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In early 2012, Capcom quietly released Resident Evil: Revelations exclusively for the 3DS (of all platforms). The game was supposed to be a bit of an old-school appetizer before the meaty Resident Evil 6 main course, but surprisingly, it was Revelations that would end up wowing the hardcore fanbase. While Resident Evil 6 is now mostly viewed as a high-profile fiasco (despite solid sales), Resident Evil: Revelations has become a cult favorite. A hidden gem. A port to HD consoles only strengthened Revelations‘ legacy.
Three years later, Resident Evil 7 is nowhere in sight, but Capcom is doling out fresh revelations with Resident Evil: Revelations 2, a new episodic take on the sub-series. Part of the reason the first Revelations was allowed to be more true to the spirit of classic Resident Evil, was because it was built on the cheap for a handheld, but Revelations 2 is an HD console game. Does the soul of the original Resident Evil: Revelations survive in this bigger budget sequel? Or is the only revelation here that Capcom has a talent for screwing up a good thing?
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 & PS4)
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 has a much better story than its predecessor, in the sense that it actually has a story. The first Revelations may as well have been a Mario platformer for all its story meant. A very confusing mutant-filled Mario platformer.
Revelations 2 leans pretty heavily on nostalgia, as it features the return of not one, but two long neglected fan-favorite characters – Claire Redfield, who hasn’t had a major starring role since Resident Evil Code: Veronica, and Barry Burton, who hasn’t been seen since the very first Resident Evil. The game’s narrative is split in two, with one half focusing on Claire and Barry’s daughter Moira as they try to escape a mysterious island, while the other half features Barry investigating Claire and Moira’s disappearance several months later.
Despite Claire and Moira being pushed as the stars of Revelations 2, their half of the game is decidedly less compelling than Barry’s. Claire fills the typical, “stoic, stone-faced lady” role we’ve seen so often in Resident Evil games. You could switch Claire out for Jill Valentine or Sheva Alomar and the game wouldn’t change an iota. Moira is a more distinctive character, but not exactly in a good way. She’s clearly been modeled after snarky, gutter-mouthed Ellie from The Last of Us, but Moira’s lines are typically more embarrassing than endearing.
Barry’s half of the game is far more interesting, partly because it’s been so long since we’ve seen him, and partly because he actually has a motivation. He’s searching for his estranged daughter who may very well be dead, and at times his half of the story can get surprisingly raw. His partner, a mysterious little girl named Natalia, is also far more likable than Moira, and provides a nice counterpoint to the grizzled Barry.
Visually, Resident Evil: Revleations 2 may be an HD console game, but it would be a stretch to call it a triple-A production. Most of the game has a grimy, slightly unpleasant feel to it, although there are fleeting moments of grubby beauty, especially when you leave the dirt-caked corridors and basements for more open outdoor areas. In terms of voice work, this may be the best Resident Evil to date, as all the acting is at least competent, and sometimes, in the case of Barry and Natalia, downright good.
At first glance nearly everything about Resident Evil: Revelations 2 seems to be lifted from somewhere else. Granted, the original Revelations is the victim of most of the thievery. Like the first game in the series, Revelations 2 mixes the darker tone of classic Resident Evils, with the more fluid controls of newer games in the series. Controlling your characters and shooting feels almost identical to the previous game. You’re also once again given a tag-along AI controlled partner, and every room is packed with tiny, shiny collectibles. At least this time around, a second human player can take control of your partner.
The few things not already done in the first Resident Evil: Revelations are pilfered from other recent high-profile horror games. Fans of The Last of Us will feel right at home with the foul-mouthed sass-talk of Moira, the constant need to boost your partner up to high ledges, and the upgrade benches scattered throughout the game. Those who played Alan Wake will recognize the “hurt enemies with light” mechanic. Oh, and those scabby, barbed wire and spike-covered enemies look a lot like the ones from The Evil Within.
That said, while the game initially seems to be almost entirely derivative, some more original ideas and set pieces start to creep in as the chapters progress. Enemies that require you to shoot off their protective outer shell to reveal their weak spots or are invisible until Barry’s partner Natalia points them out provide some variety. A few of the game’s bosses are also fairly creative. Capcom’s not entirely out of new ideas it seems, it just wants us to work a little before they’ll show them to us.