Published on March 23rd, 2015 | by Jordan King0
Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode One Review
I’ll never forget the first time I stepped into the mansion in the original Resident Evil. Unknown to the horrible creatures that lay dormant within it, and the impact that setting would have on my perception of the survival horror genre. Resident Evil Revelations 2 fails to recapture this iconic atmosphere and tension, but lightning never strikes in the same place twice. However it does manage to successfully craft its own identity with a formula that breathes new life into a franchise that has long been struggling with what it truly wants to be. Gone are the nonsensical set pieces and painful over reliance on quick-time events. Here they are replaced with an emphasis on character driven mechanics and an episodic narrative structure. These changes converge into what is a promising start to Revelations 2, and it can only get better from here.
After the events of Resi 2 and Code Veronica Claire Redfield now finds herself working at the laughably named TerraTech. An organisation that focuses on eliminating terror threats that are biological or otherwise. Working alongside Claire is Moira Burton, daughter of Barry “Jill Sandwich” Burton, who also makes an appearance as you progress. In the midst of a company dinner their building is seized by a swarm of armed guards, soon after this Claire and company wake up in an isolated prison complex atop a mysterious island. After hearing of his daughter’s peril Resident Evil veteran Barry comes to the rescue, with newcomer Natalia in tow. Natalia is an obscure little girl who somehow possesses psychic powers that can detect enemies that lurk nearby. The opening cutscene sets a wonderfully cheesy tone that resonates throughout, walking a fine line between the melodramatic storytelling of previous games and a quirky sense of self awareness. Claire and Moira will make cute little references in their dialogue that poke obvious fun at previous games, whilst the foreboding atmosphere is incredibly reminiscent of the classic Resident Evil.
Revelations 2 isn’t very scary. Nevertheless it possesses a tense atmosphere that plays with the ambient sound of each environment to constantly keep you on your toes. Enemies drone painfully throughout the claustrophobic penal colony you explore as Claire and Moira. Infected beasts produce echoey screeches as you trudge through the island’s dense forests as Barry. At times I felt a sense of genuine dread as I fought against the denizens of infected before me. This protruding horror is emphasised by some familiar yet grotesque enemy designs. An abundance of ammunition does admittedly drain some sense of any potential danger, but still this is easily the most “survival horror” this franchise has been for almost a decade.
Told from the perspective of Claire and Barry, this first episode focuses more on establishing setting and characters than flooding you with tedious exposition. The second you awaken in the dank and claustrophobic penal colony the tone is set. Your only objective is to escape, and the mystery surrounding your captivity is slowly pieced together as you progress. The environments you explore combined with brief notes left behind for you to uncover further contribute to the unpleasant aura you find yourself helplessly trapped in.This approach led to some surprisingly effective plot twists that benefit from the subdued episodic structure. I did get a little peeved when the episode cut off so abruptly, desperate to see where the characters would end up next. Considering the writing and characters are on par with the quality of a schlocky b-movie this is a feat in itself. Narratively speaking, Resident Evil has always excelled at being a pseudo-self aware horror adventure. An experience that relishes in the goofy voice acting and abundant plot holes that make it so remarkably silly to behold. Revelations 2 is fully aware of this, and significantly more entertaining as a result. Perhaps this wasn’t Capcom’s intention, but I ate it all up regardless.
The atmosphere and general aesthetic may hold all the caveats you would expect from a classic survival horror, but Revelations 2’s mechanics betray much of what the visual design so effectively conveys. Ammo is plentiful throughout, with enemies bringing little challenge to the table in terms of combat diversity. Most can be dispatched simply by pumping them full of bullets, marginalising even the most creatively diverse adversaries into nothing more than glorified bullet sponges. Tentacle laden monsters are the only exception to the norm where bright orange pustules act as weak points that require lightning fast reflexes and pinpoint accuracy. The distinct lack of impact in the combat or visuals is a detriment to the feel of the game. Nothing feels as polished as you would otherwise see in a mainstream Resi title. Environments are ridden with jaggy and repetitious textures. Enemies filter into carbon copies the more you progress and I found myself backtracking multiple times as different characters. It was interesting to see how my previous actions perplexed other characters as they traversed traps I had once placed for the oncoming undead. Simultaneously though these sections felt like they existed purely to artificially extend the experience.
Raid Mode makes a triumphant return. You can choose from a multitude of characters from across the series, acting as a nostalgic history lesson to long term fans. From a confined hub area you can kit them out with skills and weapons of your choosing before going to town on hordes of undead. The arcade-style third person shooting absolutely shines here. You’ll soon be grinning like a fool as you swiftly move from target to target pulling off gratuitous headshots. The aim of unlocking more and more missions is to collect medallions. These are gained by completing set goals within each stage.Such as making it through a stage without using a herb or taking care of every single enemy in a particular level. As you procure these you can upgrade your weapons, skills and even come across unlockable characters. Raid Mode rewards persistence and skill, capitalising upon a solid set of shooting mechanics that are both fun and accessible.
Episode one of Revelations 2 is a promising start to an episodic adventure that should only get better. It constructs the necessary mechanical and narrative foundations that it could easily build upon in subsequent episodes, so long as it doesn’t repeat the same mistakes seen here too frequently. It is a joy seeing a series that for a few years now has been drenched in mediocrity returning to what it does best – cheesy, spooky and melodramatic survival horror. Time to go make myself a Jill Sandwich.
Summary: A promising start to what is sure to be a thrilling episode adventure.