As a long-term fan of the Resident Evil franchise and the downhill slope the main series has tumbled down in recent instalments, I didn’t enter into Resident Evil Revelations 2 with my hopes held high.
Perhaps this is why I was so pleased to see that RER2 is a surprisingly decent game which actually goes a fair way to reinstalling my faith in the franchise. Capcom’s latest series entry is by no means perfect, and I wouldn’t even go so far as to call the game anything but comedic – but it’s certainly worth a play, especially if you’re a Resi veteran.
RER2 starts with a poorly-rendered cutscene introducing 2 of our 4 playable protagonists, Claire Redfield and Moira Burton. Moira is Barry Burton’s pissed-off daughter who insists on letting everyone know how constantly pissed off she is at her father. The pair are at a function for TerraSave – their slogan is actually “Because ‘Terr’ doesn’t have to end in ‘rist‘”. If that doesn’t give you an idea of the kind of knowingly cheesy and self-referential humor on display, then nothing will.
In order to keep up the entirely farcical start to the game, Claire and Moira are abducted by mercenaries and wake up in prison cells on a seemingly deserted island. The locals, as you quickly discover, have been subject to pretty much every virus we’ve come across in the franchise so far, from the original T-virus to Uroboros – and since it’s a new Resident Evil game, there’s a new biohazard thrown into the mix – the T-Phobos virus, which Claire and Moira find themselves the unwitting test subjects for.
An interesting point about the T-Phobos virus is that as the name implies, it responds to the host’s fear levels, causing epic mutation when the host reaches a critical level of fear. Unfortunately, there’s no game mechanic whereby you need to calm your players down lest you game over. While this is is mildly disappointing, this isn’t Amnesia – this is very much a Resident Evil game; it has its moments, but Capcom’s latest offering doesn’t jangle the nerves like Frictional’s classic did, and it’s clear that Capcom is well aware of how silly it all is.
Our second pair of protagonists in Resident Evil Revelations 2 is Natalia and Barry. Barry discovers the whereabouts of his estranged daughter and launches into the most self-referential quest ever in order to save her from the evils of residing on the same island as these biohazardous zombies. There are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments in the dialogue in Revelations 2, and it’s worth playing the game purely for these moments alone; even if you haven’t played the original game, almost everyone has heard of the notorious “Master of Unlocking” line – there are some references you are almost guaranteed to get, and even newcomers will laugh at the sections where the writing gets so intentionally bad it’s genuinely hilarious. There’s even a nod to the classic “Jill sandwich” line from the original.
Mechanically, Revelations 2 is pretty well-balanced. You play as a pair of characters at any given time, controlling each pair for about an hour and a half of each of the game’s four episodes. Claire and Moira work together in combat: Claire wields the guns, and Moira wields a surprisingly deadly flashlight/crowbar combo. Moira can stun enemies in the same way Alan Wake did; Claire then shoots or kicks them, and then Moira finishes them off with her crowbar.
Moira also uses her crowbar for opening doors, in the way only a true Master of Unlocking could. Moira, much like her counterpart Natalia, has an amusing superpower which she brings to the operating table – the magical power of pointing. You can swap between your aggressive and support characters at the touch of a button, and both have their uses.
While Claire and Barry have the big guns and will get you out of a pinch, they simply can’t see sparkly things on the floor, which could be anything from gems to ammo. Moira and Natalia have the amazing power to point out what is starting the characters in the face, so that Claire and Barry can pick the items up. Natalia, a lost little girl alone on the island, has a second power which Moira lacks – she can sense the infected and point them out to Barry, making her by far the most useful character in the game.
Unlike Resident Evil 4 where you had to babysit a useless AI-controlled character throughout much of the game, your support characters in Revelations 2 are actually useful and never feel like a hindrance. Ashley in RE4 was about as useful as a waterproof teabag; Natalia will actually throw bricks at the faces of approaching zombies while you shoot at them.
Combat is pretty much what you’d expect from a Resident Evil game. Unfortunately, enemies don’t drop ammo when they fizzle and ammo pickups can be scarce at times, meaning that your ability to conserve bullets becomes a real issue on higher difficulties. While you can perform stealth takedowns to kill all but the instakill characters and bosses, this attack doesn’t always work.
When the game bugs out during a stealth attack and Claire tries to hamstring an enemy whose design appears to be a riff on Silent Hill 2‘s Pyramid Head, you have to turn and sprint from the tank which is now lumbering towards you, axe held high. This is doubly wounding when playing on Medium or Hard difficulties, where the step up in difficulty and bullet-sponginess of the zombies is dramatically increased.
To add further insult to injury, we now have invisible zombie bugs which make you trip on acid when they get close, and instakill you when they reach you. I do not approve of this at all. Invisible enemies are never a good idea. They were annoying in Doom, and they’re just as frustrating here.
I’ve already mentioned the graphics a few times, but on top of the early PS3-quality cutscenes, Revelations 2 commits one of the Nic Bunce Cardinal Sins Of Gaming®: when your character steps out into the rain, and you can see over their shoulder, do not under any circumstances put rain on the camera, which then drips down the screen. This is stupid and it needs to stop. Likewise, if your character doesn’t have glasses or goggles on, stop with the lens flare. It’s called lens flare for a reason, not eye flare. It doesn’t make any sense so kindly stop trying doing it. This annoys me in most games, but in a survival horror game, intentionally killing the immersion like this is unforgiveable.
In terms of length, Revelations 2’s story mode comfortably weighs in at between 8-12 hours, depending on your skill and the difficulty setting you play it on. As a game which was released in 4 episodic chunks at a cut-down price, that’s entirely reasonable – you could finish the first Resident Evil in just a couple of hours; while the pacing of Revelations 2‘s story is sometimes a bit uneven, by the end of the campaign you feel fulfilled, rather than short-changed.
Finally for the single player campaign, we have BP – our in-game currency. Picking up gems, completing medals (including trophies/achievements) and finishing a level in a decent time with minimal deaths/retries will all earn you BP. You can spend this on everything from upgrades to collectible figures, all of which are pretty expensive. If you’re after collecting them all, be prepared to grind, grind and then spend a lot more time grinding. There’s nothing wrong with extending the replay value of a game, but the grind here feels unnecessarily extended and almost tailor-made for microstransactions – which, thankfully, aren’t present.
As with many modern Resident Evil games, there is another mode which adds to the post-game experience, and in Revelations 2 that is Raid Mode, which returns following its appearance in the first Revelations on 3DS.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Raid Mode is a survival style game – complete a round by killing X number of zombies, return to the mission hub to upgrade your character and then take on the next wave. Progress is saved as EXP and character levels between rounds, meaning that even if you die, your character upgrades are saved. It can be fun mode to play, but Raid Mode probably won’t keep your attention for more than a week or two unless you’re a diehard fan. A surfeit of missions is welcome, but repetition soon sets in after a while.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 is a competent and entertaining little game to play, and it’s well worth your time if you’re looking for a more light-hearted survival horror, with a couple of decent jump moments and a dollop of tension. We’re not talking pant-wetting terror by any standards – instead think of it as the Shaun of The Dead of the Resident Evil franchise in terms of scare-to-laugh ratios.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 may not look amazing, but it plays pretty well, while displaying plenty of self-aware humor – and that’s pretty impressive for what it is.