Review: Resident Evil: Revelations 2

This dark and innovative journey is one of the franchise’s best.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 12/08/2017 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Loads of content; unique mechanics create great solo and co-op experiences; graphics and art direction deliver the horror beautifully; the compelling, character driven story is possibly the series' best yet.
Poison Mushroom for...
No online campaign co-op; the occasional cheap death; consistently bleak content and dark color palette could turn off some; Moira needs to wash her mouth out with soap.

After years of watching the franchise drift more and more towards a focus on big budget, action heavy set pieces, many gamers were excited to see the release of Resident Evil: Revelations. The game launched on 3DS with near console level visuals, and a distinct shift back towards the confining sense of dread earlier Resident Evil games had been lauded for. Revelations eventually found its way to consoles, including Wii U, and went on to sell well enough to justify a sequel. Unfortunately, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 skipped every Nintendo system when it was initially launched in episodic segments back in 2015. However, a Switch port has now rectified that, and the end result has proven to be well worth the wait.

Like its direct predecessor, Revelations 2 exists as a side story to the main franchise, filling in the blanks between the main entries. This one takes place between the fifth and sixth games, but actually draws much more from earlier titles. Some familiarity with the first two Resident Evil games would help, and there are a few nods to other games here and there, but for the most part the story stands on its own. In addition to its episodic nature, the game is unique in that the campaign is split between two stories, with each featuring a cast of two playable characters. This gives you some freedom in how you choose to tackle the story; the game defaults to having you alternate, but you could also choose to play one storyline to its completion before starting the other.

The first arc stars long-time heroine Claire Redfield and Moira Burton, daughter of Barry Burton, a major supporting character from the franchise’s earliest days. Their story kicks off with them and many of their bioterrorism-fighting coworkers getting captured and knocked out by a group of mysterious assailants before rejoining Claire as she awakens in a decrepit, horror-filled prison and research facility on an isolated island. She quickly meets up with Moira and the two set out to discover where they are, where the horrible monsters infesting the island came from, who the mysterious Overseer is who keeps taunting them from the strange bracelets they are wearing, and how can they get home.

The second story brings back Barry Burton as a major character as he heads to the island to search for his missing daughter. Initially, it looks like events are happening concurrently, but we soon learn that six months have passed since the attack, so Barry is understandably desperate. However, it isn’t long before he too has a partner; this time in the form of Natalia, a mysterious young girl found alone on the island who seems to possess some mysterious powers. So, not only does Barry need to save Moira, but he also wants to keep Natalia safe while also trying to figure who and what she is.

In keeping with series tradition, the overarching narrative about what is happening on the island and who is doing it does eventually grow rather ridiculous, though compared to many other entries in the franchise it is somewhat restrained and features a more consistent, darker tone without ever indulging too much in over-the-top action. However, the real star of the show is the more personal narrative running throughout the game. Despite being the biggest name in the cast, Claire is very much a supporting character in Revelations 2 as the Burton family’s history takes center stage. Barry and Moira have a complicated past that shapes their characters and motivations in ways that are surprisingly nuanced. Moira’s challenges are a way for her to overcome some of the scars left by her past while Barry’s quest is just as much about rectifying his failures as a father as it is about rescuing his daughter and protecting Natalia. Thankfully, the game is often willing to slow things down and allow for some surprisingly somber and reflective moments that help make this story the most affecting in the series’ history.

Though the core gameplay will undoubtedly feel familiar to longtime fans, Revelations 2 offers more interesting experimentation beyond what is found in its structure. Once again, players experience the game from a third person, over the shoulder perspective as they explore the world and combat enemies with a wide array of firearms and surprisingly useful melee attacks made all the more potent by striking enemies stunned or knocked down with precision fire. I would highly recommend playing with the Joy-Cons to take advantage of the motion controls; they make quickly fine-tuning your aim an absolute dream. Outside of combat, you’ll also want to take your time to thoroughly explore your environment, as every area is filled with much needed ammo and healing items, as well as new weapons and upgrades that are vital for expanding and customizing your arsenal. Compared to most other recent Resident Evil games, Revelations 2 also features quite a few more puzzles, and while none of them are too difficult, most do a great job of taking advantage of the environment without being too obtuse. Altogether, the game does a very good job of making you feel challenged, both by the world and the enemies that populate it. The only major issue I encountered is that some enemies feature some one-hit kill attacks that can catch you by surprise. Most make perfect sense and are telegraphed appropriately, but a few will feel cheap the first time you are hit by them but after that you’ll catch on quick.

In terms of new additions to gameplay, the biggest is how the game handles your two person party. Instead of having two heavily-armed, trained soldiers at your disposal at all times, Claire and Barry are instead paired with much more vulnerable, albeit uniquely gifted characters. While Moira might work with Claire, she is inexperienced and unfamiliar with firearms, so instead she arms herself with a flashlight and an iron pipe. The former is not only good at illuminating darkness and blinding foes, but also spotting hidden items indicated in the world by slight glimmers in the world. The pipe, meanwhile, is a potent melee weapon that is especially useful for finishing off knocked down enemies, as well as prying open boarded up doors and locked chests. Being a young child, Natalia is by far the most vulnerable to enemy attacks but she makes up for it in several ways, most important of which is her ability to sense enemies. When playing as Natalia, enemies glow with a yellow aura, allowing her to spot invisible enemies and locate foes in other rooms or around the corner; she can even spot the weak points on certain foes. Like Moira, there are certain chests she can open and she too has a unique melee option in the form of bricks. Like the pipe, they are good for smacking and finishing off enemies, however they can also be thrown but come with the drawback of limited durability, so she’ll need to keep an eye out for more strewn about the world. Last but not least, Natalia is much smaller than every other character, so she can squeeze into tight spaces and is better at slipping past foes undetected.

What’s great about this new system is how it impacts the game both as a single player and co-op experience. When by yourself, you will be forced to constantly shift between characters in order to solve puzzles and effectively handle combat. When playing with a friend, you’ll really be getting an entirely different experience depending on who you play as. Claire and Barry feel like traditional Resident Evil heroes, but when playing as Moira or Natalia, you’ll have to think more strategically as you find the best way to be useful during combat and frequently carry the weight during exploration and puzzle solving. Regardless, playing co-op requires constant communication in ways most other games don’t. For better or for worse, co-op is only available locally via split-screen. While this is probably ideal, online play would have been nice.

At first glance, Revelations 2 uses a familiar way of handling inventory as each character starts out with very limited space but each can easily trade items back and forth with their respective partners. However, the fact that Moira and Natalia can’t use guns changes up the dynamic even more as you’ll likely want to keep Claire and Barry packed to the gills with ammo while the other two focus more on healing items. This game does away with grenades in favor of a variety of Molotov Cocktail-like thrown weapons that any character can equip. While you’ll sometimes find these items in the wild, more times than not you’ll instead find the raw materials needed to make them; the same goes for certain healing items as well. The game features a light crafting element which, alongside inventory management, occurs in real-time so you’ll need to be wary of your surroundings before you start moving things around or crafting new items.

Another interesting addition to Revelations 2 is an upgrade system in which you can purchase and power up skills through the use of BP, an in-game currency. Rather than simply increasing your health or weapon damage, these skills usually encourage more nuanced play, and encourage you to take advantage of every facet of gameplay, like improving evasive moves or adding new and more effective ways to use melee attacks. Normally, these upgrades are acquired slowly through the judicious distribution of BP through in-game pick-ups as well as end of chapter rewards, but it can also be horribly broken through the use of Amiibo. By scanning any Amiibo, you are granted a random amount of BP, usually between 2000 and 8000, and while these amounts are fairly generous early on, they only put a dent in late game upgrades. However, while there are cool down times for individual Amiibo, you can scan as many separate Amiibo as you want at any time, so if you happen to own dozens of the figurines you could be swimming in BP right off the bat. Still, none of the skills are overpowered, so while doing this might make the game a little easier, it won’t instantly make you unstoppable.

The Resident Evil series has always been good at giving players a lot of bang for their buck and Revelations 2 is no exception. The main campaign with its eight chapters spread over four episodes hits that eight to twelve hour sweet spot depending on your play style and difficulty, but there is so much more to do beyond that. First, completing each chapter unlocks options for replaying in different modes, either with invisible enemies or a mode in which you are only given a limited time that can be increased by killing enemies and finding pick-ups. Also, there are plenty of unlockables in the form of character skins, graphic filters, and special weapons that are acquired by playing the game on various difficulty levels and getting the best possible score on each chapter based on time, accuracy, and number of restarts/deaths. And, as stated earlier, it’s worth playing through the game by yourself, as well as co-op at least twice so you can fully experience each character. There are also two bonus chapters; while going into too much detail would require spoilers, I can say they are effective both as a means of exploring certain aspects of two particular characters while introducing interesting twists on the game’s mechanics.

The biggest bit of additional content is the Raid Mode which has been expanded significantly. This time around, there is a little bit of a story that reveals itself as you progress, though the real meat of it remains the intense, easily accessible action it provides. In Raid Mode, you tackle a series of levels built around taking down enemies, either on the way to a goal, in a set amount of time, or sometimes both. As you beat levels you’ll earn experience to level up and gold to unlock weapons and upgrades found in chests scattered throughout the levels. As you play, you’ll unlock a wide variety of characters, each with a unique set of skills you unlock through leveling up. The straightforward action in this mode is a little shallower, but it’s undeniably fun while still offering enough customization and strategy to prevent it from being truly mindless. The fact it supports co-op play both online and locally just makes it that much better.

Revelations 2 also happens to be beautiful looking, in a disgusting sort of way. The graphics perfectly capture the dire state of affairs our heroes find themselves in as both the environments and character models are finely detailed. Sometimes, individual textures can look a little muddy or a facial animation might be a little off, but when viewed as a whole, the graphics are generally impressive and arguably among the best currently on Switch. Furthermore, the art direction is strong and at its best when it’s being especially macabre. I won’t spoil anything, but there is imagery that some might find legitimately disturbing because there are forces at work on the island that have little respect for the sanctity of a corpse, whether it be human or animal. Regardless, some might want for a broader color palette or variety of environments, but what we get feels completely appropriate given the themes and setting.

The audio design is also quite strong, though maybe not quite to the same degree. The general atmosphere is great as the soundscape will constantly have you wondering what is around the corner but the soundtrack is more or less serviceable. A few tracks stand out for fitting particular moments very well, but everything else feels more workman like: it does its job decently enough but you’ll probably forget it. The voice acting fares better, as pretty much every major character is performed well. Moira can be a little grating due to her dialogue’s reliance on unnecessary and out-of-place profanity, but the performance itself is fine.

The Resident Evil franchise can effectively be divided into two periods: the games before Resident Evil 4 and those that came afterwards. Revelations 2 falls into the latter group of games, and it is easily one of the best, if not the best since RE 4. It’s hard to imagine if or when that hallowed game will be topped, but Revelations 2 stands strong as a brilliant game both in its own right and as a Resident Evil game. The developers chose to experiment quite a bit both in terms of gameplay and structure and they succeeded while still delivering a great core experience true to the best parts of the series. The fact that they managed to tell a very strong, personal story within a franchise well known for overblown, B-movie antics is just another pleasant surprise. Finally, while I don’t often like to bring up price in reviews, the fact that Revelations 2 will be $20 by itself or $40 bundled with its predecessor is an incredibly good deal. So, whether you are a longtime fan of the series, are looking for a good survival horror experience, or are an action gamer willing to stomach some disturbing content, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is a fantastic game.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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