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Resident Evil Revelations 2 brings the horror back, experiments with weekly episodes

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Resident Evil Revelations 2, like its popular predecessor, emphasize the series' roots of traditional horror rather than focusing on over-the-top action, producer Michiteru Okabe said in an interview at Tokyo Game Show.

"What we really liked, and what people seemed to like about the first Revelations, was the focus on traditional horror and the serialized and episodic nature of the storytelling," Okabe said via a translator. "We're building upon that with Revelations 2."

To Okabe, that type of "traditional horror" means a sense of nervousness, a heightened sense of panic and a properly paced flow of quiet moments, anticipation and terror.

"Revelations, the place where it lives in the pantheon of the Resident Evil franchise, it's sort of serves as a bridge," he said. "It's got the best of both worlds: We've got the more traditional horror elements ... and the gameplay of the post-Resident Evil 4, action-centric era. it strikes a nice balance between the two. We're definitely focusing on the horror, but it kind of lives between those two extremes."

"We're definitely focusing on the horror, but it kind of lives between those two extremes."

At Tokyo Game Show, we played an extended version of the Revelations 2 show floor demo, which starts at the very beginning of the game. Both the player and returning protagonist Claire Redfield don't have much information to go on from the outset: Claire wakes up in an island prison, seemingly with little knowledge of how she and her co-op partner Moira Burton got there. The two soon set off in an attempt to escape the island, and in between enemies jumping out of monster closets and locating this key for that door, drop hints through dialogue about how the two wound up imprisoned.

Players quickly learn about the quirky personality of Moira, who has a strange habit of cursing. "What in the moist bucket of fucks?" and "What the cocks?" are just some of the colorful, perhaps questionable lines she spouts.

Okabe says the Revelations 2 development team wanted to give Moira, the daughter of Resident Evil's Barry Burton, some sort of memorable, unusual quality.

"Because she's a brand new character, we wanted something that would give her something unique," Okabe said. "The Japanese script writer came up with [her] coarse way of speaking in Japanese and when it was localized, our English language writer did a good job of coming up with something that matched that."

Resident Evil Revelations 2

Players can swap between Moira and Claire as they play, and each of the characters has her own talents. Claire is the more traditional character; she's comfortable using firearms and can deliver a knockdown roundhouse kick to enemies. Moira voices her distaste for guns early on, and is instead handy with other tools: a flashlight and crowbar. She can use her flashlight to find items (keys, treasure, ammo) and momentarily blind enemies. The two can work together to dispatch enemies without firing a single shot — Moira blinds them, Claire goes in for the roundhouse kick, then Moira runs them through with her crowbar. It's an effective tactic when bullet conservation is your concern.

The early moments of Resident Evil Revelations 2 show that this is a fast-paced take on the franchise, with some series trademark jump scares, light puzzle-solving and tense confrontations with zombie-like enemies. In Revelations 2, the major threat is a group called the Afflicted. Okabe was hesitant to fully explain their origin, but said the clearly tortured Afflicted have gone through "some sort of process on the island" setting and no longer have any ego, nor do they feel any pain.

"We thought it would be a good nostalgia trigger"

"They've been driven to madness," he said, and now make Claire's life on the island troublesome.

Okabe said Claire's journey in Resident Evil Revelations 2 may be a bit more traumatic than what we've seen in previous games, where franchise protagonists often seem to brush off the fact that they're regularly under attack from strange monsters.

"Even though Claire has been through a lot, this is a situation she hasn't been in before," Okabe said. "She's not really prepared for it. I think you'll see a little more vulnerability, you'll see less of a kind of blasé attitude. She really is going to have to struggle through this situation, because it's new and uncharted territory."

There will be a sense of the familiar for players, though, as Okabe said to expect lots of Easter eggs and callbacks to past Resident Evil games. Much of the imagery of Revelations 2 thus far has featured "deliberate homages" to 2000's Resident Evil: Code Veronica. "We thought it would be a good nostalgia trigger," he said.

Resident Evil Revelations 2

Resident Evil Revelations 2 is going to be delivered episodically: four chapters over the course of four weeks. Okabe calls the digital episode release — it will also come to disc at some point — an experiment for Capcom.

"We're very experienced in the retail disc business," he said. "Clearly the market is opening up and heading in a digital direction. Capcom long-term wants to figure out what that's about. To get into the digital space, it seemed like the episodic nature was a good way to see what's going on [there].

"Some of the reaction has been less than positive, a little leery of exactly of how this is going to pan out. For us we want to strike a balance in delivering content digitally and making sure that people who want something physical don't have wait too long. It's a bit of an experiment for us to find the optimal way of distributing that stuff."

What we played of Resident Evil Revelations 2 — about a half hour, and episodes are roughly two or more hours — we enjoyed. The games still maintains some of the lovable quirks of the Capcom franchise, while delivering what appears to be a more straightforward horror experience, the type that's been backburnered in core Resident Evil titles. Visually, however, the game looks very much like a previous-generation holdover when played on a PlayStation 4, however, and it made me look forward to a Resident Evil game that will take advantage of current-gen consoles and modern PCs.

Resident Evil Revelations 2 is coming to PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One in early 2015.

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