Resident Evil Revelations 2 Episode 1 review


Hot on the heels of the HD re-release of arguably the best Resident Evil game (or at very least joint with that OTHER Resident Evil game you just thought of) is Capcom’s newest attempt to take the series back in the right direction- an episodic downloadable title that brings back two old Resi favourites who have been left out of recent games (admittedly for the best, in hindsight). Is episodic the way to go? Does the new gameplay dynamic work? Is Wesker in this one? The answer to these questions and more are coming your way…

…right now. First of all: no, Wesker isn’t in it. At least he isn’t in the first episode. Capcom seems to be genuinely trying to move away from the series’ story baggage, which is good to see. Having said that, the story here is pretty threadbare. This first episode is split into two sections: Claire Redfield and her young, sweary friend Moira Burton are kidnapped by a mysterious organisation and wake up in a run-down penal colony, while (MINOR SPOILER) months later (SPOILERS END) the greatest, most criminally underused character in Resi (and Moira’s father) Barry Burton arrives on the island to find them both, with the help of a little girl called Natalia. The game doesn’t give much in the way of set-up. Moira mentions some previous incident that has resulted in a reluctance to use firearms, Claire and Barry are now apparently friends and there’s a decent cliffhanger, but apart from that nothing is explained. There’s an unseen woman who sounds a bit like Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and torments you over bracelets that change colour in response to fear and anxiety, and that’s it. The episode is rather short and doesn’t really do much with its time, but to be fair I do want to see more from it, as long as it has a decent payoff. It’s great to see Claire and Barry back, who both fit their established characters of quietly competent and in control and a goofy, fatherly exterior covering up a more worried interior respectively. Their support characters don’t fare so well; Moira is an annoying attempt at writing a brash teenagers, whose sweary lines often sound awkward and forced. Her role in the game is also to just shine a torch at items so Claire can pick them up. She has a crowbar for self-defence, but her job is, in her own words, “Flashlight duty”. On the other hand, Natalia and Barry have a decent chemistry, she’s a lot less annoying than most child characters, and the game knows how to use her sparingly.

On the gameplay side, its split right down the middle. Overall it plays like REvelations 1- over the shoulder aiming, dedicated dodge button, moving while aiming; basic horror-action with all the action movie shenanigans from RE6. Claire and Moira fight fast, mutant humanoids in the current Resi standard, while Barry’s section actually manages to get some decent tension going as he’s more heavily armed, but neogitates a dark forest while fighting tall, grotesque mutant things that keep adjust their bodies to keep going despite the damage you cause them. This part worked really well, with the creepy atmosphere and Barry and Natalia playing off each other creating a good balance between horror and action. The split I mentioned is thus: Claire’s section is very bland and doesn’t offer anything of real substance. Barry’s section gives me hope that things are starting to improve for the series- it’s nothing spectacular, but its still progress.

Also included with episode 1 is “Raid Mode”- basically “The Mercenaries” mode from previous games but mostly without the time limit. You pick a character from the main game (as well as DLC characters like Hunk and Wesker), a weapon and skill loadout then go through short levels killing all the enemies, defending a point, or just getting to the end within a time limit. You pick up new weapons, skills and weapon mods, the levels get increasingly more difficult and overall it’s a pretty decent arcade mode. It certainly gives the game more of a life after you’ve beaten the short main episode. The weird thing is that most of the levels I’ve seen at the time of writing have been from Resident Evil 6. If you’re going to go to the trouble of bringing back Barry, Claire, Jill, Hunk and Wesker, how’s about basing them on the good Resi games? Food for thought.

Overall, REvelations 2 is a mixed bag. Claire’s section is bland but does have some story promise, Barry’s section manages some decent tension and good chemistry between him and his support character, and I am genuinely interested to see what happens next episode. If this is indicative of how the whole season will play out, I can tentatively say that episodic seems to have been a smart move.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert

The “I was almost a Claire sandwich” joke was pretty good, but it wasn’t as good as “WHO’S THE MASTER OF UNLOCKING NOW, HUH?!”. I love Barry.

Thoughts on- Dead Rising 3

NOTE THAT THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS

We have a history, Dead Rising and I. The first one was one of the two main reasons I wanted an Xbox 360 (the other being the original Bioshock)- a sandbox game of sorts set in a mall overrun with zombies to be killed by the hundred with all manner of weapons both legitimate and improvised. It blew my mind, basically, despite its steep difficulty enforced by a single save slot, awkward movements and time-specific story events on top of the game just being generally hard. The second game improved and tweaked the formula to make things fairer and the new combo weapon system added a new layer to combat, but somehow the spark was gone for me, not that it was a bad game. So when the third game was announced as an Xbone launch title with a new darker, more serious tone and grey/brown colour palette, it wasn’t on the top of my list. However, since then I’ve acquired an Xbone and a copy of Dead Rising 3, and frankly had to write something about it, even if it wasn’t a review. So these are my thoughts on Dead Rising 3, because the spark is back, and it just stuck a knife between its teeth and dove into a group of zombies with a sledgehammer in each hand and a lit stick of dynamite tucked into its belt.

First of all, the more muted, “Realistic” colour palette and environment is fine. Nothing special, but it does the job. The game is set in an analogue of Los Angeles called “Los Perdidos”, and is split into four ares; a rough “Americana” neighbourhood, a rich Beverly Hills-type area, a downtown business district and an industrial section. It lacks the bright colours of the first two games, but it’s nice to not be cooped up in a mall or resort anymore, and there are no longer any load times apart from when you die or reload a checkpoint, so that’s a plus. The story is a mess but undoubtedly entertaining. You are Nick, a mechanic trapped in Los Perdidos after a zombie outbreak (now an accepted occurrence that’s more of a nuisance than a crisis) trying to escape with his friends tough greaser mechanic lady, young goth woman, chubby soldier and Terry Bogard from Final Fight, but along the way becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving a wrestler-turned criminal with a Hawaiian shirt and Vincent Vega hair, a highly-sexualised female Sergeant who uses wrestling moves and explosives, an evil version of Caroline from “Wolfenstein The New Order” and an evil U.S Army General whose final boss fight is very similar to the fight with Armstrong at the end of “Metal Gear Rising”. It turns out that Nick is the cure for the zombie virus, Chuck Greene turns up literally out of nowhere near the end of the game (and looks like the concepts of ageing and living rough cornered him in a car park and beat him over the head with a lead pipe), and throughout the story everyone seems to react to events in a weirdly off-kilter way that doesn’t make sense. The aforementioned mechanic lady is tortured and has her arm removed off-screen, but before this has time to sink in her and Nick brush it off and build her a mechanical flamethrower arm instead. Don’t get me wrong, the first two games were silly, but they played a lot of things straight. Dead Rising 3 seems to know how utterly mental it is and just rolls with it, but what saves it is that it never felt like the developers were really trying to make it whacky or crazy. For all the really dumb, goofy things that happen in it, it genuinely feels natural, which is what elevates it high above, say, “Sunset Overdrive”, in which the comedy just feels forced. It also has a pretty good grasp of black comedy, which again feels natural.

Gameplay wise, things have changed quite dramatically. The biggest overall difference is how much easier it is than the previous games. There are multiple safehouses around the map that include lockers that can spawn any weapon you’ve picked up almost infinitely, including combo weapons. The time limit in the game is so lenient it may as well just not be present, and the game is just generally easier- bosses die faster and Nick is harder to kill than Frank and Chuck. You can also save anywhere and restart from a checkpoint if you die. Beating DR1 with its best ending took careful planning, frugal resource management and pinpoint accurate timing. I got DR3s best ending on my first go without really trying all that hard. Having said all that I don’t think it’s a bad thing to make the game more fair and accessible, but it may well rub purists up the wrong way. The gameplay itself has also become more over the top in proportion to the story and tone- the combo weapons in particular are completely bananas. The theme seems to be “Let’s duct tape these sharp/explosive/blunt/otherwise dangerous objects together and just hope for the best”. Seemingly in an effort to top the “Two fire axes duct taped to a sledgehammer” weapon from DR2, DR3 has- among other things- three grenades taped to a sledgehammer that go off with every hit, a sword taped to a knife, an assault rifle taped to a shotgun and a katana taped to a machete that somehow also includes a saw blade. It’s ridiculous and I love it.

I imagine if you’re going to buy Dead Rising 3 you already have, but if not then definitely give it a look. This article was more just me talking about the game as a whole, and to conclude; it’s refreshing to see a game that’s so committed to being a completely mental, over the top rampage while also feeling natural and organic in both its writing and gameplay, no matter how dumb it gets. It’s the best game in the Dead Rising series, and above all it’s good fun.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

 

Game of Thrones Episode 2 – “The Lost Lords” Review

Episode 1 of “Game of Thrones” left me reeling- it was as bleak and brutal as the series but made even worse by the fact that you had to take an active part in making decision making. Decisions that often ended with awful results, as is Telltale’s style. Now episode 2 is upon us, and it’s only going to get worse from here.

After [SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 1] young new lord Ethan got stabbed in the neck by Ramsay Snow [SPOILERS END] house Forrester is in turmoil. Despite the unexpected reprieve of eldest son Rodrick surviving the Red Wedding (albeit in bad shape) they urgently need help, and so this episode is spent attempting to find solutions to their House Whitehill problem. We get to see exiled brother Asher in action in a brutal opening tavern fight, Rodrick attempts to form an alliance with another house and over in King’s landing Mira can underhandedly drag Margery Tyrell into this mess. Story wise this episode has a lot of set-up in it, especially given that it has two new main characters to develop on top of everyone established in episode 1, and I presume this is why this series has six episodes as opposed to five. It’s not a problem- it’s a very story based game so character development is key- but anyone looking for an explosive follow-up to the first episode will be disappointed. It does, however, still feel very authentic and continues to nail the tone of Game of Thrones. Whereas the choices in The Walking Dead and especially The Wolf Among Us were hard but most likely survivable, here you’re often on the back foot. Playing as Asher was the only time in either episode I felt like I had any real power or agency- for everyone else it’s like you’re climbing a steep staircase and every time you make some real progress an angry, bitter old man with a Northern English accent trips you up with a cane and you tumble back down in a heap. As always with Telltale the choices are the stand-out part of the game and they’re just as difficult here. Having said that the game blatantly ignored one choice I made in the previous episode for no apparent reason. I think I managed to turn it out to an extent, but it was still annoying to have Tyrion complain about me not making a secret deal with him that’d annoy Cersei when in the last episode I explicitly stated that I would be willing to make such a deal. I’m slightly worried that this will become a regular thing now- if a Telltale game starts ignoring your previous choices the whole thing will fall apart.

The other main problems are technical, as is unfortunately common with Telltale. Both episodes have had a strange screen effect that makes the backgrounds look like heavily frosted glass and audio skipped and repeated a few times. These were annoying but not as worrying as the issue with the choices, which I’ll be keeping an eye on.

Overall “The Lost Lords” carries on from episode 1 while setting up and establishing new characters when necessary. Given the cast, their situations and current predicaments it makes sense to do it in this way, and episode 3 should be a good one. This episode ignoring one of my choices is worrying, but hopefully it should be fixed next time. I’ll be keeping an eye on it anyway.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Oh, Jon Snow turned up in this episode. He didn’t do much.

Resident Evil Remastered Review

All together now: RESIDENT. EVILLLLLLLLLLLLLLL. Yes, it’s Resident Evil- classic survival horror series that spectacularly fell off the deep end recently (by “deep end” I mean it fell into an empty swimming pool and cracked its head open) but is taking steps to reclaim its former glory with this- arguably the best Resident Evil game, and one of the best survival horror games ever made. Strangely I actually hoped this would come out but thought it naive- an Xbox/PS HD re-release of the 2002 Gamecube remake of the original game, and I do really think it’ll help the series out. This will be a look at both how the game holds up now and a look at the game itself. For the record I beat the game twice (once with each character) on the Wii (it was just the Gamecube version ported over) and have now beaten the HD version twice.

The two big new features (besides the HD graphics) for REmastered are a new 16:9 widescreen mode and a new control scheme, both of which are standard. The 16:9 is a no-brainer really, but still worth mentioning: REmake (the fan name for it) is a game designed around beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds and widescreen helps give them a better sense of space, especially the foreboding main hall seen above. For some reason the game’s inventory screen is in 4:3 but it’s not a big issue. More problematic are the new controls- replacing the original “Tank” controls (more on those in a second) with a more updated system in which characters auto-run in whatever direction you push the left stick. I find the Tank controls better for two reasons: 1) The game was built around them, and the fixed camera angles mean that you’ll often end up running the wrong way accidentally when the camera suddenly changes. 2) On a more personal note I just really like Tank controls when they’re done well. I completely understand why some people find them irritating and unwieldy and I don’t necessarily buy that whole “They make the game more tense” idea but I feel comfortable with them, particularly in this game. Fortunately the controls can be switched back, but I do think they were a nice inclusion for newcomers all the same. The aspect ratio I suppose was put in for purists, but widescreen makes much more sense. The game also includes two new costumes based on Chris and Jill’s appearances in the RE5 “Lost in Nightmares” DLC, and of course there are the all-new HD graphics. The in-game characters, enemies, items and weapons are all in HD and look wonderful- crisp and detailed in way REmake’s graphics deserve. The pre-rendered backgrounds have also been given a boost and as a result look less murky and again, more crisp and detailed; the whole thing looks gorgeous. Having said that purists may be put off by the slightly cleaner look to everything, but it is a noticeable change at least. However, certain cutscenes (for example, the hunter introduction) remain unchanged, and when they pop up it’s pretty jarring. Overall the changes aren’t anything major besides the graphics, but as I will explain momentarily you’re paying for the game itself and the experience, rather than what the remastered version offers.

As for the game itself, it’s a true survival horror classic. It almost feels like this was released to show “The Evil Within” how it’s done. If you’re entirely unfamiliar with Resident Evil as a series, it involves a comically evil pharmaceutical company called Umbrella who manufactures viruses that turn humans into zombies and animals into virus Bio-Organic Weapons. They’re really bad at preventing catastrophic outbreaks of their viruses, and members of Raccoon City P.Ds elite “S.T.A.R.S” unit are usually on hand to stop them (and, for those who are only familiar with RE4: Leon. He’s good too). This is a remake of the very first game with a whole host of new content- the mansion the game takes place in has been re-designed, enemy encounters have been made harder and more tense, and the game has a truly fantastic atmosphere that provides genuine scares. Whenever people say that jump-scares are cheap or ineffective, this is the best argument to counter them; yes it has plenty of jump-scares, but they only work because of its atmosphere. You play either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield (both with different strengths and weaknesses and support characters, making them both worth playing), trapped in a lavish mansion full of eccentric traps and puzzles and overrun by all manner of horrible creatures. You navigate the mansion solving puzzles and fighting the odd boss to move on to the next area, and as a self-contained location the mansion and its nearby residence are fantastic examples of level design. The game spreads its content around a relatively small area with no expense of pacing and the whole thing is crafted expertly with no wasted areas or time. Enemies are a real threat and navigating them can be tricky, and unique to REmake is the need to decapitate or burn zombies, less they come back as “Crimson Heads”- faster, stronger and more aggressive versions of themselves. Elsewhere there’s an indestructible monstrosity with a tragic back story, giant spiders (classic) and Neptune- turning what was a trivial encounter in the original game into an experience that makes me uncomfortable just thinking about it now- it’s that intense.

Overall, REmastered is definitely worth buying- the HD graphics are beautiful, the widescreen makes a big difference and best of all it’s REmake for £16 on the new generation of consoles. It’s a true survival horror classic with amazing atmosphere, level design and monsters- if you’re at all interested in the genre then check this out. If you’ve already played and beat it before this is still worth a look. It holds up remarkably well, and I do really hope the positive response to this release informs where Capcom takes the series. Also, maybe now they’ll remake Resident Evil 2.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18