Resident Evil Revelations 2 – Episode 1: Penal Colony Preview

Good fence, better virus.

As a self-professed under-informed enthusiast of the Resident Evil franchise, I felt criminally unprepared for the hands-on opportunity I got with Resident Evil: Revelations 2 in a recent demo. With PlayStation 4 controller in-hand, I got to check out an early build of the game as it is currently in development with the Japanese market in the lead and a Western release following closely behind. Where the previous Revelations game landed on Nintendo 3DS, pushing an immersive experience in 3D, the game did well on console and the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4 platforms take the lead with Revelations 2.

Players take control of Claire Redfield, who’ll have to explore an abandoned prison with a few friendly faces and the standard undead that have haunted players since the series arrived on PlayStation. Still, Revelations modernized the experience well enough to entice new players and those familiar with all of Capcom’s beloved, twisting plotlines. While aiming and firing weaponry in Revelations 2 plays much like many other modern shooters, I was also pleased to find that the game’s environment, lock puzzles, and item collecting have been made easier as well.

Starting the demo on novice difficulty didn’t hurt, particularly in the wealth of ammunition available in crates or hidden in empty prison cells, though the level layout of the game’s first episode, as it were, lent itself well for smooth progression from area to area. Claire starts in a cell all her own, but the door opens mysteriously and she eventually joins with a partner named Moira who leaves firearm weaponry to the lead and carries a flashlight and crowbar instead. Players will use both characters to solve puzzles and progress through combat encounters, but I stuck with Claire and her powerful shotgun.

Soon, the two protagonists needed to focus on obtaining a series of keys or hoping that the electric locks hauntingly opening for them would continue down a safe path. I noticed even in this early demo that Capcom hopes to ensure players don’t get lost despite the relatively twisting means by which they’ll navigate at least this very early section in the game.

For one, a locked door was almost always accompanied by an icon depicting the key you’re actually looking for, so that the player can retain the image of a specific “Old Key” or “Electronic Key” that is needed to move forward. If not for my own lack of Resident Evil mastery, I’d say that these small gameplay tweaks will offer fans revelations (see what I did there?) when stacked against the ever-more-antique tank-style controls that only series purists can claim to like in this day and age.

I continued guiding Claire and Moira through this initial episode’s prison, replete with traps and a seemingly inescapable pit, though separating the two characters and allowing Moira to search for a required object offers a nice balance between strict combat and puzzle-solving. Claire still kicked plenty of ass with third-person shooter controls available in Revelations 2, but higher difficulty settings will absolutely force our heroes to conserve ammunition. Approaching the twenty minute mark, about half-a-dozen enemies appeared in a single cell block and the game’s music quickly set to suspense.

A boss monster also appeared and left me to guide Claire and Moira around spinning blade traps and upstairs. Here, I feared I’d be backed into a corner and killed by the particularly Gwar-looking enemy wielding a large hammer weapon; however, a few shotgun rounds to the face will bring anybody down. After collecting a shiny golden gear and inserting it into a door, Claire and Moira could move on... which is when the demo finished.

While I won’t hesitate to emphasize the fact that Resident Evil: Revelations 2 will certainly appeal to franchise aficionados above anybody else and that I am decidedly outside of that group, everything felt extremely satisfying in the demonstration. The third-person camera allows the player to more tightly control their view of the action while shooting and melee combat felt responsive and as engaging as the series has accomplished in the likes of Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6, but it seems like this entry in the franchise takes its narrative and atmospheric cues far more seriously than the action-packed Resident Evil 6.

At a reduced price and in weekly episodic format, Revelations 2 will likely delight fans when it launches in early 2015 on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.