By: Kyle Grubb
Well, this has certainly been a long time coming, hasn’t it?
Well, even if it’s taken me the better part of a year to finish reviewing this guy (wow…) here we are: Resident Evil: Revelations 2. I threw this back in and replayed the campaign to remind myself of a few things before writing this review up, so some of the stuff is nice and fresh. I’ll be writing this under the assumption that you hadn’t necessarily read the previous reviews of Episode 1 and 2, so there will be some redundancy. Then again, you probably haven’t read those in over a year, so I’m thinking it’s not that big of a deal.
Also, while I won’t spoil major developments, I will mention some certain mechanics and general plot set-up. Just so you know.
Here we go!
Also, I’m probably going to be rusty. Just be ready for that.
This review has been quite a long time waiting, and so I think it only fair that I don’t build up the anticipation too much. To put it very bluntly and succinctly, Revelations 2 is the best game in the series since Resident Evil 4. And that’s a wonderful thing to write, I tell you. The game, while not scary, bleeds atmosphere and feels like a logical progression of the older games in the series without embracing the completely ridiculous action movie approach that 5 and 6 decided to take. While it still revels in camp, corny one-liners, and mad-cap plots, it feels very grounded in the universe that the original title created. With a few modern day touches.
A Decent Into Darkness
A glowing bracelet, a dangerous prison, and a mysterious voice all greet Claire Redfield as she awakens to find herself once again thrust into a dangerous situation. Paired up with Moira Burton, daughter of the great Barry Burton, Claire is dragged into a perilous game of survival where all is not as it seems. The two girls need to learn how to work together if they want to emerge from this harrowing experience alive, but that may be easier said than done. Alongside Claire and Moira’s adventure, though, is Barry’s. Barry Burton himself decides to stop sitting on the sidelines and steps into the role of hero to save his daughter. With the help of a mysterious young girl named Natalia, he will stop at nothing to find Moira and stop the people behind her disappearance.
The campaign of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 plays out over the course of four Episodes. Each episode is split into two halves; in the first half, the player plays as Claire and Moira, and then the second half has them control Barry and Natalia. The game was originally released episodically, with each episode coming out a week after week. As such, each episode definitely ends with a cliffhanger. Having played it when it was releasing, the series of cliffhangers and interesting teases were definitely interesting to chomp in the weeks of waiting for each little bit of the game to release. Playing it back to back, episode to episode, these scenes instead seek to keep the momentum flowing and to keep the player engaged. It never feels false, because after any cliffhanger ending to a section, you play as the other group. Even if you aren’t waiting for a week, you still have a section of the game where you wonder exactly what’ll be happening to the other team. These moments give a sense of desperation to the player to keep unveiling more and more until they finally reach the truth.
The story itself of Revelations 2 is definitely one of the stronger tales the franchise has told. It keeps itself interesting by slowly revealing information to the player, and some of its twists and turns, while far from impossible to predict, are still interesting and fun. The game plays with its history and roots, and there are plenty of nods for fans of the franchise to eat up and enjoy, but it’s never held back by those moments. In fact, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 actually exists as a fairly stand-alone story. While some details, like the villain’s motives, might be slightly more muddled without knowledge of the franchise’s convoluted lore, the game itself does a fairly fantastic job at containing its plot very well to a small cast of characters and letting each character’s story arc be dependent on either the exact contents of this game or in backstory that the game tasks itself with fleshing out. No further research is required.
That being said, the story is far from perfect. While the way the story is presented unique and engaging, some of the individual moments can be weak. The actual plot of the game is odd, in that it feels like it treads a decent amount of familiar ground while actually still being fairly unique for the franchise. Also, the characterization of Resident Evil games is never super deep, and that streak continues here. Claire feels like a slightly different character than how we left her after the events of CODE: Veronica, and that’s not even to mention the fact that her face looks completely changed. Barry is still Barry, though, but the focus on him as a father definitely makes him a much more well-rounded character this time around, even if his motivation does feel very one-note and he stays very static. Natalia is an enigma throughout the game, and is probably my least favorite character of the four heroes. A lot of the plot revolves around her, but she remains very static throughout the course of the game. The villain, who I won’t spoil the identity of, is a real missed opportunity in my opinion. Their motivation is very dull, and they aren’t given much to work with over the course of the game. While everything they do makes perfect sense, it never feels like the story ever takes time worrying about fleshing them out, and that they exist because they came up with a fun setting and situation and needed to create a villain that worked around that.
The best of the characters, in my opinion, would have to be Moira Burton. While in the early parts of the game Moira comes off as a bit annoying and helpless, she very quickly establishes herself as a fun and interesting character with an interesting backstory. The more of the game you play through, the more you peel back layers on why she is the way she is and why she has the relationship with Barry that she does. Moira is definitely the character who is given the most character development throughout the plot, and she is at the center of the split between the two different endings of the game. In many ways, even though she seems to play second fiddle to Claire in their story, she feels like the heart of Revelations 2. Also, wow, she has the mouth of a sailor.
Gameplay in Revelations 2 is definitely a tweaked version of the system used from the first Revelations, but with less ammo to grab and more ways to approach situations the game feels much more tense. While some enemies can take quite a lot of punishment, particularly on higher difficulties, it never gets to the same degree of frustration from that first game, where every enemy felt like a bullet sponge. Another unique twist is the use of the partner characters. While the players will primarily be controlling Claire and Barry, who use all of the guns and function similar to the average RE protagonist, with a simple press of a button the player can switch over to Moira and Natalia. Moira refuses to use guns, for reasons tied to the plot, and instead mans the flashlight and a crowbar. She can use the flashlight to blind enemies temporarily and attack the enemies with the crowbar if she needs to. Natalia can, mysteriously, see enemies through walls or see their weak-points and can point at them to make them aware to Barry. Using the abilities of the partner characters allows more strategy when it comes to fighting certain enemies, and there are even moments during Barry’s section where handling the enemies with stealth was a legitimate option. In terms of enemies, the game doesn’t have a huge variety. That being said, some of the enemies are definitely inspired creations that require the abilities of both characters to take out effectively. In addition, taking a page out of The Last of Us, players can craft items out of various components. These items have various uses, and proper use can mean the difference between life and death. Lastly, following the tradition of modern Resident Evil games, the entire campaign can be played with a friend. If you have a willing buddy alongside you, they can take control of Moira and Natalia. While these characters are primarily support characters, if you’re playing with a friend with the proper mindset it can be a very fun and unique asymmetrical cooperative experience.
Altogether, playing through the entire campaign will probably take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours, depending on how quickly you pound through the game. The campaign also has a fairly engaging way of padding out its length. Along with there being the usual trick of collectibles scattered throughout chapters in various hidden places, beating a chapter also unlocks two other modes of play. First is Countdown Mode, which is all about battling a clock and trying to finish the chapter before running out of time, gathering various hourglasses to keep your clock from ticking down to zero. It’s a fun and tense mode, though a bad checkpoint can definitely make it so you’ll need to start the entire section over. The other mode is Invisible Mode, which is nightmare incarnate. All enemies in the game are invisible, and can only be revealed by either Moira’s flashlight or Natalia’s pointing. Tackling this mode without the help of a friend is borderline suicide, and even with a buddy it’ll be a test of your teamwork.
Graphically is where this game truly shows it’s smaller budget. While the game still looks decent, it definitely recycles animations and has textures that would have been understandable for midway through the last generation of consoles. Where the game doesn’t skimp, though, is sound design. A constant strong element of the series, the atmospheric noises and sound effect help ratchet up the tension and sell the eerie vibe that the old Resident Evil games thrived on. While the game is never quite scary, it definitely has a powerful atmosphere. As I had mentioned before in my review of Episode 1, the series has never earned its moniker of survival more than when I tried to use the natural overgrowth to sneak past a series of monsters because I only had 3 bullets and likely wouldn’t be able to fight them all of.
The Raid: Revelations
Raid Mode, from the original Resident Evil: Revelations, returns in what I would have to classify as the most standout part of the game’s generous package. While the campaign and story of the game was a tense and atmospheric mash-up of the soul of the classic games and the action-heavy approach of the newer ones, Raid Mode is a gang-busting experience that would more than be worth the price of admission alone. Raid Mode takes areas from Resident Evil 6, Revelations, and Revelations 2 and turns them into short, action-packed levels where players have to fight off the hordes of enemies and reach the goal at the end. While this sounds like a radical departure of what the series used to be, and it definitely is, the way it’s delivered is what has caused me to keep turning this game on and playing semi-regularly throughout the entire year.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that Raid Mode turns Resident Evil: Revelations 2 into an RPG.
Players can choose a variety of characters, either classic heroes or various characters from Revelations 2, and take them out into the levels to try and succeed. Every character gains experience from attempting, and as they level up, they’re given skill points to upgrade their various skills, either passive or active. A character’s skill spread and weapon slot allotment allow each to feel slightly unique and give the player’s choice of who to take into battle actually have effects on how they’ll approach combat and what weapons they might prioritize.
Players also earn money and collect weapons and weapon parts. Using the money and parts, you can customize your weapons with various statistical boosts or unique functions that’ll better reflect how you use those weapons or to allow different ways you could approach a situation.
Proper weapon creation and skill development allows you too make a character who can thrive in any situation, and you’ll need that flexibility to accomplish every challenge Raid Mode has to offer. With over 50 missions to play through, and 3 (or maybe 4?) difficulties for each of those levels, there’s plenty of content to pound away at. At the higher difficulties, the game becomes a real challenge, especially if you’re going for the medals used to unlock more missions. Enemies can get special modifiers, ranging from basic things like having more life or being faster to more ridiculous things like being on fire, having magical shields, or turn invisible unless you’re aiming right at them. Figuring out how to fight your way past all of these kinds of enemies is where Raid Mode gets its challenge. Getting 100% completion is much easier said than done.
In addition, to help out, you can have a friend help out in either local or online co-op. The game doesn’t adjust for the second player, so getting a friend to play as a second well-leveled character is usually a great way to help push past some of those late-game hurdles.
The only real problem with Raid Mode is that, after a while, you’re definitely going to hit a point where the game starts to get repetitive. Most of the missions just involve you shooting things until they die as you move through an environment you’ve already been through before, whether in this game or a previous one, and eventually they all start to bleed together. And the harder versions of each of the levels don’t do much to differentiate themselves from the original version. Instead, they essentially just level up the enemies and give them more special abilities. It’s not a horrible thing, but it can definitely get to be enough after a few hours. While I love the mode, I have definitely been chipping away at it for months.
Stll, basically, it’s a fun, arcadey good time that you can play with a friend that has dozens of hours of content and a good amount of challenge with customizable characters and weapons. I’ve played whole full-priced games with less to offer than that.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is a step in the right direction for what I want as a Resident Evil fan (even a newly converted one). It’s campaign takes some of the best lessons from the newer action-oriented games while remembering what it is that made the original games so memorable. It has atmosphere in spades, and, while not scary, still definitely keeps tight the spirit of the games that helped make Survival Horror what it was in its prime. With the addition of the wonderful Raid Mode, Revelations 2 is a rare bargain. Both halves of the game provide plenty of content, and so you’ll need to work fairly hard to find a better deal for $30.
That being said, the game was clearly made on a budget, and is far from perfect. Recycled animations, poor textures, and the fact that Raid Mode relies so entirely on reusing areas all prove the fact that corners were needed to be cut to ensure that the game would get finished. The majority of the characters are likable enough but shallow, and the villain leaves very little impression. Also, it may not necessarily be easy to find a friend that’s willing to play as the partner characters in the campaign, though it’s hard to really hold that against the game.
In the end, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 shows a Capcom that may finally be starting to understand the wishes of some of its fans. The game has more Survival and Horror than Resident Evil has had in years, and it just feels right. That being said, this is still Capcom, and it’s very telling that this game is a $30 budget title that was churned out with little fanfare. For the series faithful, Revelations 2 is a bit of a revelation; the game may not be perfect, or even close, but it is definitely a sign that Resident Evil may be moving back in the right direction. And that alone earns it points in my book.