Game Review

by Dave Riley,

Resident Evil Revelations 2

PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Resident Evil Revelations 2
After Resident Evil 6's bombast, the followup to Resident Evil Revelations brings the series back to a more manageable scope. Starring Claire Redfield and Barry Burton, two long-missing series mainstays, Revelations asks its protagonists if they can overcome fear itself, but mostly sticks to slow-paced shooting and scavenging the series is best at.

For fans, Revelations 2 justifies its existence through its protagonists alone, Claire Redfield and Barry Burton, neither of whom have had more than a minigame cameo or light gun spinoff in a decade. Trapped on an abandoned island, Claire and Barry are paired with Moira, a teenage ne'er-do-well/Barry's estranged daughter, and Natalia, a categorically mysterious tween. Though the mix of shooting, stealth, and light crafting takes whole pages from the Last Of Us playbook, the two campaigns effect different styles despite their identical controls and similar arsenals. Claire and Moira, brought to the island against their will, find makeshift weapons and few bullets, giving their battles more of a survival horror feel with a focus on resource conservation. When Barry arrives six months later, magnum in hand and loaded for bear, the speedy, leaping zombies of Claire's chapters have decayed to shambling husks and new threats have evolved to match the greater availability of assault rifle ammo.

Revelations is episodic, each story chunk showing the two teams traversing similar parts of the island (cost-effective asset reuse) though the decay of six month's abandonment makes some routes inaccessible to Barry, shunting him along different paths to the same goal. Recalling Resident Evil 2, Barry's progress is affected by Claire's actions. Doors opened by Claire provide Barry access to new items and weapons. Beat a boss with Claire and Moira, and he won't show up to bother Barry and Natalia. These divergent points are scarce, but they provide hints of variety to nudge curious players towards repeat plays.

Long gone are the days when Resident Evil was about one man or woman facing the undead menace. Revelations 2 offers the co-op we've come to expect, but focuses on giving each player a different experience. Barry and Claire are old hands in this zombie killing game, picking up the usual complement of pistols and sniper rifles. Moira can't use guns, but her flashlight blinds enemies, leaving them open to Claire's roundhouse kick, which puts them on the floor for Moira's crowbar coup de grace, an ammo preservation loop that turns essential on harder difficulties. Natalia's Mysterious Child powers let her see enemies through walls. This transforms parts of Barry's Campaign into Splinter Cell Lite, with Natalia's player hanging back and acting as director while Barry tiptoes around and enacts surprisingly effective backstabs, considering his targets are giant tentacled monsters.

It's a rare co-op game that bothers with asymmetry all. While it's always nice to play games together, it's even nicer when the characters on offer don't feel like alternate skins of the same walking turret. The issue being--besides the requisite squinting, since co-op can only be played in split screen--that what makes for good multiplayer can't have the same ring played alone. Playing solo, you have to be comfortable with hot-swapping characters on the fly. Turn a crank with Natalia to open a gate, move Barry forward to protect her from the zombies who've now ceased at playing dead; use Moira's crowbar to pry open a door, trapping her in an animation, and switch back to Claire to protect her from the oncoming horde. Claire and Barry can't see hidden ammo in the environment or unlock chests, so completists will almost have to play the game primarily as the noncombatants. But these extra ammo caches are small, not required on Normal difficulty, and the reward of inventory expansions and weapon upgrades from locked chests make swapping over (and the accordant lock picking game) worth the effort. Soloing is a fine experience, but it's missing the satisfaction of coordinating melee attacks or stealth kills. Moira and Natalia's mechanics aren't full-fledged, but there's always the option to pass controllers back and forth if someone gets bored of playing hidden item sleuth or, thanks to the support characters' infinitely regenerating health, bait.

Raid mode makes its second showing in Revelations 2, with the same run and gun gameplay through bite-sized chunks of campaign levels. Most series stalwarts--Chris, Jill, Leon--make an appearance, each with a rare or unique skill, like a stealth cloak or samurai sword, that can be shared with everyone else after maxing it out, letting you mix and match ultra-powerful abilities if you have the patience to unlock and level up multiple characters. Nine-tenths of the stage list is cribbed from Resident Evil 6 but, divorced from that game's context, they're suitable enough places to kill some time gunning down crocodile monsters and picking up weapon upgrades. Missing is an equivalent to the original Revelations' Ghost Ship: a test of endurance taking place over a huge chunk of the campaign map. Still, if the mid-length campaign stifles your interest, there's hours of play waiting in Raid--though much of that is repeating the same few-dozen stages on higher difficulties.

The episodic style works here just as it did in the first Revelations, each hour or hour-and-a-half chapter ending on a cliffhanger that begs you to play on, to see what the next melodramatic twist will be. The plot's hardly anything worth remembering--they invent a whole new super virus to stack upon the score of other super viruses created and immediately consigned to cold storage--but the “Previously On…” and “Next Time On…” segments inject the whole thing with a lovably ludicrous self-seriousness. Resident Evil stories never really go anywhere, but Revelations 2 hits the high notes and keeps its scope manageable, striking a balance between Revelations 1's complete ignorance of previous events and the preposterous Ada Wong clone conspiracy of Resident Evil 6.

Here and there the game shows its limited budget. The environments are fine, but straightforward, with only the tiniest hints of exploration, key scrounging, and puzzle solving. Deep in Barry's third episode you're hit with an extended box puzzle that seems more about tacking another fifteen minutes onto the clock than a serious attempt at brain teasing. That's its style most of the time: show you a small place with a couple rooms or buildings, keep you there until you find a key, send you through the door that key opens. Environments are sparse and repetitive, with lots of the same forest underbrush, decrepit buildings, and rusty metal walls. Claire looks rad in her blazer/jeans combo, but character models suffer from cursory detail and basically immobile faces. Animations are recycled; almost everyone in Raid mode shares the same melee attacks, even Moira, who trades her already-modeled crowbar for a generic knife. Very few characters, mostly DLC ones like Wesker and Hunk, have unique movesets. Too bad. The slew of goofy, Lost Planet 2-style emotes would look a lot less janky if their Proper Bows, Hip-Hop Dances, and high stakes Rock-Paper-Scissor matches had just a few more frames of animation.

In being only graphically sufficient, Revelations may have cleared enough of its budget for other, more valuable things. The game itself is fast paced, fun to play, and jam packed with extra stuff. The eight-to-ten hour campaign is probably worth twenty-five bucks in the first place, but Revelations 2 is stuffed to the gills with things to do post-credits. There are options to play it time trial or with invisible enemies, the latter another instance where things improve markedly with co-op, since the enemies are invisible to Claire and Barry's eyes, but not Moira's flashlight or Natalia's clairvoyance. Beating the game on Survival (hard) difficulty unlocks the super hard No Escape. Inventories and skill upgrades carry across replays, steadily building an arsenal of faster-reloading uzis through weapon modification, and charge-up melees through skill upgrades. With collectables and currency that unlock new costumes, new lore entries, and nearly half a dozen weapons (some charmingly cockamamie, like a toy pistol that immobilizes enemies in giant soap bubbles) Revelations 2 does what all the best games in the series have: it offers a brief story experience, then gives you reason upon reason to play it again and again and again.

What this game lacks in production values it oozes in fan appeal, throwing out "Jill Sandwich" and "Master of Unlocking" references alongside the expected pitched battles, like an Alamo holdout in a dilapidated cabin, to make clear it knows exactly where its bread is buttered. Taken as fan-service, Revelations 2 is a rare treat. Fun to know what Claire and Barry have been up to lately, even more fun to see Barry's daughter Moira, referenced since the first game, all grown up and dropping F-bombs like she wants to earn that Mature rating all by her lonesome. The only major misstep is the lack of pay off for the game's psychological premise--how despair can unmake a person. Episode One gets your hopes up for a touch of Dangan Ronpa by asking the characters what they're willing to go through to overcome fear; Episode Four answers with "a self-destruct sequence, a writhing tentacle boss, the usual stuff."

But that usual stuff is what makes Resident Evil tick. With the disastrous Resident Evil 6 still in the rearview, this game sticks to brass tacks, unencumbered by bombastic set pieces and thankfully without Quick Time Events. Offering a tight, no-nonsense nouveau survival horror romp, Revelations 2 is a great play by your lonesome and, with its pitch-perfect co-op, a great fit for anyone with a nearby friend and a free weekend.

Overall : B+
Graphics : C+
Sound/Music : C+
Gameplay : A-
Presentation : A

+ Great game for fans, episodic format suits Resident Evil's cheesy, over-the-top vibe
Feels a bit shorter and less varied than the first Revelations

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