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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.
The things Resident Evil: Revelations 2 reuses from its predecessor generally still work fairly well. Movement and shooting feel good by Resident Evil standards, and combing every room for hidden items is satisfying in an OCD-triggering sort of way. Unfortunately, most of the new additions to the game feel sloppily implemented.
Allowing human players to control the sidekick characters is fine, but it leads to problems when you’re trying to play alone. Most notably, only one character in each duo is given a flashlight, which leads to obvious issues. Trying to make your way through a pitch dark room while your AI-controlled partner swings the flashlight everywhere but where you want it is immensely frustrating. Speaking of the flashlight, the “shine light on enemies to stun them” mechanic just doesn’t seem to work very well, with the flashlight often missing the target or not doing its job. Annoyingly, you also have to manually transfer items to your main character whenever your secondary character picks them up.
Level design can be haphazard, too, with the designers often doing a poor job of expressing what they want out of the player. More than once, I found myself dying repeatedly on an area I didn’t realize was supposed to be a simple puzzle rather than a pure action challenge. The game also does a poor job early on of letting you know how conservative to be with your herbs and ammo. Revelations 2 is surprisingly stingy for a game released in 2015, and as a result, I found myself very low on life and ammo for a long stretch of the game because I gobbled it all up early. I almost considered restarting the whole campaign.
Thankfully, Revelations 2 grows in confidence the further it goes along. Somewhere around the middle of Episode 2, the game starts to hit its stride, and a few sequences, like a siege inside an abandoned bar, a mad dash through a burning factory, and a few pretty intense boss fights, compare favorably to classics like Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 doesn’t make a great first impression, but in the end, it is worth learning the game’s eccentricities. There are rewards for riding out those early rough patches.
In addition to the main story mode, Revelations 2 also offers up Raid mode, essentially a minor revamp of the Mercenaries modes we’ve been getting since Resident Evil 4. Raid offers up a wealth of upgrades to keep you coming back, but aside from pleasingly plump playable character Gina, I found the mode’s actual gameplay less than stimulating. Unlike past side modes like this, the focus is more on repetitive grinding and survival rather than skill and combo chaining. A little too much RPG in my Resident Evil in other words.
Each chapter of Revelations 2 will take you around three hours to complete, adding up to around 12 hours in total. Pretty solid for a $25 game. Like most Resident Evil games, Revelations 2 provides a magnum-load of additional difficulty levels, challenges, collectibles and rankings to chase, and I could easily see somebody with more free time than myself tackling story mode multiple times. A lot of the game’s frustrating moments come from not knowing what the hell the game wants from you, an issue that would be cleared up in subsequent playthroughs. The game also lets you tackle individual chapters and missions, a boon for players who want to polish their skills on certain sections without replaying the entire story. In theory there’s also a lot of meat in Raid mode, even though I personally didn’t find it terribly compelling.
I’m not sure if Revelations 2‘s story or core gameplay will stand the test of time. I have a inkling the game will feel pretty badly dated only a year or two from now, but in the short term, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 will provide you with significantly more value than your typical Telltale-style episodic adventure.
Even though it probably didn’t need to be episodic, the main story mode is pretty much completely free of modern gaming dickery or DLC money grubbing. The game is also remarkably glitch free for a game obviously put together fairly quickly and cheaply. I didn’t experience a single game-ending bug during my entire playthrough, a relative rarity these days.
Raid mode packs in its share of DLC, but that’s to be expected of a multiplayer side mode, and at least it does it fairly tastefully. Most of the DLC comes in the form of new character variations and costumes, in other words, stuff you can fairly easily skip. The game does allow you to buy continues, which feels a bit scummy, but again, you don’t have to. You can earn your own continues, or simply suck it up and restart a level if you die. Unlike a lot of other recent games, I didn’t feel like I was constantly running into impassable pay walls. I felt like I was getting the full Raid experience, with the DLC just being icing for those wanting to add a little fan service or remove some of the challenge from the game. Hell, it took me a couple hours of playing Raid before I even found out how to buy DLC. How many of today’s games can you say that about?
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 feels like a game of first drafts. While the first Revelations dodged the demands of triple-A gaming by being on a handheld, it seems like the makers of Revelations 2 had to work as fast and sloppy as possible to keep their budget down. The result is a game that can feel slapdash at times, but it isn’t without its merits. At times, Revelations 2 really does nail the spirit of Resident Evil. This is arguably the most the series has felt like itself since before Resident Evil 4, and for some beleaguered fans, that will be enough.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 can feel like one of its own mangled, shambling monstrosities, but if you have the time and patience, a surprisingly gratifying game can be found under the rough exterior.