All the episodes are out and the newest Resident Evil is about to be released in shops, but is it the new direction the series needs?
It started less than a month ago, but by the end of this week all of Resident Evil Revelations 2’s four episodic downloads will be out – along with the retail version collecting them all (and a few extras). Games like Life Is Strange have taken longer than that to release their second episode, but in our review of Episode 1 we already expressed our confusion as to why Cacpom is releasing the game like this. Even now, at the end, we’re none the wiser, but what we do know is that this is the best Resident Evil since number 4.
Considering the steadily decreasing quality of the games since then that’s not quite the compliment it may at first seem. But while the first Revelations was able to more successfully blend old school survival horror with more modern action this sequel is even more accomplished in its blend of elements. It’s scarier, the action is better, and the story is just the right flavour of cheese to satisfy series regulars. It’s still far from perfect, but it’s good enough that suddenly Resident Evil 6 doesn’t seem like quite the unrecoverable disaster it once did.
The fact that Revelations 2 is episodic is probably the least interesting thing about it, especially as the story is divided into two separate strands anyway. One involves Claire Redfield and Barry Burton’s daughter Moira trying to escape from an Alcatraz like prison and laboratory complex, while the other has you controlling Barry himself as he attempts to rescue them. Although the twist revealed in Episode 1 is that Bazza has turned up several weeks late, after a delay in receiving their distress call.
Barry immediately runs into a mysterious young girl called Natalia, at which point the game reveals it’s actually a co-op game. But rather than just controlling another gun-toting zombie hunter the second player cannot use a gun and in Natalia’s case can only bash zombie brains in with a brick, if they’re already on the floor. Moira has a crowbar, and can blind enemies with the beam of her torch, but both are support character rather than fighters.
This creates a very different style of co-op to Resident Evil 5 and 6, and one much better suited to survival horror scares – not to mention less experienced players less comfortable with third person shooting. The downside though is that oddly there’s no online option, and although the game is certainly better with someone sitting beside you the lack of choice seems bizarre – especially given the large black borders used in split screen mode.
These limitations are going to lead to some highly varied experiences with the game, and if you’re playing on your own, swapping between characters when necessary, it’s really not as much fun. But it also depends on whether your co-op partner is going to play their role properly, or just sulk because they haven’t got a gun (or are too scared to scout out ahead). But get the right ally and this is one of the best examples of asymmetric multiplayer we’ve ever played.
For example, there’s one particularly good sequence in Episode 2 where Barry is confronted with an invisible enemy. Natalia can sense enemies through walls, whether visible or not, and so you end up with one player shouting out advice as the other desperately tries to follow their instructions and defeat the monster.
Overall though we’d say Claire and Moira’s sections were the most consistently enjoyable, even if they do tend to be the most aciton-packed. A lot of them is spent in the dark, hence Moira’s torch, which only compounds the tension given that ammo is in fairly limited supply and the zombies are generally faster than the Resident Evil norm (they act more like Resident Evil 4 ganados, in another clear attempt to marry the best bits of all the different games).
There’s also a number of puzzle sequences that, while still requiring little real skill to solve, do at least feel like old school Resident Evil, with over-the-top traps, laughably impractical security measures, and a bit where you have to drop cows into a meat grinder.
The story and script is a little too knowing at times but there’s none of Resident Evil 6’s painful attempts to take itself seriously, with plenty of cheesy one-liners and references to the series’ past. Moira’s propensity for four-letter words seems a little too reminiscent of Ellie from The Last Of Us, but the two adult leads are enjoyably earnest and the surprise villain is good value.
Except for maybe the last one the boss battles are disappointing though and the art design in general rather less imaginative than previous Resident Evils. Also disappointing is the game’s flirtation with Mass Effect style decision making in Episode 4, which turns out to be all smoke and mirrors as there’s only one successful way through. There are two different endings though, with a replay of Episode 3 allowing you to get the good one if you miss it the first time round.
On top of the story campaigns is Raid mode, Revelations’ equivalent to the Mercenaries bonus game. This at least will be online by the end of the month (the 31st to be precise, more than a week after the retail release) and is far more than just a sideshow. It’s basically a score attack game, compared to the time attack of Mercenaries, and although thoroughly uninteresting on your own is a great way to give both players the chance to mow zombies down by the dozen.
There’s a fairly substantial role-playing system to Raid mode, complete with unlockable and upgradeable weapons, perks, and abilities. It’s become a real favourite of ours over the last few weeks, with a decent variety of maps (some culled from previous games) and an addictive loot system.
Overall Revelations 2 is a success, especially given that its most obvious flaws all seem to be a matter of budget. From the lack of online to the last gen style graphics the whole game seems to have been made on the cheap and rushed out as soon as possible, as if Capcom is panicking to pay its rent this month. The fact that the team – who are apparently quite separate to those making Resident Evil 7 – have managed to make something so entertaining despite these limitations is all the more impressive.
This might only be righting a ship that had seemed precariously close to sinking, but at least now you can have some confidence that Capcom know where to steer it in the future.
Resident Evil Revelations 2
In Short: A mostly successful mix of the best of classic and modern era Resident Evil, with some of the most enjoyably unique co-op options of any recent game.
Pros: Excellent asymmetric co-op, and a good blend of survival horror, third person action, and cheesy dialogue. Raid mode is great and more than just a throwaway bonus.
Cons: Why the story mode is offline-only (or Raid has to wait till March 31) is a mystery. Low tech visuals and less inventive art design than usual. Not as much fun on your own.