Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Episode 1: Penal Colony PS4 Review

There’s a lot crammed into Resident Evil: Revelations 2 that makes it seem like Capcom is penning a love letter to its fans. On the one hand, you have the inclusion of shambling, zombie-like foes and tension-dripping atmosphere, and on the other, you’ve got characters such as Barry Burton and Claire Redfield rearing their head after a decade or so out of the limelight—at least as far as canonical appearances go, anyway. Concurrently, there’s also the odd, seemingly arbitrary decision to turn Revelations 2 into an episodic affair, something which may seem like a curious direction for a franchise that’s built itself on delivering eight-hour blockbusters in the past. Still, despite the switch, it actually manages to work quite well. 

Revelations 2 takes place between the fifth and sixth instalments in the Resident Evil series, and sees Claire, now part of a anti-bioterrorism outfit named Terrasave, kidnapped alongside Barry’s daughter and new recruit, Moira. The pair awaken on a mysterious island inside a prison complex, which parallels Claire’s antics in CODE: Veronica. It’s here the action kicks off, as the duo attempt to escape and uncover the circumstances surrounding their capture. Almost immediately, Revelations 2 establishes Miss Redfield as the level-headed of the two, with her hardened experience with firearms and bio-terrorism juxtaposed with Moira’s potty-mouthed, fiery personality, making for quite an interesting combo.

However, the disparity between both character goes beyond their mere personalities, and plays neatly into the gameplay itself. Claire is the main combatant of the two, as Moira, due to an undisclosed trauma from her past, refuses to use any kind of firearm. Instead, she adopts the role of flashlight duty and wields a crowbar for fending off the various mutated bad guys you’ll come across, which are like a cross between traditional, flesh-eating zombies and RE4’s Los Ganados. This creates an interesting gameplay dynamic, I found myself switching frequently between both characters, using Claire to pick off any foes while controlling Moira to uncover hidden items in the environment by focusing her flashlight on a particular area.


The same can be said for Barry’s segments (unlocked after completing Claire’s mission), who teams up with a mysterious young girl named Natalia. Whereas Bazza is a walking tank, Natalia is only able to defend herself by lobbing bricks at enemies, with her main function being able to ‘sense’ foes from a great distance, as well as point out hidden items. This proves more valuable than you might initially think; Barry can use this info to sneak up on enemies and deliver a stealth kill by hitting R2 behind his target, circumventing the need to use firearms. Oddly enough, the stealth is perhaps a little too effective; I managed to slay one foe, only for his buddy to turn around and ignore me, despite the fact I was right in front of him. Still, it’s an interesting spin on the bread-and-butter Resi experience, and helps conserve ammo.

In fact, Capcom should be applauded for this partner dynamic, as it works far better than previous forced co-op offerings. It’s extremely satisfying to switch seamlessly between Claire/Moira and Barry/Natalia, utilizing each character’s strengths to methodically push through the blood-drench corridors and halls of the detention facility. It also adds another strategic layer into the mix, as you can blind enemies with Moira’s flashlight before switching to Claire to deliver a punishing melee attack, or get the drop on your foes unexpectedly as Barry via Natalia’s acute vision.

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Other than that, Revelations 2 plays very much like you’d expect, with the occasional puzzle punctuating the frantic on-screen action. These aren’t particularly challenging, and often require simple fetch-quests and backtracking, though it helps break up the firefights all the same. Fortunately, Revelations 2 somehow manages to strike a nice balance between action and tension, with some sections offering bombastic shootouts, while others fallback on the gut-wrenching spooks of the classic Resident Evil titles. The environments, ranging from the detention facility itself to a forest area, are certainly creepy places to explore, if slightly uninspired in terms of aesthetics. You’ll also have to be careful of saving ammo; I ran out quite a few times, so you can’t just blast everything nonchalantly and expect to come out the other side with a bucket load of bullets; care must be taken to land critical headshots, particularly against the bosses. Just like the original Revelations, there’s a palpable sense of old-school survivor horror wafting through the dingy halls here. 

Elsewhere, Raid Mode makes a return, and is just as addictive as its Mercenaries precursor, or indeed the original Revelations’ Raid mode. Here, you simply go on a killing spree, raking up a score and accumulate points to spend on weapons and unlocks, respectively. The upgrade system is back too, allowing you to tinker with your weapons increasing their firepower, firing speed, reload time, etc. With heaps of unlockable characters to tuck into, plus the chance to earn medals based on your performance, Raid mode will keep you entertained long after the campaign wraps. Thankfully, the shooting mechanics are solid enough, and the ability to dodge in any direction by hitting the circle button with the analogue stick, as well as shoot while moving, keeps things from feeling too stale. 

It’s a pity then, that Revelations falters so much in the technical department. Various frame rate hiccups and glitching occur frequently on PS4, and only work to hamper player immersion. The graphics themselves are serviceable, but this is a title that is looking pretty rusty on PS3, let alone its successor; compared even to the six-year-old RE5, it comes up short, with flat textures and average character models that lack the definition and nuance handiwork of modern action-adventure games. In fact, if i were to compare it to any previous RE game, it would probably be the HD version of RE4—think RE, but on a budget. Some of the bugs are annoying, too. In one area, I couldn’t progress through a corridor as my partner was in the way, forcing me to faff about for ages trying to push them out of the way. 


The music and voice acting fares much better, with a brilliant, unobtrusive soundtrack that complements the creepy atmosphere perfectly, while the cast actually do a pretty decent job at their roles, particularly Claire’s voice actress. Yes, there’s still some trademark hammy dialogue—mostly from Barry—and some of Moira’s F-bomb drops feel contrived, but it wouldn’t be Resident Evil without some dodgy voiceovers. The narrative also has plenty of twists and turns, which considering the episodic nature of the game’s release schedule, is somewhat of a relief. 

There’s plenty of replay value in Episode 1 too, thanks to various medallions and other hidden collectibles dotted throughout the environment, plus the chance to acquire Skill Points to upgrade your abilities (increased melee attack damage, reducing time to use a healing item, temporary invincibility while crouching etc) give you plenty of incentive to play over again. Despite its hiccups, Revelations is a successful transition for the Resi series to episodic delivery, and left me eager to sink my teeth into Episode 2.

Score

7.5

The Final Word

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is a promising start to this four-part horror title, with some interesting gameplay dynamics let down by dodgy presentation and some technical hiccups.