As a connoisseur of fine survival horror gaming, I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs with Capcom’s series, involving convoluted and confusing plots, so-bad-its-good voice acting and some of the best fun to be had while splattering zombie brains over expensive mansion wallpaper, dusty, African dirt tracks or RPD constabulary’s headquarters.
In recent years, Resident Evil has descended into something that defies the archetype that the series grew famous for. Settings that were interesting, artistic and designed to instill the maximum of terror when you turned each corner. Slow-paced exploration and puzzles that made you think or at least remember where you saw that door that needed a certain key or code. Having to decide whether to plug the brains of a ghoul or hug the walls and slip past to save your bullets for a potentially dangerous boss.
Since the dawn of Resident Evil 4, the game has changed so much that it’s almost, and I do say almost, indistinguishable from it’s forebears. There are many who prefer the new breed and there are some who fawn back to the days of old. I fit in the latter category and was especially happy to see the Gamecube REmake appear in HD at the beginning of the year to wash the taste of number six from my mouth.
The Revelations series started it’s relatively young life on the Nintendo 3DS. Being so popular from its marriage between the new style, over-the-shoulder gameplay and a ship that set heads nodding back at locales more recognisable to the older generation, it was ported very adequately to console and indeed, did pretty well for itself. It’s sequel, however, managed to make a few fans grumble again when it was announced that it would arrive in episodic content, rather than a fully fledged package.
I’ll say this now… I hated the idea. This concept works almost perfectly with Telltale Games’ interactive series’, but for a survival horror game? Maybe not. Capcom also decided to introduce the new adventures of Claire Redfield and Barry Burton by releasing an extremely lacklustre first episode that made me wonder why I would want to play another three episodes of following a set path through empty corridors for what seems like an age before being assaulted by annoying, jerky monsters that are an absolute bastard to hit a headshot on.
However, if you’ll care to venture further into Resident Evil: Revelations 2, it makes an amazing transformation from drab, dull RE6-style monotony, to probably the best Resident Evil since Leon set foot on European soil in 2005. Waiting four weeks for the chance to play the full game, I still feel was a bit pointless and another way for Capcom to try to match the trends of today’s gaming when it isn’t needed.
Consisting of four acts with each split into two episodes, you follow the plight of Claire Redfield and her companion, Moira Burton (daughter of Barry), as they are tranquilised and kidnapped from an office party at Terra Save, another biohazard prevention unit introduced for the plot. Claire wakes up in a prison cell and soon finds Moira behind bars too and inevitably, they attempt to escape from captivity, uncovering a heinous plan by the mysterious Overseer, to infect some more unwitting yokels on a remote island in the middle of nowhere.
Meanwhile, a worried Barry is on his way to the island to find his daughter. On pulling up in his boat, he meets a young girl named Natalia, a girl with the uncanny ability to see enemies through walls, that will stop old Bazza from walking into probable death. He learns that she has come into contact with Moira and offers to help him find her, leading both through what I felt were the more interesting and certainly more dangerous parts of the game.
Both stories link together with Natalia’s existence on the island explained, while the relationship between Barry and his pain in the arse daughter is fleshed out too through in-game conversation and cut-scenes. Natalia is the main focus of the narrative though, with Claire and Moira being more of a reason for Mr. Burton’s presence as a protagonist rather than Leon, Chris or Jill.
This is the first console game in the series that allows you to play as Barry (only once previously on Gameboy Colour in RE: Gaiden) and it’s great to fill the shoes of the man who brought some great moments to the original in the form of the most terrible one-liners ever heard in a video game. Thankfully, he’s just as on form in Revelations 2, although not quite as stilted.
The game’s main antagonist is a mysterious voice on the other end of bracelets worn by each captive of the island. Bracelets that measure fear levels and turn different colours depending on the wearer’s current height of terror. These are introduced as a way to offer explanation of the new strain of Uroboros, the T-Phobos virus, which after injection, activates when victims are terrified and transforms them into the afflicted. The Overseer is also a truly surprising element added to an already engaging plot, something that’s been long missing from the series.
Gameplay is made up of travelling through an Eastern European island, with plenty of locations from a brooding lumber mill all the way to a dank, slime dripping sewer. There are also some brilliantly thought out areas with a wink or two directed at old fans. This is one of the reasons that I love the direction of R2. It throws old in-jokes at you in a way that keeps you playing, just to see what’s coming next.
At first, Revelations 2 feels very linear and unfortunately, boring as mentioned before. I guess the first episode is meant to guide you through the tutorial elements of the game, such as using your support characters (Moira and Natalia) to compliment your main players’ combat roles. Moira uses a flashlight to highlight hidden objects and collectables and also to blind the many infected enemies that judder their way towards Claire as she tries to reload her pistol.
Natalia, as I said previously, can spot danger though walls, giving Barry an advantage and sometimes the chance to stealth kill monsters while they’re not looking. This special vision can also uncover vulnerable areas on enemies for ease of killing. She can also spot hidden items like Moira and point them out. Very useful, seeing as Capcom have decided that limited ammunition adds to the atmosphere instead of handing you machine gun bullets by the barrel load to mow down enemies Call of Duty style.
The action is exactly what you’ve been used to over the course of the past ten years. Hit your aim button, try to get a body part in your sights and tap the trigger to hopefully hit a vulnerable area and take your foe down. Each enemy type has a different soft zone and finding that spot will save you ammo as well as keeping your accuracy up for the end of chapter results page.
Things change-up every episode when clever set-pieces are involved. Once you hit episode two, more puzzles are involved, such as transporting a large battery from one end of a dusty mining plot to the other by using conveyor belts, interspersed by skirmishes with infected. There’s timed escapes, stealth sections and one of the best sewer levels I’ve ever played, where your characters get split up. Natalia spotting enemies and opening sluice gates from the high walkways while Barry picks off potential obstacles in her way from the filthy ground level.
There’s even the occasional thinking man’s puzzle although not quite on the same cerebral level as say, a Silent Hill game. These are good enough to break up the slow travel and shooting and offer just enough distraction so that the game doesn’t linger on the boring side.
All in all, The game is varied enough to keep you playing… I did see a few ‘You are Dead’ screens myself, but continued to press X to continue anyway as I really wanted to see what would be thrown at me next, usually globules of blinding muck in the middle of a fraught fight with a boss.
Oh yes! Boss fights are still here too. Usually pumped up afflicted with one hit kills or devastating attacks that crush the life out of you. In comparison to the stumbling, drooling gits that litter the areas, the bosses have a bit more to offer in the action stakes, as well as some lovely death scenes if they get their mitts on you. Unfortunately, they’re pretty much of the same calibre you’ll be used to if you’ve played a Resident Evil game before. Basically, shoot them in the flashing orange bits while you run like you’ve just eaten the world’s most out of date Dulcolax curry and using the environment if possible.
There’s the typical collecting and crafting too. Mixing herbs, adding gun parts and spotting special hidden objects like wall drawings, insect larvae and medallions will net you better scores and special unlockables at the end of the chapter, unlockables which are legion…
There are figurines, concept art, costumes and weapons to mention a few, all which can be bought with reward points (BP) for completing challenges within each chapter. Things like stealth killing a number of enemies or not using a heath herb throughout the episode. There are absolutely hundreds of these and it will take you a good while and a few replays to get them all.
Playing the main campaign is not the only way to unlock things though, as Capcom have added a new Raid mode, returning from the first Revelations. This is not to be confused with the time limited action of Mercenaries from other games. It’s a set of challenges on small levels, clearing the area and looting chests for new weapons and ammunition.
There are a good few tiers to work through and the mode offers even more longevity to a game already with a high replay value in the campaign. You select from a cadre of characters, both major and minor, tool them up with weapons of destruction, give them taunts and skills and them plunge them headfirst into a battle royale of gruesome proportions so you can upgrade them to your heart’s content, in order to compete in the increasingly difficult levels of Raid.
As you complete each mission, you’ll unlock medallions. Medallions are awarded for clearing the round, doing so on or under the required level, using no herbs, killing all enemies and finally for getting all of the medals I’ve just mentioned. Each mission is unlocked by collecting a certain amount of these shiny awards, so trying to get them all in one run is paramount to breaking the later levels open. Laziness will have you returning later to polish some of the more difficult missions off in order to progress.
Infected in Raid mode can also have a particular set of skills. Some carry elemental effects that will stun you or do damage over time when they manage to get a hit in. Others will be invisible (bastards) or have to be attacked from the rear and there’s the occasional tank thrown in there just to give you a bit of a struggle when you think you’re getting bad-ass at murdering deformed islanders.
Each player character also have their own strengths and weaknesses. All have their own particular set of diverse attributes and can be upgraded. For instance, switching from Barry, who is great at ranged combat, to Moira who is actually pretty mean with a swing of her blade offers two distinctly different play styles. The strangest of them all however, is Gina. She has the ability to cause damage by taunting. The Gesticulation skill can turn the robot dance into a powerful melee attack and has to be seen to be believed.
If that’s not enough content for you, you can play both the campaign and Raid mode in co-op, online and locally. Depending on your play style, you can take on the fighting or support role while your friend, partner or random stranger does the opposite. It can be as much fun hitting a zombie in the coupon with a brick or smashing it’s festering skull in with a crowbar as it is to blast it in the face with a high-powered shotgun, so no one loses here.
Capcom have almost righted their wrongs of the past few years of Resident Evil with Revelations 2 and hopefully, we’ll continue to see the brand improve with the current generation. While the visuals are quite pretty, there’s very little difference to a well made last-gen game. Textures can be a little iffy and there are a few stuttering issues but absolutely nothing that spoils the entire experience.
Sound is very well done, with voice acting being pretty good with the usual sprinkling of, for lack of a better word, cheese on top. Musical direction is what you would expect by now, with piano filled ‘safety’ tracks and pounding beats when the cast are in danger. Raid mode resorts to the terrible dance and techno music which can usually be heard in many of Capcom’s titles. Turning the BGM volume down and sticking Slayer or Guns ‘n’ Roses into the CD player was much more satisfying in my opinion.
Issues? My only problem with the story, was that Moira is the series’ worst scripted character. She’s a whiny, foul-mouthed, cliche hipster with Daddy issues and I couldn’t help trying to put her in harm’s way to watch one of the detailed and violent death scenes performed on her. Sick? Maybe, but you’ll see what I mean if you play and probably do the exact same thing for shits and giggles. I’m pretty sure every sentence she speaks has a ‘fuck’ somewhere in it. Bloody kids these days…
I should also mention that the first episode is extremely short compared to the later ones, feeling more like a demo than a full installment. In fact, it took me around fifteen hours to complete the entire game but this may be shorter if you’re not as obsessive about missing something as I am. There’s actually a reward for finishing the game in three hours or less, much like the older games when you could bag infinite ammo pistols and rocket launchers for performing the mighty feat.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is compelling, addictive, worth playing more than once and definitely a push in the right direction for Capcom although I would probably offer the sound advice to just release the next installment as a full game, rather than weekly chapters. It didn’t add anything to the package other than probably putting off the few who played episode one and saw it as another duffer in the series.
If you’re a fan of Resident Evil, this chapter might just boost your confidence enough to venture back into the world of dodgy viruses, stupidly named organizations and more holes in the plot than I managed to deposit into the cast of deranged beasties in the entire franchise via my trusty Samurai Edge. A must buy. If you’re not a fan, I suggest that you introduce yourself to the series with Resident Evil HD, play the PS1 originals, grab a copy of Resi 4 then get the Revelations series. The others… Maybe not so much.