I know that it's a series that started with the shambling corpses of the undead, but I didn't expect Resident Evil Revelations 2 to be dead on arrival. I was a fan of the first game that I played on the 3DS, and felt like they had made strides in the survival horror genre after the disappointing outings that occurred with Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6. I admit, I had hope at that point that Capcom would realize the error of their ways and would return to the pacing and horror elements that Revelations had captured so well. But almost every game design element within Resident Evil Revelations 2, the focus on co-op mechanics and new elements introduced, goes against any sort of horror or suspense that the game throws at you, and by the end I wanted to find a way to burn a copy of the PC version onto a DVD so I could systematically snap it in half to take out my frustration out on the game.
Now before we begin, I want to make a couple of things clear regarding this review. I typically play solo when it comes to games that have similarities to Resident Evil Revelations 2, even when a co-op experience is obviously what Revelations 2 was designed for. I like taking in a game and enjoying it on my own, to fully get the experience out of a game without an outside influence of any sort. I will play co-op if requested by a friend to, and I think that the decision to play solo ultimately hurt the experience that I had with the game.
I still believe I would have given Revelations 2 the same score that I did ultimately, as the game design elements and technical shortcomings hurt the game overall, regardless of the joy of playing with a friend. I would have probably at least have enjoyed my time with the game with a friend though, but the same could be said about me watching paint dry: everything is better with a friend.
Let's start with the story and campaigns. There are two major campaigns within Revelations 2, and it starts with Claire Redfield and Moira Burton's campaign. Terrasave, a zombie outbreak response group to help with the viral outbreaks that seem to frequently happen in the world, is assaulted by an unknown group of mercenaries as Claire, Moira (the daughter of famous side character Barry Burton), and the rest of the crew are kidnapped and put on an island of horrors. The two attempt to find out why they are there, what is with the mysterious bracelets that are around their wrists, and what the evil overseer that seemingly has control over the island has planned for them.
This is along the lines of the standard Resident Evil type plot honestly, with elements of horror tropes thrown in, as people are picked off one by one by a virus that activates via fear. The idea with this new virus is actually a tiny bit interesting, but they never use it to its full potential.
The story with Claire and Moira has a lot of flaws. While Moira has minor character development, Claire on the other hand falls flat and makes me wonder if she really went through the experiences of Revelations 2. The Resident Evil series has never been known for good writing, but even this game was on a level that wasn't enjoyable. Moira has at least some characterization with the animosity between her and her father, and her “annoyed” persona. Claire on the other hand is so cookie cutter for a protagonist that it's really hard to like her. You could swap her with any other generic character, and no one wouldn't have noticed.
In fact, apparently she has a romantic connection to a character that they apparently established early on in the first episode that some may have completely missed, which was on par with Neo and Trinity from the Matrix: there is affection there because, darn it, the plot calls for it. It's a little problematic when side characters that only last one episode have better characterization than your main protagonist: you're doing something wrong there.
But let's get into the gameplay a little bit. This is an asymmetrical 3rd person shooter which was obviously designed for co-optional play. Claire is your typical Resident Evil protagonist, with the same controls and abilities as those protagonists from Resident Evil games before. However, Moira is a bit different. She has a melee attack with a crowbar, but her main function? Flashlight wielder. Yep, you heard me.
The flashlight does serve a couple of purposes. First of all, hitting the flashlight on an enemy will cause them to shield their eyes, and eventually, will stun them for a kick/melee attack. Secondly, this also serves the purpose of finding items in the environment via their sparkling. While there is a question who draws the short straw in playing that character, there is at least some synergy between the two characters, yet they can really be on their own and still function, which isn't the case for the other campaign really.
The controls are competent, and in single player you can switch between characters easily most of the time. But flaws begin to develop. It's not that the combat doesn't function as it was designed: but what it does is cause a single source of combat to become easy. The ability to stun your enemies with the flashlight really takes out any sort of threat whatsoever, and the only true threats are when there are multiple enemies in an area. And because of that, the ammo you have to waste to get down to one enemy is not usually a problem, with rare expections. You have enough control to hit specific limbs on the enemies rather easily once you get the handle of it. It's the typical Resident Evil experience over the last several years, and it hasn't changed in that aspect.
One of the major problems with Revelations 2 comes with the lack of horror and suspense, and what the game attempts to do with it. Resident Evil for a while hasn't been a horror, but more about suspense and action moments. Though, the original Revelations moved it back to the more traditional horror elements in my mind. Revelations 2 undid all of that with one fell swoop, which is a god damn shame. The game is able to jump scare you once in a while, but going from point to point in the game has no real tension from my perspective. Whether it be having too much ammo to take on an area, or going for set pieces despite no integration to the main game play whatsoever, the game consistently attempts to put you on edge but fails to do so: you're just being moved from one section to the next.
And level design is a bit flawed in terms of enemy placement and natural player exploration/progression. It's hilarious when you know an enemy is around a corner, can see him looking at the door you are looking through, and know exactly what point you need to walk at in order to engage him. This AI is beyond dumb, it only has basic pathfinding abilities, and can easily be cheesed in so many ways. In some aspects, it's worse than Resident Evil 6 in that regard. Most of the time, you'll find a game that's attempting to engage you, but it's too bland for it to really excite you. Want an example? Take a short look at the following video. It'll give you a real understanding of what I'm talking about.
And Barry/Natalia's campaign section only does more to reinforce this problem. Barry is looking for what happened to Moira, as both campaigns happen months apart. Barry is the traditional protagonist from the Resident Evil universe, but Natalia is special. She can see the enemies outlines and “lifeforce”, being able to see them through walls and obstacles. Yes, you heard me right: zombie-vision. They explain this later on (sorta), but let's just say she's the typical supernatural child. People I have talked to typically enjoyed the Barry/Natalia section a bit more, because the chemistry between their characters are much better. Barry is obviously projecting his issues that he has with his own daughter and trying to make it right with Natalia, and for the most part that works. I won't spoil, but I say most for a specific reason there, as that will come to a screeching halt at a certain point in the plot. But regardless, this is probably where people will enjoy Revelations 2 a bit more. And specifically, those who play co-op.
This is where as a single player experience, Revelations 2 completely takes out the wind from its own sails. The only time there is true tension within Revelations 2 are the sections where Natalia's power is absolutely required or useless. One early section in the forest where they were in the trees was done rather well, as you felt the tension there, with invisible bug enemies Natalia has to point out for Barry to shoot. But beyond that, you use Natalia to find where enemies and their weak points are, and Barry either sneaks up on them and knifes them to death, or shoots them in the appropriate place.
Remember how it was said this game was designed for a co-op experience? Nothing proves it more than this element. One can see the appeal of your partner having to call out where the enemy is, as that could cause some tension where you try to exactly call out where a zombie is, and possibly screw up that call out, to have to deal with a powerful creature. But in single player, it's nothing more than switching to Natalia to get an understanding of where you need to focus, switch back, and done. So you know at all times how to deal with enemies and their weaknesses. How Capcom thought this would work on the single player level boggles my mind. You had a partner in Revelations 1, but they weren't completely necessary, and you still felt the tension of every encounter. Here, it barely came, and ultimately Revelations 2 suffered for it. It completely takes out the tension in any situation, and even in the action-oriented Resident Evil era, that seems ultimately like a STUPID decision.
There are some good elements of Revelations 2's campaign. Sound design is done reasonably well. The buzzing of an invisible bug enemy and it's location does its job, and at no point does the firing of your shotgun become painful to listen to. Sound is an important element of the game, in terms of listening for zombies (if you're not in Barry's campaign), or getting a heads up of what's to come. The music doesn't stand out but also doesn't hurt the situation either and is able to add to the game's better moments in question without being completely out of right field. The voice acting isn't the greatest in the world, but it's passable, especially with some of the intentionally stupid dialog that Revelations 2 attempts to throw at you, to give Resident Evil fans things that they'll relate to (Jill Sandwich anyone?).
But, Revelations 2 is ridiculously unpolished on the PC. And I'm not even talking about the obvious frame rate issues that many members of the community are having. It goes far beyond that. From your co-op AI partner having mini-seizures right in front of you, to enemies literally teleporting across the rooms if you try to run by them. The amount of glitches and bugs that I ran to was astonishing, and showed Capcom once again rushing a PC port out that it wasn't obviously optimized for. This has become a trend for their releases on PC, with things like Dead Rising 3 for example, it's completely clear that they are a console company first at this point. The graphics look ok for a PC port, but you will notice problems here and there with collision detection, and some not up to par textures. I've never seen white shadows before this game, but lo and behold, something new!
The one saving grace of Revelations 2? It's raid mode. Think similar to the mercenaries modes of old: and this is where the game does it's best to go “here's some enemies, some ammo, go right at it!” Because the base of the game's controls is solid and the gunplay works - this mode is fun. There's a level up system, guns to collect, and different abilities to unlock with experience. This is the most fun I had in this game, and something I will want to play now and again.....if it works. For a long while, I was unable to get past the first mission due to problems with uploading scores (which was fixed by me taking myself offline), but that's IF the game didn't crash before then. The community is still reporting several issues on this, and it darkens what is the lone stand out feature that this game has to offer. When it does work: it's the reason you'll come back to the game, and may get the game all together in the end.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 for me signifies once again that Capcom has absolutely no idea what they are doing with several of their flagship franchises. Resident Evil needs some fresh eyes for the franchise, and that's sad considering that the original Revelations seemed to be the direction that the series needed to go. The portions on the ship in which you really felt like the walls of the ship were closing in on you, and the horrors that came at you really were a threat. Someone on the TechRaptor staff suggested that the major players were all spending their time with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and I wouldn't be surprised.
This game/tech was purchased by the reviewer and reviewed on the PC platform.