The whole is greater than the sum of its zombie parts.
Episodic gaming is all the rage right now, and when most people think episodic, they think Telltale Games who also has a very prominent episodic series about zombies. Capcom also tried their hand at episodic zombies in Resident Evil: Revelations in 2012, on the Nintendo 3DS of all places, and surprisingly it worked. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 goes back to the same format on the eighth-generation consoles, and oddly enough it works again. The key term here is “oddly,” because the whole game—at least for the first episode—feels very disjointed, and yet almost impossibly fuses itself together into something worth playing.
The game starts at a TerraSave social mixer, where fan-favorite Claire Redfield chats it up with new employee Moira Burton. If that last name sounds familiar, it should, for Moira is the daughter of Resident Evil original Barry Burton, though Moira would prefer that wasn't the case. She has daddy issues and doesn't hesitate to let anyone in earshot know. Suddenly, to the surprise of everyone except anyone who's played a Resident Evil game, TerraSave headquarters is under siege and Claire and Moira are taken to a deserted prison—deserted of humans, that is. Claire wakes up with an electronic color-changing shackle, a splitting headache, and her prison door miraculously popping open. What could be suspicious about that at all?
Claire goes to find Moira, and the two start looking for an exit from a captor who seems to consider herself as some sort of scientist, as found documents show that the shackles Claire and Moira wear rate their fear, which is the object of the captor's study. The specimens, however, do not enjoy this setup as much as the captor, and would love nothing more than to take it out on our two heroines. Meanwhile, coming to Moira's rescue is none other than Mr. Resident Evil himself, Moira's father, Barry Burton. He allies himself with a mysterious little girl called Natalia and searches the island to find the prison and Moira and Claire.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 offers a little of everything, much like the sampler platter at your local casual dining restaurant with overly-enthusiastic waiters wearing “flair.” And much like said sampler platter, some of Resident Evil: Revelation 2's offerings are delicious, some are okay, some are kind of blah, and some you didn't want anyway but it just came with it.
Claire and Moira's episode starts off promising. Right away players get sunk into the creepy prison, with little to guide them except Moira's screams. The game definitely knows how to create an atmosphere, generally one of the highlights of the series. Lighting illuminates just what it needs to, and music is sparse but builds tension when the time is right. Claire eventually finds a knife in the early parts, and once she does, the nasties come out to play.
This is the point where the game starts to show its disjointed nature, as it will switch often between puzzles and action, but almost jarringly so—smoothness in presentation is not this game's forte. Players will often find themselves pondering how to solve a puzzle or recover an item, when suddenly doors fly open and zombies make themselves known. And these aren't shufflers; many will come at Claire and Moira with the quickness, some even leaping forward to attack. And just as quickly as the last one dies, players are forced to continue the puzzle or search among the ruins.
The hidden beauty of Revelations 2 lies in the fact that this actually works. The jarring transitions are how people would face this outlandish nightmare in reality; Revelations 2 realizes this and uses it to add to the tension and terror. A couple of times I was caught patting myself on the back for completing a goal only to find something slashing at my backside. It's somewhat annoying, but it keeps players on their toes, which is what survival horror is all about.
Claire and Moira's mission becomes a tad predictable at points. Find the exit, oops door's locked, need an item, blow zombies away, found the item, oops it's stuck, figure out how to get it out, zombie horde, etc. Resident Evil purists may not take to the action parts, but should take reassurance in the fact that these parts are not as bulky as later Resident Evil games. They come and go, spiking tension and then releasing. However, when I began to see corridors with multiple doors, I knew it was time to start reloading firearms.
Firearms which, since we're on the topic, all belong to Claire. Moira brings along a crowbar, a flashlight, and a foul mouth. Her character could have been interesting, but as it stands right now, her profanity-laced exclamations led to little more than me worrying if monsters could hear her. Her flashlight does come in handy; not only can you find hidden items, but you can use it to blind enemies, allowing Claire to follow up with a sidekick Chun-Li would be jealous of, and if players time it right, a follow-up to that featuring Moira, her crowbar, the enemy, and a lot of squishing. Moira's not a terrible character, but most of the time, even though you can switch between characters, she firmly takes the sidekick role.
On the other hand, Natalia is terribly interesting. The mysterious little girl plays much differently from the other three characters. Her small frame can cause her to squeeze into small gaps and pathways, as well as sneak around undetected by the nasties. For those who prefer stealth to shootouts, it's a sigh of relief. Natalia's trade-off, however, is that she can take far less damage than Barry, so while players may prefer the stealth route, the stakes are much higher if she gets caught.
Barry and Natalia's scenario, overall, played much more solidly than Claire and Moira's. Set primarily on the exterior of the island, the space was a lot freer to roam, and the zombies felt more like a throwback to the original shufflers. I felt the shiver tingle down my spine more often during the second half than during the prison sequence.
The gameplay and controls were smooth; anyone comfortable with the control scheme of recent Resident Evil offerings should have no problem picking up on Revelations 2, making for smooth combat sequences. The puzzles, however, left a little to be desired, many turning out to be glorified fetch quests. This isn't a crime in the first episode, but I do hope the challenge ramps up a bit on the puzzles in later episodes. The campaign is topped off with the cheesy goodness of Resident Evil dialogue that no matter how hard we try to deny it, we all love. At one point, when Claire escapes a trap, she turns to Moira and says that she was “almost a Claire sandwich,” to which Moira replies, “God, does my dad tell that story to everyone?” Not that there's a problem with that; the game wouldn't be Resident Evil without a schlocky script. But aside from a few in-jokes here and there, the game does a fair job of filling in what mythos is needed to understand what's going on, so even newcomers to the series can enjoy it.
In addition, Raid Mode makes its return from the first Resident Evil: Revelations. Raid mode sends you back into the campaign settings, but this time with more of a feel of an arcade light rail shooter, with the intent of going from Point A to Point B, blowing holes in a bunch of mutants, upgrading your levels and weaponry with some RPG mechanics, all while the soundtrack swaps itself out for a more Europop dance feel. It's like eliminating enemies at the discotheque. (They still have those, right? I don't go out much these days.)
Altogether, the sum of the parts for this first episode makes for an enjoyable run and, despite the rocky start, will make gamers look forward to the next episode. Though nothing is over-the-top incredible about each piece individually, it all links together in a way that only Resident Evil games somehow can manage—maybe not everything on the sampler platter is as tasty as the next, but altogether it's pretty darn good.
Code provided by publisher. Review based on Xbox One version.