Resident Evil: Revelations 2 puts you in control of four characters, searching for answers in a hostile island and a way out, before fear consumes and changes them—literally so.

Genre(s): Survival Horror

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Release Date: February-March 2015

Played: Full Season + 4 hours Raid Mode

Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox360, Xbox One

Purchase At: Steam

Good:

  • Terrific characterization.

  • Strong survival-focused gameplay.

  • Strong Japanese voice cast.

Bad:

  • Bad environmental design.

  • Repetitive documents.

  • Uneven plot pacing.

 

Review

I still remember the announcement for RER2. It came during a week when female members of our community were under fire and the women’s role and portrayal in games were under debate. When they announced Clare was coming back, I honestly thought, “This is what we need, one of the original female badasses, Clare Redfield!” Capcom definitely nailed the timing for their announcement.

And that is one thing Resident Evil: Revelations 2 does right: character portrayals. Clare isn’t the same girl we met in Resident Evil 2 but one of the senior Terra Save agents. She’s strong, decisive and courageous, but without losing her humanity, which is harder to do than you’d expect—most of the times writers just cross the line into Impossible Hardass.

It's all about Kafka!
It’s all about Kafka!

With Clare is Moira Burton, Barry’s daughter and the most foul-mouthed character in all of Resident Evil. What I like most about Moira is she shows significant growth during the story. At the start she refuses to even hold a gun because of a childhood trauma, but by the end she manages to push herself beyond it. I liked that development and it feels real and believable…you know, even with the crazy genetic monstrosities.

The rest of the main cast consists of Barry himself, coming to the island where the plot takes place (I’ll get on that in a bit) a few months later than Clare and his daughter, hoping to find answers to her fate. Barry is a rock of a character, acting as the strong and collected one to his companion, Natalia, an 11-year-old-ish girl. Where she falters he’s there to offer support and as such he doesn’t evolve as much as the rest, but is instrumental in the other character’s development.

The nonsensical skill tree
The nonsensical skill tree

RER2 doesn’t waste time in setting up its premise. During the opening cinematic, an assault team attacks and captures all Terra Save workers at their yearly corporate party. When Clare wakes she’s in a mysterious prison with Moira and fitted with a strange metal bracelet. The bracelets change colour depending on the person’s state of mind, going from green to a deep red the more frightened they become. The island is home to savage mutants like those found in Resident Evil 4 and 5 and there’s a woman, The Overseer, constantly taunting them and driving them closer to fear and despair.

Clare and Moira’s half is all about survival and finding out and stopping The Overseer’s plans. Barry’s half is about finding his daughter, arriving on the island 6 months after Clare’s initial chapter, following an SOS. He meets Natalia, a young girl surviving on her own, and with the mysterious ability to sense monsters and even their weak spots. She met Moira & Clare in the past and guides Barry to where they last saw each other.

Tourniquets are the way to go...unless you're out of herbs!
Tourniquets are the way to go…unless you’re out of herbs!

The story itself is the usual Resident Evil fare of crazy viruses and deranged genetic experimentation that ultimately becomes so out there you lose all interest in it. But in its episodic storytelling, RER2 splits the reveals very well between its two story arcs, keeping you interested and asking questions until it finally shows its hand. The works of Franz Kafka, The Metamophosis in particular, are at the core of the plot, just taken literal and to the extreme. This game’s writers don’t believe in subtlety.

The narrative split might be good but the pacing is uneven between the Clare and Barry segments—some are plot-heavy while others are combat-centric—and it doesn’t take long for you to learn or figure out everything about the story, making some of the last episode’s climaxes fall terribly short.

Resident Evils have always supported their narrative with documents strewn around the environment and RER2 continues this tradition but there are too repetitive and useless documents. I don’t mind backstory if it adds to the experience, but it feels as though they enough documents to make sure that you’d pick up at least one. It’s even worse considering much of what the documents tell you the characters later mention in cutscenes.

In terms of visuals, they’re around the same quality as Resident Evil 6’s, which isn’t surprising considering they both use the same engine. For this game, it’s not graphical quality that I look for, because I know it’ll be good. What I care about is the little details and the overall environment and creature design, which are some of the elements the horror will hang on. One thing in particular that stood out for me was how bad the lip-synching was. I played the game originally with Japanese audio (more on that later) and even switching to English didn’t make the lips sync-up with the words. In fact, the lips barely move.

Monster design differs greatly between Clare and Barry’s segments. Clare’s enemies are more akin to the wild enemies from The Evil Within, self-mutilated and with heavy body modifications, while Barry’s are more traditional RE monstrosities and desiccated zombies. Clare’s work very well the first time they show up, but lose their effectiveness as a visual fear stimulus very quickly. Barry’s on the other hand remain effective for much longer, especially since they are very difficult to kill if you don’t target their Ouroboros core.

Bleeding is extremely dangerous in RER2
Bleeding is extremely dangerous in RER2

Sadly, the environments themselves are dull, drab and lack any form of atmosphere and rehash locations from previous titles—prison facilities, derelict villages and ruined buildings. There’s even a moment in Episdoe 2 where you must survive an assault from enemies while inside a building, killing enemies before they jump inside. Sound familiar? Setting the game in a wider open area presents challenges, that I understand, but I do wish they had done a better job, made them much more interesting. The environments also clashed with the accounts from the documents—you should have seen more remnants of the previous occupants, more signs of violence. Instead of helping the immersion, this clash countered it.

Clare's enemies are fast and strong!
Clare’s enemies are fast and strong!

Music is largely absent from the game, coming in during high-stress sequences with the appropriate tense music and almost at random during investigative and exploration segments. These pieces are moodier and eerie but the volume is low, almost like background noise and often drowned out by other sounds. It left me to wonder what the point was. The moody bits are very good but with the bland environments, there’s not much they can do to help the immersion opportunities the visual side already squandered.

I played the game in Japanese first, as I often do with Japanese games. I still used English text for subtitles. I have a less than rudimentary grasp on the Japanese tongue but I can tell right away when the English script is departing radically from the Japanese one. For example, Moira doesn’t curse in the Japanese version, not as much, but instead says “Saiyaku,” which literall means Disaster but you can take it—transliterated—as “This is the worst!” which is also Barry’s common catchphrase, a shared mannerism between parent and child. The voice acting is generally good but I find the Japanese to be superior, as there’s a lot more strength put into the performances. The American cast falters during emotional sequences. Pedro’s actor in Japanese sounds genuinely terrified and panicky during the Episode 2 village sequence, while the American doesn’t and the emotion he portrays doesn’t match up with the character’s body language.

Natalia can sense monsters, even through walls. Pretty handy for stealth-kills!
Natalia can sense monsters, even through walls. Pretty handy for stealth-kills!

The gameplay remains very much like Resident Evils after the 4th instalment, with the over the shoulder camera and aiming. It’s a style I like very much and allows me to headshot enemies as much as I want to, which I enjoy doing, just to test my accuracy. You can instantly switch from the main characters (Clare & Barry) to their partners and you’ll need to as most of the ‘puzzles’ revolve around doing two things almost at once with the characters, such as pulling levers in separate rooms. Only your main characters carry weapons, the secondary ones have melee attacks and are just there for support really. Though the AI partner did finish off a few enemies for me when I was out of ammo.

Battle Points (BP) are back, used to upgrade your characters with the obligatory skill system, increasing some of your base abilities and the effectiveness of items. Some of the upgrades are pretty useful but most are worthless. For example, one of them increases how effective Green Herbs are, but even without it they already heal you completely. The only point in getting that ability is unlocking the one further down the tree. The tree itself makes no sense, with abilities having thematically unrelated ones as prerequisites. The previous Green Herb skill is a prerequisite for the Charged Melee attack skill, for example.

RER2 gives you a dedicated “Pick-up” button that works well for consumables but the game then alternates between it and the “Use” button so many times I found myself shouting “Make up your mind!” at the screen. At some points it prompted me to pick up items with one button then with the other, leaving me irritated and confused.

Speaking of weapons, RER2 features a crafting system for secondary items. You can use bottles to make up to four kinds of bombs—Molotov cocktails and smoke bombs for example– and cloth for tourniquets, as a minor healing kit and to stop the bleeding effect, and disinfectants, for clearing your HUD of monster goop. The latter isn’t really useful due to the very small number of blinding monsters. Weapon upgrades return from the previous game and they work exactly the same, providing mostly passive bonuses such as increased damage, capacity or reduced recoil. Golden Upgrades give your weapons new powers. They aren’t necessary but they do help, especially the rare ones, and I found myself exploring the dreadfully bland environments looking for secret chests.

In terms of enemies and combat, Clare’s are much closer to the original RE series’ bullet sponges, taking in tons of damage before falling—though headshots help and it’s why I go for them. Barry’s on the other hand are much closer to the Resident Evil 4+ style of enemies with weak points. Bosses, for either character, fall into this latter category, with a single weak point you first need to reveal before actually damaging the boss.

Language Moira!
Language Moira!

Conclusion

Resident Evil: Revelations 2’s gameplay and characterization make up for some of its design and narrative flaws, and while it’s not the deepest of stories it will keep you hooked until the end and beyond if you like to indulge in the RPG-esque raid mode. It’s a flawed game, definitely, but worth a shot, even if it fails at the horror half of Survival Horror.

TMA SCORE:

4/5 – Exceptional

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