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
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.