Monday, March 2, 2015

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Episode 1 Review

The Resident Evil series has evolved over the years, gradually turning away from survival horror towards a more action orientated style of gameplay. The most recent games have come under fire from some fans for veering too far away from its horror roots and becoming more like Gears of War with zombies. On the basis of the first episode, the old school may not quite be jumping for joy with the direction Capcom have taken Revelations 2, but there are at least slight nods to the survival horror tropes of the earlier games.
In a first for Resident Evil, the game will be released over 4 weeks in an episodic format which I’m sure Capcom are hoping will breathe life into the series which is at risk of stagnating. The story takes place between RE5 and RE6 and focusses on two returning characters, Claire Redfield and Barry Burton, who are members of Terra Save, a humanitarian outfit which help people affected by bio-terrorism. From the very first scene, it is clear that this Resident Evil is taking a slightly less serious approach.

In the most recent editions, Resident Evil’s storyline which has become more and more convoluted and difficult to follow, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this game takes a more simplistic approach to storytelling. There is a great sense of mystery surrounding what is occurring and, like most episodic games, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you hooked until the next episode. Although this is a sequel to Resident Evil: Revelations, the story, at least in the first episode, does not link into the first game.

The general gameplay in Revelations 2 has improved since the first title, most notably in character movement. The ability to dodge attacks has been simplified to pressing the circle button and the direction you want to dodge, which is an improvement on the previous game which required you to wait until the enemy attacked in order to click forward or back to dodge. The new approach is much better and helps the game keep a pace which is more in line with today’s shooters.
Each character has their own chapter and also their own co-op partner to work alongside them. Claire teams up with Moira Burton, the daughter of series legend Barry Burton. Moira is a new recruit of Terra Save and is not used to the situations we have come to expect from the series. Barry gains the assistance of Natalia Korda, a mysterious girl whose story is yet to be revealed. Both partners have similar actions to each other, Moira possesses a torch which can blind enemies and also spot items which Claire cannot and acts as support in combat with the aid of a crowbar. Natalia has the almost supernatural ability to ‘sense’ nearby enemies and can reach places that Barry cannot due to her diminutive stature.

Switching between the secondary characters is as simple as pressing the triangle button and I found myself switching often to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Co-op gameplay comes in the form of local split screen, with online co-op in the Raid mode unlocking once the final episode releases. The lack of online co-op in the campaign is puzzling to me but the split screen works well enough. My only complaint is that both of the screens are small 16:9 rectangles which can make it hard to focus on what is going on, particularly if there are multiple enemies on screen.

Split screen co-op is also available in Raid mode and it’s a particular highlight given the added competitiveness of seeing who can take down the most enemies and level up their character the quickest. There are unlocks at various levels which give you more slots for weapons and also new and improved perks, which help as you try to overcome the stronger enemies that each subsequent mission throws at you.
The combat is as satisfying as most third person shooters these days, and thankfully there’s no clumsy cover system like there was in RE6 so you can just concentrate on getting well placed shots with the excellent over-the-shoulder aiming. In single player you’ll find you play primarily as Claire or Barry, as although they help when computer controlled, Moira and Natalia are no use for combat purposes at all. There are some early problems whilst switching characters, as I was trying to prise a door open with Moira’s crowbar, Claire was slashing away ineffectively at enemies with her knife. It wasn’t until later that I discovered you have to unlock the skill to enable the computer controlled AI to use their gun. This makes some early encounters a bit trickier than when replaying.

On the subject of skills, there are many different ones to unlock throughout the course of the game and you do this by using points accumulated through the main story. There are gems which can be collected around the prison and forest which will be added to your total, though the bulk of the points come from your performance in the chapter. You get scored on various criteria such as the amount of times you had to retry and also how long the chapter took to complete.

The game runs well on PS4 and, for the most part, at a smooth 60fps. The only problem I ran into was a dip in the framerate in the forest area but this did not affect the gameplay at all or my experience with the game, although it is noticeable when the rest of the game runs so well. The environments don’t have the amount of detail you may have come to expect from more recent current-gen titles, not that they look terrible, this is still a PS4 game after all, but they look a little drab and generic compared to other offerings.
The game has a lot of replay value both in its main campaign and also in the returning Raid mode. In the campaign there are various medals to earn by completing certain tasks and there are also a number of other collectibles scattered around the area to find. The Raid mode in particular is incredibly fun and I can see myself losing a lot of time to it. The mode plays to the strength of the game which is the shooting mechanics, and running through a level, some of which are locations from the story and past RE games, and gunning down all of the enemies is extremely satisfying. There are a wealth of other unlockables, some of which will unlock as each episode releases, and offer various options for customisation.

Unlike its predecessor, the campaign in Resident Evil: Revelations 2 thus far places more emphasis on action rather than slow burn tension, though Claire’s chapter harks back towards the item management and the notable scarcity of ammo of earlier Resident Evils. Either way with its back to basics approach to narrative, and its deeply satisfying gunplay, early signs are that Resident Evil: Revelations 2 will be a worthy addition to the series.

What’s Good: 
Satisfying gunplay.
Simple but engaging story.
Raid mode adds to the replay value
What’s Bad: 
Online co-op not available until the full release.
Uninspired and dreary environments.
Score: 8/10

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