Resident Evil Revelations 2 review: death trip

Game Info
Platform 360, PS3, Win, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher Capcom
Developer Capcom
Release Date Mar 18, 2015

Resident Evil Revelations 2 is the most conservative, least surprising entry Capcom's long-running survival horror franchise has had in years.

And that's actually a good thing.

Recent releases in the series vary sharply in quality. For example, Resident Evil 6 is a much messier game than the first Revelations. But they share one important trait: an uncertainty about what Resident Evil actually is and a willingness to throw everything at the wall.

Revelations 2, it seems, has it figured out. By sticking to the tense action first brought to the series in Resident Evil 4, Revelations 2 finds a focus that recent entries have sorely lacked. It has its own strange experiment as a series of episodic releases, but that's just a distraction from the exceedingly strong game at the core here.

Revelations 2 finds a focus that recent entries have sorely lacked

Let's Play: We posted videos of our full playthrough of Resident Evil Revelations 2. You can watch the first episode above, or catch the full series on YouTube.

Resident Evil Revelations 2 follows two classic characters from the series' past: Claire Redfield and Barry Burton. In the opening scenes Barry's daughter, Moira, is kidnapped alongside Claire, and the duo are imprisoned on a mysterious island. The narrative jumps back and forth between those two exploring and a second story thread six months later as Barry comes to the island to find Moira.

It's notable that Capcom has built a really fun, dumb action storyline almost entirely around women. Three of the four playable characters in the main campaign are women, as is the primary antagonist.

They're also memorable, interesting characters, especially newcomer Moira. Her hilariously bizarre stream-of-consciousness swear words can be off-putting — one of her first lines involves the phrase "moist barrel of fucks" — but it congeals into a strange kind of character development over the course of the game. And though Revelations 2 seems set up for an obvious, "big strong man comes to the rescue" plotline with Barry's chapters, it twists that premise in some really satisfying ways near the conclusion.

The dueling storylines set up a predictable rhythm to each episode of the game: You explore an area as Claire and Moira, reach a cliffhanger ending, switch over to Barry and Natalia, the mysterious little girl he teams up with, and retread the same areas but from a different angle.

The repetition can get a little numbing by episode three or so, especially because these aren't terribly unique or beautiful settings. Aside from a few outdoor areas on the scenic island where Claire and Moira have been dumped, Revelations 2's locations read like a checklist of generic video game levels: abandoned prison, sewer system, rundown apartment building, etc. The graphics — a minor upgrade over the first game — weren't impressive enough to make those spaces much more interesting. I always pushed through, but that was completely thanks to the solid essentials of the gameplay.

The main essential is, of course, combat. Resident Evil Revelation 2's gunplay just feels really good. Even with my earliest, weakest weapons, the shambling hordes of the undead actually reacted to being shot, so I knew I was causing damage. Headshots and hitting other weak points brought enemies down faster; I felt rewarded for thinking my actions through and playing strategically.

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You can also expand your options through skills that you purchase with gems scattered throughout each area. New finisher moves for Barry and Claire were essential unlocks, while I struggled to get a handle on other upgrades, such as one that caused my shots to do more damage if I fired while crouching. In a single playthrough, I unlocked less than half of all the skills available, so there are almost certainly other cool strategies I completely missed.

In addition to developing your character's abilities, you can equip each individual gun with mods that you discover in locked chests throughout the levels. Many of these are fairly mundane — more damage, faster reload times, etc. — but some really fun, weird options start showing up later in the game. For example, I found a charge mod that allowed me to hold down the shoot button to build up a more powerful shot ala Mega Man. Or there's the burst mod, which let my gun shoot two bullets at once.

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The price of terror

Pricing isn't something we generally take into consideration for Polygon reviews, and we're not here. But if you're considering jumping into Resident Evil Revelations 2, it's worth taking note of Capcom's bizarre, multi-version pricing scheme available.

Resident Evil Revelation 2's four episodes can each be purchased digitally for $5.99 each, which adds up to $23.96 in total. Paying $24.99 up front will net you the digital "Complete Season." Why the bump in price? The Complete Season comes with two not-very-good bonus episodes, which are themselves available for $4.99 apiece. It also includes a bonus character in raid mode.

If that's all too confusing, you can just buy a retail disc version of the full game ... for $39.99. For the extra $15, the retail disc nets you one more raid mode character and a four-map "Throwback Map Pack," also for raid mode. It's nice that Capcom gave everyone options, but if I had to recommend one I'd spring for the digital Complete Season pass and forget all the rest of this confusing mess.

there weren't many moments of pure terror in Revelations 2

With all of this emphasis on shooting, old-school Resident Evil fans may be wondering where the horror is and, well ... it's not really here at all. Ammo can be sparse at points, especially given the huge number of enemies you're put against, so resource management is a concern. But this mostly just serves to raise tension. Beyond a few early jump scares, there weren't many moments of pure terror in Revelations 2.

In fact, the scariest moments of the game weren't scary for the right reasons. While playing Resident Evil Revelations 2 single-player, you have the option to swap from Claire to Moira and Barry to Natalia and vice versa. Moira and Natalia are interesting side characters for one big reason: They cannot use guns. Moira can use her flashlight to blind enemies, opening them up for further attacks from Claire, while Natalia has special powers that let her sense weak points or even find invisible foes.

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But they cannot use guns. In a game that, when it comes down to it, is all about shooting, that's a really strange choice. And while it doesn't end up mattering much in single-player — you aren't forced to play as any individual character for very long — I found myself profoundly unsatisfied any time I took on the role of Moira or Natalia in cooperative play.

Even more disappointing, there's a more fleshed-out co-op experience that's simply not available yet. As with the original Revelations, the sequel features "raid mode," a pure action addition that's all about running and gunning through areas, leveling up your character, and unlocking new bonuses, weapons and other characters to use.

Raid mode is, quite frankly, a goddamn blast, the most pure and fun form of the gameplay at the heart of Revelations 2. And it's packed with an overwhelming amount of stuff to unlock and power up. It's also only available in single-player or local split-screen co-op right now. Online multiplayer for raid mode was supposed to be available by the time the final episode was released; now Capcom is saying it will be here by the end of March. Whatever the case, the delay sucks and negatively impacts what might be the game's best mode.

Wrap Up:

Revelations 2 is the most self-assured Resident Evil game in a long time

While it has obvious areas for improvement — its level design, its online functionality, its visuals — Resident Evil Revelations 2 has a strange sort of confidence in what it's trying to do that the series has needed for some time now. It isn't doing anything new, but that may be precisely why it's able to handle the core gameplay so well. If Capcom has decided that light-horror, high-tension action is the firm and final direction for Resident Evil moving forward, Revelations 2 at least embraces that and provides a road map for where to take it next.

Resident Evil Revelations 2 was reviewed using final, pre-release download code for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 provided by Capcom. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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