Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Recurring episodes for gaming’s virulent strain of horror
360, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One
Since the mainline Resident Evil series appears locked in a feedback loop of escalating bombast with the Paul WS Anderson movies, it falls to the Revelations spinoffs to maintain its survival-horror roots. True to form, ammo is in short supply throughout, and you’ll also encounter a number of environmental puzzles along the way. But defying horror conventions, you won’t be entirely alone. While you’ll start off as Claire Redfield, Moira Burton (daughter of STARS member Barry Burton) accompanies you throughout, and a single button tap switches control between the two.
The pair now work for anti-bioterrorism organisation Terra Save, but during Moira’s welcome party both are knocked unconscious when the building is stormed by unidentified armed forces, and awake in an abandoned, dilapidated and very grey prison. After we rescue a panicked Moira from her cell, we learn that the pair have different skillsets.
In a setup that goes one step further than Doom 3’ s infamous torch-or-gun choice, Revelations 2 insists that the tools are so mutually exclusive they must be wielded by separate characters entirely. Claire’s the weapons expert, handling gun duties and also capable of doing some serious damage with her melee attack. Moira, meanwhile, has a pathological fear of wielding guns and instead sticks to the torch and a crowbar.
Her beam of light serves two purposes, allowing you to discover useful items such as ammo and herbs by highlighting them with a twinkle of light, and dazzling enemies at close range. This temporary blinding lasts a couple of seconds and proves a useful crowd-control technique if used well, allowing Moira to get in a panicked crowbar whack, or Claire to more easily line up a headshot.
When you switch characters, the game’s AI takes over control of your partner, who is then rendered invincible. A brief hands-on does little to allay fears of how well this will be balanced, but dealing with three or four enemies feels challenging enough, even with invulnerable backup.
Much of that challenge is down to Revelations’ new enemy type, the Afflicted. Faster and more intelligent than a shambling zombie, they’ll quickly surround you, can use blunt-force weapons, will climb ladders to give chase, and can leap across gaps to reach you. They’re beefier than their decomposed cousins, too, and tend to take two or three headshots to put down. The ability to dodge out of the way in any direction gives you more options during encounters, and a shotgun we find later on deals some one-shot kills, but dealing with groups of the Afflicted remains a fraught experience. That dodge move becomes essential later, when a colossal boss wielding a cobbled-together axe-cum-cleaver attacks us while we wait for a cog mechanism we’ve just rebuilt to open a door. Rather than attempt to take him down, or the other Afflicted who flank him, we spend a couple of minutes on the run before dashing to temporary safety. For a game that Capcom is positioning as a more traditional Resident Evil experience, there’s a fair amount of fresh mechanical thinking on show. The biggest change of all, however, is in distribution: the game will be delivered episodically in weekly instalments, with a disc release of the full package after the finale. But despite the new ideas, the game already feels dated. Ponderous controls and muddy visuals call to mind the negative aspects of the era that Capcom is trying to celebrate. And surely by now only super-fans still care about the fate of Claire Redfield, especially when the dialogue’s this clunky.
But more worrying is the fact that the familiarity of Revelations 2 undermines its attempts to scare, the main source of dread being the thought of dealing with enemies with a dwindling ammo cache. With so many studios working to find new ways to unnerve, this series’ relevance to the modern horror fan is increasingly questionable.
The Resident Evil series has had plenty of female characters throughout its history, but Revelations 2 is the first entry to have two female leads. Both are equally important to the story, and both freely playable, but Redfield is clearly defined as the protagonist thanks to her more capable skillset, while Burton plays more of a support role by locating pickups and dispatching downed enemies with her crowbar. And while Redfield remains coolheaded in the face of waves of mutated enemies, Burton is audibly afraid and less accepting of their predicament, setting up a potentially engaging dynamic between the pair.