Welcome back to the Resident Evil love/hate series! In this entry we’re looking at Resident Evil: Revelations 2, a game which, in hindsight, feels like Capcom testing the waters between Resident Evil 6 and 7. Like its predecessor, Revelations 2 experiments with the franchise’s usual formula in plenty of interesting ways. Does it work out for the better? Read on to find out…
- Horror Is Back, Baby! – The first Resident Evil: Revelations was clearly trying to harken back to the survival horror gameplay of the franchise’s classic entries, but Revelations 2 decides to lean full-tilt into being a horror game. It wears its influences on its sleeves – the Claire/Moira sections are very intense, like Saw II mashed with a creature feature (there’s even a chapter with its own Saw traps!), whereas Barry/Natalia’s sections are much slower-paced and have a post-apocalyptic feel, like The Last of Us. It’s a much more small-scale and intimate return to form for the franchise, which had been going off the rails for years by this point.
- Lots of Great Characters – Revelations 2 scales down the cast compared to its predecessor, but in doing so it crafts a far more focused and impactful journey for most of them. By far the best of the bunch are Barry Burton and his daughter Moira. It’s really nice to see Barry again after so long and the fact that we like him so much makes us want to find his missing daughter all the more. Speaking of which, Moira has a great debut here. Like most modern-day Resident Evil heroines, she has a serious potty mouth, which goes along with her off-the-charts sass, but it makes her endearing. Learning what caused the rift between her and Barry and helping her overcome her fears makes for a surprisingly poignant journey. Natalia is also a surprisingly decent character, I was worried that a little girl character could get annoyingly precocious or just be used as a vector for limp scares, but she manages to hold her own. I also found the game’s villain to be very creepy, I wish that they had gotten a bit more to do but they really made an impact here.
- Some Interesting New Enemies – Most of Revelations 2‘s enemies are the usual variety of fast/slow zombies, heavy weapon zombies, etc, but Barry’s campaign has a couple of really interesting new enemy types.
- First of all are the glasps, which are basically big, invisible bugs. As they close in on you, the camera begins to lose focus in their direction, giving you a hint about where they are. In addition, Natalia can see them, so you can either switch to her to see where they are, or aim and listen to her call-outs to know where to shoot. They’re usually not much of a threat, but they are spooky, so they fit the game’s horror ambitions well.
- My favourite enemy though are the Revenants, big, creepy zombies with armour all over their bodies which move erratically as you blow the plates off. The really interesting part though is that every Revenant has a randomized parasite in one of its extremities, kind of like the Regeneradors from Resident Evil 4. If you know where their weak points are, you can kill them in as little as two shots, but if you don’t you can waste a lot of ammo guessing. This incentivizes strategic play any time you encounter a Revenant. Natalia can see the parasites, so you can switch to her to know where to shoot, or you can use stealth to get close and one-shot them with a knife takedown. All-in-all, they’re a nice shake-up from the usual sorts of enemies we encounter in these games and the fact that they require some strategizing to kill effectively is appreciated.
- Partner Switching Returns! – Thirteen years after being introduced in Resident Evil 0, seamless character switching makes its triumphant return in Revelations 2! With a press of a button you can instantly switch characters. While there aren’t quite as many puzzles requiring your characters to separate, in some ways this feature felt more necessary in Revelations 2, because your characters are far more specialized. Claire/Barry are the only characters who can shoot guns at enemies, meaning they’re going to be doing most of the combat, whereas Moira and Natalia can be used to stun enemies and find hidden items in the environment. Because of this, I got into a rhythm of playing as the item-finding characters 60% of the time and then switching to my fighter when combat gets triggered. Of course, if you don’t want to partner switch, then you could always use…
- Split-screen Co-op! – I was legitimately surprised when I found out that Revelations 2 had a split-screen mode. Considering that Resident Evil 5 and 6 both had split-screen, I probably shouldn’t have been, but it’s a welcome surprise. It may not be as fun of an experience as those games since one player is going to be severely underpowered at all times, but having to adapt to being a support character could make Revelations 2 a unique co-op experience.
- An Actual Dodge Button – Capcom must have heard my complaints about the dodge in the original Revelations, because the dodge here solves every single problem I had with that game’s system. All you have to do is press a button and it will play an animation, oh my God! Honestly, this probably shouldn’t even warrant an entry on the list, but the fact that I loathed the original game’s dodge so much made this such a joyous addition.
- Nerfed Weapon Upgrade System – Considering how much I loved the weapon upgrade system in the original Revelations, I was really excited to see it back in Revelations 2. However, the devs have made some tweaks to this system which make it so much less satisfying. First of all, the upgrade screen now shows you far less information – you can’t even see what effect applying an upgrade will have to your stats until you have applied it… why would they do this? Secondly, parts kits are significantly rarer than they were in the first game. You could reliably find 1-2 parts kits every time you passed a weapons bench in the first game, but here it’s not unusual for me to go a whole chapter and only find a couple upgrades the whole time. The devs seem to have made the decision to have parts kits be hidden much better in the environment, meaning that you really have to go looking to find them now. You can argue that it’s more rewarding, but I just find it leaves your weapons feeling far less personalized over the course of the playthrough.
- Oh Hey, Skills Are Back… – Skills return from Resident Evil 6… and they’re about as useless as ever. As you play through the game you can find gems which will earn you BP which you can use at the end of a chapter to purchase skills, but most of these skills are very underwhelming. I can increase my fire rate when I crouch by 10%? Wow. I can heal my partner from a downed state faster (a state that I had my partner get into once in the entire game)? What a steal… But hey, at least BP is pretty easy to come by and they combined Skills with an actual weapon upgrade system, so it’s at best unobtrusive. It is, however, pretty underwhelming considering that they included a medal system to try to incentivize getting lots of bonus BP.
- Linear Level Design – Probably the biggest change in Revelations 2 is that it drops the looping level design in favour of a far more linear progression, which feels pretty disappointing in comparison. Some of this could be chalked up to the game’s episodic release structure, which could make it difficult to design the game with hub areas, looping levels and gradual exploration of a larger area. Making matters worse, Barry’s segments recycle areas from Claire’s campaign. In fact, Barry doesn’t get any substantial new areas until Chapter 3 (of 4, for the record), meaning that nearly a quarter of the game feels like an asset flip. Thankfully, like I’ve said, the tone and pacing in Barry’s version of these areas is completely different so it doesn’t feel too egregious.
- Claire Gets Shafted – Going into this game I thought that Claire Redfield was the main character, but holy shit does she ever feel like an afterthought. She basically adds nothing to the plot. Like, the ingredients for her to actually matter are there – Moira needs to overcome her fears in order to save the day, why can’t we make it clear that Claire is the one to inspire her? Hell, the game’s T-virus strain is triggered by fear and the villain wants Natalia specifically because she’s fearless… yet she casts aside Claire without a second thought. You’re telling me that Natalia’s more fearless than Claire is at this point? Hell, even at the end when Claire comes back to finish the fight, Barry’s just like “fuck off, this is my fight”. Sure, Claire gets the final hit in, but again it all feels like an afterthought… And oh my God don’t even get me started on her “relationship” with Neil that comes out of nowhere. It’s so badly done that it undermines and sort of emotional heft that could have been mined from it. All-in-all, this is the Burtons’ game and Claire is one again relegated to supporting character which is very disappointing.
- On a related note, Kaya Scodelario who plays Claire in Welcome to Raccoon City got dragged by Resident Evil fans for saying that Claire gets screwed over after Resident Evil 2… but, like, she undeniably did. After 2 she gets Code: Veronica, which puts her in the back seat for Chris halfway through, and then… this. Claire got shafted hardcore by Capcom and anyone who argued otherwise needs to take a step back and look at just how under-represented Claire is.
- Bleed/Healing System – One of Revelations 2‘s experiments with the series’ survival horror formula involves adding a bleed status and I’ve got to say that I’m not a fan of this system at all. If you get hit by a strong attack from an enemy, this will cause the edges of the screen to turn a sharp red and your health will drain over time. The only way to stop this is for you or your partner to either apply a tourniquet or use a green herb. It’s fine in concept, but in execution it doesn’t work. First of all, there’s no hotkey to use a tourniquet, so you have to dive into your menu to do it… but if you got hit by an enemy then you’re still in combat and you won’t have time to do that (opening the inventory doesn’t pause the game in Revelations 2). Secondly, you never know if your partner is going to use a tourniquet on you or not, it’s a crapshoot really. Thirdly, I don’t like the way this game indicates damage – you can’t really tell how damaged you are, and even a couple small hits turn a third of your screen red so for all I know I was healing all game while still over half health. Oh and the game also has ANOTHER system where your vision can be obscured by gunk so you can apply disinfectant to clear your screen, but again… why? With no hotkey I’m not digging through my inventory for this.
- HOLD ONTO THE FUCKING BRICK, NATALIA – Holy fucking shit this annoyed the hell out of me. Natalia’s only offensive option is to pick up bricks in the environment and throw them at enemies or bash them up close. You’d think she could just carry them around easily, but no, if you do anything she will drop it automatically. Went up a ladder? Brick’s gone? Slide down a hill? Bye-bye brick. Open a door? No bricks allowed. It’s so stupid, it makes it so that you can’t even reliably plan to have a brick for any upcoming combats and I honestly can’t wrap my head around why the devs would program the game like this.
- Doesn’t Take Advantage of A/B Scenario – Revelations 2 makes some attempts for actions taken in Claire’s scenario to affect Barry’s scenario, but these feel token at best. There are a handful of enemies in each chapter with glowing heads whose survival or death affects Barry’s campaign, plus interacting with a couple objects may open up different paths, but that’s it. It could have been cool if there was more ways to “leave a mark” on Barry’s campaign, but unfortunately the execution here is so limited that it is effectively non-existent.
- Bugs – There are bugs everywhere in this game, and not just of the invisible-variety. Animation bugs are by far the most common and egregious – you will see objects and characters clip through the environment all the time. Even the mandatory sliding animations to load into new areas will blatantly show Barry and Natalia halfway up to their knees in the environment which is really immersion-breaking.
- The Story Crumbles By the End – By the end of the first half, Revelations 2 had one of the best stories in any Resident Evil game going. The character drama is strong and Chapter 2 ends with a hell of a cliff-hanger, but after this point the plot quickly starts to fall apart. Chapter 3 really puts Claire’s “relationship” with Neil center stage and it goes off like a wet fart, whereas Barry’s Chapter 3 is basically just busywork, feeling like padding. However, by the time you reach the story revelations in Chapter 4 the plot crumbles with any level of scrutiny (spoilers ahead). For example, if Neil was secretly supporting bioterrorism, why did he kidnap his own employees as test subjects? And, for that matter, why kidnap Claire goddamn Redfield!? All that said, Revelations 2 ends on a cliffhanger that must be addressed in a future Resident Evil game, it’s far too big to just leave it as a loose end forever.
I enjoyed Resident Evil: Revelations 2 quite a bit, but it is a far different game than its predecessor. I like some things they did here more than the original, but for every improvement there’s a step back which hinders the experience somewhat. If they had ironed out a handful of the annoyances (eg, drop the bleed system, keep weapon upgrades how they were in the original, tighten the story, etc) then it’d probably be a clear head and shoulders above the first Revelations, but as-is I appreciate both for their unique takes on survival horror.