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It’s a better experience than Resident Evil 6, but can it surpass its handheld predecessor…?
This week we’ve seen the release of the final episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2, with additional episodes to fill in some blank spaces (emphasis on ‘some’) and a retail disc to follow. This entry in the Resident Evil timeline marks two notable changes – the series’ first episodic release and the first entry that sees us in control of two female leads.
Long-time fans will be delighted to see the return of Claire Redfield – having not appeared in playable canon form in over a decade. I know I’m happy to finally see my favourite character return (move over Jill Valentine!). A return to the series’ horror roots, given the more action oriented nature of the series of late, is also welcomed.
The fan service doesn’t stop there. Joining Claire is Moira Burton. Her existence goes back as far as the first game which starred family man, Barry Burton – AKA Moira’s dad. As if pulled straight from The Last of Us, Moria is for all intents and purposes the Ellie to Claire’s Joel, complete with a foul mouth and a sassy attitude. She certainly displays some interesting uses of the language…
But the real nugget of fan loving comes in the form of that old favourite: Barry Burton himself in his first canon playable appearance. Here he’s supported by young newcomer Natalia, the story’s token creepy child, who even points at nastiness in the distance that the no one else can see. Barry is on the hunt for his missing daughter.
Revelations 2 puts the camp in campaign. The moment you select ‘new game’, you’re presented with an ad (hopefully satirical) for Terrasave: the goody-goody anti-terror organisation Claire and Moira (hereby referred to as Cloira) are part of. Adding to the camp factor, long-term fans of the series will be delighted to hear references to some of the more memorable lines of the first Resident Evil – you can have your Jill Sandwich and eat it.
It’s not long before Cloria are whisked away to the prison island setting of the story. From the moment you gain control, the Resident Evil Code Veronica influences are screaming at you as loudly as the island’s inhabitants. It’s an odd sort of typecasting Capcom likes. Claire last starred in Code Veronica, so that environment suits her the most, right? So that’s prison-island-grimy chic.
Those environments get old fast. It’s only in the latter half of the last episode we see some variation in the environment, with areas that hark back to the original Resident Evil masion masterpiece … before we’re plunged back into more grimy greyness.
The campaign is split in to two halves with Cloira taking up act one of each episode and Batalia (Barry and Natalia) finishing up with act two.
It sounds like a simple chase until the twist – the events of Cloira’s story happen six months prior to Batalia’s. It’s surprisingly effective: jumping back and forth six months every episode, retracing Cloira’s steps as Batalia, noticing differences depending on your actions in the prior half of the episode and questioning the fate of the former pair.
I was happy to go along for the ride, with the unexpected plot twists keeping me intrigued. By the end of episode three that intrigue turned to concern. One episode remained and very little had been answered with a lot of questions built up. Where were these titular revelations?
Was four to be the feature length episode of the lot? Apparently not, in fact Cloira’s segment of the episode lasts all of 15 minutes, with the remaining hour or two left to Batalia. Granted, the two stories do meet in the end with a surprising twist, but I find the villain’s motives still clouded in mystery and having Claire so swiftly snatched away after years of waiting to play as her again stings…
Unlike its 12-episode predecessor, Revelations, there’s less room to split up the story in Revelations 2. Without a cliff-hanger to keep us hooked there’s no guarantee we’ll come back for the next episode in writers’ minds. Not only have the loose ends been crammed into the final episode, the game also feels short because of it – playing through each episode in one go to avoid losing the thread of the story creates a rushed experience.
The game also commits cardinal gaming sin to make up for this: huge chunks of exposition are left to files scattered around episode four. Resident Evil in its minimalist era (before Resident Evil 4) was constantly guilty of this, but it was in-keeping with that minimalist theme. Now it’s a jarring juxtaposition with such a drama-heavy story.
You may have the impression I disliked Revelations 2. On the contrary, it’s easily a stronger and more concise game than Resident Evil 6, both in terms of gameplay and story. The strong gameplay of Resident Evil 4 that went on to influence the entire third-person genre has been built upon and perhaps not perfected, but certainly improved.
In fact, it’s a more concise story than Revelations, with the story told from two perspectives as oppose to every single character under the sun (did anyone count how many playable characters there are in Revelations?). Despite its loose ends, it is actually easier to keep track of, although with a week wait in-between each episode a replay is definitely in order.
The partner system introduced in Resident Evil 5 finally becomes innovative (albeit still tension breaking), with each character playing a different role. Claire and Barry are the weapon lugging tanks. Moria and Natalia offer support by hunting down hidden items and either blinding (Moira) or detecting (Natalia) enemies before they have a chance to tear you to shreds.
Batalia are the more interesting pair, with Natalia’s ability to spot enemies and identify whether or not they’ve been alerted to the player’s presence. It creates a much more tense and stealthy experience; it’s nice to not have to go in guns blazing. Natalia’s abilities are also used to spot invisible enemies, something players of Revelations will remember.
This time around, however, the invisible enemies are much more deadly and harder to spot particularly in single player mode. It’s not cute and they need to go, especially when said enemies were the only ones featured in Cloira’s final campaign, during an already trickily-paced timed sequence without any obvious means of detecting their location. One-hit kills never felt so cheap.
With a second player you can cut out the character switching mechanic in favour of split-screen. It is helpful to have an ally in places (AI still isn’t Capcom’s forte) but player two will mostly take a back seat with the supporting character being devoid of weapons. Let’s hope that now the Revelations series has sorted out the multiplayer side, the main series can focus on solitary tension and horror – proven and effective.
There’s still more to be excited for. Those that haven’t had chance to play yet will be excited to find two extra episodes that focus on Moira and Natalia, that explain their involvement in the story in a little more detail. Not to mention the game’s Raid Mode, a shoot ‘em up style arcade experience, will be going online at the end of the month so you can play with your friends! Fingers crossed this eliminates a bug in the UK/EU download version of the game for PS3 owners that requires you to sign out of PSN prior to booting up the game.
On the whole Revelations 2 is a strong return to form after Resident Evil 6. It’s not perfect, the game’s low budget nature sometimes prevents potential from shining through, but we’re not being charged full retail price so who can complain? The experience is a short one but it shows that Capcom has learned from their mistakes, despite their refusal to drop the tension-breaking partner character.
Despite its rushed nature and unnecessary epilogue, this is probably one of the most concise Resident Evil stories we’ve had in a long time and not in any way devoid of twists and turns – it’s definitely on the right track. If you’re tackling Revelations 2 expecting scares at the same level of the recently remastered Resident Evil Remake you’ll be disappointed, but you’ll see potential. With Resident Evil 7 supposedly in development, it’s a promising sign.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 is currently available to download on Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Xbox One and Steam with a console retail version currently available and a planned Playstation Vita port in the works.
Images courtesy of Steam Store