The undead of Resident Evil are a fitting metaphor for a franchise with one foot in the grave.
Since the departure of Shinji Mikami, Resident Evil has arguably become a decrepit shadow of its former self, mutated with spin-offs and genre hybridity as Capcom seek to broaden the brand's audience.
Resident Evil 2 is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror games ever made, and is a personal favourite. Watching the franchise rot like one of its iconic undead monstrosities has been a painful endeavour. What made Resident Evil 5 scary wasn't to be found in chilling atmosphere, tense and vulnerable gameplay, but instead in catastrophically poor design choices. Resident Evil had become a linear action arcade shooter with wilfully awful controls and an utterly absent minded plot. Resident Evil 5 had no idea what game it wanted to be, and I felt so wronged by it that I haven't touched the franchise since, until now.
Terrifying: For the wrong reasons
Coming in to Resident Evil Revelations 2, I was afraid, but for the wrong reasons. Just how would Capcom desecrate the corpse of my beloved franchise this time? I fully expected to hate Resident Evil Revelations 2, but after finishing the game, I can't say that I do. I find myself longing. There are elements of Revelations 2 that hark back to those survival horror greats of yore, but it simply doesn't go far enough.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 takes place on a former mining colony, situated on a creepy Russian island. Claire Redfield and her Terrasave bioterrorism security force have been kidnapped, and dumped right in the midst of a deranged woman's personal reimagining of both Hostel and Saw. The colony has been reverse engineered into a labyrinth of diabolical traps, elaborate puzzles and roaming mutants as part of a mysterious and, reasonably unethical experiment. Claire and her dwindling survivor comrades have all been strapped with wrist tags which monitor their movements, as well as deliver harrowingly cliché taunts from their unsympathetic captor - the Overseer.
The characters are generally likeable and include franchise staples such as the fatherly Barry Burton and forever stoic Claire Redfield. The character interactions are the most enjoyable aspects of the game's writing (as well as the occasional clever reference to past Resident Evil games). Barry, wracked with guilt for his sub-par parenting skills is on the island to hunt Moira, his foul mouthed wannabe-punk daughter, who was the newest employee with Terrasave. There is some very scant character development, but the scenario based gameplay format combined with the length of the game severely limit the potential here.
It may seem an unfair presumption, but as the game was released in an episodic format, complete with recaps and teasers between each, I felt as though the story itself should've been stronger. Without giving away too much, the plot is laughable at worst, bland at best. Resident Evil has never been known for particularly amazing writing, but Revelations 2 takes this sentiment to new heights.
Throughout I was trying to deduce potential plot twists and uncover mysteries which simply weren't there. The game offers little intrigue, and leaves players with an irritatingly unsatisfying conclusion regardless of which ending you get landed with. It's typical that there should be unanswered questions, but Resident Evil Revelations 2's leaves little room for anything else. It makes one wonder if those questions do in-fact have answers, or whether they're intentionally as open ended as possible to odiously maximise the potential for DLC to wrap up the unanswered questions the main game has failed to do.
Combined with the episodic format and the recap sequences, the game contains numerous excerpts and references to Frank Kafka poetry with varying relevance, which gives me the sense the writing staff think they're smarter than they actually are. It is a tad pretentious.
There are some genuinely humorous moments, particularly when Barry Burton refers to some of the infamous dialogue from the original Resident Evil, but Revelations 2 mostly fails to deliver. I wish I could elaborate further without spoilers, but the primary take-away here should be Citizen Kane, it ain't.
A great game does not need to have a great plot, if it has great gameplay
I haven't played Resident Evil Revelations 1, but my general understanding is that it enjoyed some positive critical reception. Reviews point to a thoughtful marriage between old school survival horror with more modern action leanings, but I can't help but feel that the game was favoured positively because it originally shipped as a handheld title for Nintendo 3DS. Expectations of hand held games are generally lower, owing to hardware limitations and other factors. Resident Evil Revelations 2 has been launched on Xbox One and will be summarily judged as such, probably harshly, by this cynical, jaded, old school Resident Evil fan.
But hey, Resident Evil Revelations 2 does a pretty good job in the gameplay department, for the most part.
The 'tank controls' of previously Resident Evil games have been dropped in favour of more contemporary third person motions. Strafing, sprinting and even dodging make the cut, placing this horror game firmly into the action camp (albeit at a slower pace than say Zombie Army Trilogy). The awkward controls of classic Resident Evil and Silent Hill games have been credited as fear inducing devices which add to a sense of vulnerability, and despite updating the control schemas, Revelations 2 isn't completely devoid of that feeling.
Each episode takes place in intersecting areas across two different time periods, one of which follows Claire Redfield and Moira Burton, with the other following Moira's father, Barry Burton accompanied by a mysterious child survivor called Natalia. When played in single player, you can switch between the two characters by pressing Y, to take advantage of unique abilities. Moira can blind targets with her flash light, leaving zombies open for a roundhouse kick from Claire. Natalia similarly can hurl bricks at targets producing similar stun effects, and can see enemies through walls.
Trading fear for fun
All these extra combat abilities, combined with split screen offline co-op serve to detriment the notion of Resident Evil Revelations 2 as a scary game. Considering that Revelations 2 has offline co-op, the absence of online co-op seems like a glaring omission.
The playable characters have to occasionally split up to throw switches or solve puzzles, which can result in tense situations - particularly given Moira and Natalia's inability to use guns. Natalia's ability to see enemies through walls helps you take advantage of the game's basic stealth kill mechanics, and help you to deal with the invisible Glasp enemies, which hover around and then one shot you if you get too close. Dealing with those monsters in particular was a hilarious experience, listening to my brother's frantic attempts to point them out so I could shoot them, often unsuccessfully.
Speaking of shooting, one of my biggest gripes when it comes to combat is the complete absence of dismemberment and gore. Hold the thought that I'm just being blood thirsty, and consider that if I'm wielding a magnum as the legendary zombie hunter Barry Burton, shooting a rotting zombie in the face at point blank range, you might expect something a little more spectacular than a slightly larger splash of blood. After playing The Evil Within, Dying Light and Zombie Army Trilogy, the lack of dynamic head poppin' just makes combat feel muted. Considering the game's universal mature rating, the omission just seems lazy.
Beyond combat, there are elements of exploration and puzzle solving ditched by Resident Evil 5 that gave me fuzzy nostalgic feelings. Whilst nowhere near as complex as Resident Evil 1 or 2's rat-in-a-maze approach to progression, the occasional requests to explore more open areas on hunts for keys or puzzles was a welcome throwback.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 sees the return of Raid Mode, expanded over the previous game. Raid Mode is essentially an arcade zombie shooter best played with friends offline, or online on following a patch slated for March 31st. Damage numbers, levels and character skills are thrown into the mix, injecting a ton of replayability across various characters, skins and unlockables. You can revive utilizing crystals you can purchase with in-game credits, or via a micro-transaction, something the game was widely slammed for when the news initially broke - but I haven't found it to be particularly inhibiting.
There are also daily challenges to complete, a crafting table for upgrading/selling/buying weapons and the ability to customize loadouts. I played Raid Mode for quite a long time but found it to be a fairly pedestrian experience, I'd rather just play Dying Light or something designed from the ground up for this sort of gameplay. Having said that, Raid Mode certainly has its fans, so I'd put this one down to personal preference. If you enjoyed the Raid Mode of Revelations 1, this new one will be a welcome, much expanded edition to your game library - but its far removed from the core concept of the game, and likely won't appeal to everyone.
For a more detailed look at Raid Mode, check out Paul's in-depth Raid Mode review. He likes it quite well.
Whilst the endings left a sour taste, upon reflection it certainly seems like Capcom are still trying to find the perfect balance between the old and new. I came in expecting, perhaps even wanting to hate Resident Evil Revelations 2, but I can't say that this is the case. The Resident Evil classics I look upon fondly with rose tinted glasses may never return, but there is a sentiment that Capcom still have faith in the franchise - and aren't just cashing in on their largest brand outside of Street Fighter.
At around 30-45 minutes per scenario, across 8 in the base game with 2 extras (without hunting down every collectable), coupled with the replayability of Raid Mode, Capcom offer a lot of value on the back of £20 (and it has made me curious enough to purchase Revelations 1 and RE6). But unless you're a big Resident Evil fan or are specifically looking for something slower and more methodical, you may want to hit up Zombie Army Trilogy for a vastly superior third person action experience, or even spend a bit extra to pick up Dying Light.
Whilst I genuinely enjoyed my time with Resident Evil Revelations 2, its hard to see the game as anything more than a footnote in a increasingly diffuse franchise. The plot is utterly convoluted, bordering on laughable. The sheer amount of bland archetypes, viral strains and random uncorrelated events could be portrayed as one of the game's own mutant monstrosities screaming out for death, or in this case, a reboot. If the success of the recent, humbler Resident Evil 1 remake is anything to go by, perhaps the fans are too.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 is available now on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows PC.
- Resident Evil Revelations 2 - Xbox One - Store Link
- Resident Evil Revelations 2 - Xbox 360 - Store Link
- Resident Evil Revelations 2 - Amazon - Store Link