Raid mode character roster is respectable, with many familiar faces and unlockable fan favorites to choose from. Each character has a unique starting build to suit players’ needs, as well as special skills that can be inherited by other characters once they’ve been leveled to maximum. There is also a microtransaction element to Raid Mode where you can buy characters, stages, more inventory slots, weapons to boost your effectiveness and the like. None of the microtransactions are needed but if you are looking to be the ultimate Raid player, they won’t break the bank. Lastly, linking your game and account with residentevil.net will allow you to upload your accomplishments to the site in exchange for exclusive in game rewards that will improve your chances to succeed.
A brief note on the continue system for Raid mode, as I feel it merits mentioning. If you are defeated during a Raid mission, you can normally choose to continue, except for certain instances where a revive state is prohibited, if you use an item (provided you have it in your inventory). You recover with full health and ammo and pick up where you left off. These continue items can be obtained in two ways. First, you can complete the special daily missions (two per day as of this writing, one with any character you like and one with a specific character you’ve unlocked) and get one continue each. The second way to get them, and this is the one that’s caused some controversy online, is to use the microtransaction store to buy them. Having grown up in arcades in the 80s and 90s, I don’t see the problem with paying to continue, but I won’t begrudge those that find issue with it. There is merit to be found on both sides of the argument. I’m simply bringing it up here so that readers are aware that a ‘pay-real-money-to-continue-Raid’ option exists.
Costwise, The episodes are about six bucks apiece, so the full campaign and Raid mode will run you about 25 dollars total on PSN, XBLA or Steam. Conversely, the physical copy of the game is $40 and comes with a lot of the content that, if purchased digitally in smaller portions, comes out to about the same price in the end. No matter which poison you pick, it mostly tastes the same in this case.
In conclusion, I found Resident Evil Revelations 2 engaging enough to keep me invested for nearly 50 hours, and I’m still revisiting it for Raid Mode between sessions of other video games. The story is better than I expected because of the Barry/Moira/Natalia arc and the game’s narrative and environments come close to the action fare of previous games without going overboard as other games in the series have. Moira Burton and Natalia Korda are both welcome additions to the Resident Evil story. On the other hand, I felt the game missed the boat with Claire Redfield on a number of levels, from the change in voice actress to not really doing anything with her that made her presence feel necessary. The gameplay is fun but not too challenging unless you crank the difficulty and the puzzles are more investments of time than they are tests of mental agility. I played these episodes the first time through as they were released digitally and kept expecting big reveals to eventually come as I waited week by week for the next chapter. I won’t say whether or not I was truly surprised but I was only mildly surprised when I discovered what was actually happening. The fodder characters didn’t really get me invested in them as most of them are archetypal and not really meant to have lasting staying power. I suppose, for a survival horror game, too many major series characters would also kill a certain degree of tension. I’d classify the game as being for series veterans and fans. The way I see it, this game is Capcom’s challenge to the older fans who’ve clamored for more of the classic style while still trying to make enough money to justify the production costs. At 6 bucks an episode, it’s a relatively low-risk proposition; if you don’t like it, you don’t have to buy it all and can stop at any time. A pretty good deal when you think about it.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 is available on Amazon:
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