Two’s Company – Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – Episode 1: Penal Colony Review

March 1, 2015 by

Is Resident Evil: Revelations 2’s approach to episodic content just what the struggling franchise needs?

Developer: Capcom
PublisherCapcom
Review Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: February 24, 2015

The original Resident Evil: Revelations stood as a reminder of what the series was capable of. After an okay Resident Evil 5 and a console and PC release following the profoundly disappointing Resident Evil 6 (not to mention Operation: Racoon City), Revelations was a solid reminder of just how capable Capcom was when dealing with the beloved franchise. Revelations 2 looks to continue this trend, but this time in an experimental episodic format.

The first episode allows you to play from the perspective of two teams of two – Claire Redfield with Moira Burton, and Barry Burton with Natalia Korda. The two newcomers didn’t exactly leave a positive taste in my mouth by the time the credits rolled. Moira is a weird sort-of-teenager-sort-of-twentysomething and Natalia faired a little better, but was still a little girl. It’s clear that Capcom is interested in pursuing a similar dynamic to what Naughty Dog achieved in The Last of Us, having one character who is powerful and carries weapons, while the other mostly hides or gets in the way. The AI isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t seem particularly interested in helping you either (at least at lower levels).

Barry and Natalia are a poor man's Joel and Ellie.
Barry and Natalia are a poor man’s Joel and Ellie.

As the game progresses, you’re allowed to upgrade certain aspects of your character. These upgrades can range from healing faster to allowing the other character to shoot without expending ammo. It’s a simple system that gives the first episode replayability, as players should be invested in choosing the right combination of abilities before next week’s episode.

Those hoping to return to the zaniness that the Resident Evil franchise is known for will be happy to discover that Revelations 2 doesn’t shy away from the crazy. Even better, it rides the line between the super seriousness that RE is known for, and a new tongue-in-cheek self awareness that gives longtime fans of the series something to giggle about (“Now who’s the master of unlocking?”), while newcomers who are in the dark will think it’s just a bit more of that good ol’ RE cheese.

And that’s what works best for Revelations 2 campaign. While the series has always leaned pretty heavily on it’s story, it’s always been overly complicated and, thus, difficult to follow scene-to-scene. The reward has usually been getting through some running and shooting and puzzle-solving to get to the next cutscene, but the cutscenes have rarely been very well produced. Here, though, the story is simplified, for the most part. Claire and Moira wake up in a mysterious prison, and it soon becomes clear that they were part of some dastardly experiment. I won’t give away Barry’s motives, but knowing Moira is his daughter should give you an idea.

Illustrating Moira's effectiveness with a flashlight.
Illustrating Moira’s effectiveness with a flashlight.

Revelations 2’s first episode takes a surprisingly high number of twists in it’s 3 hour run time and ends on a massive cliffhanger. If you purchased just the single episode, I can’t imagine someone not wanting to buy the second just to know what happens next. The episodic nature of Revelations 2 (even more so than it’s predecessor) really works to it’s benefit. It keeps the story from growing too crazy. It keeps everything in check, and everything so far seems like it’ll be easier – much easier – to digest than previous games in the franchise.

Luckily the story is accompanied by some of the franchise’s best gunplay. The stiffness of previous games is mostly gone. Claire, Barry, Moira, and Natalia feel so much more agile than, say, Leon Kennedy of Resident Evil 4. Movement isn’t relegated to an unreasonably slow strafe and backwards-walk, but instead the characters seemingly know how to move from right to left to backwards almost as well as they know how to move forward. Holding the X-button still controls the awkward dash forward, and pressing down and X will turn your character around when you sense a zombie on your heels. It’s all very familiar to fans of the series, but it’s definitely a much more refined experience, especially while taking shots as Claire or Barry.

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The monsters in Revelations 2 are certainly creepy.

Unfortunately, Claire and Barry are the only characters that warrant much use. They’re the only characters capable of firing a weapon, while Moira and Natalia can use a melee weapon and point their flashlight and fingers respectively at semi-hidden objects. Most of the game’s puzzles require you to take control (by pressing the triangle button) of the less interesting character and maneuver them around the environment, avoiding any and all conflict. It artificially raises the tension by making you vulnerable and, ultimately, uninteresting.

In addition to the traditional campaign, Revelations 2 includes another iteration on Raid Mode, Resident Evil’s arcade almost-horde-but-not-quite mode. Raid Mode tasks you with killing x-many number of zombies, earning medals along the way which can be used to unlock new missions. You also earn points which can be spent on upgrading your Raid character. Each of the four characters available has specific strengths and abilities, so actually choosing which character to begin with can be a bit more difficult than one might expect.

If you're willing to give Raid Mode a chance, you'll be surprised by how fun it is.
If you’re willing to give Raid Mode a chance, you’ll be surprised by how fun it is.

Raid Mode takes you to a variety of locales, most of which either haven’t been visited in Revelations 2 yet, or don’t appear at all (some are directly out of previous RE games). The variety found in the missions keeps the mode feeling fresh, and the multiple optional objectives will keep more obsessive players coming back for more in hopes of clearing all medals, even when they aren’t necessary to progress. There’s so much content that, at least this early on, Raid Mode is significantly more substantial than the campaign, though I expect that to even out as future episodes are released.

The entire experience – campaign and Raid Mode – can be played cooperatively with a friend, though at this point, local co-op is the only option. For better or worse, Capcom seems to have made the decision to release the online functionality at a later date. Either way, co-op feels somewhat like a waste of time throughout the campaign. Seeing as how only one character is actually useful at most times, one player will be forced to stand back while the other kills the vast majority of the baddies, completely limiting the cooperative functionality. Luckily, Raid Mode’s co-op is a bit more traditional, as both players control a character worth their time.

Review Overview

4/5

Though the nature of episodic releases means that we see a limited amount of content on a week-to-week basis, the first episode feels very much like an introductory episode, despite being really great. At the same time, Revelations 2 offers an incredible amount of fun (both in terms of quality and quantity) in the form of it's Raid Mode.

About Tyler Nope

Tyler lives in the Portland, OR area with his wife and cat. He loves pizza, comic books, and video games.