Resident Evil Revelations 2 – Episode 1: Penal Colony Review

The Resident Evil franchise is a lot like The Walking Dead, and not just because of their shared primary antagonist.

Both started well but have had more than a few duff moments, with many people (myself included) struggling through a lot of it hoping for better. The original trilogy is amazing, but with the following three numbered entries Capcom’s quest to make the franchise more accessible and popular lead to a massive decline. They sold well, but they lost what made so many fans of the series in the first place.

Then came Revelations on the 3DS. It seemed as though Capcom has been listening, and though they didn’t fully return to the genre they helped create, the mixture of a more claustrophobic setting and Jill Valentine created a game that I enjoyed playing. It wasn’t as scary, but it was at least trying to take steps back towards horror, and not in the wholly misguided way 6 did.

Revelations 2 abandons the handheld that its predecessor began life on, harshly perhaps, landing on PS3/PS4/Xbox 360/Xbox 1 in an episodic format, with the four episodes released weekly.

I’ll be covering each episode from the single player perspective on PS4. Let’s get started.

Episode 1 quickly sets the scene, introducing us to the returning Claire Redfield and new character Moira Burton (daughter of the legendary Barry Burton, who is also playable). I was immediately surprised by the dialogue, which was far more natural sounding than anything we’ve heard before. These are conversations that could conceivably occur, and the only dumb things that are said are nice references to lines that long time fans will enjoy.

Graphically the game looks decent enough, with nicely detailed character models. It doesn’t look that far removed from its prequel though, which had its roots in handheld graphics. Capcom made the decision to use a tried and test games engine for this game, so whilst it isn’t AAA in its presentation it does avoid the graphical glitches and slow down experienced in many top games recently.

Revelations was true to its name with the control scheme, finally giving the player the ability to shoot and move at the same time. It did however suffer from a terrible dodge manoeuvre that was hard to perfect. Luckily that has been changed here, and I found it relatively simple to dodge attacks when I wasn’t steadfastly holding my ground. Hopefully I’ll remember that dodging is now a viable tactic. When you’re not dodging the attacking mechanics work well, with moving and shooting smooth and fairly precise. Even the trusty combat knife proved useful.

The setting is something we’ve seen before – an overrun island – and a lot of the corridors look the same. But it is broken up with some adventuring outside, so whilst it’s not as unique as a cruise ship it doesn’t get boring. There aren’t any puzzles, and only one of the classic ‘there’s a piece missing’ mysteries. On the plus side that means practically no backtracking. I do wonder how the bad guys who invent these places think it’s a good idea to have so much lethal furniture, but they’ve proven themselves nuts so maybe it’s best not to question it.

Claire and Barry are both as you’d expect them to be, each leading a chapter. Partnered with Moira, Claire’s section is probably the more ‘Resi’, whilst Barry with his small friend Natalia mix mild stealth with his Samurai Edge and Colt Python. It’s very pleasing to report that partners are no longer the useless punch bag that Sheva became in Resident Evil 5. The gameplay and design is more focused on using both characters abilities, without making it seem a chore. Barry and Natalia are actually pretty cool, with her ability giving Barry the chance to sneak up on foes.

I played through on the medium difficulty and it took me just over 2 hours to wrap up the first episode. With extra modes and collectibles the completionists should find themselves looking at a couple more hours on top. Not bad for five pound.

Episode 1 didn’t blow me away at first but the more I think about it the more I enjoyed it. I want to know what happens next and the characters make for two solid pairings. It’s probably safe to say that Resident Evil will never fully return to its horror survival roots. But with the Revelations branch it seems to have found a steady middle ground that mixes odd humour (Barry just accepting everything and dialogue jokes), well controlled action and an intriguing story.

Here’s the review for Episode 2.

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