Res­i­dent Evil: Rev­e­la­tions 2

EDGE - - GAMES - Cap­com 360, PC, PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox One Episodes 1–3 out now, fi­nal episode March 18

360, PC, PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox One

Franz Kafka and Res­i­dent Evil seems like a strange com­bi­na­tion. One, af­ter all, is a noted sur­re­al­ist who wrote metic­u­lously ob­served works of high lit­er­a­ture, and whose deeply metaphor­i­cal writ­ings have in­flu­enced nu­mer­ous au­thors. The other is a bloated se­ries that’s birthed as many mere­tri­ciously ba­nal works as it has given us shlock-hor­ror clas­sics, and whose campy scripts in­spired a slew of in-jokes. They’re not quite on a level. But what links the Aus­troHun­gar­ian writer and this se­quel to 2012’s 3DS spinoff Rev­e­la­tions, be­sides a lib­eral sprin­kling of Kafka quotes and nods, is that they are both shock­ingly self-aware.

Or to put it an­other way, the four episodes that de­scribe the cen­tral arc of Rev­e­la­tions 2 are not afraid to em­brace the se­ries’ twisted his­tory and then play­fully toy with your ex­pec­ta­tions. Fans needn’t worry about Resi de­vel­op­ing art­house as­pi­ra­tions, though: this is still un­abashedly a game about shoot­ing mon­sters, a game full of gory squirms, and a game driven by a story that’s heavy on the melo­drama. It’s just that in be­tween laugh­able lines, the scriptwrit­ers chuck in a sly wink that may make you laugh. It’s just that when you hear a sound other Resi games have con­di­tioned you to fear, you may soon feel very silly for jolt­ing up­right.

It’s the zest in a fairly tra­di­tional pot­boiler of a plot, but a lean one by the se­ries’ re­cent stan­dards, a lack of bloat en­forced by be­ing bro­ken up into four episodes of be­tween two and three hours long, each split up fur­ther over two story strands. The first fol­lows Claire Red­field and Moira Bur­ton, the like­ably sweary 20-some­thing daugh­ter of Resi 1 meme gen­er­a­tor Barry, af­ter both are ab­ducted from a work shindig by masked gun­men in the open­ing mo­ments. They awake in a run­down gu­lag to find mys­te­ri­ous bracelets about their wrists and them­selves in a deadly ex­per­i­ment, watched on CCTV by The Over­seer. The other thread, six months later, tracks a care­worn Barry as he hunts for his still-miss­ing child, soon meet­ing a quiet girl called Natalia, whom he quickly takes un­der his wing, de­spite be­ing a red choker away from the dead spit of Col­let-Serra’s Or­phan.

While the writ­ers seek to de­rive much ten­sion from the true fate of Moira and whether Natalia is re­ally all she seems, th­ese sup­port char­ac­ters are no mere plot de­vices, also ty­ing into the me­chan­ics. While Claire and Barry are your typ­i­cal gun-sling­ing Resi leads, a but­ton tap will leap you into the body of their part­ner. Moira is too trau­ma­tised by an event in her past to use guns, but lugs around a crow­bar that can stag­ger enemies with blows from be­hind and open spe­cific crates and doors, plus she car­ries a torch that will, in Alan Wake- bait­ing style, stun zom­bies if you can keep the high-pow­ered beam trained on them for long enough. Natalia is less ag­gres­sive still, but able to see dead peo­ple. More specif­i­cally, she can sense any in­fected crea­ture in a short ra­dius, even through walls, and pick out nodes on the patch­work Uroboros crea­tures that have run ram­pant here since Claire and Moira passed through. Fi­nally, Moira and Natalia can re­veal twin­kling items, though af­ter years of sim­ply mag­pieing shinies, this just smacks of giv­ing them some­thing else to do be­tween com­bat to bulk out their role in splitscreen co-op.

And there is a lot of com­bat. The orig­i­nal Rev­e­la­tions pi­o­neered an amal­gam of Resi’s lat­ter-day third­per­son balls-to-the-wall ac­tion with the sur­vival edge of ear­lier games, a tweaked ver­sion of which re­turns here. Gone are the in­dis­crim­i­nate su­plexes of Resi 6 – and, sadly, the cra­nium-splat­ter­ing head­shots of 4 – while ammo feels scarce once again, al­beit more usu­ally be­cause of the vol­umes of it you’ll get through than for want of the stuff ly­ing around. You can still fire on the move, but you’re slow, re­ly­ing on a dodge to get you out of dan­ger. It’s an ef­fec­tive com­pro­mise for the most part, at least forc­ing you to mix up your guns and strate­gies, though it fails to solve the prob­lem that the shock value of enemies is blunted when they are served up so reg­u­larly. Cap­com nonethe­less in­tro­duces some smart twists cour­tesy of the part­ner sys­tem, though to ap­pre­ci­ate them solo play­ers will need to flick be­tween char­ac­ters in­stead of re­ly­ing on the AI. Zom­bies cov­ered in grotesque pus­tules act like walk­ing mines, show­er­ing all in the blast ra­dius with a screen-cov­er­ing layer of pu­tre­fac­tion, but are eas­ily popped with Moira’s torch. The in­sec­toid Glasps, mean­while, are in­vis­i­ble to the naked eye, so Barry must rely on Natalia’s vi­sion and track­ing fin­ger to land shots be­fore they close in for an in­stant kill. Enemies whose mere touch means death are rarely short of aw­ful, but clear tele­graph­ing pre­vents tense en­coun­ters slip­ping over into raw frus­tra­tion.

The same can’t be said for two late-game boss fights, which fall prey to the same ex­cesses that have ham­pered the main se­ries. They are over­long slogs against will­sap­ping bul­let sponges, and while both de­mand the use of the sup­port char­ac­ters, nei­ther does so in par­tic­u­larly en­gag­ing ways. An­other low point ar­rives when you’re forced to com­plete tasks in a smog of poi­sonous gas, lead­ing to plenty of te­dious back­track­ing.

It’s not enough to de­rail the rol­lick­ing hours of fa­mil­ial drama, cheesy one-lin­ers and brain­lessly en­ter­tain­ing shoot­ing that’s left over. Rev­e­la­tions 2 is a short se­ries that builds quickly and barely lets up as the twin paths thun­der through the gu­lag, make a tense trek through a foggy for­est, over­lap in a sea­side vil­lage and then di­verge again to take in di­lap­i­dated ten­e­ments, slaugh­ter­houses, and booby-trapped fa­cil­i­ties. Greater self-aware­ness hasn’t made Res­i­dent Evil much smarter, and it cer­tainly hasn’t im­proved its plot­ting, but it has de­liv­ered the most shame­less ve­hi­cle for the se­ries’ gun fetish yet, if one still a few notches short of Mikami’s decade-old ac­tion mas­ter­work.

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