Despite having been tethered to a booth myself, providing the kind, profanity spitting citizens of New York Comic Con our finest gaming fabrics, I somehow managed to sneak away and see my truest love: Resident Evil.
The demo itself was lightning quick – likely to give as many fans waiting in the snaking line surrounding Capcom’s booth as possible a chance to re-greet Claire Redfield and become newly acquainted with her fashion-conscious, F-bomb dropping partner Moira Burton (come to think of it, she might be a New Yorker herself). I barreled through the demo, trying to soak in the rank, wet prison facility our heroines were trapped in as fast as can be since I was technically on the clock, but in my brief tryst with Revelations 2, I saw enormous potential.
Though the demo was running on the PS4, I’m hard-pressed to call the game “next-gen.” Its graphics definitely smack of a cross-gen title – the smooth framerate and lighting effects revved Sony’s hardware here and there, but its a zip code away from ever redlining the system.
Controls are familiar but refined to a degree that made me wish this was the scheme Capcom chose to use all the way back in RE5. Instead of RE6’s loose-y goose-y scheme where the right stick only handled the camerawork, both sticks control Claire (or Moira once you zap to her) akin to Gears of War. Locomotion is freer but there’s a definite weight to your movement, making it all feel more deliberate. It’s a smart evolution of the first Revelations’ controls and it lends itself well to the horror vibe.
The most heroic innovation is the new dodge mechanic, which was originally the biggest pain in the ass the first game straddled you with. In Revelations, there was kind of a way to dodge if the stars lined up and the gods smiled upon you, but usually it was better to be happy when it accidentally worked than try to actively rely on it only to get slapped in the face with a monster appendage. RER2 dedicates a whole face button to dodging, but unlike RE6’s slip n’ slide dodge meant for an action game, the mechanic here is stricter, allowing only about four directions you can dive to, requiring timing on your part to successfully avoid damage. Really can’t wait to unleash these controls in the release version’s Raid Mode.
There’s very little story given away in the demo, but there is plenty of interplay between our protagonists; enough to show that, for all of the cheesy, over-the-top B-movie-ness tied to this franchise, it’s growing up. In just a few sparse lines of dialogue, I was able to get a peg on where Claire is now. Upon scavenging a 9mm from a mutilated security guard (why an abandoned prison has freshly dead guards, I don’t know), she plainly tells her younger compatriot the gun is “more reliable than any person.” The years haven’t been easy on our dear Ms. Redfield and, like her brother, the war on bioterrorism has only made her harder. Not boulder-smashing harder, but you get the point.
Now juxtapose that with Moira’s refusal to handle a firearm (a fact that is the foundation of her support-role playstyle), revealing this to us by reminding Claire solemnly, “Not after what happened.” She spends a good portion of the demo translating her obvious fear into confused cursing yet she remains firm on her scruples. It may have taken nearly two goddamn decades but Resident Evil is finally trying its hand at nuanced characterization!
I still felt like I was caught in a nondescript B-horror sort of like the kind you’d find hidden in the annals of your Netflix queue, especially given the blandness of the Afflicted – bloodied up variations on the same humanoid baddies we’ve been headshotting since Resident Evil 4 – but if Revelations 2 can continue to ground the proceedings with strong character work and an absorbing story, baiting and hooking players across a month of weekly episodes, I think a lot of jilted fans will slowly find their way back to the series, leaving behind this new “unarmed terror” trend that’s taken over horror games of late.
So far, RER2 feels more like damage control than evolution. Capcom seems hellbent on fixing what fans think is wrong with the series now before they move on full force to a true continuation. There’s a lot of promise here but a lot of room for this series to fall into its old trappings. If Revelations 2 doesn’t mark a new era for Resident Evil, here’s hoping it can at least show us the way.