Available on Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita
March 17 Update: All Four Episodes Reviewed
Finally, after years of disappointments, Resident Evil fans have something that’s seriously worth celebrating. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is the first entry in the franchise for over a decade that actually under-promises and over-delivers, rather than the other way around. Capcom hasn’t just worked around the limitations of a low budget and an episodic format, but somehow managed to capitalise on them. Crammed with scares, action, twists and cliffhangers, Revelations 2 has been unmissable.
We’ll address you to our Episode One review for details of the basic storyline and mechanics. What you need to know is that the first episode turns out to be the worst of the series, and as that one was mostly pretty decent that has to be good news. Episode Two occasionally struggles in its early sections, with a rather dreary abandoned fishing village setting and some clumsy action set-pieces, but from there on in it picks up nicely, with a frantic chase, more tense exploration and a cracking climax.
Episode Three is consistently better, taking Claire and Moira on a tour of a creepy, trap-packed factory, with a sinister atmosphere and some excellent puzzles that take us straight back to the series’ less action-oriented heyday. Barry and Natalia also get a chance to shine, with a fantastic sequence in a sewerage plant that has you swapping between the two to raise sluice gates, with Natalia reaching vital valves and Barry providing covering fire. Some ingenious invisible monsters, visible to Natalia but not to Barry, make this a puzzler for solo players and a winner for those playing co-op, and the episode finishes with another great puzzle-packed section in a mutant-infested mine. Taken on its own, Episode Three would be a Resident Evil highlight. In context, it’s an absolute blinder.
By the time you reach the end of Episode Three, you’ll have questions in needs of answers and you should be absolutely hooked. The episodic nature actually ups the ante here, helped by the fact that this is the first Resident Evil in years where you actually care about the characters and the plot. Revelations 2 knows when to play on your fears and when to slacken off the tension with a laugh, and Claire and Moira’s ability to drag a quip from the direst situation slowly steals your heart. Barry Burton, meanwhile, takes his rightful place as a series star. Regret, loss and a desire to save his young charge, Natalia, transform our Baz from a semi-comic badass into one of the most human and engaging characters Resi has ever produced. That’s not saying much – Resident Evil hasn’t become The Last of Us – but it’s a big improvement on the series’ recent efforts.
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Episode Four ensures that Revelations 2 ends with a bang, throwing in the most interesting environments of a saga that sometimes leans too heavily on rust and grunge, and neatly pulling everything together into one barnstormer of a season climax. By this point Capcom’s decision to swap between two pairs of protagonists really pays dividends, as the game switches from Claire and Moira to Natalia and Barry, the tension builds and the revelations pile up.
Of all the recent Resident Evils, Revelations 2 is the least encumbered by two decades of grotesque over-plotting, yet it still manages to tie things in not just to the earlier Revelations but to the early games, echoing characters and settings in a way that might just take you by surprise. Just be aware that reaching the most satisfactory conclusion might depend on a choice you made at the end of episode three – a little annoying if you made the wrong one.
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There are still signs of a low budget in the rather low-fi textures and the way that the majority of locations are reutilised from one plot strand to another, but somehow Revelations 2 makes it all work to its advantage, giving you a chance to explore areas you saw but missed earlier, or throwing in variations that work counter to your previous expectations. Enemies introduced in one strand have to be tackled differently in another, and a tough adversary set up in one encounter might become a boss in a later battle. For all the generic rust and filth of much of the scenery, there’s a spark and sensibility here that was nowhere to be seen in the more glamorous Resident Evil 6. The worst thing you can say is that the enemy AI is basic and at its worst, embarassingly dozy, but even this isn't a game wrecker. We're talking mindless monsters, after all.
The single-player campaign is itself worth the £20 season pass. Each episode takes three to four hours, and episode three a little more. Raid mode, meanwhile, is the gift that keeps on giving. With new scenarios, challenges, weapons and characters unlockable with each completed chapter, it’s bigger and deeper than it looks, and that’s without the introduction of online co-op later this month. Raid does a fantastic job of stripping Resi back to a core of fast-paced action, and the standard and daily challenges will push your skills to their limits. Short and sweet, but crammed with opportunities for character development, it’s a great way to grab a quick blast.
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Does Revelations 2 revitalise Resident Evil in the way that Resident 4 did? Not quite, but it’s the first Resi to make the co-op mechanics introduced with Resi 5 pay their way, and it’s the smartest and tightest Resident Evil since the fourth. We’d love to see another season with the budget boosted and some more glamorous environments to creep around, but this one has enough tension, thrills and shocks to keep you gripped. Keep this up, Capcom, and you might still put Resident Evil back on the path to glory.
The start might be shaky in places, but Revelations 2 soon builds into the most compelling chapter of Resident Evil since the great Resi 4. The gameplay blends action, survival horror and inventive co-op mechanics to make something that’s exciting, but still true to the sinister atmosphere of the original games. Meanwhile the storytelling and self-conscious humour work better than they have in years. Throw in the horribly more-ish Raid mode, and you have a major treat for Resi fans.
Episode One: Review
Don’t see it as a spin-off, or even as a sequel to Resident Evil Revelations – a game designed to work around the limitations of the Nintendo 3DS. Resident Evil Revelations 2 feels more like Capcom’s attempt to try something new with its classic survival horror series; something that will capitalise on the goodwill surrounding Revelations, and forge a way forward after the horrors of Resident Evil 6. Based on the first instalment, this episodic outing might just do the trick, offering enough old-school Resi thrills to please fans, but incorporating some clever new twists with which to freshen things up.
Episode One begins with the abduction of Code Veronica’s Claire Redfield and Moira Burton – daughter of series stalwart Barry – and their imprisonment inside what appears to be some kind of twisted correctional facility. For the first few hours, your main concern will be helping them escape. However, there’s a secondary strand to the storyline: Barry’s arrival at the same facility some time later, and his search for Moira with the aid of a mysterious young girl, Natalia.
Here’s the good news: while there’s plenty of action to be found in Revelations 2, the feel and atmosphere is closer to classic Resi, Revelations or the Leon segments of Resident Evil 6 than the more combat-driven Resident Evil 5 or the woeful Chris and Jake parts of Resident Evil 6. The emphasis is on exploring dark corridors and tackling small numbers of powerful enemies with limited quantities of ammunition, not on seeing how many infected you can headshot as they race towards you. There are even some simple puzzles to solve, albeit puzzles of the ‘how do I get to that item so that I can use it to remove that obstacle’ variety.
And while fans might groan at the mention of another co-op focused Resident Evil, this one has some interesting mechanics that make the second playable character worthwhile. Each pairing – Claire and Moira, Barry and Natalia – has one combat-ready character and one that’s weaker and more vulnerable, but in each case the second character has other capabilities to make up. Moira has a torch, which she can shine in the faces of monsters to stall and confuse them, plus a crowbar she can use to batter them, or finish them if they go down. Natalia, meanwhile, can sense nearby monsters (think Joel’s listening in The Last of Us) or throw bricks at them to stun them.
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Beyond that, Moira can use her torch to highlight useful items for picking up, or use the crowbar to open locked boxes. With a handy boost from Claire, she can reach places that Claire can’t get to. Natalia has similar uses, being able to creep through small spaces, and she can point out handy items for Barry to grab. When crouching, she moves almost silently, too, making her ideal for sneaking and exploring.
The result of this is a game where you’re constantly flipping between the two characters in order to reach objectives, or give yourself a fighting chance in tougher battles. Use Moira properly, and she can help Claire take down monsters without wasting loads of vital ammo. Use Natalia wisely, and you can run recon for Barry, identifying threats so that he can tackle them more effectively. It’s also a game that rewards co-op play. While the AI is generally smarter than in Resident Evil 5 or Revelations, it still has moments that will have you wishing for another human player. A slight shame, then, that it’s offline, split-screen co-op only, with no online functionality to be seen.
Like most episodic games, this opening part is a relatively short experience, taking three to four hours to get through. Nonetheless, Revelations 2 gets an awful lot right. The controls are tight and responsive, with the best implementation of a dodge move yet in Resi. The over-the-shoulder view isn’t so tight as to restrict your vision, but your dependence on the narrow beam of a torch for illumination adds to the tension, and many of the areas are very dark indeed.
The monsters – including new variations on the Las Plagas/Uroboros enemies of Resident Evil 5/Resident Evil 6 – are a little generic, with some that could have stepped straight out of Resident Evil 4, Silent Hill 2 or The Enemy Within, but they’re relentless and challenging to fight in numbers, particularly if you ratchet the difficulty level up. At times, Revelations 2 even encourages you to think before you blast, with one fearsome confrontation having a brilliant shortcut to get through it, once you work out what that shortcut is.
It’s spoilt slightly by the inconsistent quality of the visuals, some minor gameplay issues and an overall lack of polish. Graphically, there’s a lot to be impressed about the character models, the animation and the use of light and texture, but there’s not much to be inspired by in the prison scenery – more industrial grime and rusting metal – or even in the scenery outside the prison, which looks like so much generic wilderness from a last-generation console game. There’s a nice, gritty, matt finish to the presentation, but The Enemy Within, itself not perfect, generally looked better and more convincingly cinematic.
The save game system can also be frustrating. Revelations 2 checkpoints when you reach key points in the story, the problem being that if you’re low on health or ammo when you hit the checkpoint, you can’t go off and gather more before saving again before confronting danger. Instead, you have to run off and grab some then hope you don’t die, as dying will mean repeating the whole exercise again. The difficulty level isn’t so high that this is a major issue, but it did annoy us once or twice.
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There are also some flaws we wouldn’t expect to see in a series of this stature. For instance, we don’t expect a box we’re carrying to appear to go straight through our companion, or zombies walking continuously and cretinously into a corner. These aren’t game-breaking problems, but they do spoil the overall sense of immersion.
Yet, when all is said and done, Revelations 2 seems headed in the right direction. There’s less baroque over-plotting to the narrative and more suggestion, suspense and even humour, which helps to make it tense and gripping. At its best, it’s a deliciously creepy horror game, one minute riffing on Kafka, the next hitting you with insanity and panic. The score hits all the right notes, and sound is used to blood-curdling effect. It’s no Alien: Isolation, but Revelations 2 can be genuinely scary.
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True, it never reaches the highs of the very best bits of Resident Evil 6 or The Enemy Within, but then Revelations 2 is a more consistent beast – at least as far as this first chapter goes. The episodic structure also seems to suit Resi well, with this instalment opening up lots of questions without answering any, and finishing with a gripping cliffhanger. We’ll be interested to see whether the next chapters can maintain or even improve on the standard.
Luckily, Resident Evil Revelations 2 gives you something to keep you going until next week’s episode arrives. That something is, of course, Raid mode; the time-attack challenge mode in which you pick a character, a loadout and a mission, then work your way through a linear level, gunning down monsters and grabbing loot in the name of character progress and leaderboard glory.
At the moment it’s solo only, with no online co-op play, but it’s fast, furious and worryingly addictive, with daily special missions to keep you coming back during the Revelations 2 ‘season’, and a constant drip-feed of new gun unlocks and upgrades to serve as rewards. We’ll see more content with subsequent episodes, too, so Raid should only get better.
A promising start for Capcom’s experimental episodic take on Resident Evil, with an intriguing storyline, lashings of atmosphere and some interesting new co-op mechanics. The locations could be more attractive, and the game as a whole could be a bit more polished, but this opener has all the right hooks for hardcore fans and more casual players, and shows new signs of vitality in the once-great horror franchise.