Episodic Evil: Can Capcom’s episodic new entry bring new life to their undead series?
From its opening moments Resident Evil Revelations 2 promises a lot, and it doesn’t fail to deliver. Set between the events of Resident Evil 5 and 6, the follow up game to the 3DS entry in the series packs a lot of content in for its low entry cost and final price points. Taking a page from the previous titles aptly named chapters, the game is being delivered in weekly episodes at $5.99 apiece. This format and low cost should definitely breathe some life into Capcom’s undead series.
The game opens on Claire Redfield and Moira Burton being kidnapped between the events of the 5th and 6th games only to wake up in a strange prison. As the two work on escaping they come face to face with new nightmarish creatures, they come to realize all is not what it seems on the island they are trapped on. Barry Burton’s segment of the episode follows him arriving at the island hunting for any clue of the whereabouts of his daughter, only to encounter what appears to be an abandoned island with a rotting mysterious tower in the distance. Working his way forward toward the radio tower in the distane he encounters what appears to be rotten zombified versions of the enemies encountered in Claire’s half of the story in the prison. In the forest beyond Barry encounters a worse for that stands in his way of finding his daughter.
Each half of the episode has a very distinct feel and gameplay style that would appeal to the varied fanbase of the series. Claire’s section takes place in confined hallways and limited ammunition a la older entries in the series that make combat tense and panicked. Sadly the confined environs are fair bit bland and leave little to explore. Fortunately the biggest gameplay mechanic of the campaign invites you to actually explore the nooks of crannies of each accessible area. Companion characters make a comeback with a vengeance similar to the 5th and 6th entries of the series. Both Barry and Claire receive a companion that does not wield firearms but comes equipped with a secondary ability that allows them to find hidden items. Claire’s companion Moira refuses to wield a gun for some as of yet untold story reason. In lieu of guns, Moira is equipped with a crowbar and a flashlight. The crowbar is used both as a melee weapon and a way to pry open boarded up doors to further the gameplay. Her flashlight mechanics are far more interesting on the other hand. Not only can it be used to find hidden items much like the genesis device in the prior entry, if focused in the faces of enemies it can stun them for short periods of time to provide an opportunity to make the most from melee attacks or accurate gunfire.
Barry’s half of the first episode has a vastly different feel, as he comes initially with three different weapons that let you mow through enemies. The areas in the second half also offer a different experience as they are mostly open spaces that give you the room to unleash hell on the enemies thrown at you. Action and forward momentum are the impetus in Barry’s part of the episode and it definitely finishes the episode out with a bang. His companion though allows for some very interesting gameplay. Natalia cannot only see and point out items to pick up similar to Moira, but can also sense enemies through walls, allowing you to approach encounters with stealth if you choose to do so. She can also pick up bricks to use as a weapon or a distraction much like you could in The Last of Us. This emphasis on options as to most of the encounters definitely makes Barry’s segment a more enjoyable and different experience.
The companion system in this entry has a new twist. In solo play of the campaign, you can alternate between each character in each segment. Flipping between each characters is done with a single button press which can make for some interesting tactics when playing alone. I found myself running more often than not as the “noncombatant” partner looking for items and taking advantage of their abilities to stun enemies and switching to deliver the actual blows. Unfortunately the partner AI isn’t quite up to snuff but will actively make attempts to help you during combat situations (unlike the partner characters in the first Revelations game). This system really shines in co-op play though. Campaign mode only contains split-screen cooperative play, yet this can definitely result in some fun couch gameplay as you work together to take down enemies. It’s worth to note that campaign co-op was pulled from the PC version of the game from developer concerns over the quality of the gameplay as such.
As you work your way through the first episode, the enemy types are not too varied but this shouldn’t come as a surprise in the first episode in what will be a much longer game. Standard Resident Evil archetypes are present in aces within the few enemies presented, but they definitely have new looks to fit the story. Despite switching up the enemies like most of the entries since Resident Evil 4, they definitely bring to mind some older enemies with a particular one feeling like a mix of some old enemy types. None of them prove TOO challenging on standard difficulties and the variations actually play off the companion system for some fun gameplay.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 definitely won’t win any graphical awards, as some of the modelling looks like it would be at home on the last generation of systems. The enemies and weapons have the most attention paid to them, and you will notice the detail paid to them as they attack you head on. Visually the most stunning things are the environment as a whole and the particle and lighting effects you’ll see crawling through the prison with Jill, and running through the forest as Barry. The game audio pretty much falls into the same pit. It’s not anything amazing, but it fits, and damn some of the audio work will creep you out as you hear the enemies tromp around while you cower behind cover.
With recent releases Capcom has gone the extra mile for replayability. The sheer amount of challenges and modes present just within this title is daunting. As you play the campaign you can earn points by finding hidden story items, taking down foes and speed running. These accumulated points can then be used to unlock extra modes such as invisible enemy mode, or time attack. Figurines, concept art and even extra music and hidden files are even accessible using these points. For the hardcore, you could constantly keep challenging yourself to do better at campaign mode while unlocking more content to enjoy.
Speaking to that extra content, episode 1 comes coupled with the first few rounds of Raid Mode. This extra mode returns with a vengeance from the first Revelations title with better enemy types, more weapons, a branching skill tree, and tons and TONS of monsters to blast through. If you’re unfamiliar with Raid Mode, it involves choosing a character, equipping weapons and entering a limited area in which you have to eliminate enemies (or some other similar goal) as you work towards the goal. As you destroy foes, you gain experience and gold which then is applied to level up your characters level and skills, and to purchase and modify more weapons and parts for those weapons. You’re probably thinking, “Hey, that could probably get boring after a while,” but this is where the developers abuse the underlying systems that run the campaign to abuse you and increase the challenge and variety. Enemies can be randomly assigned modifiers that set them aflame, cover them in shields as well as increase their size, toughness and aggressiveness. Stages are set in a myriad of environments from a smattering of past games, so you’re not trapped playing the same campaign areas over and over. Specifically a street from Raccoon City made me smile and squeal a little as I rushed through alleys. To keep you playing, you have a long list of challenges that unlock extra content within Raid Mode such as gestures, unique weapons, extra stages and the ability to upgrade your weapons even further. Needless to say I massively enjoy this mode, and it alone makes episode 1 worth a purchase from the amount of play you can get out of it before you hit the wall of missions included with the next episode.
All in all, I’d say Resident Evil Revelations 2 has something for everybody. You like traditional RE creeping and avoiding enemies and tense gameplay? You want run and gun action? You want to challenge mode everything possible? You want a long list of digital candy to achieve and unlock? It’s all in there. And even if the game starts with a whimper and a slow pace, I’d say it’s worth your time to pick up at least the first episode and give everything it has to offer a spin.
Final Verdict: 4 / 5
Available on: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Capcom ; Developer: Capcom ; Players: 2 ; Released: February 24, 2015 ; ESRB: M ; MSRP: $39.99 (boxed) $5.99 (per episode) $24.99 (Season Pass)