Episode 1 – Penal Colony
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.
Episode 1 quickly sets the scene, introducing us to the returning Claire Redfield and new character Moira Burton. I’m pleased to report that the dialogue is much improved, sounding far more natural.
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 suffer from a terrible dodge manoeuvre, which has thankfully been changed here. 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. At least there are some outside areas to explore so it doesn’t get too 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.
Episode 2 – Contemplation
The scariest thing about any Resident Evil isn’t the enemies.
No, the thing that really gives me the heebie jeebies is having no way to deal with them. So the fact that I spent large portions of Episode 2 with just my knife, one hit from death, made it both extremely tense and rewarding. My pants may not have thanked me for it, but I really felt as though I was playing a Resident Evil game, and that means a lot.
This feeling was cast in stone when I had my first instance of Barry Burton comedy gold. It’s unmistakable and perfectly timed, so you won’t miss it. I had to use my PS4’s share button for it, it was that groan inducing.
The story opens up considerably this time, with the introduction of several new characters and several reveals that hint there is plenty more to come. I think Capcom is playing a wise game here, steadily moving things on and using the episodic nature to tease. The revelations (sorry not sorry) are being drip fed, but each one only makes me more intrigued.
None of the newly introduced characters/victims are really breaking new ground but at least all appear to be useful and make decent decisions. Terrible dialogue is correctly saved for Barry, though lip syncing for all characters is sometimes an issue. Are they all in a bad martial arts movie? I guess you should be looking at the back of Claire’s head when she’s chatting, but if you turn the camera round you can tell they haven’t really bothered matching things up.
There are some new enemy variations too, which had me on my toes. Some make further use of Natalia’s ability to see what Barry can’t, making their partnership the stronger of the two. Sneaking up behind enemies with Barry after sensing them with Natalia is a favourite tactic, especially with the aforementioned lack of bullets.
Most of the game follows the usual ‘get item A and go to point B’, but the tension derived from the lack of items ratchets everything up. Making a dash for a red herb when there are 3 enemies lurking and you’ve got two bullets in your Samurai Edge makes you think about things.
When I finished Revelations I exclaimed “this is the best Res I’ve played since the original trilogy”. With confrontations that are sticking in the memory, some great dialogue and a play style that has me thinking a touch more than usual, at the halfway point Revelations 2 could overtake its predecessor.
I’ve not experienced waiting for the next part of game like a TV show before. I think I like it. I don’t like creepy dolls with metal rods through them though, and that’s where we might be starting episode 3. A scary franchise unsettling me? Outrageous.
Episode 3 – Judgement
The first part of Capcom’s episodic adventure provided a solid start that intrigued story wise, whilst the second struck a great balance between ammo (not a lot) and enemies (a lot). The structure is working too, as drip feeding each part has left me eagerly awaiting more.
Maybe I got a bit ahead of myself though.
We’ll start with the positives, which means Claire and Moira’s chapter. We’ve seen many standard RE tropes so far. So what next?
You guessed it…puzzles!
They’re not all the usual ‘get key A from the statue and get to the matching room’ either, with one inspired by none other than my favourite game of all time…Metal Gear Solid. I didn’t find them challenging but it was a nice change of pace. I may not have finished with clammy hands and a sense of achievement this time, but I did have to use my noggin a little bit and that’s cool.
Sadly the head of steam built up so far is stopped dead when we get to Barry and Natalia’s chapter. Despite a few nice lines from both a laborious sluice section slows things down to a snail’s pace. It’s a style of ‘you shoot I’ll clear the path’ that the other pair have already done with more success.
The boss of this chapter was dull, bullets providing the only solution with no strategy involved. It was nothing more than a bullet sponge. One of the strongest facets of Barry/Natalia has been the stealth sections, which are pretty much ditched this time. What’s odd is that right at the start I thought we were going to get one of the worst things you can do with a pairing in video games – incapacitate one, thereby limiting the other as they have to carry or lead. I feared another MGS influence was going to come in, that of the pathetic E.E. from MGS2. Fortunately we swerve that bullet.
Overall this chapter just seems pointless. We’re sent on a perfunctory journey that was far from pulse raising. It was a chore and despite an ending that piqued my interest this wasn’t how I expected to be moving into the final part.
I’m choosing to be glass half full on this though. One duff chapter out of six so far isn’t a bad return.
Oh well, I’m looking forward to how ridiculous the ending will be. A couple of crazy mutated bosses perhaps? I can’t wait for the end of Res helicopter! Surely that’s how it’ll end?
Episode 4 – Metamorphosis
NOTE – I’ve amended this review since repeating the chapters I needed to receive the ‘good’ ending. The additional review is at the bottom in italics and could be considered spoilery.
Revelations 2 sits squarely in the middle of my feelings towards the Resident Evil series. It neither scales the heights of 1 nor hits the lows of 5 & 6. Sometimes the mixture of well used nostalgia, a solid control system and AI that isn’t utterly useless tells me that Capcom know what they’re doing. Maybe I can trust them to move the series in a better direction?
Hold that thought, because parts of this game also make me wonder if they’ve just stumbled on the good parts, as I’m left with a feeling of disappointment upon completion of the fourth episode.
That disappointment stems from three main issues.
Each episode so far has quite neatly given us an hour of each pairing. A solid amount of time that generally progressed the characters tales and gave us a big fight at the end. Pretty standard but pretty pleasing. Here however Claire and Moira’s chapter, which I was looking forward to more from a story point of view, lasts less than half of that. Though I’ve no complaints about the game play I found it anti-climactic. The mystery of Moira’s ‘death’ is very abruptly dealt with. I wasn’t expecting Shakespeare, this is the franchise of the Jill sandwich after all, but more than what I was presented with.
Remember that quick time event in Episode 3? Nope? I didn’t. Well, here’s a little something for you; it determines what ending you get. I wasn’t aware of multiple endings, so when I finished both chapters and was presented with my second disappointing ending of the episode I wondered what the hell was going on. A quick Google and it turns out I’d got the ‘bad’ ending, by not shooting Uroboros-Neil with Moira. So a QTE that barely registered as I’d put my controller down in celebration to watch Neil bite it (yes I know that’s a mistake), affected the overall ending of the game. Grrrr. Annoying, and now I’ll go back and try to do it properly*.
Because I didn’t do things right and received the bad ending I didn’t get the heroic ending I was hoping for and was instead left with a massive ‘we’re setting up a sequel!’ sign. It’s frustrating when so much is done well.
I’ve seen plenty of reviewers complain about the environments throughout the game. Granted they’re not mind-blowing and pretty generic, but if the setting provided in Barry and Moira’s chapter doesn’t make you squeal with delight I’m not sure what would please you.
As I’ve mentioned, the controls have been refined to very pleasing point now. Healing, swapping items and dodging all fall to hand easily, and though the tank controls had their time and place I love the now default ability to move and shoot at the same time.
It could easily sound like I’m on a downer over this game. But believe me I’m not. I just wanted more after its promising start. The Revelations sub-brand is proving itself dependable. Here’s hoping that the next numbered entry can build on its successes and learn from its missteps.
When all’s said and done though, we got to see Barry say this:
That’s worth it alone right?
*I did go back! First of all I repeated the Claire/Moira chapter in Episode 3, and successfully changed the ending. It turns out I’d actually been too quick and made Claire get the gun to shoot Neil before Moira got a chance.
Following that I repeated the Barry/Natalia chapter in Episode 4, and the ending was FAR better. Helicopter? Check! Magnum? Check! RPG? Check! Heroic slow motion? Check! Foreboding final scene? Check check CHECK!!!
This is a proper ending for a Resident Evil game. I’m not happy how I ended up at the right place, but I’m pleased now I’ve got it. Negating 2 of my 3 larger disappointments it raises the game above the original Revelations, so second only to the Raccoon City based trilogy.