The wait for the sequel to the 3DS classic is over.
Resident Evil has been the pinnacle in survival horror dating back to its initial release in the mid-’90s, but slowly shifted gears with each subsequent release, becoming more action oriented and less about survival. This departure caused much ire from long-time fans of the series, myself included, but Capcom’s attempts to recapture the essence of what made early titles great has been a welcome surprise. While Revelations 2 does a fantastic job of delivering unsettling and downright eerie areas to explore, coupled with an interesting story, it continues to skew slightly more towards action than survival. Being paired with a partner provides a sense of comfort, making the entire journey far less intimidating than it could have been.
Revelations 2 originally released episodically over the course of a month, laying down the groundwork for each chapter to follow a similar format. Each of the four chapters starts by following Claire Redfield’s story line and then revisits similar areas in varying order with Barry Burton’s side of the story. Seeing how the events of each side play out back to back made for an interesting and fluid narrative. The story itself starts off at a party where Claire and Moira, Barry’s daughter, are kidnapped awakening on an unknown island with strange bracelets on their wrists. They learn that a woman known as the Overseer is monitoring their every move as they try to escape the island and learn of the ungodly things happening on it. Barry on the other hand learns of his daughter’s disappearance and sets forth to save her, but along the way meets a little girl named Natalia. The two work together to save his daughter and escape the island, while uncovering the truth behind the kidnapping.
Capcom has tinkered with perspective over the years for the series, starting with stationary camera angles, to over-the-shoulder views, and most recently first-person with Resident Evil 7. Revelations 2 uses the culmination of years of fine-tuning to present a near flawless over-the-shoulder perspective with superb controls and handling. Whether you’re blasting enemy heads off, sneaking around to perform stealth attacks, or running for cover, I always felt in control of the situation, which is essential where a single mistake could lead to death. While ammunition is certainly not scarce, it always felt rewarding to use stealth attacks to dispose of enemies while conserving bullets. I played on normal difficulty and bumping it up will result in far less ammo available. In addition to finding ammo, you’ll also find different materials for crafting sub-weapons and even precious materials that are sold and used to permanently upgrade your character’s skills. These skills range from, but aren’t limited to, extra damage after switching guns to being able to cancel actions by using your evade ability. As you explore each area you’ll need to do some light backtracking and puzzle solving to continue forward. This is a welcomed return from the much more linear experiences the series has seen, but what was frustrating was after finding a map, it’d only be visible on the HUD. There was no option to take a look at a more zoomed out view, which is a strange omission.
The most apparent flaw in Revelations 2’s design is the partners. Not only does it constantly force the player to bounce control between the two, but most of the time the task is so trivial that it seemed silly to force a character change. For instance, Moira is given a crowbar and a flashlight and will be needed to open certain doors while Claire protects her. This is a fine idea, but instead of Moira just knowing to pry open the door, you must switch to her, then run to the door and press B before switching back to protect her. In reality this is a minor gripe, but having to do it frequently throughout the game quickly becomes tiresome. But it doesn’t stop there, what I found truly infuriating was when I saw a tinkle of an item on the ground; I’d have to switch to Moira to flash her light on it before picking it up. Natalia has her own set of skills, mostly being small enough to fit through tight areas to unlock doors for Barry. This was a good implementation of the partner. However the same ridiculousness of needing to switch characters to point out and pick up items is present in Barry and Natalia’s portion of the story. I also encountered a few spots that the partner AI would be a little wonky, where they wouldn’t come back to me when I called for them. Resident Evil is at its best when you’re isolated and dealing with these horrendous situations alone, so forcing partners never sounded appealing to me and with the implementation being so lackluster, it only reinforced my initial thoughts.
Although having a partner elevates some of the dread as you enter a tight hallway or corridor, that feeling never truly goes away because of just how incredibly terrifying the game looks. The visuals look absolutely superb and help set the tone of the game. Countless times throughout the campaign I’d stop and admire just how beautiful or terribly disturbing the areas felt. One of my favorite moments was being outside on a dreary cliff side to only moments later descending into a building that felt like the depths of hell. I loved how one second I felt relatively safe to soon after feeling completely trapped and scared, showing just how quick the situation could turn on you. The music and ominous tones only heighten tense moments. On top of the impressive environmental design, Capcom did a fantastic job with enemy design. There’s enough variation where enemies don’t become stale, though there were a few occasions they’d rely on one type of enemy a little too much.
In addition to the main four chapters and two DLC chapters, there’s also a fully featured side mode called Raid Mode. This is a run-and-gun mode where you’ll be dropped into different stages with the objective of finding and breaking a coin as you mow down enemies along the way. Each time you play you’ll be able to set up your character with different skins, skills, and guns. As you complete missions you’ll earn gold and experience which in turn can be used to unlock new guns and skills. If this mode resonates with you, it’ll be easy to sink just as much if not more time into this than the main campaign. You can play locally with one other person or online, but at the time of review either there were no players actively looking to join a game or the servers weren’t fully active. We will test out online once the game releases to the public and update our experience. New to the package for the Switch are motion controls. I really appreciate that they added something new to the package that takes advantage of the Switch’s hardware, but sadly the motion controls aren’t very good. Even when I concentrated not to move the Joy-Con while aiming, it was still all over the place and resulted in tons of missed shots. I found it a cool novelty, but it should be avoided when actually trying to progress through the game.
Resident Evil fans have long been clamoring for a return to form for the series and with Revelation 2 it was clearly a step in the right direction. Blending light puzzle solving and survival horror elements with the more modern over-the-shoulder perspective delivers a truly menacing experience. Some unfortunate design decisions, mainly forcing the player to switch between characters, hold it back from being among the pantheon of greats in the series. However an interesting story, horrifyingly beautiful environments, and rock solid gameplay provide more than enough to look past its shortcomings.