"Resident Evil Revelations 2" is in many ways a departure for Capcom’s classic series. It drops the action-heavy explosion exhibitions from "Resident Evil 5" and "6," opting for a slower, more controlled play style. More importantly, it’s the first "RE" to be released episodically. I’m not sure the format totally works for the series yet, but it’s good to see a AAA publisher like Capcom taking a risk.
The first episode of "Revelations 2," entitled “Penal Code,” switches between two teams: Claire Redfield (sister of Chris Redfield, protagonist in the first "Resident Evil") with Moira Burton (daughter of Barry you-were-almost-a-Jill-sandwich Burton), and a young orphan named Natalia with Barry Burton. Each pair gets about the same amount of screen time (50-60 minutes), but their experiences feel more drawn out that that.
It’s not "Resident Evil 6," thank the heavens. If "Revelations 2’s" overall feel can be likened to any mainline game in recent memory, it’s fan-favorite "Resident Evil 4." Combat is slow and deliberate, movement is sluggish, and the camera hangs just over the characters’ right shoulders as they navigate tight spaces.
Thankfully, "Revelations 2" hasn’t copied the inventory system. Each character has its own small, streamlined inventory space that operates in real time (yes, digging for those shotgun shells in the middle of a fight will get you killed), but there’s nowhere to get lost. Although most items will be useless to the secondary character (Moira/Natalia), they can be quickly given to the primary fighter for future use. You don’t get many slots for items, but there’s so little ammunition to pick up that it never becomes an issue.
The lack of supplies keeps the difficulty at a satisfying level; if you don’t conserve your rounds, you’ll run out very quickly. Enemies can easily overwhelm you and can absorb quite a few precious rounds before they relent, but you’ll only find enough ammunition to kill a percentage of the enemies you’ll come face to face with.
So far, the storyline is pretty par for the course -- disease outbreak, small group is fighting against the infected -- but Claire Redfield and Barry Burton have made decent leads so far. It’s hard to say how good they’ll be just yet, but the remaining episodes will be out in the coming weeks.
"Revelations 2" has some weird pacing and ambiance issues right now. The opening 15 minutes of the episode are tense, packed with thrills and scares around most corners as Claire and Moira try to find their way out of a prison. Monsters pop out of random spots for solid jump scares and panic moments, and the setting’s aesthetic is genuinely creepy. Then you get a half hour of resource gathering and backtracking, with intermittent, dopey stragglers until the finale comes around with another swift punch -- by which time your fear is gone, replaced with a desire to just get it over with.
Barry and Natalia pick up the baton halfway into the race, but the steam is mostly gone by then. Instead of scares and creepy foes, you deal with frustrating clusters of overpowered mutants while trying to track Claire and Moira down. The tension is gone, as there’s nothing left to surprise you.
Except, perhaps, how inept your partners tend to be. Moira refuses to wield a firearm (for reasons not yet explained), so her sole use in combat is flashlight duty -- she can shine her light in enemies’ eyes to stun them while you finish them off as Claire. This would be all well and good if Moira actually did this, but most of the time she tends to stand 10 feet back. It’s worth noting that another human player could play as Moira and be a great partner, but the default AI is pretty slow on the uptake.
Natalia is randomly helpful -- she picks up random bricks for self-defense, but I witnessed her straight up headshot enemies. More often than not, however, she’s just as much of a liability as Moira.
Most episodic tales are released months apart, but Capcom will greenlight a new episode of "Revelations 2" every week until March 17. It’s interesting to see a gaming company approach this format much like a television show, but so far I’m not totally convinced that "Revelations 2" is particularly benefiting from this style. It’s not a story- or dialogue-heavy experience thus far, but it could wind up working out once the story is fleshed out completely.