“Revelations 2 is a solid chunk of morbid tone, creeping disasters, and fraught action. Unlike its big budget brothers, it treats players to a scaled back, almost intimate jaunt through the dark that ends up being one of the better detours Resident Evil has taken in the last five years.“
Capcom had a dilemma on their hands. Despite going into development almost as soon as 2008′s Resident Evil 5 launched, and despite having more than two-hundred hands mold it during the course of its production, the multi-million dollar tagged Resident Evil 6… sucked.
That’s subjective, of course. I was one of few lost souls that appreciated what the overly stuffed, overly ambitious title tried to accomplish. A laundry list’s worth of middling reviews and scathing, Duke Nukem Forever caliber user scores, however, have decided RE6′s legacy.
So Capcom responded. Lightly. First we were treated to the loving remaster of 2002′s Resident Evil remake — a game that serves as a distinct reminder of what originally drew us into this series of corporate misdeeds and biological mishaps. Behind the scenes, though, I’m pressed to think the release was a test. A test to see which would fare better: the palm-sweaty survival horror days of old or the hair-triggered action-horror days of new — an era begot by the stunning success of Resident Evil 4.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 is the second part of the test. Because, while the atmosphere has been cranked up to “Carpenter,” and while the odds are stacked harder against you and your dwindling ammo supply, this spin-off/sequel is very much a disciple of RE4; shoot-it-in-the-face action and light environmental puzzles and all. And, actually, that’s not a terrible thing.
Where RE6 fell off the deep end of what’s to be expected from this franchise — survival and, oh, horror — Revelations 2 reigns itself in to provide a tight, tense, and compact thriller that, in the face of its shortcomings, begins laying the groundwork for a brighter future of Resident Evil.
Burton & Redfield Investigations
Our story fits snugly (and inconsequentially) between the events of RE5 and RE6. Claire Redfield has hung up her guns and gone the way of the humanitarian, now working for a biological terror relief group called TerraSave. In the middle of inducting Beardy Burton’s daughter, Moira, into their ranks, body-armored commandos storm TS HQ because it wouldn’t be Resident Evil without paramilitary thugs swinging through windows.
One bout of unconsciousness later Claire and Moira wake up in a mysterious prison. Mysterious-er, they’re now sporting glowing wrist-bracelets that change color in response to the wearer’s stress level. Mysterious-est is the mocking, Kafka quoting voice of their captor, communicating through the fear bracelets, who is apparently watching their every move.
In typical Resident Evil fashion, it’s not enough to have been captured by a calculating lunatic. Soon, you encounter the Afflicted. Not only were these poor bastards infected with a new viral strain, they were tortured to the point of madness. Now, they work out their frustrations by running, leaping, and slashing rusty blades at our girls. They definitely aren’t the most inspired grotesqueries we’ve faced in gaming, but they’re vicious in numbers and worse in close-quarters.
The game eases you into the zapping system around this point. You’ll be able to control both women, keying you into their roles. Claire plays the part of assault – serving boot to ass when needed using found firearms – whereas Moira is support. She can shine a light on hidden items in the environment with her flashlight and break into chests containing weapon upgrades. But Moira’s no mere tagalong that cowers behind Claire the moment those Cenobite looking freaks come running. Her flashlight is her Penance Stare, able to blind and stun enemies so Claire can knock them back; then Moira’s able to finish the foes off with her trusty crowbar.
If you don’t tackle the campaign co-op, the zapping system is a far favorable improvement over simply dragging around an AI dolt. Personally, the game would probably be scarier with a solitary character, but multiplayer has made it so that we don’t get to live in the world anymore, so this is the easiest concession to swallow.
Barry: The Professional
This technically qualifies as a spoiler since the cliffhanger at the end of Episode 1 plays it up so hard, but to hell with it since I can’t continue without unveiling this ludicrous fact: Barry doesn’t pick up on Moira’s trail until six months after her segments with Claire take place. I get it. The S.T.A.R.S. thing kinda fell apart before Barry could really cut his teeth as an enforcer of the law but goddamn. Six months? Thankfully the gameplay toys with the concept of revisiting areas our girls long ago trekked, almost justifying the cavernous narrative hole.
Arriving on the island accompanied by his beard and a collection of assault weapons that’d make Michael Gross’ character in Tremors salute with a hard-on, Barry immediately runs into a strange little girl named Natalia. She’s somehow connected to the desolated island, and our mysterious “Overseer” has it out for her something fierce.
More than that, she’s got a keen sense of awareness that Barry lacks which allows her to spot creepy crawlies right through walls like an imprecise “detective vision.” At first, this ability is suspect since the more traditional living dead you run into don’t require fearful evasion, especially since Barry can answer any problem with the miniature gun store he stuffed into his backpack.
It was my first run in with the legitimately nerve-rapping Revenants – corpses infused with the Uroboros virus; a nice little callback to RE5 – that had me reassess Natalia as a partner. See, she has the uncanny ability to spot glowing masses hiding beneath the creatures’ decayed skin. Naturally, it’s a Revenant’s singular weakness and knowing where the spot is conserves your ammo big time (oh, right, because enemies no longer crap out bundles of ammunition and gold like rotten pinatas).
Later, you’ll face floating insects capable of downing you in one hit. Best part? They’re completely invisible, and you’ll only know you’re near one because your on-screen vision blurs and distorts like you’re on a bender. Natalia can actually spot this giant tick and call out to Barry when to shoot. It’s a cool little interplay that exemplifies teamwork at its best in Revelations 2, be it in co-op or if you’re zapping between characters.
The Life and Times of Evil
Throughout the four episodes, I preferred the Claire/Moira combat duo. Not just on a mechanical level, but their personalities were more fleshed out. Moira starts the game out with a deep seeded aversion to guns, not to mention a distaste for her bearded daddy that goes beyond his NRA Card waving ways. Claire, upon finding a suitable pistol early in the campaign, makes this dry but telling remark that a gun is “more dependable than any person.” Claire is the survivor; the one that keeps it cool, calm, and collected when faced with the macabre and impossible.
Moira… Moira loses her shit and starts uttering awkward, confused curses like “fuck-stick.” She’s a little bit Ellie from The Last of Us, a little bit Juno. I could see how some fans might find her grating, but I found her endearing in a Freaks and Geeks sort of way, and I’m always in support of a new RE character that isn’t a stiff-chinned military type (with immaculate hair).
Barry and Natalia’s dynamic fails to be as engrossing. Barry uses the girl as a bouncing board to vent his frustrations over his fractured relationship with Moira. Really, though, Barry’s revelations only serve to fill in the gaps to Moira’s backstory instead of meating up the bones of his own. For Natalia, the game spends so much time trying to shroud her origin in mystery that it ends up smothering any chance to realize her as a person and not, well, remember that human metal detector thing I was talking about?
When the characterization works, though, it stands out. Mostly because such naturalism is so damn out of character for Resident Evil.
Sadly, these moments, these flashes of humanity, are pretty rare, even
across four episodes. Once the monster count is upped, the plot wrests
the wheel away from character development and the story devolves into
the same over-the-top, campy horror that Japan is so unabashed about.
It’s a shame because great horror – effective horror – relies on its
characters, not its monsters.
The Dart Board (of Evil)
There’s no escaping that Revelations 2 is a budget title. Even though you can play the game on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it’s engine is distinctly rooted in the last generation (it’s a marvel how long Capcom has been riding MT Framework). Some textures are murky, and often character models are stiff and over glossy.
But a small budget didn’t stop the development team from going after big ideas. The game’s probably one of the most experimental entries into the series. Revelations 2 is a veritable playing ground for the devs. It’s as if they were throwing features in like darts and seeing what stuck. Be warned, though – not every dart lands.
It features the tightest control scheme I’ve ever seen implemented into a modern Resident Evil. Maneuverability is heightened, once more burying the tank-control days, but they’re much more grounded than the dive-sliding looseness prevalent in RE6.
From there, several new mechanics come into play. A dedicated dodge button is the best and most gracious addition. The directional dodge can’t be spammed, requiring perfect timing, but when you master it, it’s exhilarating to sidestep a swinging axe and watch it pulverize the floor inches from your face.
A full-on stealth crouch is worked in, to lesser success. It’s helpful to bring down a Revenant without turning matters into a fracas, but there’s precious few encounters in the game that give you the chance to kill softly. When an enemy’s back is turned, it feels like it was by design rather than emergent opportunity, and spotty AI prevents any truly engaging cat-and-mouse fights.
You won’t notice it’s happening but you’ll accrue points during the campaign which can then be spent on a skill tree between episodes. And we’re not talking vanilla perks like increased damage and the like. Your augmentations are useful, like extending Moria’s search radius with her flashlight, or the ability to instantly finish downed foes with your knife, or even a high-ranking dodge cancel. Given the brevity of each episode and the little variance you’ll find replaying them, however, such a skill system seems more at home in a fuller sequel.
Not Afraid to Raid
I wrote a whole separate article about why you should be playing Raid Mode. I wrote that even before the full episode order was released. So how do I feel about the endgame mode now? Well, I’ve probably funneled close to sixty hours in it, and have played it nearly daily.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s entirely possible that I’m just sick for anything Resident Evil and already have a well documented weakness for horde modes. But Raid Mode is the best incarnation of The Mercenaries ever. You won’t just duke it out against biological freaks from the main story, you’ll encounter Hunters, the Executioner of RE5 fame, and an oddball assortment of hard asses from RE6.
Shirking the monotone seriousness of the campaign, you’ll contend with almost Borderlands like variations of these creatures including elemental that’ll burn you, freeze you, or shock you for daring to touch them. Some enemies are hilariously tiny but lethally fast (the cuteness of mini Hunters ends the moment they leap at you like clawed leprechauns).
An extensive list of interchangeable (and upgradeable) weapons and perks, constant in-game surprises found by looting chests in a mission, quirky-to-insane gestures like the famed “hip hop dance,” plus a wide cast of series famous characters makes Raid Mode incredibly playable and deeply rewarding. Don’t feel embarrassed when you realize you’ve pumped dozens of more hours into this “minigame” than the actual campaign. Local co-op is all it supports right now, and hopefully that changes soon because it’s monumentally more satisfying teaming up with a friend.
There’s two camps I can address earnestly and say Revelations 2 isn’t what you’re looking for. If you’re on the side of the fence that’s wanted Resident Evil to about-face and strip itself back down to survival horror – to return to six slot inventories and have you counting your shots – this isn’t what that is. Again, RER2 is as much a child of Resident Evil 4 as its sequels. I will affirm that this is the closest we’ve gotten tonally to that 2005 gem, and if that excites you, you’re $25 away from some good times.
For those of you that have been waiting for the next great metamorphosis of the series, sorry. This isn’t quite that, either. This isn’t Resident Evil 7. But it’s moving in that direction. We’re at drops-in-the-pond stage right now, but if we follow the ripples, you can start to see where these changes are going. Actual character work; skill trees; resource crafting; more emphasis on horror. I’d love to see these features expanded and refined. Right now, they’re in testing.
With that in mind, it’s easier to view this game as an epilogue to this era. One last hurrah before the series moves on to newer tech. A lot of the DNA of the series is in this game, though its spread around like confetti. Still, taken as is instead of judged for what its not (a problem most RE fans have trouble escaping), Revelations 2 is a solid chunk of morbid tone, creeping disasters, and fraught action. Unlike its big budget brothers, it treats players to a scaled back, almost intimate jaunt through the dark that ends up being one of the better detours Resident Evil has taken in the last five years.
Graphics: Serviceable but dated.The
MT Framework engine started to show its age even before this game. Most
of the game is shrouded in darkness but daytime segments shine a light
on the game’s blander environments.
gurgle, shots ring out in the dark. The top notch sound design helps
set a mood and keep it there. Haunting, simple melodies flutter about
while you’re trekking through hell. The soundtrack is surprisingly well
orchestrated for a budget title.
Playability: I’d wish Capcom had distilled the series’ controls to this point way, way sooner.
Replay Value: Besides some bobbles and one or two diverging pathways, the campaign is a pretty one-way street. It’s only until you begin discovering the intricacies of Raid Mode that you’ll return to RER2 over and over again. Hopefully Capcom is keen to this fact and continues to support the mode through DLC.
RESIDENT EVIL REVELATIONS 2
Available On: PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developed & Published By: Capcom
MSRP: $24.99 (Complete Season, Digital), $39.99 (Retail Disc)